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statue of old man and bird

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

As parents, we never stop feeling worry, hope, pride and guilt whether our offspring are children or adults. Today, I discovered something else that never ends: the thrill of adding a new experience to their memory bank and watching it unfold.

My son is a young man living out-of-state. Now in the midst of relocation, I felt it was important that he see his grandfather, knowing this may be the last chance given my 93-year-old father-in-law’s condition. The scheduling was a bit tricky, but it was arranged. After a two-hour drive followed by a quick cup of coffee, we arrived to find GF sound asleep on the couch. His aide explained he hadn’t slept all night, which is typical of dementia. I was hoping he wouldn’t sleep through the whole visit as that has happened before. But grandson busied himself by getting reacquainted with the house itself where GF has lived for over 60 years. With an appreciation for family history, GS respectfully gazed at old books, clothing, and wood sculptures his grandfather once carved and painted. GF finally awakened and revealed a startled look of delight when seeing his grandson. They exchanged resplendent smiles.

Spending time with an elderly person with poor hearing who glides in and out of reality is not easy. There’s coughing, drooling, incomprehensible speaking and languor. But GS seemed to observe with introspection, watching GF play with an imaginary string while mumbling. When GF was taken into the kitchen for lunch, GS followed to watch him and converse with the aide. I could tell GS was taking it all in and getting to know GF all over again in this new state. Before we left, GF fell off to sleep again and I don’t know if he remembered the visit when he awakened later. I do know his grandson will never forget it.

A long time ago, I was telling someone about simple moments with my children, like banana pancakes on Sunday morning, playing Scrabble while drinking tea when suffering from a cold, and hot cocoa with marshmallows in a special cup. My friend described it as building their memory bank. How wonderful to realize that the opportunities to continue deposits into this bank are not age restrictive and the statement balance represents riches that no one can take away.

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