Just a thought… People with dementia may have a great deal to teach the rest of humankind. If we make the venture one of genuine and open engagement, we will learn a great deal about ourselves. [Professor Tom Kitwood]
First off, happy Vernal Equinox! It’s the first day of spring and may it arrive for you, not just in name, sooner than later.
It’s been almost three months now since my trip to Kelowna in the BC interior, an hour’s flight from here on Vancouver Island, to move my soon-to-be 90-year-old dad from his longtime independent living seniors’ residence to one with more assistance. He stayed there all of two nights and we all found that he was just not mentally or physically equipped to live there without my sister sleeping on a nearby cot. So, despite their warmest welcome, we had to move Dad out again.
But this is where things got better: he moved into that same sister Leslie’s busy household, has his own room, thanks to Veterans’ Affairs is in the midst of getting everything he needs to live there and, of course, Leslie’s entire family – busy husband, equally busy teens, three dogs and, yes, even the cat – have all made him a part of the family. He’s gained weight and strength, and just having a Blue Jays game on repeat on the TV keeps him happy. Plus, it keeps Leslie from losing her mind when that all-too-tiny CTV News wheel re-peat-peat-peat-peat-peats.
To Dad, you see, every time he sees the game, it’s new to him. His short- and mid-term memory is almost completely gone. Although he remembers family, I had not even gotten off the plane coming home from that last trip when one sister told me he didn’t know I’d visited or helped him move. Leslie takes him to see his girlfriend and by the time he’s home he says she wasn’t there. By the end of the day, as well as being physically spent, Leslie is mentally exhausted from going along with his questions and stories.
And this former pilot is getting out of bed about three times nightly, asking what time he’s up in the morning for his flight, where his kit bag is, and so on. He asks for mom, who passed away 11 years ago. If we thought about it, it would break our hearts, but we’re pretty much ready for whatever comes.
At this point, thanks to the sisters, Dad is getting all the assistance the system allows. That’s almost half the job: the paperwork, the phone calls, the persistence and, of course, above all, the patience. He knows he’s surrounded by love, gets lots of his favourite food, frequent naps and, of course, the Blue Jays.
So today in my dad’s honour and for everyone who is or loves a senior, I’d like to share this wonderful sweet and funny story, author unknown. It goes like this:
The pilot of an Airbus A380 is on his way across the Atlantic. He’s flying consistently at 800 km/h at 30,000 feet when suddenly a Eurofighter with a Tempo Mach 2 appears.
The pilot of the fighter jet slows down, flies alongside the Airbus and greets the pilot of the passenger plane by radio: “Airbus! Boring flight, isn’t it? Now have a look here!”
With that he rolls his jet on its back, accelerates, breaks through the sound barrier, rises rapidly to a dizzying height, and then swoops down almost to sea level in a breathtaking dive. He loops back next to the Airbus and asks: “Well, how was that?”
The Airbus pilot answers: “Very impressive. But watch this.”
The jet pilot watches the Airbus…but…nothing happens. It continues to fly straight at the same speed. After 15 minutes, the Airbus pilot radios, “Well, how was that?”
Confused, the jet pilot responds, “What did you do?”
The Airbus pilot laughs and says, “I got up, stretched my legs, walked to the back of the aircraft to use the lavatory, then got a cup of coffee and a chocolate pastry.”
The moral of the story is this: When you’re young, speed and adrenalin seem to be great. But as you get older and wiser, you learn that comfort and peace are more important. This is called S.O.S.: Slower, Older and Smarter.
I love that. Sit back, relax and don’t forget to stretch your legs, enjoy the sweetness of life and be sure to take in that view.
Have a lovely week. Please let me bring peace to your nighttime with Drift Sleep stories, available for free wherever you download podcasts, and I’ll have a new Episode 12 podcast with Lisa Brandt on Gracefully and Frankly this week. We’re hearing it’s a new Thursday MUST for thousands of listeners. And we’re grateful to all.