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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Daddyisms and Granddaddy Visit

Some of the nicest men I have known in my life are inveterate and unrepentant punsters, prone to come up with witticisms in a heartbeat, and sometimes to create euphemisms that become part of their peculiar parlance, obscure to the uninitiated. Some samples from my father’s repertoire:

In the car on the way to visit my grandparents circa September 1998, we were listening to an NPR report on Arab-Israeli relations when he suddenly spouted:

“Peace process hot
Peace process cold
Peace process is a crock
Twenty years old.”

An overweight person gobbling away at a restaurant was “Committing suicide by fork.”

An already obese individual was “Suffering from advanced biscuit poisoning.”

On a vacation to the Pacific Northwest with my mom and youngest brother, every time they entered a stand of large trees, he exclaimed: “The forest prime-weevil.”

[My siblings will have to add examples in the comment section—these were just a few that sprang to my mind.]

I visited my grandparents today. Not only is it hard to see Daddy’s personal effects gone from the Augusta house—the little reminder note on the garage door that read “STOP! Do you have your beeper? Your pass key? [Etc.]” was one of the first to be discarded—seeing furniture and pictures missing from Grandmommy’s house (items that have been used to furnish Granddaddy’s new room at the Alzheimer’s care center) was even more upsetting.

When I was born, Daddy was in the Army, and so we’d moved some 14 times before I was a teenager, but Grandmommy and Granddaddy’s house was always a constant. Granddaddy’s desk was always in the corner of their bedroom, their certificate of marriage hanging in a silver frame over it. He’d always sit at the head of the table at mealtimes, Grandmommy on his left, and he’d ask the same simple blessing. Today, the desk was gone, and the wedding certificate in its frame was in the closet on the floor, and Grandmommy sat at the head of the table.

We went to visit Granddaddy after lunch. It’s a nice facility—clean, new, lots of light, with an inner courtyard for the residents to enjoy—very comfortable and un-hospitalish, with no unpleasant odors and friendly staff, but it was heartbreaking to see Granddaddy there, even in the lovely room which my aunt had worked so hard to make familiar for him, with a Grandmommy quilt on the bed, his desk below a wall of family pictures, and patriotic memorabilia from his World War II service. Granddaddy didn’t know me or my mother (his eldest daughter). He was convinced there was another resident with his same name somewhere close. He could barely walk, and his voice had sunk to almost a whisper, his once-bright blue eyes fading like ink in a sunburnt photograph. It was so bizarre to see him old. Granddaddy’s always been so capable, even this last Christmas he was hopping around, stealing my cousin’s Santa hat and teasing younger relatives, but it’s like he’s aged twenty years in the space of seven months; my mother says his condition has deteriorated markedly in just six weeks. Grandmommy, whom I have only seen close to tears once—a month ago, when Daddy died—was blinking them back when we left, but (as has been her lifelong habit) resolutely focusing on the blessings of their relationship: “We had sixty-three years together.”

I am a self-centered person in many ways, deplorably ignorant of and insensitive to the sufferings and pain of others, but I do pray that God will use what has happened in the last month to make me more sensitive, more aware, and considerably less narcissistic than I have been, to know when to speak and when to silently listen.

Back to DC tomorrow, hopefully to the Arlington Market Saturday and church Sunday.

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