My Grandpa Eddie is dying of dementia. Every few days he loses another memory from his 80 years as a jovial farmer. Despite his memory loss, his sense of humor remains. He’s always been one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, and I learned something about my grandpa early in life. Everyone loves him.
Anytime we traveled somewhere, he would know somebody. When my older brother and I went with him to the feed store when we were kids, we knew we’d be there awhile. He would inevitably run into an old friend, and they’d start telling jokes. My brother and I always enjoyed listening, because sometimes we’d learn a new dirty joke that we could share with our friends on the playground.
People love Grandpa Eddie. He’s one of those guys people want to hang around. He makes it seem like you can enjoy any situation this life can hurl at you.
My greatest memory of Grandpa Eddie happened at least a dozen times. After eating dinner at my grandparents’ house after a long day of working on the farm, my brother and I would sit at the kitchen table with Grandpa Eddie long after the meal was over. We would talk and share stories while my Grandma Mary sat in the living room watching Wheel of Fortune. Sometimes, right in the middle of Grandpa Eddie telling a dirty joke, Grandma Mary would walk into the kitchen. Since he didn’t want her to hear him corrupting the grandsons, Grandpa Eddie would go completely silent when she entered the kitchen—usually in the middle of a sentence. She would stare at him suspiciously. It was so funny to see him trying to play it off that my brother and I would burst out laughing after five seconds of the silent stare.
“Are you telling them dirty jokes again?” Grandma would ask.
With a straight face and the expression of a man about to be sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Grandpa would reply, “Well, no.” My brother and I would laugh even harder.
In his current condition, Grandpa Eddie spends most of his time inside the farmhouse he has shared with Grandma Mary for 55 years. Instead of walking outside to do chores at 5:00 AM, he now looks out the window at the life his mind has stolen from him. Grandpa Eddie has every reason to be bitter, but he’s not.
Knowing my Grandpa Eddie has made me realize that I can laugh through life no matter the conditions. Thanks to him, I believe that I can enjoy the hardships in my life almost as much as the good times.
Every time I see him, he’s still smiling. He doesn’t usually remember the jokes he used to tell me, but I always have a few new ones for him just in case. And we laugh as hard as we did 25 years ago. Even Grandma Mary chuckles now and then.