Facebook vs. Real-Life

I found this post that I wrote in October 2017. I guess I never published it...

***
October 29, 2017

I’ve seen articles and even had friends tell me that facebook either depresses them or causes anxiety.  They see all the people in their social circles having fun, traveling, succeeding.  Everyone has perfect lives.  

I started thinking about the picture that I posted of me and my grandfather and all the reactions I was getting to it, and how it made me feel like a better person.  



Maybe you saw it. Maybe it made you feel good to know that someone was taking care of her older relative and you smiled. Maybe you even “liked" it.

Most times when I am with my grandfather now, I’ve given up trying to get him to tell me stories about the past.  He might remember, but most likely, he won’t.

But the day I took him to San Andreas Trail, he couldn’t even hear me or understand what I was saying.  For the most part it was fine. He just talked and talked about whatever was on his mind, whatever thing he saw out the window that prompted him.

I had gotten his wheelchair from my parents’ house the day before. I shoved it in my trunk with a lot of effort, since my hatchback is full of stuff that we carry around all the time for my son so that we’re prepared.  Umbrellas, first aid kit, jackets, wipes, books, you name it.  I had to slam the door shut so that the wheelchair would fit.  

Nervous and excited to take him out, but also guilt-ridden that I hadn’t already done this even though I’d been thinking about it for quite a few months, I went to go pick him up from the nursing home.  

“I haven’t seen you in a year!” he shouted, smiling happily.

“I saw you last week!” I said, smiling back.  

He couldn’t hear me.  He just kept saying it over and over again, telling the other elderly people in the the living room that I was his granddaughter.  

We got into the car and I drove him over to the trail head.  I had some trouble setting up the wheelchair, but eventually I got it opened up and I sat him down on it.  I rolled him over the gravelly road next to the freeway in terror, worried that someone may not be paying attention and sideswipe us, or that maybe I would to lose control and end up in front of the speeding cars.  I white-knuckled my way into the entrance and we started walking.  

We were walking at a slight decline on the paved trail and I was still scared that I was going to lose control and he would end up going over the side into the dry, weedy ditch, so we walked slowly.  He didn’t seem to mind.

These fears were separate from the fears that I have that he would have a heart attack or something while we were on the trail and I'd have to call 9-1-1 from my cell phone while I watch him die under my care.  Afram said that would probably be the best case scenario though since he wouldn’t be alone and at least I’d be with him.  Different than my grandmother dying alone in the rehab center.

I took some pictures with him that I planned to print later to give to him. I took a bunch so I could choose the best one. Maybe he’d remember then that we went.  It's the one of these pictures that I posted on facebook.



He told me over and over again that he hadn’t been here in a long time, and there used to be speed boats in the water.  He also asked me again and again what day it was, because there weren’t many people on the trail.  He kept telling me that he wished he had a camera so he could have a picture for a souvenir.  He didn't remember that I just took a picture of us.  

“It’s the reservoir,” I told him.  “I don’t think there were speed boats in there.”

“It’s Sunday.”

“Sunday?!” he said.  

We came across some other walkers and he talked to them.  

“I’m a hundred and twenty-two!” he shouted proudly.  

I shook my head.  “He’s a hundred and one.” It didn't matter. He couldn't hear me.  

“This is my granddaughter!”

“Oh boy, no one is going to believe that my granddaughter took me all the way out here and did this. I’m going to tell them all about it and they’re going to say, ‘No way!’ ”

“You’re a good granddaughter,” the strangers said after they chatted with my grandfather. Just like on facebook.  No one knows that I only do stuff like this for him every few months. And the thing that pushed me to take him to the trail was that the weather was starting to get cold, and I thought this might be the last nice weekend before winter.  And I didn’t know if he’d make it to next spring.  I didn’t want to take chances.

After we were done with our walk, I thought I’d take him to McDonalds’ to get a fudge sundae.  He always loved ice cream.  Surprisingly though, he lost all patience in the car.  He didn’t care that we were together.  He wanted to go inside somewhere and “look at a menu, get a few cups of coffee.”  But, every other time I’d picked him up, he always wanted to just go to my house.  I thought I was doing him a favor.  

I chose the drive-thru because the parking lot was full.  We ended up having to wait a while, and he griped the whole time about wanting to go inside.  

“There’s nowhere to park,” I said.  It made no difference.  It never does.



Finally we got back to the house and Afram helped me sit him on the couch.  He started talking really loudly and angrily about how my family wasn't there, and how he thought he was going to see my family.  I told him that Joss was sleeping and tried to ask him if he wanted to sit in the kitchen with me, at the very least so that when he continued yelling, he wouldn't wake up Joss.  

He thought I was asking him to go to the bathroom and he kept telling me he didn’t have to go.  Finally I decided to write him a note, because I didn't want to also scream and wake up my toddler.  


IMG_20171030_084041.jpg

“You didn’t have to do that. You could have just asked me. I thought you wanted me to go to the bathroom.”  

