Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Getting Older

My grandfather grew up in a very small town west of Nashville named Centerville. This area was known for people who made moonshine and were very rural. In school there, he was not given much of an education due to him being the quarterback for the football team (the teachers did not require much of him or challenge him). Centerville and Hickman County is where he learned to hunt, fish, golf, and drink beer/moonshine.
                When my grandfather graduated from high school, he went on to college at Martin Methodist where he met my grandmother. When he got to college, he did not know what a Bunsen-burner was and would dissect or skin animals based on his experience as a hunter (skinning cats like squirrels). He majored in biology and graduated from MTSU. His step-father was a very strict man, but offered help in the only line of work he knew, banking. My grandfather appreciated his effort but told him that he would like to pursue a career towards biology. He chose this due to his love for the streams he fished growing up and wanted to preserve them for future generations. He went on to get a master’s degree in biology from Oklahoma University in Norman.
He and my grandmother then moved back to Tennessee where he secured a job with the state department under “ground water.” He worked there until his retirement at about age 65. When I was growing up, he was still working for the state. He was a very stern, confident man that did not like actions or talk without a purpose. He was very loving towards me, although I would get the phrase, “NO running in the DAMN house” if my siblings and I were playing hide and seek inside. If someone said something untrue, unintelligent, or did something without intellectual thought, they would quickly be the end of countless smart-ass comments from his direction. This taught us to respect many things, and one should only open there mouth is what they are saying is true and intellectually stimulating in some form.
                As I have watched him age, he has become much more tolerable towards his other grandchildren. What was once a quick, sharp, stern scold with a few damns or hells, slowly turned into light comments, and now no comments at all. I wish they could have been around him during his earlier days in hopes that it would straighten them up a little. 

                                                  (My High School Graduation 2007)

                He now has dementia just as his mother did before him. He knows that he cannot drive, and he forgets things that are going on. It was first noticed when he would repeat the same stories over and over or forget what he was doing. Now it is in the stage where he does not know much about the present. He does tell many stories of his younger days, such as, running moonshine in the 50’s, lighting farts in the disc jockey booth at my great-grandfather’s radio station, and flicking the balls of his linemen during a football game to keep them in check. It is sad however to see a man that was once very intelligent to decay to such a state that it is hard for him to routinely go to bed or eat a full meal or get in a vehicle to go somewhere. He will continuously wander off if someone does not keep an eye on him. Thankfully he will still give my aunts, dad, and cousins some smart-ass comments to mess with them or call them a dumbass from time to time to keep them in check. 
          (Alaska Fishing Trip with my Father, Aunt, Uncle, Grandmother and Grandfather 2012 )

                As I mentioned before, fishing and hunting were some of his most enjoyable things to do; however, it is hard for him to go out and enjoy this. He is no longer able to cast a far distance, and he forgets to flip the bell before he casts. If the line is tangled up, he will continue reeling and casting until it is so bad that the line must be cut. He cannot use bait-caster reels and will pull line out of any reel 50 yards when nothing is wrong. We took him to Reelfoot Lake this past spring to go crappie and bluegill fishing. Fishing was always the strongest at fishing compared to his other sports such as deer hunting or upland bird hunting. At Reelfoot, he was unable to catch a fish, but he did successfully catch an extremely large amount lily pads. We did fish together one day though, and it will be a day that I will never forget. I knew that if I kept silent about is disability, it would haunt me the rest of my life. I asked him if he knew what was going on, and he said he did. We had one of the best conversations that we will ever have that day. I asked him what the family should do if there came a day where he could not remember who we were. He quickly said, “Well, you just remind me who the hell you are real damn fast.” He also said that no matter what happened, he wanted to make sure that everyone knew that he loved everyone in the family very much and cared for them immensely. He then proceeded to catch another damn lily pad.
                                                              (Reelfoot Lake 2014)

                He has just turned 77 years old at the beginning of this month. He still refuses to take any kind of treatment for his disease, but the family has allowed him to make his own decision. He wants to die naturally and at home. Although my grandmother has an incredibly strong mind, her body is in the shape of his mind. It will soon come to a time where the family will make sacrifices to allow him to live out his last wishes such as my father moving back in to their house to provide care.  I took him fishing again this past weekend to get him back out on the water and give my grandmother a little relaxing time. We did not catch any fish but had a great time talking, telling stories or fisherman lies, and being in each others' company. He would not drink a beer fishing this trip because for some reason or another; he has quit drinking although his basement fridge still has beer in it, so I drank his share, too. Next week he will probably take up beer drinking again.
                I love my grandfather very much, and although it is sad to see him in the state he is in when comparing it to the past, I am still very happy to spend and enjoy our time together. I have herd too many people saying that there biggest regret in life was not spending more time with their family. It does take time out of life’s busy schedule, but it is so rewarding both to yourself and your family members. I believe it is also important to try and make some sacrifices to care for your parents or grandparents because they probably made many for you growing up. Try giving your family a call once a month or a surprise visit, everyone will be glad you did.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like your grandpa is still the author of his own story, to the extent that he can be. It's a tough question, with dementia, as to when "authorship" must be ceded. But in this instance it appears your family is erring on the side of respect for who he was as much as who he is today. Good luck!