My mind likes to wander far away from what is my reality. I live in a dream, where nothing is wrong. I write stories and I’m happy, that’s about it, not a care in the world. But my reality is a nightmare.
Every day I witness my grandfather slip further and further into dementia. If I’m lucky, on a good day, he may even know my name. Moments like that, are far and few between. I sit in the kitchen and I type, I pound out my frustrations across the keys, I relive my sordid past, anything to escape the reality that I’m actually watching him slowly die, and lose his mind.
He’s lost and scared, just like me, but we both cover it up, with jokes, and hunts for the cat. Anything to avoid the reality, cartoons depicting him as witty no holds barred tough guy, who’ll toss you in a Tanzanian-toe-tugger, or a Portuguese-pickle-twister, if you dare not play by his rules. Facebook pages where I twist his insanity into comedy. Anything to hide from the reality that everyday he’s slipping farther and farther away.
He doesn’t even realize he’s in his own house. He’s lived here for more than 40 years. He often pleads with me to please bring him home. “Come on buddy, please, I want to get out of here, just bring me home.” So what do I do? I walk him out the backdoor, across the yard, around the side of the house, up to the front door, and walk him inside. “Thanks buddy, I knew you wouldn’t let me down.” He’s right about that, I’ll never let him down.
Then there’s the nights he wakes me from my sleep, screaming for me, and tells me how this guy keeps trying to get him to leave with him, but he doesn’t want to go. I have a sneaking suspicion; I know who this mysterious guy is. The last thing I want him to do is go anywhere with him. So, I sit on his bed and talk with him like he’s a child, like I’m there to scare away the Boogie man, in a way I am. There have been nights I’ve slept in a chair in his room, or on the floor to watch over him, because he can’t sleep unless he knows I’m there, and then comes the morning, he’ll wake up, without a clue in the world, and ask. “Hey buddy, what the hell is the matter with you? Why the hell are you sleeping on the floor, and not in your bed?”
A majority of the time he thinks I’m some guy he works with, and we’re supposed to be doing some job. He has no clue I’m his grandson, and he’s known me as long as I’ve been alive. He forgets how he’s the only father I’ve ever known, because the one who spawned me, only ran farther, and farther away from me over the years. The upside of this is he lets me in on secrets he’d never have told his grandson. I get to know the real him.
Someone once told me “to grow the fuck up and get a real; job. You are no more a martyr than you are a writer.” The funny part is I never really considered myself either. I just like to tell stories, and I’m looking out for my grandfather because the insurance company said if he didn’t have 24/7 care he’d have to live in a home.
I’ve seen the inside of more than few nursing homes, they remind me of places I’ve spent many a day at myself, doing time. There’s no way I’d ever have him locked up for crimes he never committed. He’d surely will himself dead. This I know for a fact. I don’t care for him because I’m lazy and don’t want a real job. Shoveling ten tons of shit a day with my tongue, would be an easier job than this. I don’t do it so I can be considered a martyr. Oh, woe is me! I’m giving up the best years of my life to care for an old man. I do it for one reason, and one reason alone. I know in the very pits of my soul, he’d do it for me if the roles were reversed.
That’s just the type of man he is. He’d give the shirt off his back to a stranger without a second thought, if he saw that they were cold.
The one thing I think about more than anything else, and it eases my pain. Is I know I was here for him, and made these last days, weeks, months, or years he has left, as comfortable as I could for him. I’ll never have that I wish I could have told him how much he meant to me moment, I show him how much he means to me everyday. I shave his face, wipe aquaphor on the bedsores on his ass, because all he can really do is sit in one place all day, I shower him, wipe the shit from his ass, and any other thing he may need, with a smile on my face.
I imagine my later years, I think to myself, who’s going to wipe the shit from my ass, when I can no longer do it myself, who will tend to my bedsore ridden ass? Talk me down from madness, when I no longer even recognize my own family. This is my greatest fear, being helpless, with no one to tend to me. Probably because I already know where I’ll be, locked away doing time for a crime ,I did not commit. There will be no smile when a CNA having a bad day changes my piss and shit covered ass. Just rough- jerking- latex- covered hands scraping across my paper thin skin and bones, with extra vigor on the days they’re pissed at the world, because they’re under paid, and I’m nothing more than another number on one of the rooms lining the institutional green walls.
This will be the time, I wish, I listened to my elders when I was young, and knew it all, regretting how I squandered my youth selling drugs, and living as far outside the law, and majority of society as humanly possible. The years I should have been plugging away at nine to five, I hated, just so I’d be comfortable when I could do no more. Instead of living like there was no tomorrow. Because there is a tomorrow, and another after that, until that tomorrow comes, when you wish, you had one more to borrow.
The reality is I’ve become engrossed in that fantasy world where I just write stories, and I’m happy. The chances of that ever becoming a reality, well, that’s something I just don’t see happening. I never heard of anybody who wrote stories having a happy ending.