Thursday, November 6, 2014

Don't Eat the Doughnuts

Revision plan: After my first draft, it seemed that people appreciated the honest approach that I took. This is something that I wanted to try to keep. However, there were some things that I wanted to alter. After looking at many other people's posts and talking to Professor Burton, I realized that where I was writing was a very commonly used niche, that of a child's first encounter with death, specifically of a grandparent. To find a different angle, I wanted to focus more on the characterization of my Grandfather. To keep things somewhat lighthearted, I felt a contrast with my Grandpa's current wife would help provide some humor. Finally, in relating my essay to the Book of Mormon, I wanted to move away from citing specific doctrines, and instead find themes from the Book of Mormon to relate to.

“We will be taking off from Fort Lauderdale for four days, and then we will be going to visit my daughter and to meet my new son-in-law.” Donna glibly blabbed, going on to say “Her husband has a large ranch, and they travel a lot, in fact I think she has found herself a ‘Howard’, if you know what I mean!” The ‘Howard’ she alluded to was my Grandpa, and if I hadn’t already become accustomed to my step-Grandma’s idiosyncrasies I would have been shocked to hear any Grandma talk about herself as a gold digger so openly.  I never have known what to call her, as she sticks out like a bit of a sore thumb in our family and isn’t actually my Grandma. So I go back and forth between calling her Donna and Grandma, at times even referring to her as “Don-ma” behind her back to siblings or cousins. I don’t think of her as a gold digger, and she surely had a heart of gold, but if ever there were a couple that is unequally yoked it is them.

In a way my Grandpa probably has enough education for both of them. He has four university degrees, including a PHD from Stanford, while Donna only managed to squeak through high school. Donna is shamelessly extroverted, while my Grandfather is calm and measured. When he talks it is often slow and quiet, especially in recent years, as he just turned 90. In a way, Don-ma is his perfect foil, as she has energy to spare and keeps him busy. They spend their time alternately traveling the world, playing bingo at the senior center, and unloading stale food (that they win playing bingo) on their family. Today they were proffering up a dozen doughnuts that had expired several months earlier, which we were assured had been frozen and were still edible, and perhaps even tolerable. I had my doubts, as I had heard that story before.

One of Donma's dubious doughnuts
My parents were the likely victims of the questionable doughnuts, and we continued talking as we drove to visit them. The topic turned to my actual Grandma, as my niece Julia had recently been named after her. My Grandpa often stumbled on his words as he spoke, his once clear mind clouded with cobwebs. But when he began to recall my grandmother, his beloved companion of more than half a century, he was able to express himself with precision.

He told of the last moments he had with his wife, something I had never heard him speak about before. It was the day after Thanksgiving, and they had just finished a dinner of mac-and-cheese. I could see them eating in my minds eye. Surely my Grandma only ate a bite or two, and the rest of her meal would have been made up of a half a cup or so of Ensure, or as much as my Grandpa could coax her into drinking. The last years of her life she always was slurping at Ensure, with the beads of yellow liquid dried to her cracked lips.

My Grandma had been in a wheelchair for several years, and so after dinner he wheeled her to the living room to watch the evening news. After a few minutes, Julia said that there was nothing else she was interested in seeing and she wasn’t feeling well, so she wanted to go to bed. My Grandpa told her that was fine, and he would put her to bed, but that there was a ball game that he wanted to see the score of before he went to bed.  Those were the final words that he would speak to her in this life. He gently lifted her from her wheelchair, even though he was close go eighty years old himself, and carried her to their bedroom. After getting her into bed, he went back to watching the news. The next morning, my Grandma was comatose and unresponsive, though still breathing, and my Grandpa took her to the hospital.

“Did you know that was going to be the end?” I asked my Grandpa, curious at what point he had known. He indicated that the doctors told him there was still a chance, but he had been worried. He looked at me as he spoke, and his wistful steely blue eyes looked through me into what now seemed a not-so-distant past.

As my grandfather talked, I reflected on another elderly man, who lived centuries earlier, in ancient America. His name was Jacob, a prophet from the Book of Mormon, and as he grew old, he expressed that his life had passed away as if it were a dream, as his people became lonesome and solemn and they mourned out their days. Many years latter, a Book of Mormon missionary, Ammon, blessed the name of God for having been mindful of him when he was a wanderer in a strange land. I mused on this theme from the Book of Mormon, and how we truly are travelers that pass through this brief existence.

“I should have known to cancel Aunt Noreen’s family dinner.” I was abruptly brought back to the conversation as my Grandpa remembered his train of thought. After my Grandma was admitted to the hospital, he went back and forth between her bedside and preparing for a family dinner where he would have the opportunity to be with many of his grandchildren. At around four in the afternoon, he got a phone call from my Uncle, who merely said, “Come quickly.” By the time he arrived his dear companion had already breathed her last breath.

My Grandpa began trailing off, and I noticed that Donna had been uncharacteristically quiet for the past several minutes. I wondered if she would launch into a story about how her husband had died, as she was a widow before they had gotten married. I seemed to remember having heard it before, and it involved a car accident. As I recalled, she told it in a very gruesome and straightforward fashion, and especially considering I didn’t have any connection to him, I wasn’t particularly interested in hearing it again.

So I was happy to hear her start along another vein of thought entirely “Now, Clark, what is your sister doing with her life? Is she just living at home with your parents, and not in college? I just want to know so I don’t say anything wrong.” I chuckled to myself about how ironic her statement was. That was the Donna I knew and loved, so brash and improper, yet genuinely loving. I started to explain that my sister had moved back home after two years at USU, and she was going to take some classes at the community college. As I explained, my mind mulled over the lesson I had just learned about the brevity of our lives, and I treasured the lesson my Grandpa had just taught me, whether intentional or not.


  1. I really loved this post. There is a subtly to the style of writing, but the emotion is still raw to the reader. We can tell that it really matters to you. My biggest suggestion would be about your title. I think the title could be something more meaningful or pull from something that is more present in your post because the doughnuts seem to be a brief moment that serve as a fun and interesting detail, but not the most important element of the post.

  2. I liked the revision a lot! It was actually really cool to read the same situation, but through a different perspective. I think adding the humor, and keeping the theme more subtle was great. I really enjoyed it, and I thought you did a great job!