Growing up, I spend a lot of time with my grandpa. My little sister was sick from the day she was born, and my mother was spending all her time in the hospital, while my dad was working all the time, so it was natural, that I moved in with my grandma and grandpa.
Grandpa and I did everything together, fishing, feeding the animals, woodworking, even watching wild animals when they came out at dusk to eat.
As growing up, he and I became very close, spend hours just sitting in silence watching foxes with the babies play around or small porcupine, coming up on the porch for milk we had put out., so when he got sick, it was natural for me to be there for him the whole way.
One year he went into the hospital after my mother forcefully requested it. It didn’t take them long to figure out what was wrong and eventual he got diagnosed with Alzheimer, it was hard for him, but also for me, I knew little by little I was going to lose the “dad” that I love so deeply. I knew as a child, he would create imaginary stories, fill with life, that became alive right in front of you and you would feel you were right there in the middle of it.
One day, I visit him at the hospital, and we walked and in hand over to the window, I told him, “I wanted to share something with him.”
He looked out, but could only see trees and bushes, I said, just like he did to me as a child, “look again, you see the rabbit, down there on the grass? He looked, “no I don’t see any rabbit. “Yes, see, right there, a little tiny green rabbit, I know it is hard to see on the green grass, but look right there.” He looked at me, and I blinked. He turned his head and looked out of the window and said, “right there, right down there, now I see it, it jumps over to another little rabbit.” I smiled and said, “yes, the whole family is down there. Mom, dad and its sister and brothers.” “Yes, yes I see them all,” he said.
I pointed towards the tree right next to the “green” rabbit, and said “see, do you see, I know it is hiding, but if you look long enough it will come out of the leaves, see the purple bird, do you know what kind that is?” he looked where I pointed my finger, stood for a moment, and then he smiled while squeezing my hand, ”I see it, I see the bird.”
That day we found so many “new” animals, and we had a great time. The following week, when I came to visit him, I asked the nurses where he was, and they told me, he had been sitting by the window since I left, what he was doing they didn’t know.
I walked over to him, and asked if I could join him, he got so happy to see it was me, and here we sat looking at bird and foxes and rabbit in all the different colors, blue, pink, red, green, purple.
A couple of months went by, and each time I had a chance to visit him we just sat together holding hands looking at all the animals outside. I could see his mood has changed, he even started to flirt with the nurses, and each time I came we would just sit and look at the wonderful world there happen right in front of our eyes. eventually, my mother found an opening in a nursing home, and he moved.
The trip was shorter, I was able to come and visit each day, and each day we went and visit everyone in the home, instead of watching animals.
A year later when my grandma moved into the same home, and they got a place together, the Alzheimer’s has taken a big bite out of his memory, and he didn’t do much like he used to, we would just sit hand in hand looking out of the window. I would mention what I saw, and he would smile and nod his head.
One day when I came up to the home, a nurse approached me, “I need you to help me, your grandpa is talking crazy.” What do you mean,” I answered? “I asked him yesterday what he was doing, and today too, he is just sitting staring out of the window. Do you know what he said? He said he is watching all the purple rabbits and pink birds flying by, and the green foxes playing in the snow. I told him there is no such thing, and he needs to see what is really there, nothing, nothing at all. I need you to help me get him out of his fantasy world, there is no such thing as pink rabbits.”
I smiled I knew our little game before he got really sick, had gotten his own life, and in his mind, they have all become so real as you and I. I smiled and answered, “who says they are not real, this is his world, not this one. This world is a cruel world for someone like him, so let him see his world for what it is, filled with a wonderful life.” The nurse answered,” you are just as crazy as he is, there is no such thing as pink rabbits.”
I looked at her, “You might believe it is more human than he lives in this world than instead of his own, but for whom? How do you think he will feel sitting here day in day out staring at a white wall because he can’t do anything else? Right now, his world is filled with life away from this cruel place, that takes a bite of his mind each day. Should he lose that happiness because you don’t see and believe in his world? Well, he doesn’t believe in this world anymore, so his world has become just as real as yours if not more real.”
I could see she was not happy. I walked into my grandpa’s living room, sat down took his hand. He looked at me and squeeze it a bit tight and blinked. I knew he had heard our conversation, and I knew he understood.
A few days later the nurse came in, while we were sitting watching the animals outside the window, and she asked, “what we were doing.” My grandpa answered, “watching the birds” I told her to come and sit down so I could explain it to her, and she did just for a short while. After that, each time she came in to see on my grandpa, she always asked if the rabbits have gotten babies or the baby birds were out of the nests, and my grandpa always answered with a smile. In the end, when he couldn’t sit in his chair anymore, they rolled his bed right next to the window, so he could keep looking at the wonderful imaginary world him and I had created.