I am sitting at my kitchen counter, sipping a mixture of coffee and Nesquick, and listening to the synthesized sounds of “it’s a small world” blare from an icecream truck drifting down the street.

My grandfather is dying.

I took the day off from work today to drive out and see him. I got up this morning and printed out some photos to complete a little photobook I had intended to give him earlier, but hadn’t finished for one reason or another. It made me run later than I planned, but he really loved it, so it was worth being a little late.

He’s in rough shape. His arms are dark and bruised-looking, and covered with sores. His dressing gown reveals the edge of a large bruise on his shoulder and chest. He has a tube going up his left nostril, and a breathing mask around his nose and mouth. I know somewhere he has IVs hooked up, probably a catheter as well. His breathing is thick, as there is fluid in his lungs. He says he is really thirsty, but he is not allowed to drink, since the water would just go into his lungs.

He tells me of his first date with Ida.

“We drove to the beach. We sat there, but dammit, I didn’t have the nerve to put my arm around her. It wasn’t until later… We were at her house, and her mother and sister went into the other room. It was cold out, I was getting ready to go. She was helping me get my coat on, and was leaned in close. Her face was very near mine, and I thought ‘Well, Seymore, it’s now or never!’ and I leaned in and kissed her. It was the most delicious kiss, ever. At that moment, wild horses couldn’t have dragged us apart.”

He misses her, terribly. Since she died, there has been a void in his life.

“I need my family. Without my wife… a man without his wife is nothing. I need someone to hug me. My parents never… never hugged me. Not once. I wasn’t abused, but… I can’t remember once having a conversation with my mother or father. They just didn’t talk to us.”

I show him the photos I brought. The book has a ribbon on the front and back covers, so it can be tied closed with a bow. Instead, he has me tie the very ends of the ribbon together, so he can use it as a wrist strap. He clings to the book, rubbing the fabric cover with his fingers, as if reminding his fingers of what it is to touch.

I stay with him for a couple hours, talking and holding his hand. A nurse comes in to change his bedding. “I’m going to get some rest after this,” he says, “so you should go now. I’ll just be resting. I’ll try to see you again.” I hug him and head out. As I walk past the ICU nurse’s station with a large lump in my throat, I hear his voice. “A good boy, such a good boy.”