I have always had an incredibly large soft spot for the elderly. I like to say that I practically grew up in nursing homes and assisted livings as both my grandparents on my mother’s side were over the ripe age of 80. My favorite memories as a child was when my mother would let me take a “sick day” from school and we’d drive an hour to go see my grandparents.
My grandfather was in a nursing home, he had little motor skills left and almost no ability to communicate verbally. We were able to have somewhat of a conversation through a tiny whiteboard and a red dry erase marker. I would sit next to his bed and read him fairy stories from a book my aunt gave me. The last time I saw him I had read him my favorite Tinker Bell stories and he gave me one of his rare smiles as we left to go home.
Shortly after my grandfather died my grandmother also took a turn for the worst and had to be put into an assisted living. She had dementia. When she crashed we were in and out of hospitals and nursing homes. Being now homeschooled I remember running around the halls of the nursing home bugging the nurses and aids to let me help them. I loved being able to bring a smile to the worn and fragile faces surrounding me.
Being older I now realize how refreshing it must have been to those patients to see such a young and happy face smiling genuinely at them instead of the disgust and blank looks I notice most kids give nowadays. There were many people who didn’t approve of me being exposed to that on a daily basis at such a young age. What none of them understand is that during that period of time I learned what true empathy was. I learned that just because they are old and may no longer be lucid that they were still once people. They had lives, lovers, friends, family, hurts, joys. I feel like when you reach a certain age that society throws you in the garbage, because after all you’re not benefiting them anymore. It saddens me to see the elderly dumped in nursing homes and assisted livings to never see their families again. They deserve so much more.
Going through both my grandparents death at such a young age was hard. It was an emotional roller coaster that still has its ups and downs to this day but I wouldn’t have traded those days for anything. Not a single day.
Being there when my grandmother took her last breath was both a painful and magical experience and I feel blessed to have been able to be there.
When life seems to be moving at super sonic speed it can be hard to appreciate those people in your life. Sometimes you take for granted the time you have left with your parents and grandparents. Take time out of your busy day to value those you love. They won’t be there forever.
A special thank you to my parents for exposing me to so much from a young age, I wouldn’t be the person I am today had you not.