Most of my life I have known my father-in-law as Grandpa, because Husband and I had children quite quickly after getting married. He has been a lovely Grandpa and a wonderful father-in-law. Going to Grandpa and Grandma’s house became about all these wonderful rituals that that my children just loved. When they were infants, Grandpa would rock them to sleep, singing Clementine. As they got older, the children knew that homemade waffles would be for breakfast each morning, and that beef tenderloin would always be for dinner on the first night.
There was always a show to create with Grandpa dancing, with Grandma playing the violin, and with the children each doing a little musical or other performance. The youngest always featured their somersaults. As they grew, planning shows, designing sets, and practicing pieces could take days. When not in theater mode, daily painting, block building, and visits to the Science Museum were our activities in the colder months while summer was all about the beach, outside barbeques, planting little gardens, art and always music. Indeed, activities that the children might have long ago outgrown at home were still enjoyed years later at Grandma and Grandpa’s. In this way, being with Grandma and Grandpa extended my children’s childhood.
This is why it is so strange now to see this incredibly intelligent, loving, vivacious man hollowed out. Increasingly, the Grandpa that remains fixates on money and taxes. He can spend hours counting the thousand dollars we always keep in his wallet to deter any requests to go to the bank. Husband and I watch him count and recount his bills. We listen to his same conversations over and again, and we think we would never want to be like Grandpa is now. We think if we were like him, we wouldn’t want to keep on living. Yet Grandpa wants to keep on living. He tells us that he intends to live for a very long time still.