As a kid, the only elderly people I knew were my grandparents and my snappy great aunt. I learned that when old folks aged more and more, they ended up in nursing homes.
My mom explained that nursing homes were like hospitals where grandmas and grandpas lived.
That sounded like such a magical place. Two of my favorite things combined!
The hospital is where both of my baby brothers magically appeared from my fat mommy’s stomach. My family doctor gave me some great Scooby Doo bandages. Plus, Doogie Howser worked at a hospital. Maybe I’d see him while visiting Grandpa.
All types of grandmas and grandpas lived at the nursing home. How wonderful! My grandparents were all great, but now I got to meet more people’s grandparents. Both of my grandpas told me funny stories and took me fishing, and my grandmas gave me presents and candy. Now I’d be surrounded by even more amazing old people.
I couldn’t wait to go.
My parents slapped their foreheads and realized they misconstrued the nursing home a little bit. They told my 9-year-old self that Grandpa didn’t look the same. He lost a lot of weight after his fall. I was a tubby kid, so losing weight sounded like a great idea.
“Grandpa doesn’t talk very much anymore and may not remember everything about you.” Well, even now in my late 30s, I don’t recall a single conversation my grandfather and I had. We probably only talked about my favorite Transformers and my pet turtle.
After we got to the parking lot, my parents warned me again how different this would be. I shrugged it off.
Once I stepped inside, I ran to see my grandpa. A lady stopped me, so I waited. Then a magic door opened. I wanted to play with the door some more — like how I played with Grandpa’s electric windows until they broke.
Then an old lady grabbed my cheek. “You look just like Johnny.” Another offered me hard candy. “I bet you love the watermelon ones.” A man wanted me to come into his room and watch TV. “A big boy like you probably likes sports.”
Every nightmare my elementary teacher warned me about culminated in one place in the span of a minute: Strangers with candy touching me, calling me names and inviting me into their homes.
Luckily, somebody escorted me to my grandpa’s room. Was that Grandpa? He looked more like a mummy/skeleton/Frankenstein/zombie.
That was the first time my parents gave me an entire Coke, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t be bribed to return. I was too afraid of everything in that place. I’d rather do anything else than be surrounded by scary people.
I didn’t even go to my grandfather’s funeral. Either my parents didn’t want me to or I was afraid a ghost would get me.