A Visit with Grandpa This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

April 29, 2012
By , West Orange, NJ
He's dying, he thinks, but I can't really tell from across the room. An awkward silence hangs in the air as I stare at him and he stares back at me. I search his face for some emotion, but there's none to be found. I wonder if he knows that I know.

I should probably say something, but I haven't thought of anything yet. I don't ask him about his morning jogs because he doesn't jog anymore. I don't bother asking him what he had for breakfast because he doesn't eat anymore. And the weather, well, how would he know? He cancelled his cable and doesn't go out now, not even to see her.

I don't blame him. I wouldn't have an appetite with only one tooth left, and what is world news if my world fit squarely into an apartment? And as much as it would hurt, I probably wouldn't visit her either if I were him. She doesn't remember anyone, at least not me when I visit. Maybe one time he'll be her husband, but the next visit he'll be her father who passed away years ago. But in her world she is always happy, so I suppose it's not such a bad thing to just let her be.

He's shifting his weight in his chair now, clenching his fingers as if he is holding all his problems and squeezing them until they go away. For the first time, I notice how sad and disheveled he looks. His shirt is soaked in sweat and clearly two sizes too
big for his frail frame. His splotchy legs are partly ­covered by hideous maroon socks, and his belt looks like it needs more holes. It's not like he doesn't have clothes to wear. I personally searched his sock drawer to make sure. He insists that these old clothes are perfectly fine and he doesn't want to ruin new ones. Maybe it's because he's dying.

I want to cry – partly because I feel like I should and partly because the man who ran behind me holding onto the seat of my bike can't even hold himself up now. But I can't, or he'll know that I know, and he can't know. Everyone already treats him like he's handicapped, an artifact that might break at any moment, and their pity won't do him any good.

I realize there are no right words to say to a man waiting for death, so I push myself out of my chair and walk across the room to him. I unlock his fingers and grab one of his wrinkled hands.

“Come on, Grandpa, it's so nice out. I haven't been to the park in forever and I'm dying for a smoothie.”

For minute I don't think he'll respond. But he hesitates, cracks the faintest one-toothed smile, and shuffles up to get his shoes. He definitely knows.

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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effy27 said...
Jun. 2, 2012 at 9:30 am
It's amazing! Kuddos!
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