Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Death of an Engineer

My grandfather died yesterday. I almost cried but I stopped. I cried three times over his coming death already. I didn’t need to cry anymore.
Most of when I knew him he was witty, funny, and very involved in writing and his faith. Actually, all faiths. He used to go to bible studies and synogagues and mosques to learn about all kinds of different religions. And he could discuss any of them at length.
He always had interesting things to say. I remember one time when I was little he gathered all us kids around, handed out a bag of cookies, and rolled out a coffee-stained map of Treasure Island. He’d spent over an hour burning the edges and staining it to make it look just real enough that we would believe it was real. He told us the story of Treasure Island over the next few days, and I was completely in awe of this man who seemed to have been a pirate in his past.
One time I was sitting at the kitchen table, crossing my legs under me, and he accidentally spilled a pot of boiling soup all over me. He couldn’t help it- Parkinsons was making his hands quiver and shake. I went to the hospital and got to ride in a wheelchair to the emergency room, where they put salve all over my wound.
There was another time where I wrote a series of mini-plays outlining his life. They kind of made fun of him, but I intended for them to be teasing in a loving way. In the play I wrote about how he went back to his house during a flood and saved Lulu the Cat, how he hired black people despite others telling him it wasn’t allowed, and how he met Grandma by pouring water down her dress to put out a cigarette.
Grandpa also wrote plays. He wrote a play about God and Satan that was performed by his church. He also wrote a memoir and a commentary on genesis. The first time I saw his memoir I thought it was boring and kind of self-important. I mean, come on, who wants to read a memoir about some old guy? But now that he’s gone, I want to read it again, just to remember who he was.

Now he’s gone. He’s been gone for quite some time. I think it was a year or two years ago when Parkinson’s really took him away. He got it from a combination of genetics and being exposed to chemicals as a chemical engineer. On the one hand, this is good because it means I probably won’t get it. On the other, well, Parkinson’s is a nasty disease.
At first you don’t notice anything different. Then, you notice that their hands are shaking. Slowly, they begin to get stiffer and stiffer and their memory gets worse and worse. They can’t think properly. Hallucinations being to plague them in the middle of the night. They being to lose control of their emotions, becoming irritated at the slightest thing. Slowly, their descent into dementia becomes complete, until they are completely bedridden and can’t talk to people for more than a few minutes at a time.
I was lucky. My grandfather got drugs which slowed the illness’s progress, and since he understood the disease well he was able to hide a lot of the symptoms from us grandkids. I got a sheltered version of his disease until the very end, when he was scared of being blown apart by soldiers or that people were coming to take away his children.

I love him. And I miss the man he used to be. But there’s no sense in crying.


  1. Emily I'm so sorry to read this
    Your grandfather sounds like an amazing man and you have some lovely memories
    Hang on to those

    Sending you a big hug x

  2. I am so sorry to hear about your loss. My grandfather died in 2008 and I am still in disbelief. If you can you should compile as many as his writings as possible so that the whole family will be able to read them one day.

  3. He sounds like an amazing man. Someone that you can actually connect with. And it sounds like you two had a very close relationship. Or at least close to me. I don't know how to explain it.
    I can't imagaine what you're going through, so I won't pretend that I can. But I do know that death of someone who means something to you - it does get easier. I'm here if you want to talk, or just to rant. You can email me at hugdapuppies@gmail.com

  4. Thank you everyone for your comments!
    I really appreciate that you took the time to wish me well when I was feeling so sad. I will take all your advice, and thanks too to CJ (do you still want to be called Camille or is CJ good?) for reaching out. I probably won't have a lot of time to e-mail, but it means a lot that someone is offering a shoulder to cry on.
    You guys are awesome :)


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