This month marks the anniversary of my (maternal) grandfather’s death. I wrote the below passage the day after he died. Gerald believes this piece to be one of my best and I thought I’d share it.
“I want to walk around my house.”
“Okay, Mr. Woytek, let’s walk around your house.”
He refused to let Sharon help him up, maybe to prove his strength as a man had not wavered. He made the trip around the house with Sharon in tow.
“I want to go sit outside.”
He sat with Sharon on the brick planter that had once overflowed with carefully planted flowers but now the planter sat empty, long since neglected. There were other things to tend to.
“Look at all those pecans.”
“Yep. Sure are a lot of pecans,” Sharon replied, humoring him.
There were no pecans or pecan trees for that matter. He used to spend hours in the park picking up pecans that had fallen off the trees. He’d bring them home and stow them away, picking out a few imperfect ones to give to the squirrels that were an oh so familiar site in the beautiful pine shaded backyard.
“Open the garage.”
“I don’t know how to open the garage.” Sharon wasn’t sure if she’d be able to get the garage door closed even if she did figure out how to open it. The car, just as she suspected, had not been driven in at least three months so the garage door itself might want to stick a little.
They went back inside. He sat in a recliner in the same room where his wife of 62 years sat reading a magazine with feet propped up on an ottoman, her back thrown out after another one of her falls and topped off by her insistence on helping one of the nurse’s aides put down the trundle bed in the front room. His voice was that of his healthy self, strong and confident.
“Mrs. Woytek, I think he’s getting better.”
This was the conversation Sharon, a nurse’s aide, relayed to me the eve of my Grandpa’s death.
Just the next morning, after he had seemed so strong the night before, he was unresponsive and his lungs filled with more and more fluid. As Sharon told me this story, I couldn’t help but wonder if he knew that trip around his house would be his last. The last time he would sit outside and enjoy a late September breeze, imagining all those beautiful pecan trees to be in his yard. Every memory filling him up and giving him the energy and the strength to take it all in just one last time.
He died September 30, 2003 at 2:30am. He was 89 years old.