Grandfather Robert Z. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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“What’s his name?” This is the phrase I dread hearing. I despise the reason I have to hear it, and I never thought it would come from my hero – the man I was named for.

When I was little, I went to my grandparents’ house every day while my parents worked and my brother was at school. Being with Grandma and Grandpa was always fun. I remember how my grandma always had a candy bar for me, and let me watch “The Simpsons,” even though my mom didn’t. But my favorite part was “helping” Grandpa.

My grandpa was a farmer, and he liked having me along to help him. He often had a job for me – ­usually something that involved my small hands. His were massive. We always joked that Grandpa couldn’t pick his nose because his fingers wouldn’t fit. So Grandpa would have me squeeze my hands into tight places to tighten a screw or slide on a washer.

When I wasn’t helping Grandpa, he would take me on rides on his tractor or combine. One time when I was very little, my grandpa called to see if I wanted to ride on the combine the following day. My mom was helping me with the phone but I couldn’t reply because I was fighting back tears; all I could do was nod. My mom laughed and said Grandpa couldn’t see me and I’d have to say “yes” or “no.” I loved riding with him. Once he even let me drive the ­tractor.

Grandpa was always doing nice things for me. He often gave me little trinkets. One time, he gave me a pocket knife. It’s all rusted and dull now, but I will keep it forever because it has value that money can’t equal.

Memories are also something money can’t buy. A couple of years ago my grandpa and my family went to church together every Saturday. Then we would eat at a nearby restaurant. Often Grandpa’s sister joined us. I remember that they both liked cottage cheese with a packet of sugar on top.

Now years have passed and I am growing up and getting busier and I don’t see my grandparents as much. Amazingly, my grandpa somehow defied age and continued to farm until he was 80. We thought he would never slow down, but then we started to notice that he was forgetting things and he had become paranoid, thinking that my grandma was going on picnics with other men. We took him to the doctor for tests and found out that he had Alzheimer’s. It was a crushing blow. What made it even worse was how quickly it took over.

Then he had a knee surgery that made it harder for him to get around. He had to use a walker, and it was difficult to get him to do exercises so he could improve. Nevertheless, he wanted to do everything he’d done before the surgery and Alzheimer’s. Several times Grandpa fell and Grandma couldn’t get him up and had to call my mom in the middle of the night to come help.

Eventually they realized they had to put him in a nursing home. My grandma plans to move to the duplex next door once it is built.

Since my grandpa is alone now, someone in our family visits him regularly. Recently my mom, dad, uncle, and I went to see him after church. It was one of the hardest experiences I’ve ever had. My grandpa had always been my idol, my hero. When I was younger, I wanted to be a farmer just like him. Grandpa taught me so many lessons and has done so much for me. He was one of the best men I know, and now he is like a vegetable.

My hero asked my mom twice that Sunday what my name was. But I know, deep down, that he knows me. After all, a name is just a word.

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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stotlers said...
Sept. 24, 2009 at 11:33 am
This is a great piece! It is so descriptive and warms my heart! When you wrote "... I will keep it forever because it has value that money can't equal." I agree you can't put a price tag on your memories! I've never had a occurrence of Alzheimer's in our family but it sounds so sad. Another line you wrote "My hero asked my mom twice that Sunday what my name was. But I know, deep down, that he knows me. After all, a name is just a word." This line is very p... (more »)
 
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