Dear Mr. Backman,

My grandpa is 84. He has dementia, and he asks me how his Michael is, thinking I am my mother, asks me how ballet is, thinking I am my sister. He tells me his baby brother visited him the other night, and I nod, though I know his brother has been dead for five years. He is adamant that he will mow the lawn, fix the fence, repair the ranch-house, and teach me to drive, and I indulge his fantasy, even though he is bedridden and his hands shake from the Parkinson's as he numbers off all the things he is going to do.

In the shrinking square of his mind, he is still capable of everything, yet at times he realizes that he cannot even brush his teeth on his own. In these lucid moments, I think my grandpa is sorrowful, feel his pain when he says "I stink" as I lean in to greet him with a kiss, an apology for the way he is before he even says hello.

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer brought me to tears on Christmas morning last year. Excited to receive the novella I had seen in Target, I took it to my room after all the presents had been opened and began reading. Forty-five minutes later, I had itchy, watery eyes and a hitch in my throat, and I wished I were Noah.

I wish I had the relationship with my grandpa that Noah had with his. Noah and Grandpa fished and camped together and shared a love of numbers. I don't even know what I have in common with my grandpa because I remember little about him before the dementia set in. For the first couple years of my life, my grandparents cared for me while my parents were at work. Yet I can only remember the time I spent playing and reading with my grandma, just vaguely recalling my grandpa calling my name through the house when we played hide and seek. The single vivid memory I have with him is a fairytale he made up about a purple spotted horse named Jiggler. I remember creating my own stories about Jiggler for my grandpa's birthdays and for Father's Day when I was younger because there are only so many t-shirts, socks, and blankets you can give a person, and I wanted to make him smile. Eventually I stopped writing them, but now I wish I hadn't, struggling to feel close to my grandpa.

I wish I had the insight that Noah had in accepting Grandpa's memory loss. At his young age, Noah reassured Grandpa that if he didn't remember him, it would be okay; they would get to meet each other all over again, and Noah could tell Grandpa stories of their adventures. When my grandpa forgets who I am, it scares me. It hurts that he cannot remember me, even though I know it is not his fault that his memory fails him. I feel guilty, thinking maybe if I visited more often, he wouldn't forget. Like Grandpa, the square in his mind shakes as he tries to remember all the things he knows he has lost, and I cannot help but feel that there should be something I can do.

I am not Noah; I cannot rely on a shared love of mathematics with my grandpa to keep us close, to help me accept infinity, or to realize that there is nothing to be afraid of. But I can learn from Noah that my grandpa will be okay, and so will I.

For this assurance, I must thank you, Mr. Backman. In your preface, you said you had not originally intended for anybody to read this story. But I am glad you went through with publishing because I think I needed Noah to come to terms with the shrinking square in my grandpa's mind.


Vicki Lozano

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Page last modified: March 22, 2018