You don't expect people to get old

Where I walked with Pop

Where I walked with Pop

I never expected that I would take my grandfather for a walk in a wheelchair. I never expected that I would sit and do exercises with him, helping him stand up, raise this leg and that leg, counting out loud to twenty five. I never expected that I'd have to explain to him, every time we came through his door that this was his room. This is where you live, Pop, remember? You moved here after you had your broken hip. Yes, see? Your desk. Your photos. Your clothes. Your photo on the outside of the door.

You don't expect people to get old.

You don't expect them to get smaller, thinner, greyer. More frail.

My Pop beat all of us grandkids at tennis, golf and ping pong until he was in his 80s. His body surfing skills were legend. "Poppa can fix that," we all said. "Poppa can do it." Even when he had started to slow down, he still did more than most people.

When he was 90, he called me up one day.

"What have you been doing today, Pop?" I asked.

"Well, I've been cleaning the pontoon, on the waterfront," he said. 

"Really? How?" I asked. 

"Well, I got into the boat, which is tied up at the pontoon. And then I leaned out and started scrubbing. I figured the worst that could happen was that I fell in and had to swim to the side."

Of course, I know people get old. I know they become unwell. I know they fade. It's just, I guess I didn't realise it would happen to him.

(And don't think I'm some great saint for helping him out. I've been to spend the day with him only three times since he's been living in an assisted facility. My mum and my aunty make sure someone sees him every day. They're the ones doing the caring work, and I'm so grateful that they are. He also gets other visitors. The generosity and love he showed over his life to others is coming back to serve him now.)

What becomes clear when it's your darling grandfather plodding down the hall on his walker, is that life is short. Time disappears. We need to be ready.

The other thing that's clear is love. I love my Pop so much. I'm glad I know him. I'm glad I've spent time with him. I'm even glad he cheated at Scrabble almost every time he played. He's a blessing and a gift. And I'm grateful.


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