"He takes such good care of me," she said. "He really does."
I watched my grandfather totter to the register to pay the bill. A few years ago, it was easy to see how he took care of her. He was a die-hard health buff after suffering from a mild heart attack in his sixties. I remember watching him jog in place even as he was "relaxing" in front of the TV, then dropping to do push-ups or picking up a weight to do bicep curls.
After answering the same few questions over and over at lunch that day, it was harder to imagine how exactly he takes care of her.
"How is he doing?" I asked.
"Some days are better than others," she said. "The new medicine seems to help."
I paused, then asked, "What are the bad days like?"
"Well," she said, shaking her head, "it's like he just can't get started. He wakes up in the morning, and just can't...begin."
"That's unlike him," I said. "He was always the crazy four-hours-of-sleep guy, up and at 'em at the crack of dawn."
"I know," she said. "Now it's harder. The other day, he forgot how to make coffee. He just stood there and stood there, trying to remember how to make it. It's hard for me to be patient and not just tell him how to do it."
(My grandparents make instant coffee by first warming a mug of milk in the microwave. I pictured him standing at the counter over a mug of milk, wondering why it was there, and what he should do next with it, only knowing that a) this was something he's done every day for years and b) he had a physical craving for some type of morning beverage.
I don't know, though...maybe his wants aren't that defined anymore.)
"Does he know what's happening? He could ask for help if he needed it?"
"Yes," she said. "He knows. But he doesn't want help just yet. He wants to remember on his own. So he stands there until he does."
I looked up across the restaurant and he was standing, almost motionless, appearing to gaze at something on a table in front of him.
"He's standing now," I said, concerned that maybe he had forgotten to pay the bill or to come back to help my grandmother to her feet and out the door.
"Oh," she chuckled. "There's probably a newspaper there. He's always loved the paper."