Bye-bye opa


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.

My grandpa cycling together with my mum only last summer.

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!
Tralalala… lalalalala…

(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.

7 responses »

  1. What a beautiful post dediacted to this special man. I too lived those same internal conflicts with my father who left us Oct 2008. Dad was an alcoholic, had been for many years and had absolutely no intention of repairing his life or trying to change. It annoyed me, as much as I loved him. I just thought he’d be ‘better off’ over there in peace rather than here torturing himself constantly. Different from your grandfather’s case who is such a noble man. I wish him a peaceful exit, a safe journey and a wonderful reunion once there x

    • Thank you so much for your kind words… I am just happy I knew him before his disease took him away, and I’ll be able to remember him as he was then, my younger cousins are not so lucky. I am very sorry to hear about your father and the way he chose to live his life, I cannot even pretend to imagine the powerlessness one must face when a loved one is so clearly not loving him/herself… I hope he is indeed “better off” now, and you too can remember good times also… thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  2. There, I have to stick up for him! It was a stream of events that led him to his alcoholism, he lost his wife unexpectedly, he lost his job shortly after and couldn’t get another due to his age. I was unable to stop these events having such a profound effect on him and he lost all will. I’d like you to know in good times he was a good father and a remarkable man, just a shame he lost it.

    • Hmm… it seems my English has failed on me – I never wanted to imply your father was a useless no-good husband/dad/friend his whole life. I am very sorry if I offended you or his memory, that was not even remotely the intention. Although -inappropriate as it may be- it does bring a smile to my face to see you can and will defend him this strongly: he was clearly a loved man and a wonderful father, and I’m happy you are able to remember him that way – I really feel it is important to remember our loved ones at their best. Once more I’m sorry if I offended your father’s memory, that was not quite the way I wanted to welcome you to my blog.

  3. Good heavens no! You certainly didn’t offend me or imply that my father was a no good. this is a perfect example of how the written word can be read in a completely differewnt context to that which was intended.
    Please don’t think I was saying anything other than reflecting on my love for the man who drove me insane
    see you soon

    • So you’re not offended… and I’m not offended… and all is good! Woosh, this written word sure makes things complicated sometimes :). In that case, thank you once more for your kind words on my post and come again anytime, I’m sure to follow you! See you around!

  4. Pingback: Bye bye opa (2) « A World of Lies

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