They found Grandpa. My heart flooded with a mixture of relief and dread to match the tone in Grandma’s voice.
“Where has he been?” I asked the empty room.
The previous afternoon had been uneventful save for a later dinner. Grandpa had refused to change his underwear before dining with us.
“Honey you smell like a tackle box. Go get in the shower,” Grandma said.
“Leave me alone! I’ll get a shower tomorrow!”
I stepped in between so he would not strike her. It had been like this for months now. The paranoia, the violence. If you had told me before that caregivers can be abused I would have laughed.
But the bruises and scratches on my arms weren’t funny when I earned them. They seemed to throb in time with my heart.
He put up a fight. I’d had to call the sitter to hold him while I wrestled Grandpa out of his urine soaked clothes. We coaxed him into the shower while he spit and cursed at us. He doesn’t really mean it, I told myself. I let myself ignore the sobbing from the other room.
When we finished, we set him in his chair with dinner and I went to the store for more diapers. When I’d checked on him at 7, he was gone. Vanished.
“Is Gramps with you?” I asked Granny, who had dozed off in front of Jeopardy. She called my mother and I got the flashlight.
I made a round of the house and walked up the street towards the drugstore. Maybe he went for beer again. No sign.
We called the church next door, which was having some kind of revival.
We called everyone. I spent the night in my car, cruising at 5mph up and down the backroads of Altoona.
“They found Grandpa,” Grandma said. We rushed to the Sheriff’s Office, wherein Grandpa was displaying all the strength o a retired Marine.
“Come on, let’s go home,” I said.
“I am home! Get out of my house!” he said. He coughed up a wad of mucus and cussed.
We were relieved the following morning to be told we could take him to a new home, to which Grandpa shouted, “Get out of my house!” to everyone in earshot.
I waved goodbye, promised to visit, and took Grandma back to the house.
“House.” She had corrected me, after I suggested we went home. “Without all of us, it’s not longer home.”