Tag Archives: Caledonia

The saddest days of my life

2 Jun

Growing up I was very close to my grandparents on my mom’s side.  I’m still very close with my gram.  She’s the best.  So was my gramps.  My gramps served in the Navy in World War II, on a submarine chaser.  He came home to Dayton,Ohio and became a teacher and then a principal.  When he retired, he and my gram moved out toConnecticutto be closer to family.  They eventually bought a huge white colonial with a detached garage and a small barn on the property.  I used to sleep over their house and would hang out with my gramps while gram was doing her thing.  My gramps and I would sit in his study and listen to Bill Cosby and Bing Crosby records.  We’d play war/forts, with Legos, and we used to spend hours sitting in their attic looking at old photographs and talking about life.  Those are some of my favorite memories and times.

My gramps was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the late ‘80s / early 90’s.  For a few years he was still the same gramps I had always known and loved.  Then things changed.  Suddenly the bright, fun-filled, intelligent man I had known diminished.  We stopped taking long walks around their property and hanging out in their barn.  We stopped spending hours in the attic playing fort and talking about life.  We even stopped listening to records.  My gramps, the guy who I thought would out-live us all, was not there anymore.  His body was there.  His facial expressions were the same.  His mannerisms were similar enough.  The light just wasn’t there anymore.  The bright, cheerful smile was missing that special sparkle in his eyes.  That gleam of mischief was gone.  He never affectionately yelled, “Callie!” at my gram anymore.  Not that he would ever really yell at her.  She always did things her own way and fit perfectly to the song:  Caledonia.  With lyrics such as:  “Caledonia !Caledonia ! / What makes your big head so hard? / I love her, I love her just the same / Crazy ’bout that woman ’cause Caldonia is her name.”  The song fits her to a tee.  My gramps loved my gram like I’ve never seen before or since.  They spent every day together, working in the garden, mowing the lawn, and taking care of their house.  Since my gram doesn’t drive, gramps would drive her on her errands.  They did everything together.

1993 my grandparents moved from their huge white house into an assisted living facility.  This was really hard on all of us.  I remember sitting on the couch with my gramps as my mom and gram were packing things up.  He started talking to me like I was one of his Navy buddies.  He talked about his training, being on the boat with “me”, and the crazy shenanigans “we” got up to.  I think this was when it hit me that my gramps wasn’t ever going to be the same.  He wasn’t going to get better from this.  I was so hurt by this I actually wrote a poem about it, which was published in an anthology of poems by kids.

January 14, 2002my gramps at age 84, finally succumbed to Alzheimer’s.  He died peacefully in his sleep, yet to me his death came many years earlier.  Gramps, I know you’re in a better place.  I miss you.  This one’s for you: