Thursday, March 10, 2011

Grandpa Barkley

Something From Ciera, a dedication:

My Grandpa has always been the most stable man around.

Growing up, Grandpa lived in a little red house one street over from me. His yard was always perfect, and he was the only person who could ever keep enormous white couches white despite his seven messy grandchildren. Each identical beige shirt in his closet is starched, as are his many pairs of beige pants. He watched Jeopardy every day with his faithful dog Greta, an adopted golden retriever who he was “just watching” for a few weeks for his son, but kept for the rest of her life.

My Grandmother Eleanor died unexpectedly 23 years ago, and Grandpa kept everything she had in his house to this day. Her knitting is still in a little box in the closet and extra needles in the drawer by his desk. Her apron is still in the kitchen, her wallet and drivers license in the top drawer of his dresser. And her most important possession, a beautiful, black baby grand piano sits perfectly in his living room with a plaque on the inside honoring her life. I am her namesake – Ciera Eleanor Iveson.

When I was sixteen, he gave me her car – a little 1984 Cadillac Cimarron with red leather interior and red felt…everywhere else. It has a major break down once a year and we always have to debate about if it is worth fixing. It always is. Because he loved that car as much as Eleanor did, and I love that car as much as he did. After he got sick, I drove it up to visit him. Despite being wheelchair bound, he asked me to take him outside to see it and check how many miles were on it. As I was wheeling him out of his hospice room, he tried to get everyone in the home to come with him, to look at his favorite car.

When we got outside, I showed Grandpa our Cadillac. He wanted to see both sides, the interior, and the mileage before making one last attempt at getting someone else to see the car. I must admit at this point that my car doesn’t really look like much- it’s a well used car missing one hubcap with only markings left where the old Cadillac insignias were glued. One of the employees who liked my Grandpa a lot came and took a look and listened to his story. He was so proud to tell the story of my Grandma and I loving and driving the same little car twenty 23 years apart.

A year and a half ago Grandpa had a series of heart attacks. I can’t remember all the details now, but they had to bring him back a few times on the table. We thought it was the end, but through his very frail state he started to gather his strength. He moved to a home in Portland for a while to be closer to one of his daughters and get rehabilitation. When he was there he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, and he came back to Reno to go into hospice.

Along with being the ultimate gentleman, Grandpa had a sharp sense of humor. In regard to the huge scar on his chest from open heart surgery he told the women in his home that it was from a knife fight in Tijuana and “you should see the other guy”. That was probably my favorite. But he always kept us on our toes, even when we thought he couldn’t hear us.

Over winter break he got really sick and we thought it was the end. But yet again he pulled through. The last time I saw him I brought my boyfriend Nick to meet him in his new home, somewhere that he would hopefully be a little happier. He had more freedom there, it was his own little apartment. He even kept Nick on his toes with a lengthy interchange to position his clock at the perfect angle to his bed – after a while I think he was teasing Nick a little.

Grandpa’s cancer has metastasized to his brain. I haven’t seen him since this happened, but its my understanding that he isn’t responsive to people anymore.

But he has been talking to Eleanor.