He never called me by name. I wasn’t too surprised. He didn’t use my name when I saw him last at my cousin’s wedding. Still it was hard not hearing him say it. Grandpa is a solid six foot four, at least he was when he was younger. He prides himself in taking long walks and eats a banana with peanut butter for supper to keep his good cholesterol up and his bad cholesterol down. I’m sure his heart is healthy, but his mind is beginning to slip.
When I was younger, I used to go with grandpa on his daily walk. It was one of the few things I’d actually get up early for. We would bike for a stretch then I would do my best to keep up with his long stride. He’d cut his walk short when I tagged along so that my little feet wouldn’t get too tired.
On this visit to Florida I was feeling a bit restless. It was a beautiful day outside and my Canon Rebel was begging for some attention. I asked my sister if she wanted to go for a walk and Grandpa decided to join us. They walked ahead while I snapped pictures of Spanish moss and anything else that caught my eye.
Grandpa took the lead showing us the scenic route which cut through several private yards. I tried to steer him back to the road as best I could. Along the way he picked up several empty beer cans, and a monster can telling the story of how when he first took crushed cans to the scarp yard they’d paid him sixty dollars. I smiled. So far this trip I’d heard that story three times.
It’s not easy seeing a man who earned a master’s degree in mathematics struggle to come up with the word “wasp” describing what he wants to say until someone gives him the word. “That thing that flies and builds mud houses.”
I knew grandpa wouldn’t admit when he was tired, so I suggested we turn back after going 15 minutes out. As we entered the cul-de-sac an aluminum can in the neighbor’s trash caught his eye. He circled back to grab it. I watched him teeter as the sharp turn upset his balance. Grabbing the garbage can, I tried to steady it and prevent him from doing a complete head dive into the trash can. My sister grabbed his arm, and we both stood there straining under his weight wondering how we were going to call for help.
“I can get up,” he said after we had stood there tense for what seemed like ten minutes but was more likely 30 seconds. Methodically he paused to regained his balance, reached for the aluminum can, then pushed up on the plastic garbage can to get back on his feet. I reached into the trash to pull his watch out which had fallen from his front shirt pocket during the tumble. There was a time when Grandpa cut his walks short for my little legs now I just wanted to get him back home so he could rest in his favorite chair.