My granddad’s eyes.

A little while ago, I received a message from indie writer Jamie Hoang saying “What would you do if you learned you’d be going blind in six weeks?” Her book Blue Sun, Yellow Sky tells the story of a talented, 27-year-old painter who discovers her sight will soon fade away.

Home with April snow

I’m sorry, this isn’t a review of the book as I haven’t had the chance to read it yet. But Jamie has already striken a chord. Yes, I wear glasses and the world is a little blurred without them but today, I want to tell you about my granddad.

I have only ever had one constant, devoted male figure in my life. Dwelling on the details of this statement is not why I’m here today but the fact is: my granddad has been my role model. He has been my father, just like my mother has. I guess that makes me one father up.

He and my grandma also happen to be the only proof I have that marriage can last. I read somewhere that old generations stay together for longer because their values are different. Back in the day, when something broke, you’d get it fixed. Today, you’d go out and replace it. So please, try the repair option first.

That being said… My granddad was an architect. The house my family lives in today (and that I will always call home despite the distance) was bought by him. He was the one who added a second floor, an extension, a garage and an attic. He was chief architect during Bulgaria’s communist years and it is with a nostalgic smile that he likes to reminisce about his working days in Tunis where, on many occasions, he had tea with President Bourguiba for whom he built a building or two.

He was also an incredibly talented artist whose art is strewn all over our house. Rotring pen sketches, watercolour landscapes, pastel portraits, oil paintings and even a series of porcelain sculptures. And the official handyman too. The basement is brimming with tools and paint pots and even a circular saw I tremble every time I hear being on. Whenever a light switch stopped working, he was there. Whenever the floor needed to be replaced, he was there.

granddad

Granddad receiving his award from the Architect’s Bulgarian Association

Today, my granddad’s eyes are worn-out. His glasses can no longer help the way they help me. He can no longer distinguish the peppers from the tomatoes in his salad. He isn’t sure if he’s giving out a 10 Lev note or a 50. His medicine packs are aligned on the shelf in a particular order and he recognises them by touch. My piano has recording options and I have taught him where to press when he wants to listen to my recorded pieces. I have seen him use his fingers to remember the tactile pattern.

It’s hard to write this post because I know he now feels helpless and I remember those little details that make my chest tighten up. I remember when I had to place his finger where he needed to sign on a form. I remember walking in after a hair cut and him aahing despite not being able to see the difference. I remember waving goodbye from the car and not seeing a wave back.

A Skype snapshot

Now, there are no new paintings in the house. I have been appointed as the new handyman. I open up switches and fix wires under his surveillance. I glue broken flower pots and I let the circular saw gather dust in the basement, waiting for an occasional visit from my brave uncle. I pour soup in his bowl and sometimes, do his laces. I send blown-out sketches of my design work printed in thick, black lines for him to have an idea of what I’m doing.

But I can see him on Skype, squinting at the drawings my mother has printed for him. I see him willing, yet unable to form a picture in his mind. And it kills me. It just kills me.

*

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38 responses to “My granddad’s eyes.

  1. So much love in your writing despite your anguish. I can only hope this wonderful, talented man, your grandfather, feels the richness of his life well-lived and that he still ‘sees’ you in his heart.

    My Mother has been going steadily blind from macular degeneration and, with my terrible eyesight, I expect blindness is in my future as well. I am determined to prioritize visual activities now and utilize memory enhancement techniques to be able to ‘see’ when I can no longer see.

    God Bless your dear family.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much Sammy, I’m so touched by your comment. It is such a tragedy, having spent all your life relying on your sight and slowly seeing it fade away… I can only imagine the feeling.
      I hope you don’t have to go through this…..

