Last weekend, my parents and I went to visit my grandparents in their assisted living place in Philadelphia.
  1. Background
    My grandparents grew up in Boston as first-generation Jewish immigrants. Just as NY has a way of making everyone Jewish/Italian (big hysterical emotions), Boston has away of making everyone Irish (the opposite). My grandfather loved his work (mechanical engineering) and playing basketball. He was very, very hard on my dad. My grandmother wanted to be a writer growing up; she kept a perfect home. Two years ago, they moved from Boston to an assisted living place in Philadelphia.
  2. My grandfather has seemingly aged 15 years in the last 8 months.
    Since I've known him, he's always seemed 70. He was sharp, nerdy, and loved to sing. (He worked/drove up until when they moved to Philadelphia.) I saw him during Thanksgiving, and this was still the case. He's different now. His mind has slipped. He is very quiet. My grandmother is the same, slightly out of it self she's been for a decade.
  3. He needs to use his walker everywhere.
    He has fallen. My mom, who has worked in assisted living for over a decade, has explained to me that the main reason the elderly fall is they don't use their walkers in their rooms.
  4. My mom says we need to move the chairs in the living room. The walker can't fit through. "He needs to be able to sit."
  5. My grandfather looks at my grandmother, as if to say, "Whatever you think."
  6. My grandmother says, "No."
  7. My mom: "What if we try it and if you hate it, we can move it back?"
  8. My grandmother: "No. I like how it looks now."
  9. My dad: "How many couples are there on your floor - in this building?"
  10. My grandmother: "I don't know."
  11. My dad: "Not many, I bet. We want to keep you guys together as long as possible."
  12. My mom: "What if we try it and if you hate it, we can move it back?"
  13. "Fine," my grandmother says, petulantly.
  14. We move the chairs. We move the glass tables. We move a heavy dresser. We slide a picture over 6 inches.
    You know that sitcom prank where a guy moves everything in his friend's apartment over 6 inches and then the friend comes home, tosses his coat, and misses the coatrack by 6 inches?
  15. Where there was 2 feet of walking/walker room, there is now 6.
  16. My grandfather, with his walker, grazes through the living room and sits in one of the chairs.
  17. We all sit down around him and look at my grandmother. She looks at the room.
  18. My grandmother: "I don't like it. I liked how it was before."
  19. My dad: "You're being ridiculous. We can't have dad fall again."
  20. "Hehe and I really fell bad," my grandfather says, like a child.
  21. My mom points to the bruises and cuts on his legs.
  22. My dad: "Did you like it when he had to be away in rehab for a week?"
  23. My grandmother: "No."
  24. My dad: "Well..."
  25. My grandmother: "I have to look at it. I liked how it looked before."
  26. My parents are exasperated.
  27. After minutes of silence, my grandfather, staring in the distance, slowly tries to speak, "I don't want to..."
  28. He pauses and looks at my grandmother.
  29. " have to..."
  30. He searches for words.
  31. "...go away."
  32. I look at my dad. He is crying. I start crying.
  33. My grandfather fights to finish the thought. "This is better."
  34. My grandmother: "OK, Harvey."
  35. My grandfather slumps over like a toy whose string has been pulled back in.
  36. My grandmother walks the 6 feet over to my grandfather to help him up.
  37. My father and I are still crying.
  38. My grandfather begins to stand up very slowly.
  39. He farts.
  40. It last 15 seconds.
  41. You know how sometimes when you let the air out of a balloon it sounds like a whistle?
  42. My grandfather, in a Boston accent: "I ... Faaahted."
  43. My dad, mom, and I explode laughing. I am still crying, but the tears are of a different sort.
  44. I look at my dad and he is also still crying, but the tears are of a different sort.
  45. This was the hardest time I've ever laughed.
  46. Epilogue
    An hour or so later, when we were leaving my grandmother told my mom that she loved how the living room looked now.