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Interstellar Adventure
Adventure: the pursuit of life — Daniel Roy Wiarda

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Into the lion's mouth

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

When I was about 4 or 5, we lived in Fort Worth. My mom, sister and I lived in a 2-bedroom condo, and my grandparents lived just around the corner from us. My grandfather is a bit odd, vacillating between a complete nut and a total genius in my eyes. I was his first grandchild and we've always had a connection of sorts in some strange way. He used to take me on long evening walks in our neighborhood, and we would 'philosophize' about various things. I don't remember any of the things that we would talk about. The one thing I do remember, however were the trees down one street that we frequented. I don't know what kind of trees they were, but they had huge canopies and were full and leafy. They could have been pecans, as my grandparents had one of these behind their condo that would drop mounds of pecans into their patio area. My sister and I would gather these up, and my grandparents would shell them and eat them and use them in recepies. But, on our walks, especially when there was no moon, and the streetlights were casting strange shadows, I would imagine that the trees were a giant lion's mouth, and we would stop and stare around, while I slowly gathered the courage to step into the gaping hole. When I was ready, I would tightly grasp my grandfather's hand and take a deep breath before we would both start together into the darkness. Sometimes we would walk quietly and slowly through, so as not to wake the lion and be eaten alive. Other times I would be in a bit of a panic and we would hurry down the street to get out of the lion's mouth as soon as we could. If the wind was blowing, I could swear I could hear the lion roaring and rumbling, stirring from his sleep. Some nights I couldn't muster the courage to enter into the shadows at all, and we would walk a different route. My grandfather is old now. He's only 73, but having diabetes for over 25 years has taken a toll on him. He's had laser surgery on his eyes to cauterize leaking blood vessels that have taken most of his vision. And last week he had cataract surgery. He can't feel his fingers or toes anymore. Half the time he walks around with his shoes untied because he doesn't have the dexterity to tie them anymore. He gets frustrated when he knocks things over from the lack of feeling. My grandmother has to drive him everywhere, but she's not well either. She was diagnosed with breast cancer almost 6 years ago. She's been in remission for over 5 years now, but the cancer treatment has caused it's own problems. We think the chemotherapy has exacerbated a congenital problem with her heart, and she has been on different medications of varying degrees trying to control her heartbeats. Her heart will race like a runner's even if she's sitting quietly. She tires easily, and during the summer, the ozone alert days are so hard on her. She's a Yankee gal from New Hampshire, and she keeps on truckin'. She was supposed to go in for a procedure (the second) on her heart last week, but a bad cold and fever caused that to be cancelled. If she can stay well, she will go back into the hospital on Sunday for a second attempt. Supposedly this procedure will regulate her heartbeat and give her back her energy. It makes me sad to see my grandparents age so quickly these last few years. They've been a constant presence in my life, sometimes good, sometimes not (they have the ability to drive you a little crazy at times) and my extended family has lots of drama that seems to be centered around my grandparents. But I know that they love me wholly and compeletely and without question. So, as my grandparents continue to age and battle all of the things that come with age, I hope that I can have the patience to listen to them and continue to learn from them. I hope that I can hold back my frustration that comes with listening to my grandmother ramble about things, especially when I don't understand why she's talking to me about whatever it is. I hope that I can sit quietly when they argue (over 45 years of marriage will do that to you I guess) over who moved who's glasses/medicine/file that the other was looking at. I hope that I can continue to laugh with them while I help them unload groceries and my depression-era grandfather has bought 4 gallons of milk and 4 gallons of orange juice just for 2 old-folks.

2/01/2005 09:43:00 AM :: ::
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