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happy birthday, grandpa joe

[click for bigger image] That's (Great) Grandpa Joe with DJ, taken today. Grandpa turned 94 years old today and we all went to see him at his nursing home (which is, by nursing home standards, a luxurious mansion) for a little party.

It bothered me at first when Grandpa started talking in fantasy, telling us about trips he never really talk and conversations he had with dead relatives. It's hard to watch someone you love slowly lose their grip on reality.

Today, Grandpa told us what he did last night. Apparently, he went to the Yankee game with his old Brooklyn buddies, most of whom are dead. I watched as my mother effortlessly conversed with him about this fictional game, asking him questions about it, wanting to know if the Yankees won or not. According to Grandpa, the Yanks won the world series last night.

And then an epiphany. Why should it bother me when Grandpa talks about things only happen in his head? That's Grandpa's happy place, where he goes to relive the good parts of his life with the friends and family that shared all of his happy memories. It makes him smile. It makes my mother smile. And now, it makes me smile. As long as Grandpa is happy for the little time he has left, then let him think that the Yankees win the world series every single night, and he's always there.

Happy birthday, Grandpa. And enjoy your "trip" to Brooklyn tonight.

Grandpa with his three great-grandchildren.


My grand-aunt is 92. She is starting to repeat herself a little, but I figure that if you make it past 90 you've got a damn RIGHT to repeat yourself.

Ice flow...

What's that, Biltie? You want us to put you on an ice floe? I think you're being a little premature -- just because you make a couple of spelling mistakes doesn't mean you don't have a couple of almost-lucid years left.

Quality of LIFE and death

To watch your parents and brother suffer in the hospital while their bodies wants to die...

worse than spelling...

I'm glad that I'm an animal...

Did I miss something? I was just wishing happy birthday to my grandpa and suddenly we're talking about ice floes and mercy deaths?

Maybe Biltie just wants more ice in his drink. Or in Biltspeak, "his drinks wants more ices flow."

My mom's dad died a couple of years before I was born. I was born in July, and my grandmother married "Grandpa Ed" that September; he brought me home from the hospital. His natural children had no offspring of their own, and his new family already had several and had known their biological grandfather, so I grew up with him being "my" grandpa. He called the two of us "pals." He was the kind of person whose eyes would twinkle.

The last time I saw him alive was in a nursing home, where he had to be placed for both his and my grandmother's safety. His health was fine for an 80+ year old, but the mind was going. The final straw was that he wondered who "that woman" was--my grandma--and had called the cops to come get her out of his house. Anyway, I went to see him with my mom, grandma and my 3-year-old daughter. I think it confused him even more because my daughter looked almost exactly like I did at that age. He kept looking at her and then at me and then back at her and then me again. Maybe he felt he was in a time warp kind of thing; I don't know, but I could tell it was confusing him even more than usual. Right before we left, I bent down to kiss him and tell him that I love him, when he grabbed both of my hands, looked straight into my eyes, with his own eyes twinkling as before, and said with earnest, "I'm not going to let you go."

Now, there are a couple of ways I could have taken this. He could have just been teasing/flirting with this "young woman" he didn't recognize and playfully wasn't going to let go of my hands, or he was letting me know in a brief moment of lucidity that he wasn't going to let go of me in his memory.

Perhaps it's a bit of romanticizing on my part, and I really won't argue that point, but I do tend to believe the latter. It was just the strong feeling I got when he looked at me.

I realize that this is all kind of pointless rambling, but I was just reminded of it with your post, Michele.

P.S. Ice floes be damned. During that visit, you could not believe how "alive" those little ol' ladies and gents became at the site of a child.

aarghh! That should be "sight" of a child. I even previewed the damn thing.

Michelle, congrats for the change in attitude. Many years back my mom had a stroke and began talking to and about nonexistent people. I was upset until my sis came in and joined in, talking and laughing, both of them having a grand time. After that my mom and I talked about the breakfast she had with Henry Ford (at Big Boy's, he had eggs benedict and she had pancakes), we counted the fantasy deer outside her hospital window in downtown Detroit, I shooed the imaginary kids off her windowsill, etc. Yes, it was her happy place, and it was my honor to be in it. Plus I got some great stories!

