My grandfather is dying, and there is nothing I can do about it. Sounds like the opening for a sad story filled with flashbacks, tears, and at the very least stimulating conversations. Unfortunately, this is not a fictional story it is my life. I have been on this planet for 38 years, and there has only been one real-life Superman.
J.W. was born back in the late 1920s to a working-class family. He grew up, joined the Army, survived the Korean Conflict, started a family, worked in construction, been married for 50+ years as of this posting, and lived a full life. It is accurate to say that without him I would not be here, literally. My mother had me at the ripe old age of 17, and I lived at my grandparent’s house for the beginning part of my life. J.W. was the only father figure I knew and respected. Naturally, my mother found a nice string of assholes who couldn’t and still can’t measure up to half the man that is my grandpa.
I’ve seen this man in his prime. There was a time when he won a bet when someone told him there was no way he could do 100 push-ups on the spot. He was a little past 50 on that day. He had a quiet swagger that no one could touch. To my knowledge, he only let his ego get the best of him once (a failed attempt at a backflip that broke his leg).
In his later years, about 70, he began taking care of my grandmother. She was diagnosed with a whole host of breathing and heart problems. J.W. continued being Superman. This year I noticed some changes. The determined look in his eye was diminished; he had trouble moving around; his speech was getting worse; his hands that he worked with his whole life shook so bad it was difficult to eat cereal or soup. Perhaps the most significant blow of all was he told me, “I’m tired. I can’t do what I want to anymore.” He also had an incident where he fell in his garage, went to the ER, and ended up with stitches in his face.
He showed me an article in a magazine (for the life of me I don’t remember which one) that told the story of a young lady who took care of her dad as he declined in health. I don’t know if it was explicitly written as support for the “Right to Die” movement, but I got the gist of the words. The old guy is dying, he has declining health, the guy was miserable waiting to die, the daughter was miserable waiting for him to die, daughter ended up having a tainted view of her dad based on the experience. It broke my heart, and I could tell this article also impacted J.W.
I have never seen someone, first hand, prepare for the end of their life. It’s scary. I had hoped to one day ask my grandpa to tell the story of his life, in his own words, and translate it into a story/autobiography. It may be too personal a story for me to write. He still carries on day to day, but it is only a matter of time before his body betrays him again. All I know is that the world will be a much sadder place once he is gone. To my knowledge, he is universally respected and loved. No one can ask for much more from a life well lived.