Monday, September 12, 2011

Grandpa Layton

My grandpas share a birthday—September 8th—only they are seventeen years apart. My mom's dad died eleven years ago when he was 85. My dad's dad is still alive and just celebrated his 79th birthday. We went to visit him today. He has Parkinson's disease so visiting with him is kind of hit or miss—sometimes he is alert but most of the time he is not. He really is just a vestige of his former self, which is really too bad because he was a lot of fun before he started showing the signs of Parkinson's. I feel bad that my children—and even my sister Josie—didn't get to know the real Grandpa.

I'm sure my mom felt similarly about her dad, who had a stroke before I was born. I have a few pictures of him horsing around with me when I was really little but all my memories of him are of a fragile old man who couldn't walk unassisted, needed his food ground up for him, and who couldn't talk. He was my "old" grandpa—he didn't marry my grandma until he was 34 and my mom was his youngest child. This made Grandpa Layton seem, comparatively, very young. These two fine gentlemen were born two decades apart—one in 1915, the other in 1932.

Now it's my "young" Grandpa who can't walk unassisted, who needs help with his food, and who can hardly talk. It's really very sad. 

Today, though, we had a wonderful visit!

At first Grandpa just sat in his chair opening up the pile of envelopes and pictures we handed him. He didn't say much and hardly seemed to notice we were there. 

The girls both took to Grandma right away—but were quite nervous about Grandpa.

Then Rachel started horsing around with Uncle David.

"You can't catch me!" she taunted.

The minute she said those words it was like a switch turned on in Grandpa's brain. Grandpa has always been a big tease, see, so those words would be the perfect thing to put a spark back in his eye. According to Wikipedia (all hail Wikipedia!) memory of sufferers of Parkinson's disease "is affected, specifically in recalling learned information. Nevertheless, improvement appears when recall is aided by cues," such as a cute four-year-old grandchild taunting, "You can't catch me!"

 Rachel had her back to him and she was not expecting him to move in the least (because he so often seems vacant) but he surprised her by lunging out of his chair to grab her!

He scared her half to death but from that very moment it was game on! The girls started running around the room yelling, "BOO!" and "CORN!" Grandpa watched with a hint of a smile curling his lips and that familiar twinkle dancing in his eyes. He'd reach out and grab them when they least expected it.

Then Miriam invented a game where she'd throw her blanket at him and then try to take it back while he kept it out of reach. Or he'd let her start walking away with it and would then tug it back into his lap.


She thought it was hilarious!

And, truthfully, it was. I haven't seen Grandpa looking so alive and happy in years!

Josie was Grandpa Conrad's little buddy. They just clicked and seemed to understand each other and could always make each other happy. Miriam was Grandpa Layton's little buddy today. She brought a smile to his face, which was so nice to see.

She even got brave enough to hug him goodbye and let him kiss her cheek!

Besides wishing Grandpa a happy birthday, we wanted to squeeze a visit in so that David could say goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa before leaving for England—he leaves on Tuesday. He'll be doing a graduate program in Leeds. Rachel played photographer and took these pictures of him with Grandma and Grandpa...and Miriam. She's getting to be a good little photographer!

And then we took some group pictures. The first one is just a silly one of Uncle David and Auntie Josie making fun of Miriam's "smile."

She does the goofiest fake smile for pictures—I told her that she's really going to regret it when she gets older but that didn't cure her habit so instead of saying "Smile!" I prompt her for pictures with "Show me your pretty teeth!" It renders a much more attractive result.

Andrew took the group pictures, which is why he isn't in them. But he was there.

And one more for good measure:

It was so nice to get a good visit in with my grandparents. I know we just saw them at the family reunion but there were so many people there (and so many place for my children to run) that I didn't feel like I got a good visit in. It was especially nice to see Grandpa so active in playing with his great-granddaughters.

I love you, Grandma and Grandpa!

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