Day 139

Jacksonville, FL

At 8 I go for a walk with Grandma. She confides in me a few things about Grandpa. She’s gotten in a fix. A nurse at Mayo was concerned about Grandpa driving. So Grandma inquired about it privately to his doctor, who did some tests. In addition he contacted the DMV, unbeknownst to Grandma. A letter arrived from the DMV to Grandpa, and following an almost sitcom storyline, Grandma intercepted and opened it. She is not in the practice of opening his mail, but she felt the situation demanded it. Grandpa has told her that taking a man’s car keys away is equivalent to immasculation. The letter gives Grandpa 30 days to produce a statement from his doctor or his license will be revoked. Because Grandpa’s memory problems cause endless repetition of exhausting arguments and some paranoia, Grandma is afraid this will trigger a series of difficult episodes. She’s afraid that if he finds out she read his mail he will become even more paranoid. As in a sitcom, all solutions except coming clear and dealing with the consequences seem devious and dangerous. Coming clear might not even be possible when dealing with a person with a deficient short-term memory. I can’t suggest a solution, but I determine to try to help Grandpa prepare for the struggle if I can.

After breakfast, they take me to the library to check my web page, but we find it is Veteran’s Day and they’re closed. It reminds me to give Grandpa a big hug and honor his service. He’s distracted by the car ride. He oscillates between praising and criticizing Grandma’s driving. He constantly asks where we’re going, what’s next. Clearly he’s very worried and confused. At first I concur with and emphasize his praise of Grandma, but really I think he’s trying to convince himself to trust her in his state of helplessness. I’m not much of an influence.

I don a borrowed grey jacket for dinner. Frieda tells tales of childhood mischief, eyes aglow and energetic. The time she and Amy got the neighbor girl to sit in a mud puddle, and how they’d hang in a tree every day to try to snatch their teacher’s toupee. She cackles gleefully. I intentionally tell the story of how strong-willed Gustav Enss volunteered his car keys and checkbook to Hadie when he fell ill in Florida. Grandma grins at me.

Frieda has given me her ticket to the symphony. Poor Grandpa tries over and over to get out of having to go, trying to send Frieda instead. But there is no one to leave him with. We get on the bus for the concert hall.

The first piece is a Tchaikowsky serenade for strings. It’s beautiful, but I trail off a bit in the third movement. Then a huge chorus and orchestra perform Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. They bring it to vivid, vast, comical life. I’m spellbound, then racked with laughter. It’s the best performance of a symphony I’ve experienced. Grandpa, I think, just patiently sits through it.

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