He sat with me in the kitchen and continued to complain about not seeing my family as he ate his ice cream.


Afram tried to help and brought out a photo album with pictures of Joss, since my grandfather did not remember that I was married, let alone that he had a great grandson.  

I thought he would like seeing the pictures, but he just got angrier and angrier.

“I thought I was going to see your family, not look at this!”  He started to remind me of his late wife, my grandmother. She was grumpy all the time at the end.

I put the photo album away and tried to explain that Joss was sleeping.  Nothing got through.  Maybe I should have used the MagnaDoodle again.  

He also complained about not seeing my husband and kept asking if he was at work.  Finally, I told Afram to come out of the office (he was working on his computer) so that my grandfather could see him.  

Afram came in the kitchen which appeased my grandfather a little bit.  He started complaining to Afram that all he wanted to do was come see my family and that I drove him all over the place forever, wasting all this gas.  

“Don’t worry,” Afram said. “It’s a hybrid. It doesn’t use very much gas.”  

My grandfather didn't acknowledge this.  

I brought out some coloring, since he’d always enjoyed doing that with me.  It only made him more angry.  He didn't even want to finish the one that he started coloring the last time he'd come to visit.

“Yeah, I have all that stuff.”

Recently my parents also saw him enjoying it and decided to buy him his own sets of colored pencils and coloring so he could do it at the nursing home.  

“They always ask me, ‘What in the heck are you doing?’”  

I wondered if the staff made fun of him for coloring, ruining any joy he might have gotten out of it.  I’d seen them make belittling comments to him before.

He never picked up any of the colored pencils to color with me.  He picked up the brushes that I used for watercolor with Joss instead.

“These are nice.  They always take all my things. They never let me have anything.”  

My grandfather always liked to fiddle with knives and tools.  For safety reasons, the home had refused to let him have any of these things.

Eventually, Joss woke up and my grandfather was much happier.  He petted our dog Ruby, and he watched Joss play with his toys in the living room for a while, until both of them wanted to watch TV.



We put on Blaze and the Monster Machines for them.

“This is a good cartoon,” my grandfather said, before falling asleep a few minutes later while Joss watched faithfully.

He woke up later and looked at his watch. “It’s almost five o’clock. I should be getting back for dinner,” he said.  There was irritation in his voice.

“We were going to take you to dinner with us and see the rest of the family,” I told him.  “Is that okay?”

He sort of smiled, but I still couldn't tell if he really heard me.

“Unless you want to go back?” I asked.

He didn't say anything and watched some more TV with Joss.  

Soon it was time to go and we got him into the car with his walker and the wheelchair and we went to the restaurant.

I told my parents about the whole ordeal, and how having just me there wasn’t good enough and how he was cranky the whole time.  They shook their heads.

“He always asks me where everyone else is too when I go pick him up,” my dad said.

After doing all this, I didn't feel like a good person.  I felt sad and fed up and I wondered if it made any difference at all.  He couldn't even remember that Afram was in the next room.  I’m sure he didn't remember that we went on our walk.  We had dinner and I sat across the table.  Joss wanted to go home early and he was sick so we obliged.  I usually try to hug Ba before I leave, but he was blocked in, and I was disappointed by the afternoon.  And I was sure he wouldn't remember anyway.

Evening came, and we bathed Joss and brushed his teeth, and I was sad about the day.  I posted our selfie to facebook, because I knew that my grandfather was smiling in the picture, and I could pretend that he wasn’t miserable all afternoon and there was nothing I could do about it.  I could bask in likes and good feelings that everyone has seeing a picture like that, not knowing the rest of the afternoon that went with it, and pretend for a brief moment that what’s on facebook is a depiction of real life.  

Nothing is ever all rosy, everyone and everything is flawed.  Big thanks to social media for making me feel perfect, if only for a little while.  

***

Epilogue

May 5, 2019

It's too bad he seemed interested in the brushes and I didn't let him take some. I wonder why I didn't think to let him paint that day. :(

I'd been feeling really guilty lately, wishing I'd spent more time with my grandparents in their good years instead of always worrying about finding a husband and then marrying the wrong person who made me feel like it wasn't okay to see my family. Wishing I'd done more artwork with my grandfather, but I didn't have the confidence to enjoy it when I was younger. I was always obsessed with everything not coming out the way I wanted it to, versus just enjoying the process and practice itself regardless of the outcome.

Afram says that we always tend to focus on what we could have done instead of celebrating what we did do. "I'm sure your grandparents knew you loved them and felt like they got to see you."

Grandma and Ba, if you're out there and you can still hear me, I hope you did. I know at the end you didn't remember much, but I would just hope that you knew that I loved you and I tried my best to make you happy.

Comments

  1. I think you were a very thoughtful; loving grandchild...spending time with them at least once a week to have one on one time with them and recording their past before it was lost.

    I agree with Afram...there was so much in your story that Ba enjoyed...celebrate that.

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