Saturday, April 22, 2017
The life she’d agreed to, as a bride, was difficult. They lived miles from the nearest town, in the country, on a working farm. No telephone. That was hard enough, but now she faced an impossible thing; her husband was dying. He had Parkinson’s disease, and she had become his nurse.
At 11 or 12 years old, I did not begin that moment in time by sitting next to my grandfather’s bed. I could have, but it was too uncomfortable to look into his face. No one had told me, but I knew that my robust, congenial grandfather was in the clutches of death, from a terrible disease. So I sat nearer their regular bed, my side to his bed, donning curlers in my hair, and intent on painting my fingernails.
“What are you doing?” he said, in whispers.
I was forced to turn and look at my grandfather whose devout love for me showed in his face. He grinned and a familiar twinkle appeared in his eyes, reminding me of my dad.
“Painting my nails.”
“Can you come here and show me?”
It was like I was finally given permission to do something that I didn’t know how to do. I wasted no (more) time in pulling my chair closer to his bed. My grandfather said that he thought the polish color was pretty. He asked me if I had a date. I laughed and blushed as I always did back then. His face grew serious after that. I'm not certain why, could have been the disease, fatigue, but I think now it was because my grandfather knew he would not see me in my dating years. He would die soon after that, in his mid fifties (I think). One last thing I remember about that day was when he lifted his trembling hands to move one closer to me, but finally surrendering it to his sheeted mattress. These were the same hands that had played with his grandchildren. The same gentle hands that lifted me to sit on the tractor and picked me up to soothe my wounded finger after a turkey bit it, then calmly used the moment to teach me the importance of obedience.
Recently, I was reminded of that day when I sat by my dad’s hospital bed. I noticed how his hands reminded me of my grandfather's hands. Not long after that day, my dad, Ronnie Powell, 81 years old, passed away, and...we are sad.