For those who notice such things, I’ve changed the name of my blog to the name of my ‘home’ on the long-gone and much-missed ElderMOO, a digital hangout for MSTies and other such inclined folks.
I’ve just spoken with my family; my last grandparent, nearly 95, is in 24-hour hospice care now, and is not even expected to last the day.
I’ve already more or less said goodbye to Grandpa: he hasn’t recognized me in half a year or more. When I was in town for the holidays in December, even though I visited every day I was in town, I never even got to see him conscious. The man I knew as Grandpa has been gone for a long time—really, ever since Grandma died in ’06.
It’s a feeling, of sorts, of watching history vanish. The oldest person I ever knew was the 105-year-old ‘roommate’ of my great-grandmother at the care center she lived at, a sprightly former Liverpudlian born in 1876 and unabashed lover of the Beatles… or as she called them, ‘her boys’.
My great-grandmother was 95 when she passed away in 1981, and even contemplating the changes she saw in her life is staggering—a world that moved from horseback to Shuttles, telegraph to television (and technically the Internet, although it wasn’t really publicly accessible then).
Grandpa is the only surviving child of my great-grandparents; six elder siblings died in a typhoid epidemic before he was even born. When he passes, my dad will be the eldest carrying the family name by birth… and I second in seniority, so to speak.
I knew my grandfather as a mostly quiet and private man, of many hidden talents, some only recently learned while Mom and Dad have been cleaning out his house after moving him into care.
The old museum at the Toledo Zoo used signs he’d hand-lettered in the 30s and 40s until the 70s and 80s. Dad says he’d been a wonderful violinist, then simply gave it up one day and never played again. Found in the papers in the attic were a patent he’d been issued for a mechanism to pump liquid soap without foaming or bubbles.
He was a man of quiet curiosity. When my dad had gotten his first computer about ten years ago, and I was in town for his birthday, while I was checking out his machine, Grandpa came up behind me and asked if they had the Internet in Poland.
I took a wild guess at the University of Warsaw’s website (warszawa.edu.pl — it made sense!) and up comes a page that’s all in Polish. I’m looking for a vowel; Grandpa of course could read and speak Polish and is tracing his finger down the page, asking what the blue text with underlining meant. I explained that they were links to other pages, and we spent several minutes engaged thus, me driving and he navigating.
He had his own computer not long after.
Unsurprisingly, I already miss my grandpa; as I said, the man who I knew as my grandfather hasn’t tenanted the body still remaining for some time. It is with a sad sense of relief, actually, that I will greet the news: what Grandpa is doing right now is less living than it is simply metabolizing.
I feel, perhaps, a bit more laid bare to the maw of history as the passing of my last second-generation ancestor nears, wondering what I will be remembered for… or whether. I feel lucky for being a 45 year old who even has a grandparent.
And I feel that I will cry a lot when the news comes.