Already gone

by Lucia
(England)

I never really used to see my grandparents much, because they lived quite far away - so about once a month. I always remember how my grandpa was so strong, independant, and the most stubborn man I ever knew. Despite being retired since he was in his 50s, and therefore practically being an all-cooking, all-cleaning housewife, in a time when masculinity was valued above everything, he was never ashamed or unhappy about himself. My grandma had diabetes and I remember my mum telling me that he would have done anything to look after her. She died a couple of years ago and he moved house to a block of warden-assisted flats nearer to my house. He was always in the best of health, and never had any problems since I can remember, but in the last few years his memory has deteriorated. Recently he's been forgetting to eat, and in the past month or so, has become incontinent. He's changed so much in the last few months, and has probably lost about 10 stone (he used to be quite fat, and my brother once asked him if he was pregnant, when we were little). Yesterday he fell over in his kitchen, which was weird in itself because he hasn't had the strength recently to even get out of his chair, hence the incontinence. He's been transferred to hospital and they're saying it's not likely he'll ever go home. On the one hand, I'm absolutely in pieces because I don't want him to die, but on the other hand, I feel like the man who was my grandpa is already gone. He's lost everything that I admired about him - his independence, his dignity, even his stubbornness was a symbol of his inner strength. Nowadays my mum is having to do everything for him, which is horrible for her, and for me because I'm the one who has to look after her when she comes home crying. I feel like I've already started mourning him, and have been avoiding seeing him because it terrifies me how different he looks. Does it make me a horrible person for avoiding him, just because I want to remember him the way he was? I feel terrible, but at the same time I know that if I see him I'll never be able to erase that image, and I just want to remember him as he was. I am still traumatised from the last time I saw him and I could hardly recognise him, with his trousers like a hula hoop around his waist and his skin hanging off his face and drooping under his eyes. In a way I wish he would just die peacefully in his sleep and it be over. At least then we can all start to move on, and he won't have to suffer anyomore.

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