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One growing up, another growing older

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By Moreland Jeff

In my family, there are changes happening on both ends of the spectrum.

On one end, my son, Michael, who just turned 16, is learning to drive. He has been so excited since getting his driver’s permit, and no matter how short or long the trip we are taking, he always wants to get behind the wheel.

I’m excited for him, and I enjoy seeing the pride he takes in himself and his accomplishments as he learns about becoming a better driver. This past weekend, we made a trip back to eastern Kentucky to visit several family members, including my dad. He and the rest of the family were glad to see Michael driving, and they all had jokes to share.

“When I heard he was driving, I decided to walk over here,” said my uncle, who lives very close to my dad. Michael took it all in stride, and everybody had a good laugh. To be honest, Michael is a very good driver, and I know when it comes time to get his license later this summer, he will do fine.

After we visited for a while, the discussion got a little more serious, but driving was still the topic.

My grandpa wasn’t at my dad’s house, and he usually tries to stop by when he knows we are coming to visit. Dad told me grandpa has been having some more health problems and he isn’t able to get out like he used to.

My grandpa will be 86 years old, and until very recently, he has been in good health. He hunts and fishes with my dad and uncle, some of their friends, and even when the trips last several days, he has always gone along and kept up with the rest of the group with no problem.

But this past Thanksgiving, as we gathered at my dad’s house, I could tell my grandpa just wasn’t himself. His personality was the same, but something was different. As it started getting dark that evening, my grandpa was the first to leave.

My dad said the reason my grandpa left so early was that as he has gotten older, he doesn’t see as well, and driving in the dark is more difficult for him. That makes sense, and knowing my grandpa doesn’t have the best driving habits in the world, that was probably a good thing, and I didn’t think any more about it. A few days later, we found out my grandpa had a little accident on his way home. He was taking an exit ramp and had trouble seeing the road, and he hit the guardrail, doing a little damage to the side of his truck.

This weekend’s visit came with the news that my grandpa’s sight is getting worse. Much worse. He recently had some serious issues with his right eye, and Dad said doctors tell him he has lost sight in that eye, and they aren’t sure it will return.

Everyone in my family knows how stubborn my grandpa is, and our discussion immediately turned to his ability to drive. We know driving after dark will be out of the question, and we don’t think he needs to drive at all. Convincing him of that will be another matter, but our biggest fear is that he will have his license revoked for medical reasons as his vision continues to fail in what is his “good eye.”

It hit me on the way home that while this is such an exciting time for Michael, and as a new driver, how he is gaining more and more independence, it must be equally as disappointing for my grandpa to see his ability to do things for himself slipping away from him.

I know he won’t always be here, and time will eventually take my grandpa away from us. While I’ve always enjoyed seeing him pack up his gear and take off on those hunting trips, or even pack up by himself and take off half way across the country for something he wants to do, it makes me sad to think that those days are pretty much over, and his life will never be what it used to be. I’m sure it’s difficult for him, and I hope it doesn’t change his spirit and enthusiasm for life.

It’s hard to see people change so drastically right before our eyes, and still, at 41, I know that some day, those changes will come for me, too. I hope I can handle them as well as my grandpa has, and continue to enjoy my life to the best of my ability, as he does today.