My grandpa, “opa”, is about to die. And – and please don’t be shocked – I hope he does soon.
Opa was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease almost 10 years ago, and while he kept in relatively good health for the first couple of years, since a year or 2 – and especially since he moved to the nursing home last year – he has hardly lived. I went to visit him with T last Sunday and it hurt to see him, capable only of drooling, sleeping, and hanging in his wheelchair – he now even lost the ability to sit. This was not the grandfather I had wanted to introduce to T.
He was the first person in our family to study. We’re not even talking university degrees here, but simply continued education beyond 14 years of age. He made a career in the bank and actually became a bank manager – years later, my uncle would follow in his footsteps. He was in nearly every board in our little village that had anything to say, and he was well-known and liked. He was also a musician: he sang in the church choir and he played the guitar – up until today I hear stories about how he would entertain everybody on holidays and parties, and one of my fondest memories is him singing old songs from his childhood to his grandchildren
Toen ik nog een jongen was,
van zo een jaar of zes,
las moeder mij bij kattekwaad,
weleens flink de les.
Zat ik aan het trommelke,
En pakte ik een koekske,
moeder zei: gij deugeniet,
ik zet u in het hoekske!
(When I was just a little boy, about 6, my mother would often get angry at me. Whenever I’d sneaked a cookie out of the jar, she’d say: you naughty boy, in the corner you go!)
I never had a particularly strong bond with him, but he is my grandfather and I love him. And because I love him, it feels confusing to wish him dead. But it is also because I love him, that I wish he may go quickly and softly, because I am convinced with all my heart and mind that this is not the way he would like to live, he deserves to live.
I have been very lucky so far to have lost almost none of the people close to me. I am not counting my 3 great-grandmothers which I saw once or twice a year, and while I was very sad to lose my other grandfather, I mainly remember annoyance because his sudden death forced us to return from our family holiday (I was 10. And selfish.). Opa will be the first person I have really known who will leave. The most disturbing thing about that is not the loss itself – he has had a good life, the time for him to go is not unexpected nor untimely -, what lingers in my mind about this is that next up in line are my parents. And that, I fear, I will not be able to tackle so lightheartedly.
In honor of my opa, one of his favorite songs ” ‘t Is weer voorbij die mooie zomer” (“The beautiful summer is over once more”) by Gerard Cox, in more than one way appropriate.