The other day I saw a TV interview with a woman who has written a book on Alzheimer's and related diseases. One of her main points was what you have figured out for yourself, it's better and easier on everyone if you join their fantasy world in your conversations with them. Everyone is happier and there is much less stress.

The picture of Grandpa Joe and DJ is a treasure.

Happy birthday grandpa.

and always remember there is as much glory in his 94 years as there are in a childs 94 minutes.

the circle of life.

Hi Michele -

My grandfather and grandmother are 94 and 91, respectively, still at home, but slowly entering that twilight zone. They've got intermittent in-home care and all 10 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren wish that we were closer (they're down in New Mexico, at least 1200 miles from the closest relative), but ultimately they don't want people around that much.

It's been great for my kids - 13 and 10 - to see their grandparents over the last decade or so, and has led to them understanding the great cycle of life, at least as far as a 13/10 year old can understand that. My old regret so far in life is that my wife and I didn't get started having kids earlier so that we would have a big passel as well...


I lost all 4 of my grandparents and a stepgrandmother before I turned 27. I'm really envious that you get to listen to your grandfather say anything at all. Cherish that.


I had the same reaction to my mother when she
started to tell us about her fantasy life lived out in the nursing home. After a while, I realized her stories and plans for the future were not bad things. It gave me the assurrance that she still enjoyed life. She was still experiencing life through these tales. Her father was with her (she adored him), her seven brothers had been to visit and the rich one was leaving her some money. She wanted to start a family with my dad and he was such a good man, (dead these 25 years). She talked and I listened, asking questions and offering suggestions. Those are precious memories to me now that she's gone. When she stopped talking, my visits became bettersweet. I missed my mom. Still do after 7 years.

ooops...make that "bittersweet".

I would suggest that, after 94 years, a person shouldn't have to remember anything. That's what the kids/grandkids are for.

Hell, I wish I was 94 so I could go to the ballpark every night with my old buddies.

Michele, hug him for me the next time you see him.

I think my 92 year old grandmother who lives with my parents and my 89 year old grandmother might be slowly “losing it.” So I’m going to pass this advice about going along with them onto my parents. This might save their marriage. :-)

I live next to an assisted living facility and “Joe” ( name I’ve given him) steps out onto his balcony every now and then and points and shakes his fist at no one in particular. I just lean against my kitchen counter and watch him. The other day I heard someone screaming, “Help! Help! Call the police!” over and over. I looked out and some of the staff guys were trying to restrain him and get him back in the building. Poor Joe. I feel sorry for him because I imagine what his life was like and what he would think of it now if he was more present mentally. Still, the thought that he doesn’t know that he isn’t quite all there is a sort of consolation for me. I hope he has happy thoughts as well as his apparent angry or frustrated thoughts.

My mother and uncle were talking about how much weight my grandfather (now 85) had put on since he had been living in the nursing home for the past 2 years. They were considering asking the doctor to restrict some of his sweets and put him on a diet. A diet. At 85. I told them if they did that I would sneak in anything he asked for and then some. When I get to be 85, I don't want to have to worry about what I'm eating. I want to be happy I know I'm eating!

You're lucky to have a grandfather. My grandparenst are all dead, though my mother's father, a good New Yorker btw, would be 96 if he were alive today. Cherish the time you have with them. same for your kids. My last great grandparent died in 1961, 16 years before I was born, and I never met my father's parents.

BTW, my grandfather was born in Brooklyn, too. It woudl be funny if he knew any Worthingtons from his youth. Mine wa spretty remarkable. He worked his way through Fordham undergrad and law school, worked for teh FBI, was the Attorney for Macy's and Chief of Internal Security for the Attorney General. I wish I could ask him about Ramsey Clark, and if he was a complete moron back then, or about J. Edgar Hoover, or his involvement in the Warren Commission (funny thing is my grandmother believed it was a conspiracy).

So cheers to you and your grandfather. Enjoy the time you have left. I'm afraid the next relative I'll lose is my Uncle (his son) and godfather in a few years.