I just got off the phone with my 89-year-old grandfather. I called to wish him a happy Father's Day. I'm glad I did; I almost didn't.
Last year he was diagnosed with dementia. I feared he wouldn't remember me. I talk to him about two, maybe, three times a year. But I hadn't called in awhile.
The call went like this:
''Hello," he said, answering the phone.
"Hi grandpa, this is Donny."
There was a very long pause. My throat tensed. My face warmed.
"Hi Grandpa," I said again, louder.
"Hi," he said. "Who is this?"
"Donny . . . it’s me, Donny."
"Donny Tate,” I said, over enunciating my words. “Your grandson.”
There was an even longer pause.
He didn't remember me. Fourty-seven years my grandfather, and he doesn’t recall my name? He can't remember the go-cart he and I built together when I was 10? He doesn't remember my working for him as a teenager, at his janitorial business? Our washing windows together? Moping floors? Cleaning toilets? He's forgotten about the camping trips? The big argument we had when I was 17-years-old?
Suddenly he spoke again.
"Donny! How are you doing, son?"
"Good, grandpa, I’m good!"
"How's your wife and that wonderful little boy doing?"
“Good, they are doing really good. Happy Father’s Day, grandpa.”