They gave me a journal for Chanukkah when I was in fifth grade. I wrote about how much fun we were having in Florida with Grammy and Poppa—making concoctions in the easy-bake oven, learning how to drive the golf cart, pretending to know how to golf, swimming in their backyard pool.
Somehow it all ended. Not because I lost them, BH, but because time took away good sense and good health.
I used to watch in awe as Poppa fixed our “owwies” with magic fairy dust from a pill container, and now I watch in horror as he takes hundreds of pills a week just to stay hanging on to a life that no longer resembles his.
Poppa used to be the smartest man I ever knew. He built himself up out of nothing after his parents more or less abandoned when he was young. He could do mental math in an instant and could make strangers laugh and feel at ease in a matter of moments. He could wriggle himself and his family into an overbooked restaurant, and had one of the only happy marriages I have ever seen. This is how I want to remember him.
I don’t want to remember him as the man who can’t even pick up a piece of bread from the table because his hands are shaking so violently and uncontrollably. I don’t want to remember him as the one who forgets he asked a question five minutes after asking it. I don’t want to remember him as the guy who doesn’t have the energy to throw us into the pool or press the gas pedal on the car or to even tell a simple joke.
I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that this is what age and illness does to us eventually. It takes our bodies and it destroys them. It destroys everything around them too. It makes us angry and irritable and sad. But at one point, Poppa was the strongest man I’ve ever known, and that’s how I’m going to choose to remember him.