My Grandfather is 86 and cantankerous.
He’s also one of the most amazing people I will ever know.
He’s a dodgy old bugger. A lot of the things he gets up to aren’t very nice, but they sure are funny. For example, while living in the retirement village, he bought one of those remote doorbells that plays a bunch of different noises as well as tunes. He set it on “barking dog”, and put the speaker part in his shed. Then he sat by the back door reading his newspaper with the ringer in his hand. When the old ladies walked by his shed, he’d press the button and then laugh at the old ladies jumping out of their skins. He seriously considered trying the same thing at the mall.
He loves me and is very biased. One time he was complaining about a girl he saw who had her hair dyed an unnatural shade of red. “But Grandfather” I said “You like my hair and it’s purple”. “Yes,” he said “But it looks natural!”.
He’s always sure he’s right, but he’s not always right. He was complaining to Dad several years ago that his indicators were broken - they weren’t making the ticking noise anymore. He said he was going to book his car into the mechanic. Dad said “You don’t need to see the mechanic. You need to see the doctor.” Grandfather looked at him like he was mad. “Doctor?”. “Yes. There’s nothing wrong with your indicators, it’s your hearing that’s gone bad”. He wouldn’t believe Dad, and dragged him outside to look at the car. He turned on the indicator which made a distinct “Tick… tick… tick…” Dad said “Yeah. So?” Grandfather couldn’t believe it! “You can hear that? Ok, wait, maybe it’s only when the car’s running”. He turned the car on. Above the sound of the engine was a clear “Tick… tick… tick”. “Can you still hear it?” he asked. “Dad, if it was any louder, it would be giving your dog a headache” my father replied. Grandfather did go see his doctor and did get hearing aids, but despite getting free batteries from Veteran’s Affairs, he’ll only ever switch one on at a time.
He’s quick witted. Ten years ago, he bought himself an exercise bike to help with his bad leg. As he came out of the sports store carrying it, a group of teenagers laughed at him. One yelled out “Trying to get fit, pops?”. Grandfather replied “Nah, it’s for my Dad”.
He’s full of surprises. At dinner one night, he reached into his pocket, and pulled out a plastic bag which he dropped in the middle of the table. At first, I thought “Why is Grandfather carrying a bag of grass clippings?” and then we all realised it was marijuana. He’d found it lying on the ground outside the pub - thinks the young guy who brushed past him had dropped it. I asked why he didn’t take it to the police, but he said he thought they’d just keep it for themselves. In the end, he exchanged it for a six pack of light beer. I never thought I’d see the day that my 80-odd year old Grandfather became a drug dealer.
He’s inventive, but in a most peculiar way. Trying to trim his dog’s claws was a big problem for him as the dog kept slipping out of his grasp and running away. He solved this problem by tying the dog to the ironing board with octopus straps. Then the dog was nipping at his fingers, so he pulled one of Grandma’s old stockings over the dog’s head. I don’t think it’s an RSPCA approved method, but that’s how Grandfather got his dog’s claws trimmed (and don’t worry, the dog now lives with my aunt).
He’s self reliant. Before my aunt had to take the dog, he used to walk it every day down by the river, near the skateboard ramp. We visit him one day and find he’s got his old walking stick out of the cupboard. He has pulled the rubber stopper off the end of it, pushed a nail through and put it back on, so his walking stick now has a nail sticking out the end of it. Grandfather tells us it’s so he can pick up rubbish on his walks. It was quite some time later that he told us that the Real reason was that he was being harassed by some of the skaters while he was walking his dog. Rather than ask for help or even telling us what was going on, he made himself a weapon - and the old dodger said he’d planned that he could tell police the story about picking up rubbish if he’d ever been forced to use it.
He’s interested in new technology. He has a mobile phone, but he won’t tell us the number. He says we can call him when he gets home. He keeps it switched off all the time as it’s only for emergencies. He also has a video recorder. When he first got it, he called me complaining that it wouldn’t record. I asked him to tell me what he was doing so I could work out the problem. He said “I turn it on, put the blank video tape in, set the channel, press record. I give it a minute or so, then I stop it. When I press play, there’s nothing there.” I got him to repeat those steps to me, and I asked “Have you been rewinding it?” “Have I what?” he asked. Problem solved! And it’s simple things like that that make him think I’m some kind of technological genius
He’s very intolerant and grumpy. Now that he’s in a nursing home, he’s learning to deal with the other residents, and he doesn’t have much time or sympathy for those suffering dementia. There’s one old lady who upsets him by coming in his room and rearranging things. Recently he was watching TV and she came in, and he warned her to get out “or else”. She went away. He was engrossed in his programme, and didn’t notice that she was back in the room at first, until he saw her out the corner of his eye. He had a glass of water, about a quarter full, so he just flung the contents at her. However, he quickly discovered that he hadn’t doused the poor old lady - his tall, strong and healthy physical therapy nurse was dripping wet and exclaiming “What have you done to me!”. I think that’s the end of his water throwing days.
He is a remarkable man, and I’m very lucky to have had some much contact with him over the years. Now that he’s very elderly and tires quickly I make all sorts of excuses to myself about why I don’t visit him so often, but I feel very guilty. I really must make more of an effort to treasure him while we still have him.