by Robert W. Gill
Copyright - July 11, 1999
"Your grandfather is 83 today" she said.
"We're having cake at the nursing home around 4."
"I hope you'll join us."
My blood runs cold as these words flow from the answering machine.
It's been so easy to forget that I have a grandfather.
With grandmother living with my parents it's easy
to imagine that his alzheimer's hadn't forced him
into a nursing home three, no four years ago.
Easier to think him no longer living,
dead and buried,
I do not wish to see this man who held me in his arms,
who build sandboxes and swingsets,
who labored in menial jobs so that I could enjoy
summer swims and barbeques,
piles of Christmas presents,
my high school ring.
I do not wish to see this frail man.
A shell that once held a wry sense of humor.
A strong work ethic.
A gentle touch.
Instead my brother and I take down the fence
that once surrounded his inground pool.
I stand where the pool once was, now simply a flat expanse.
I remember helping build that screen porch.
My dad throwing ice cubes in the water after finishing his ginger ale.
My grandmother, darkly tanned, yelling at us not to run.
My grandfather pulling weeds in July heat.
In the summer we would come here every weekend
and often during the week.
I learned to swim here, after my uncle helped
me over my fears.
Learned the joy of diving.
Spent hours playing frisbee and badmitton.
Explored the cellar and attic,
stared at the work bench in awe.
Played on the peddle driven grinding wheel.
Slept over to escape parents
or maybe they escaped from us.
Sweet memories but with a touch of bitters.
The screen porch slumps to the right now, I guess we didn't
build it to last like we said it would.
The sound of children at play has not visited this lawn in years.
And weeds stand tall and proud where once the pool lay.
As we start removing the fence I can't help but
think what my grandfather would say.
I can hear him curing at the way it looks run down and shabby.
I can see him stooping down to pull up the invaders.
I can not help but think we are dismantling his life.