I just had a really emotional experience with my family.
We flew into Minneapolis, rented a car, and drove out to this tiny town called Ellsworth (population 2900). This is where my grandpa Louie currently lives, all by himself in a retirement home.
None of us have seen him in over 5 years. This has been really hard on my mom, so on this family vacation to North Dakota, we made it a point to take this detour and see him. He doesn't get very many visitors. We have a huge family (he has nine kids) and hardly anyone makes the effort to get out to Wisconsin to visit.
We had no idea if he was going to be in good or poor health, if he'd be able to walk or if he'd even know who we were, and my mom was nervous.
We got there though and he scooted on with his walker (complete with the tennis balls) and looked no different than I remembered, albeit a lot older.
He knew exactly who we were, and not only that, the staff told us he'd been talking about how excited he was for us to come all week.
It was an amazing day. We didn't do too much. We went to the cheese factory in town. We drove around while he pointed out all his favorite places. We took him out to dinner at the Highway 63 Cafe. We went back to his place so we could see his room and he wanted to give us some presents (I got a funny little stuffed penguin; I love it).
I guess the best part of the day is that even though he's all alone in a state that's not the one he lived and loved and spent his life in, but he laughs so much. He was genuinely happy there, and content in this part of his life. He had all these little art projects he'd done and showed us; cards made by the local highschool, and all the staff just loved him.
To lighten the mood of this entry, I spent all day noting down funny things he said, to which my parents first shot me disapproving glances but soon were raising their eyebrows at me to make sure I got it when he said something else hilarious.
1. As we're walking back to his room, he points to this woman's nameplate on her room. "Erma Punches". "What a name," he said. "How do you think her punches are? Erma Punches alright, Erma Punches HARD."
2. He told us he recently got a physical, so we asked how his health is doing. "Oh yeah, the doctor said I was great all except my toenails. "Too long!" he said. "Cut those things!"
3. My dad asked him if he still remembered how to speak German. Instead of answering, he rattled off some sentence in German. "Come over here and say hello?" my mom asked, trying to work out what he'd said. "No, come over here and put some pants on!"
4. We were talking about how my grandma's sister recently died. He didn't know, because he and my grandma have been divorced for 5 or 6 years now and hate each other. He however thought we were talking about my grandma. Instead of, you know, caring, all he said was "they're still taking money out of my checks for her and she's dead??!" "NO, Grandpa, she's still alive. Her SISTER died." "Oh." "Do you miss Grandma, ever?" "Hell no."
5. Judge Judy was on tv and he just scowled. "I hate that woman's guts."
It was hard on my mom leaving. She started crying, which almost made me cry. I don't ever want to have to leave my parents 5 states away in a nursing home for someone else to take care of them when they're older. That would be terrible.
This is day one of my family vacation. I'm glad I'm here.
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