The Challenge Of Change

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Mckinnon writes about the challenges change has brought her family

Jaden McKinnon, Staff Writer

For as long as I can remember, my grandfather, whom I call Papal, has loved and cared for us always. He’s a strong veteran that worked hard right after he retired to support his family and to spoil his grandchildren. Unlike the stereotypical image of a veteran: a tough, assertive person, my grandfather portrays a sweet, short old man that worked at Chuck E. Cheese and would never raise his voice at anyone. No matter what, I knew I could depend on him. It wasn’t until the past few years that it all changed. 

When the doctors first diagnosed my grandfather with esophagus cancer, I knew the seriousness of the illness but didn’t quite understand the full seriousness of it because I didn’t notice a change in him during the chemo. He worked the same number of hours, looked the same, traveled outside the country multiple times and acted how my Papal always has. I only knew of his struggle to swallow food. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, he attempted to eat certain foods but he would just throw them back up. 

In the past 6 months, Papal took a major decline in his health. I did not realize how bad his health declined until I went to visit him at the hospital about 4 months ago. He struggled to eat and use the bathroom by himself and I heard him mumble to himself a lot. After several visits, my parents came to the conclusion that my grandparents needed to move in with us. My first reaction was no. I do not do well with change and I feared how my household environment and vibes would change. But, I knew my parents’ minds would not change.

A few weeks into January, my parents told me my grandparent’s move-in date. I fell into an angry mindset instantly. As my parents pulled into the church parking lot after they told me the news, I stayed in the car after they left and began to bawl my eyes out. In the church service and message, my mind came clear of all the selfish fog. The fact that I had the audacity to feel mad over giving up my beauty room and closet for the betterment of my Papal’s health baffles me now. 

The whole household had to make adjustments for them, which no one had a problem with anymore. Both of my grandparents have been smokers all my life, which meant their clothes and belongings all reeked of smoke not to mention they have 2 long-haired cats – which my mother could not stand. She took at least several weeks to clean and wash all their stuff so it wouldn’t affect the house. Since Papal couldn’t use the stairs, my grandparents moved into the master bedroom, while my brother took my beauty room and my parents moved upstairs. 
We have made the best out of the situation and honestly, I haven’t had any problems. 

The hardest part for me is the adjustment to less privacy and comfortability. As bad as it sounds, I stay in my room most of the time now. It’s emotionally difficult to hang around my grandparents. I don’t like to hear my grandparents struggle with their health. The quiet weekends are now occupied with my talkative uncle. Although I love him very much, I also love my quiet time. I can no longer just turn on Jersey Shore in the living room, but I have grown fond of Lone Ranger and Hogan’s Heroes. Most of the time, I go out to get away from the situation. 
One of the hardest struggles is seeing my mother cry from the pain of watching her father slowly disappear from the man she remembers. This hurts me the same way it hurts her. She works so hard to care and help my grandfather with whatever he needs. She wakes up in the middle of the night to watch him and has truly become selfless for him. Although she puts on a brave face, I know when she’s tired and on the verge of going berserk sometimes. It inspires me to show the same amount of care and love for someone one day. 

My grandfather currently lives on hospice at home and is unresponsive for the most part. This is a situation I never thought could happen to me. It taught me so much on how to adjust, become selfless and appreciate what I have because it can all disappear in a matter of no time. 

Even though there are struggles, I enjoy my grandparent’s company and the love they have for me. I do not see this as a loss, but a lesson learned.