My grandfather had Parkinson’s. He was a proud man, always careful to shield his trembling fingers and unsteady grip when his grandkids were around. I think he thought we didn’t know anything was wrong, and we probably didn’t when we were really young, but it never really mattered to us anyway. “Grandpa shakes, whatever,” I can remember thinking. It was important to him to appear stoic, unfazed: the thing was grandpa wasn’t very good at hiding it. He fought through the awkward meals of jittering silverware and dropped fork-fulls with a sweet old man smile all while making inappropriate jokes about how he still has to chase away other guys from grandma. He had a walker when his balance was going, but he never took it when my brother and I would take them to lunch at the mall across from their high-rise. He was a proud man.
One day grandpa got Alzheimer’s.
I was drinking beer and watching hockey on the north shore when my aunt called: grandma had fallen down and had to spend a night in the hospital. She’d be fine, but someone had to stay overnight with grandpa. Not that they spent much time apart before his diagnosis, but this would be the first time afterward and my aunt was worried he’d wander off. Since I lived less than a kilometer away, and all other family a four hour drive, I was volun-told to go sleep on grandpa’s couch and not to smoke on their balcony. (Mission half accomplished.) I didn’t sleep well back then- still don’t- so I took my laptop to do some work but I remember I couldn’t find wifi so I watched basic cable on an TV older than my father. Those details aren’t necessarily important, but they are details nonetheless. So around 3, 4 AM, grandpa comes walking out of his room in nothing but his underpants. He asks who I am and what I’m doing in his house. For a moment, two thoughts come to me at the same time: well, at least we’re in Canada otherwise I may he shot right now AND oh man, grandpa is just surly enough to have a revolver hidden with grandma’s unmentionables. So I tense up, mostly because of sleep deprivation:
“It’s me, grandpa. Andrew. I’m your grandson. Sue’s kid.”
He wasn’t so sure. I didn’t know what else to say so I repeated it, He nodded, then asked where grandma was. I told him she was out drinking. He immediately went back to bed, satisfied and not at all concerned with my answer.
A few weeks later I wrote this silly script.