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully and heart felt written. When my grandmother lost her sight, she was such a trooper about it, I couldn’t believe it. I’m not sure if she put up such a brave front for me, or if she was really so brave. She never lost her sense of humor, though,… and maybe it was exactly that that made her so strong.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “He and my grandma also happen to be the only proof I have that marriage can last. I read somewhere that old generations stay together for longer because their values are different. Back in the day, when something broke, you’d get it fixed. Today, you’d go out and replace it. So please, try the repair option first.”
    In tears. My chest tightened with you. For you! Beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A lovely essay. There is nothing like a grandparent. My grandmother passed away in 2000 and we’re still talking about her, quoting her, thinking about what she would say or do, missing her terribly. Enjoy every minute with your grandparents – it’s all precious.

    Like

    • I’m so sorry. I imagine she will always be present in your conversations because those people we love so much have a way of being with us even when they are not.
      I’m so glad you found my blog as it led me to yours.

      Like

  5. Dear Elissaveta, your words were so touching and heartfelt that left me speechless.
    Our losses or of those we love, may sound inevitable in nature, but always hit us hard in unique ways.
    Patience, and peace of mind help building acceptance overtime.
    I can only wish you to enjoy your wonderful grandad love as much as you can.
    Sending you a warm hug.
    Lucile

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so, so much. It’s hard being away from home and I’m not sure writing this post was a good idea… it saddened me more than I wished…
      But reading all your comforting comments made it worth it.
      Hug back to you, Lucile :)

      Like

      • You’re most welcome. I know the feeling as I live away from my family and seeing them aging, makes me sad every time I visit them.
        It was good to write. Writing help us facing the truth and smooths it in our hearts. Take good care. We’re here for you. 💖

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s hard to see so many families spread out across the globe. Do you get to visit them often?
        Thanks again, you can’t imagine how grateful I feel right now… :)

        Like

      • I go there every Christmas and stay until New Year’s Eve. Sometime twice a year if work brings me there.
        But we talk often, that’s the advantage of virtual communication.
        My family is big though and there is always someone visiting me.
        Three weeks ago I had 7 in my house, including my 87 years old father!
        No need to thank me. I am grateful for the trust and happy to send some virtual love as I know that nothing else helps soothing the heartaches.
        Keep strong!

        Liked by 1 person

      • 7?! That sounds pretty epic as family visits go.
        I can’t imagine not spending Christmas at home. It’s my favourite family tradition. I usually do the same. I miss uni days where I could go back for 1-2 months… Ah the good old days!

        Like

  6. I bet if you ask your granddad he can remember some things just as they were, the epic things. I told my husband recently (joking) that I have to make a folder for him of all the colors of blue so that when I say Navy Blue, Royal Blue or Periwinkle and such he knows what I’m talking about! He admits that they would all just be called blue. There is so much visual input daily that we sometimes walk right by the beauty. But fortunately the brain remembers lots, or can be coaxed to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I never thought about it that way. I’m sure he does remember everything.
      And as far as men go, there is definitely only one shade of blue called… blue. :D
      I see what you mean though, the brain has its own hidden powers that come into play when needed.
      Thank you for your comment. :)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A lovely understanding piece: you count the things your grandfather has lost, at the same time as you show so many facets of his wonderfulness. Your love and admiration for him are luminous, and so is your anguish on his behalf, and your own, as you watch the fading. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dear Ellie, what a beautiful post in tribute to your love for your dear Granddad. I feel the ache in your heart. It is so hard to witness the physical decline in those we adore. At such times, we can hold on to all we have in the present and keep that love close in our hearts, always. Bless you… Sherri xx

    Liked by 1 person

  9. That is both sad and uplifting. It is sad if one dwells on the ‘gone’ but uplifting to think of all he had done to leave a footprint for the future in you, in what you do. My parent are both now dead and my grandparents long departed but I still remember the good the bad and the indifferent and they still sit on my shoulders telling me what they think. Age enfeebled them all but it never dimmed their memories and, before mum went, I sat with her downloading memories into a word document, a cherished piece of family lore. You do that with your grandpa, there’s a wealth of history there to be captured, to dwell in and on. What turbulent times he lived trough and his memories are worth that capture. So yes be sad for what’s gone but you can still delight in what is left to reveal – that joy just goes on giving.

    Liked by 1 person

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