Last night my husband’s band was playing at the town carnival, much like every year. I was headed there with our son and my mother. After telling the gate-keeper I was ‘with the band’ (something that seriously never gets old) I pulled through the gate and was driving down towards the back of the carnival, towards the pavilion where my husband was setting up. To the right of me was a long line of handicap parking. I notice out of the corner of my eye something bright red, so I turned to look and saw an old man walking. He wore a bright red sweater, pants, he had pure white hair. He was shuffling as he walked, using a cane to help him. It was my grandfather, I thought, my heart stopping. My grandfather has been gone since 2008. I was breathless. I couldn’t take my eyes of the man, as tears sprung to my eyes. I started to stutter “It’s grandpa” under my breath. Then I started sobbing because I knew that it wasn’t. My son reached over and patted my back and asked me if I was OK, my mom in the back seat simply said “He always loved Fun Days”. (the name of the carnival).
I tried to pull myself together. It was such a heartbreaking moment for me to see that man and feel the joy of thinking it was my grandfather only to feel the soul crushing reality that it wasn’t him and it would never be him again.
He did so love that carnival. He worked every year at the Methodist Church booth, selling hotdogs. When I was young, he made sure I worked a shift and often managed to talk my friends into working alongside me. When I was older when young ones of my own, he would make sure they had money for games and rides and a hot dog and soda before the night was over. He never missed a year of that carnival until the last year of his life, when he was to ill and was hospitalized.
He was sick for quite a while, Alzheimer’s had settled in, followed by a sad myriad of other aliments that made him uncomfortable.
He left us all, in the middle of warm summer night. He was alone, in a cold, sterile hospital room. He hated being alone. Especially when he didn’t feel well. Making the situation even sadder is the fact that his wife of over 50 years, my grandmother, was in another hospital having surgery and couldn’t be there. Perhaps she knew it wasn’t something she could handle. I don’t know.
I do know, for one brief, heartbreaking moment, I saw a man in a red sweater and I felt joy. I knew it wasn’t real. That it couldn’t be.