I returned home from University, and landed my “dream job,” right near home.
Not long after starting my new career, my grandfather developed congestive heart failure. At the same time, his Glaucoma worsened and he began going blind.
Up until that time, Grandpa was a very active man. He was forever busying himself– well into his mid 80’s– working in his garden, cutting an acre of grass with his old manual push mower, and climbing to the very top rung of his makeshift ladder to prune his beloved fruit trees (much to the constant protests of the entire family). Oh, sure… he’d humor us by pretending he’d quit climbing that rickety old ladder of his, but as soon as we were gone for the day, we all knew he’d be back up in his trees again.
As time passed, Grandpa’s eyesight got worse and worse. It wasn’t long before he was almost totally blind. Although Grandpa’s doctors encouraged him to remain active, because of his blindness, it became almost impossible for him to do anything, other than sit in his chair and listen to the Italian television all day.
The forced inactivity was hard on him—and on us. It was hard to see this once vibrant man lose his independence and sense of purpose. But what could we do?
We all had jobs that required us to be gone most of the day. Sure, we would take turns running home to make my grandfather comfortable and prepare him lunch, but that did very little to cure his loneliness or restore his sense of purpose.
Back then, there weren’t the same options for our family as there are today—no adult daycare or senior activity centers, and homecare was only available to those who were bed-bound. So, all we could do was all we could do.
I still remember the feelings of helplessness, guilt and frustration I felt as I watched my beloved Grandpa slip away from us.
The inactivity and I’m sure his dwindling will to live finally caught up with him. His congestive heart failure got progressively worse and he died.
That whole experience and the sense of frustration and helplessness it brought with it changed me in a deep way.
One cold November night, not long after Grandpa passed away, I found myself lying awake— staring into the thick darkness until dawn; searching the emptiness for an answer to a question, which I had never dared to ask: What should I really be doing with my life?