Grandpa (aka Clinton or “Kink”) Hitchcock

I already mentioned Grandpa elsewhere on the blog, so there may be a little repetition with just one of the stories reiterated. But I remind you that I’m telling you these stories because there are treasured moments worth remembering, reminding us to look for such in our present situation with other loved ones. Open your eyes and ears and enjoy all they have to tell you!


Setting the Stage…

Clinton – I’ll call him “Grandpa” here – was one of Wilbur Hitchcock’s four children raised by Verna. He enlisted in the army and his brother Eliot enlisted in the air force when America went to war against Germany.  In the army, he met lovely young nurse Edna, his wife to be. Returning home from the war, they married and started their family in Laramie. Their first child was my husband Denny, arriving on the scene in 1947.  

When Grandpa and brother Eliot returned from the war, they not only started their new families, but also started their own business together, Hitchcock & Hitchcock Architects. The architect brothers each designed and built their own family homes across from one another, with a sweet La Prele Park in between.

Returning to the Hitchcock home on Spring Creek Drive

Life happened; the Hitchcock brothers had families in their new homes. Their children grew up and married and had their own children. And that’s where we pick up the story in that fast-forward, after my husband Denny and myself and OUR three children went to Kentucky for Denny to complete his master’s in biblical studies at seminary. After an approximate four-year stint, we then returned to Wyoming. First stop was to see Den’s dad, who was still living in that same house he had built on 2019 Spring Creek Drive. Grandpa’s wife Edna [Denny’s mom] had died; he then had remarried, and his second wife Bobbie Jay subsequently died as well. Now it was Grandpa who wasn’t doing well. Denny decided we should move into that house with Grandpa and our children so that Denny could take care of his father. So that was what we did.

The first signs of dementia

Not remembering familiar places

I remember one night we were all sitting around watching some TV show–probably Lawrence Welk. Grandpa loved that show, would tap his cane on the floor to the beat of the music, while my young girls would pretend their Barbies were dancing with Ken. Grandpa was in his favorite easy chair, Denny in a recliner, the kids and I on the couch. Grandpa was up LATE that night, which seemed odd since he normally went to bed at the same time each night. Finally, Grandpa said, “I wonder where I might sleep tonight.”  This coming from the man who built the house and has had his bedroom in the same place for about 50 years…

I startled!  But Denny calmly said, “You would sleep in your bedroom tonight. Would you like for me to show you where that is?” Grandpa replied, “Well, I’d be mighty obliged!” Denny offered him his arm, and they walked together to his dad’s room. Denny put him to bed and all was well for that night anyway. But how lovely to see Grandpa’s sweet character come out in such a way! Both of the fellas were such gentlemen to one another and continued to be throughout Grandpa’s trek through dementia. I developed the deepest respect for Denny as I watched him care so sweetly for his dad.

Not having filters

One day, Grandpa came home from a walk and was super excited. He said, “I just saw the Judge!” The judge was a friend of his who lived on a neighboring street. Grandpa continued, “I just walked in the door, and there he was!”  I saw the judge not too long after that. He said, “Yes, that was a surprise!  I was in my recliner reading, and Clinton walked in the study and said ‘Hi’’!  Grandpa didn’t knock or ring the doorbell, just let himself in!  That was inconsistent with Grandpa’s respectful nature.

Not having common sense

Soon after that, a neighbor called Denny to tell him his dad was marching down the middle of the busy Spring Creek Drive road.  Denny ran out to see what was going on. There was Grandpa, as the neighbor had reported—heading east with his earphones full of march music and his feet remembering his stint in the army.  He was indeed in the middle of the street with his music and a smile.

Forgetting familiar territory and people

The next concerning event was when he went out to his daily swim date with his brother-in-law. That particular day, he couldn’t find his way back home – a man born and raised in Laramie. So, Denny went to pick him up. And the keys to the car were put away. No more driving for Grandpa. It wasn’t much later when a friend came up to the door to get him for their weekly coffee date. Grandpa was very respectful at the door to Don, saying, “I thank you, sir, but I think I will be staying in today.”  He didn’t recognize his best friend, and he was nervous about leaving the house.  I remember watching Don walk away, tears shimmering down his cheeks.

