This is another one of my old works – copyrighted 1987 – and in tribute to my grandfather who died 16 years ago – My Papa DID did die in his sleep – but at 93 – and happy with his wife of 15 years who was and is 15 years younger than him 🙂 She was there by his side when he left us.
I grabbed my briefcase and ran out of the office. The excess work that had piled up had caused me to lose track of time. Papa would be waiting on the steps.
i visited my grandfather every Tuesday at five-thirty. He had become greatly dependent on these visits over the years. Now, at eighty four, it seemed his most valued reason for making it through the week.
Papa was a great man, regardless of the apparent signs of aging. Many times I’ve listened to him recount the story of his first days in Canada. He had begun his career as a math professor, but wasn’t able to associate well with the students. As such, within a year he left the school board and joined an insurance company as an actuary.
Papa loved figuring out finances. I remember as a child hearing him mumble numbers to himself as he sat alone in his living room. He never knew I was sitting quietly in the hall listening. He was always brilliant with numbers and calculations. Even now with his failing memory he could account for every penny he spent, the national economy’s financial future and the current expenditures the government was making.
His favourite pastime was analyzing the absurdities of government spending. I found it all so intriguing and learned so much from him. I used to joke with him and tell him that I would enter into politics and turn everything around, just like he wanted it to be.
I was suddenly stunned by the screeching of tires bringing a car to a halt. My wandering mind had not registered the speeding vehicle headed in my direction. Instinctively, I jumped out of the way, just in time, as the driver shouted profanities as he sped away.
Safely back on the sidewalk, I continued meandering in my thoughts. I was concerned about the ever growing workload that was accumulating. It had begun cutting into my spare time, making it increasingly difficult to squeeze in my visits to Papa. But to stop seeing him would kill him. I had considered the alternative of having him come to live with me, but after looking into the cost of a day nurse, my cheque book revealed it was impossible. I just couldn’t afford it.
Poor Papa. He had managed to outlive three wives and had given up trying to find a fourth. His last marriage took place when he was seventy-six years old. I remember how I had cried. His sparkling eyes glowed like those of a twenty year old man. He was so happy. His bride had been fifteen years hi junior. None of us had dreamed that she would have been the first to go. But then, just one week before their second anniversary, a tragic car accident had taken her life. It was a devastating experience for all of us, but especially for Papa. That day he aged sixty years. Since then he has been drifting off at intervals which seemed to become more and more frequent as time passed. I worried about him. At times I would have to leave him as he stared at the blank wall of his tiny room in a state of pure aloofness. I tried to tell myself he was merely dreaming of another time. It was the only consolation I could find; the only way I could sleep at night.
I rushed around the last corner and peered at the steps. Papa wasn’t there. Perhaps he had grown tired of waiting. I glanced at my watch. It was six o’clock. I ran into the building and jumped into the elevator to the third floor. I walked in long strides until I reached his room. I glanced inside. The bed was neatly made, void of any ripples. Unusual, I thought. A discomforting coolness chilled the atmosphere.
A hand tapped me gently on the shoulder. I spun around, startled. My eyes me with those of a nurse, dark skin and stern face.
“I’m sorry Miss. He passed away just this afternoon during his nap.”
I stared at her in disbelief. This couldn’t be. No one had died on me yet. Not since I was three years old when Nana died! This couldn’t be happening.
I bowed my head as the tears fell on my shoes. To think, here I was worried about what little time I had. I realized my definition was wrong. Time was life. It was Papa who’s time had been fading, not mine.
I sauntered over to the bed he had once laid in. Sitting upon it, rippling the tightly pulled bedspread, I ran my hand upon the surface, whispering “rest in peace Papa, I will miss you!” I watched the tears penetrate the mustard blanket. They would have to change the bed one more time.