I walked slowly into Grandpa’s room at the nursing home. As I looked around the room, I saw cards on the wall, and a picture of Grandpa and Grandma sitting on the dresser. He turned his head toward me as I entered the room. His eyes seemed fixed on me. His expression appeared flat and looked as if he were studying my face, as if he was trying to pull from his memory why I looked familiar to him.
“Good morning, Grandpa,” I said in a cheerful voice. And then, as if a light turned on inside, a smiled stretched across the many years of wrinkles that had collected on his face.
“Good morning, Sunshine”, as he reached for my hand to pull me closer to him. I leaned in and kissed his scruffy cheek, “Looks like the girls haven’t gotten you cleaned up yet,” I said.
“Today’s my bath day. Allison should be coming to get me soon,” he grinned.
I sat in the bedside chair and we began our usual morning discussions. “How’s the family?”, “What did you eat from breakfast?”
We stopped as there was a knock at the door. It was Allison, his nursing assistant, “Good morning, Mr. Johnson. I’m here to take you for your bath”.
Turning to Grandpa, I said, “I’ll wait for you in the lounge.”
“Good, I wanted to tell you a story.”
Settling into the vinyl covered chair in the family lounge, I remembered Grandma and how she struggled after her stroke. I also remembered how Grandpa took such great care of her every day; dressing her, bathing, feeding her and taking her to church on Sundays. One day, I asked him why he worked so hard to care for her; when there are nursing homes and home care services that can lighten his load.
“I made a commitment to your Grandmother and to God years ago that I would stay beside her, and take care of her. I intend to keep that promise. Your Grandma used to take good care of me, your mom and uncle. I cannot turn my back on her now after all she did for all those years”.
My mind drifted off to many miles of memories of Grandma and times I shared with them both. And then after she died, how Grandpa seemed to suddenly need extra assistance and requested to come to the nursing home. “I don’t want to be a burden to you and your family,” he’d said.
Just then, I heard a tap on the door, and it was Grandpa. He was sitting in his wheel chair, wearing his new dress shirt, elastic waist pants and tennis shoes. His cheeks were clean shaven and his was hair combed and slicked back just like he has styled it for the past 50 years.
“I am glad you waited for me. I was thinking, did I ever tell you how your grandma and I met?” he asked.
“No, I don’t think you did,” I answered.
“Well, now, let me tell you then,” and he settled back in his chair, glanced out the window as though he were watching a movie play in his mind.
“I was working at the flour mill, and had to take a load of grain down to Millersburg. I decided to stop and get some lunch before I headed back to work. I sat down at the lunch counter of the local sandwich shop, where your Grandma was working. Your grandma came up, wearing a yellow waitress uniform, with her hair pulled up, and she was smiling at me.
“I asked her, ‘What’s good today?’, and she said ‘I would recommend the Swiss Steak’.
“I looked up at her beautiful green eyes that seemed to sparkle as she talked with me.
“‘Well, give me the Swiss Steak’ I said, ‘and maybe your smile for dessert’.
“I heard the other girls at the counter giggle as she turned to turn in the order. I swear her cheeks were still red when she brought me my plate of food. I went back there every day for two weeks just to see her before I asked permission to come visit her”.
“So that’s how your 55 year romance began?” I asked.
“Yep, and I am still madly in love with my little queen even today”, he smiled.
Later, as I walked out to my car, I made a promise to love my husband like Grandpa loved Grandma.
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