By Jennifer L.W. Link
Frankie Hoch put college on hold to be with her aging grandfather.
She’s now returned to school with no regrets and high hopes for the future.
Some college students barely make it home in time for the holidays. Frankie Hoch moved home just two weeks after leaving for college so she could spend time with her grandfather.
Her grandfather, 90-year-old Floyd Hoch, suffered from health issues in March 2011; in May 2011, he moved to Prairie Ridge Assisted Living in Beaver Dam. Hoch and the rest of her family circled around her grandfather to help meet his needs. He had dementia, in addition to heart disease, and the family bought his groceries, helped him keep house and spent time visiting.
Hoch loved spending time with her grandfather. “When I was growing up, I saw him three or four times a week,” she said. “He’d take us to McDonald’s and then let us have two dollars to spend at Dollar Tree. And he always had a candy cupboard; he always supplied us with a ton of candy.”
So when her grandfather needed help, Hoch was happy to step up. She helped her grandfather throughout summer 2011 and only reluctantly left for UW-Whitewater, as planned, in August 2011. (“I was debating if I should go,” Hoch says, “but I’d already committed.”)
She didn’t stay at Whitewater long. “My grandpa was so used to having someone there to talk to everyday, and I didn’t want my dad to have to do that by himself,” Hoch says. “I just didn’t feel right about that. My mom taught me that family takes care of family; you don’t abandon them when the times get tough,” Hoch says.
After a long discussion with her mom and dad, Hoch transferred to Moraine Park Technical College and moved back to her family home in Columbus.
“When I came home, I got to see my grandpa every day,” says Hoch, who juggled a 12-credit class load and part-time jobs at Boston Store and Get Fit Health Club.
“Sometimes it would only be for 10 minutes on a lunch break but other time, especially on Sundays, I could see him for three or four hours. We’d watch games together.”
Spending time with her grandfather wasn’t always easy — “He didn’t know who I was a lot, and I wanted him so badly to know that” – but it was always worthwhile. “As much as he probably didn’t know who I was, he still appreciated every time I came,” Hoch says.
At Christmas-time, Hoch helped her grandfather decorate for the holidays.
“Christmas was his favorite holiday,” Hoch says. “So we set up a small fake tree and he helped me put the ornaments up. We put up his pickle ornament and clown ornament and a rocking horse ornament he’d had since he was a boy. We set up the manger he made too.”
But just before Christmas, her grandfather fell and broke his hip. He had surgery to fix his hip, but died a few days later.
“It was the worst day ever,” Hoch says. “The pain was just terrible.”
Hoch took comfort, though, in the hours she spent with her grandfather. “A lot of people don’t have grandparents around, or they only see them a few times a year. To me, it’s like they’re missing out,” Hoch says.
“The time I spent at home with my grandpa was the best three months of my life. I wouldn’t trade that time with my grandfather for the world.”
That time literally changed Hoch’s life. Originally, she planned to study social work or special education in college. Now, she’s a student at UW-Fond du Lac. Come spring, she’ll be attending Marian College, majoring in healthcare administration.
Her grandpa would be proud.