*This is edited and reposted from the archives.
I went to visit my grandpa the first evening of his admission into the nursing home. I have to admit that I procrastinated as long as I reasonably could, afraid of what I would find, nervous that I would be alone. I had originally planned to bring the whole family, but Shawn and I decided that if Grandpa was really out of sorts that it would not be good for the kids to be there. Mom, Grandma, my aunt, and my uncle had left just before lunch, and I got there around 5:00 that evening. I'm not sure what he did in the intervening hours, but I think he may have been looking for a way home. An orderly escorted me to Grandpa's wing and told me that he had been wondering when someone would come to see him. When I got to him he had his hat and jacket on, ready to leave. He was standing at the nurses' station, holding his drivers license in his hand trying to get someone to help him go home.
He was not agitated, but he was upset, confused, and disoriented. He didn't recognize me. This was the first time that he didn't know who I am. He seemed to think that I was someone who worked at the facility, and that I would be able to take him home. He kept telling me over and over that he needed to get home and he appreciated that I was taking the time to listen to him. I had to slowly redirect him. I got him to talk about his time in the Navy, his father, his uncle, and I read Psalm 23 to him. Through the course of the conversation he started to calm down. We talked about who I am, and how I am related to him. Then they brought in his dinner tray. Before he started eating I got him to take off his hat and jacket, but he never seemed to resign himself to the idea that the bed on which he sat was now his.
I read Psalm 119 to him while he ate. Several times he would stop eating to listen. He seemed to be deeply moved by the passages. He asked me to repeat a few of them. He told me several times that there was something so special about God's Word, that it moved him in a way no other book could. I got him to tell me about the time he gave his heart to Christ. One thing I forgot to mention the other day is that my grandfather is long-winded. :) But honestly, I had forgotten about that particular trait. He has remained mostly silent when we've been together for so long that I forgot how much he can talk about one topic. (Or should I say preach?) In the past it really didn't take much to get him rolling. There was a running joke in my family that the food would be cold by the time Grandpa got done saying the blessing. I remember squirming through many blessings, waiting for Grandpa to finish so I could eat. The other night he seemed to be exceptionally long-winded. He kept repeating the same thing over and over, forgetting what he had just told me. It was good to hear him talk for so long about something again. A trait that for years had been an annoyance has become a blessing.
He never did fully recognize me. He understood who I was, but that understanding seemed to be only on an intellectual level. Yet I was still very blessed by the visit that I had dreaded. It was very upsetting to see how he was when I first got there, and there were several times I had to choke down the tears, but by the end of the visit I was so thankful for the priceless time we'd had. The Holy Spirit was in that room, and the three of us had a wonderful time together. Before I left I asked him if I could pray with him. He said he would love it if I prayed with him. I prayed for his peace of mind as he transitioned into his new home, yet in my heart I was still rebelling against the thought of him staying there one night, let alone many. He just doesn't seem to belong there. That is not his home. The people there are not his family. But I know that as hard as it is, it is for everyone's best.