The Kvetch This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Linen pajamas on and a sweater worn backwards to keep him from catching cold from the "draft" (that was always nearby) were the typical clothes of my papa, Jack Olans. He usually covered his feet with warm, bulky socks and clunky shoes. It's hard to forget his nerdy eyeglasses and his constant sucking on hard candies.

Considering he had only a high school education, my grandfather did well. He got married, had three kids, and opened two stores. One was a women's apparel store. The other was a chain of discount stores, which is now Bradlees. To me, my grandpa was a sweetheart, but with others, let's just say he was not very popular. He was kind, thoughtful and loving, but his only flaw was he was a "kvetch" or a complainer. He always complained about how cold it was in his apartment when it was really 80 degrees.

Over the past two years or so, my papa's health has deteriorated. He became emaciated and had a sallow complexion. For as long as I can remember, his hair was gray with white streaks. I recall him saying that he would have shaved if he had known my family was coming. That was his excuse for having a light stubble on his face.

You could say that Papa was prejudiced since he didn't like anyone he didn't know. The only people he did like were family. He always used to call people from other minority groups Yiddish swear words.

Soon his behavior changed. We were informed that he probably had Alzheimer's Disease. He slurred his words. As he became more and more ill, he stayed in the house. Because my grandma couldn't handle him anymore, she put him in a nursing home. At the nursing home, he acted, and was treated, like a baby. He hated getting out of bed to walk around, so one day (when I was visiting him) when he had to wash his hands, I brought him wet paper towels and then dry ones.

Because of Alzheimer's Disease, he acted differently than he used to. My grandfather would accuse his roommate of opening the window in the middle of the night. My papa said his roommate would bully him if he asked his roommate to close it. In reality this never happened.

His everyday habits didn't change, even when he had Alzheimer's Disease. He asked people to call his stockbroker while he was in the nursing home. He read The Wall Street Journal. He acquired a new habit: buying instant-win game cards.

I always felt his life in the nursing home wouldn't last, and eventually he'd die. Unfortunately that did happen; he died several months ago. While I was at a dance, having fun, he was in the nursing home, suffering. I came home the next day and found out. I cried for days. I blamed myself for not visiting him more.

Now I know it wasn't my fault he died. Even if I had visited him more, it wouldn't have changed a thing. He lived a full life, but still, I wish I had seen him again, even for a second, before he died. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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