Posted on April 27, 2012
So I’ve been out in Kansas all week since my Grandpa has been sick. I wanted to come out and see him, and my work was awesome enough to let me work from here for the week so I could come spend some time with him and the rest of my family out here. All of my extended family live in Kansas, my parents and my aunt (mom’s sister) are the only ones who live out of the state. The entire family on both sides goes back many generations of attending KU and being Jayhawks, and have a long line of being technical engineers of one form or another (my brother carries on this tradition at least).
Anyway, my grandfather, who I’m named after (Charles is my middle name and his first name) has got prostate cancer that has moved into his bones, and he’s just not doing well at all right now. It has spread throughout most of his body, even into his jaw making it hard for him to eat or drink anything because his jaw is completely numb. At Christmas time, he was around 175 pounds, and just since then he has decreased to nearly 130 because he just isn’t able to eat enough to survive. We helped him get a new electric bed and chair set up in the living room and bed room that raise and lower to help him stand up, and some days he’s been feeling well enough to sit around and talk with us for a while. Other days it seems hard enough for him to just move from his bed to the living room. It’s been extremely hard seeing him like this in such poor condition because he has always been such a badass.
My grandfather came from nothing, extremely poor roots, and worked his ass of his entire life to end up being an extremely successful petroleum engineer and farmer. One of the most knowledgeable and down to earth people I know. He served his country in WWII (both of my grandfathers did), and I consider him a hero. He was stationed in the Pacific, and fought the Japanese on many of those islands, ended up being a Staff Seargent before the war ended. I have always looked up to this man just because he was one of the most honest, self made, grassroots badasses I have ever known. I’m just so thankful to have had him and all of my grandparents in my life for nearly 30 years, and it breaks my heart to see him in such bad shape.
I’ll never forget for the rest of my life going in to his bedroom to help my grandma get him in bed so he could rest, and he had laid down in bed with his feet sticking off the end. We needed to get him to slide up a bit so his feet would be comfortable, and the only way to do this was to put a sheet underneath him so we could grab that and slide him up. But just the small pressure of moving him and sliding him up the bed hurt him so much he was yelling with pain. It just completely broke my heart to see such a strong man so frail and in so much pain. I just hope to god that he can at least not suffer any more.
One of the hardest things this week was getting him on hospice care. My grandmother recently (last year) had a fall and broke her hip. She is fine and fully healed, but ever since then she is not very stable and can’t support herself that well. It just isn’t safe to have her trying to help him walk around and get in and out of bed, and in the shower. So we really made the right decision bringing in additional care with a hospice company, but it was unbearably hard seeing my strong, proud, grandfather come to terms with the fact that he now needs this help. They were interviewing him and asked him all sorts of questions about his current state, and when they asked him if he felt that his life was valuable and worthwhile, he replied that he didn’t really feel that way. He has always been a strong, and independent man, and it’s so hard for him to realize that he can’t do much on his own anymore and he needs the help of others to do just the most basic tasks. I think overall, it was the right decision and at least he will get the care and dedication that he needs in order to live a comfortable life from here on out, but it was a really hard decision to make for everyone. It was very hard watching my mom interact with him and for her to see her father in such bad shape.
It wasn’t all bad, however, as Evan and I got to spend a lot of quality time with grandpa, and talked with him for hours. He’s so interesting and knowledgeable about just about everything, that when we were asking him about some lamps that made out solid blocks of wood on a lathe, he really wanted to get up and take us into his office to show some of the pieces he had carved. Even though it caused him so much pain just to get up and walk into the other room, he just wanted so badly to go in there and show us. We talked with him about everything: farming, engineering, oil drilling, woodworking…it was great and definitely conversations that I will hold with me for the rest of my life.
Leaving was the hardest part knowing that I might not ever see him again. But at least I left knowing that I got to spend some time with him and have awesome memories that will never leave me.
It has been really hard coming home to being alone and realizing I have no one here for me to go through this. I haven’t really lost anyone close to me like this before, and it’s as hard as when my mom was going through cancer. I mean, I have my family and my brother close by, but ever since Jess up and left, it’s really hard at night sleeping alone and having all these horrible thoughts on your mind and no one to talk to about it at 3am when you can’t stop thinking about all of it. Fuck. I just feel extremely alone and unwanted that sometimes I’m not sure how in the world I managed to screw up getting engaged to the woman I thought would love me for the rest of my life. It’s very sad and confusing to me. Nothing to do but to move on I suppose.
The trip was great though, and gave me a lot to think about. I managed to be able to go visit my grandpa’s farm, which holds so many memories from me growing up. Every trip to Kansas from my childhood featured a trip to his 100+ acre farm, and I just remember running all around there, driving tractors, swimming, fishing, exploring, running through cornfields, and having so much fun. Evan and I got to go out there with our cousin Billie and mowed all the lawn around the farmhouse for grandpa so that it would be easier to walk around there. He was able to make a trip out to the farm too with a friend of his, and was actually able to get out and walk around the property to check on things, which I know made him so happy because that farm has been his passion for the past 40 years.
Evan and I also managed to get his old farm truck running. “Old Blackie” was an awesome truck, a 1970 dodge pickup with a ’68 hood and an inline slant 6. We all remember driving around sitting in the bed of this truck when we were little kids. It has been sitting out at the farm for a number of years, so evan and i wrenched on it a bit and got it fired up and drove her around for a bit. All it needs is a new battery to get back on the road. Such a cool truck, I would love to restore it someday!
We even towed up my Uncle Kim’s MAX 6×6 amphibious buggy. This thing is awesome, with a Briggs & Stratton 14hp engine, and 6 wheels, it will go just about anywhere. We bombed the shit out of this thing all around the farmlands. Check out this video:
On the way out, we stopped by the artesian spring at the edge of the property that I always remember stopping at to get a drink of the freshest water I’ve ever tasted, straight out of the ground. Then, we passed through the tiny town of Cedar Point, which has this awesome old mill from the 1800’s that the city is trying to save. We went over and explored around inside it for a bit before taking off. Got some great pictures of it too:
Finally, before leaving, we stopped by my Uncle’s (My dads brother) house and checked out his neighbor’s cars and bikes. My uncle is restoring a pretty sweet 1963 Pontiac Tempest, and his neighbor is also a big Pontiac guy with 2 GTO’s and some awesome bikes. He had a 1974 Triumph, and a 1970 and 1968 GTO. The triumph he had bought when he was 20, with 1,800 miles on it, and still had it in perfect condition:
So overall, it was a good trip, it was a bad trip…but it was great to see my family and help me remember my roots. I don’t get to see my family often, and it really helped to at least get to spend an awesome week with my grandfather, as I dont’ know if I’ll ever have that opportunity again.
I have a feeling that our family is in for a rough upcoming year. But I wouldn’t change the time I had with him for the world.
This post is dedicated to Charles Forrester.