Visiting your aging relatives rarely makes for good writing, unless you’re some Didion-level powerhouse. The temptation to mawkishness is too strong. But that’s what’s on my mind now, in Dewey, DE, blogging with a wireless aircard that no longer makes much economic sense for me. My grandfather is 87 and cannot remember if his wife is alive or dead.

“Do you remember what happened to Mom?” says my mother.

“She died in Florida,” he says with certainty.

Moments later, he asks her to clear this up. “Is Ida still alive?”

“No, she died in Florida.”

“Oh, yeah. I was there.”

This isn’t as excruciating as it sounds. The sadness pervades everything, so you move on. We bring magazines for him to read because the big books on the shelves—Fiasco, The Hammer, Pakistan—are too hard to follow. I bring an old book of Andy Rooney columns that I borrowed, I think, 15 years ago.

All we have left is sarcasm. Buck (his real name is Francis but why would you call him that) was always the most smart-assed member of the family, and my mother the least. She talks about a ne’er do well cousin (the only kind we have) who moved to Las Vegas to gamble.

“Dave, tell me you don’t gamble.”

“Only when I’m stoned,” I say.

“You don’t want to do that,” Buck says. “That’s how you lose your drug money.”

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