After a while, Grandpa didn’t seem to recognize those of us who lived with him either. I worked at the University of Wyoming but would walk home for lunch and a nap. I remember reclining on the couch for twenty winks and hearing Grandpa’s cane thumping down the hall toward me. I squinted my eyes open a teeny and watched him carefully come up and lean over me, trying to figure out who I was. 

And one day when I came in the door for lunch, Grandpa’s eyes sparkled as he said, “So, it’s your BIRTHDAY!”  He was so excited to sit me at the table and talk with me.  I don’t know who he thought I was, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him it wasn’t my birthday. I pretended to be whoever he thought I was, and he continued to be animated and happy. Neither of us said, “Where is the cake?!!”

One day he was looking for Denny but didn’t know what his name was. Grandpa said, “Where is the man who takes care of me??”

Trouble finding words

Grandpa’s dementia progressed to the point where he had trouble finding the right words. He was looking out the back dining room window at his lovely back yard. In the middle of the yard was a bird bath, with birds gleefully splashing about and preening their feathers.  Grandpa was transfixed. With a huge smile on his face, he wanted me to take part in the joy. He said, “Look at that… look at that…  flower!” He couldn’t come up with “Bird”.  Another time around that experience, he was trying to tell me something, and said, “I just can’t find the word. It’s like it is just gone. The word isn’t there anymore.”  That was interesting to remember, for when he died, one of Denny’s sisters wanted the doctors to look at his brain to see what was going on. The brain had completely filled the places with fluid where brain matter [and thus, words] used to be.  That’s the best I know how to explain, since I didn’t retain the medical jargon!  Sorry about that…

Like a child the day he died

But Grandpa could still find some words, even on the day of his death. All of the sudden Grandpa’s legs weren’t working. It didn’t seem to bother HIM, but Denny and I were worried. We tried to roll him in a wheeled chair to the garage door so that we could get him in the car and take him to the emergency room. But we couldn’t transfer him down the one lone step to reach the car. So we called the ambulance for transport.

The EMTs who arrived with the ambulance had to take down a door or two to get their gurney into the TV room, where we had Grandpa sitting in his easy chair. A young man said, “Mr. Hitchcock, we are going to lift you up on the count of three. One, Two THREE…” and Grandpa was thrilled and said, “Whee!!” as they transferred him to the gurney.

At the hospital, after he had been fitted with the traditional lovely nursing gown, they fed him some chocolate pudding to what seemed like a little boy as he said “Yummm!!!” 

I remember telling Grandpa that I was going to take Denny home for a nap, since he had been up all night with Grandpa. Then I said I would be right back to sit with him and would see him shortly. Grandpa replied: “I am going home too!!”  I said, “You are??”  He replied with the brightest eyes I’ve ever seen, “My ride is right over there!”  He pointed to some place beyond Denny and me. We turned around, but nothing was there. Grandpa’s eyes remained excited.  I reiterated that I would be back shortly, and left to take Denny home, both of us in wonderment over what Grandpa must have seen.

I returned ASAP per my promise. As I walked into the unit, a nurse at the nursing station shouted, “Go get your husband!  Your father-in-law is coding.”  I ran to the car, screeched my way through traffic (well, Laramie’s traffic isn’t much to screech through!), bringing Denny back quickly.  At the same time, the EMT staff were trying to bring GRANDPA back, but he had taken that “ride home” he told us about. He was not “in there”. 

Gosh, death would not be so hard if we all, like Grandpa, had our vision opened up to see such a ride coming to take us “home”.  I don’t think that was dementia. Thank you, Lord, and thank you, Grandpa, for giving us a glimpse into heaven.

4 thoughts on “Grandpa (aka Clinton or “Kink”) Hitchcock”

  1. Mary Anne Loafman

    This is so touching. Grandpa Hitchcock was a very sweet, respectful human being. It’s wonderful that you’ve saved all those memories, and they are helping you dance through dementia today.

    Your description of Grandpa’s brain: “had completely filled the places with fluid where brain matter [and thus, words] used to be” is spot-on. You couldn’t have said it better!

    Keep writing. Love, Mary Anne

  2. Claire,
    Thanks for sharing these stories. It’s great to hear the familiar ones, and to hear new ones, too, that I haven’t heard yet. Thanks for sharing especially the story about Grandpa seeing his “ride home.” That’s really beautiful. Your blog is wonderful- I’m glad you’re writing!

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