Tuesday, March 22, 2011


My Grandfather passed away 9 days ago. He was the perfect Grandpa: booming laugh, mountain top farming, tractor driving, gun toting, story telling, bee keeping, leather vest, walking stick, hymn singing, boy and girl scouting, loving guy. If I close my eyes I can still hear him laughing.
I never met my great-grandparents. Pete has had the honor of knowing 4 of his. My mother's parents live close enough to us that we have been able to see them at least every few months. He has planted flowers and baked cakes and hiked and driven trains and played hide and seek with them. I am so thankful.

My grandmother, whose husband just died, has advanced Alzheimer's Disease. She is able to live at home, but has very little idea who we all are and needs 24 hour supervision. However, when Pete walks in the door of her house she lights up and walks directly to the place where the toys are kept. Watching them together reminds me why in many cultures several generations of a family live together in one home. Pete has adapted seamlessly and without question to her advancing Alzheimer's. He seems to understand that she has moved back into a "child" category and never turns to her for adult things (food/advice/permission).
Moments after this picture was taken, he made them each a lego rocket and gave her detailed instructions on how to fly it. She followed behind saying "vroom!" right along with him while I tried to reign in my emotion at watching my son re-teach the woman who spent countless hours overseeing my childhood play how to play. It was amazing.

When Pete arrived at Grandma and Grandpa's house several hours after Grandpa died, he greeted everyone, and within minutes had led Grandma out to the garden. She proudly showed him several silk flowers that she had planted in her previously thriving garden. He ooohed and aaahed and shot me a sideways "I get it" glance. He showed her how to use the wheelbarrow and the two of them carefully and lovingly replanted several clumps of weeds that my uncle had pulled up earlier that day. Finally, he taught her how to play "Easter egg hunt" with a small ball. The adults in the middle generations breathed a sigh of relief and quickly talked dinner plans and funeral arrangements while the oldest and youngest of us played happily in the yard. So wise at  5 and so young at 80.

So: Find the oldest and youngest people that you know. Add nature, a kitchen, a book, or a pile of toys. Mix. Stand back and be amazed. I am. Grandpa was. 

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