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Gramma (my wife’s mom) lives about 4 hours away from us.  Years ago she moved to a vacation retirement community with her husband to enjoy the days after working.  A few years back he died. She had  put down deep roots into the community to the point that it was “home” so she wasn’t moving back.  Friends and familiarity were bigger strong points than being closer to kids.  She was wise enough to realize that if you move to be closer to your kids they’ll probably do something stupid like move for sake of career, education, lifestyle.  So, she stayed put.  Smart lady.  So my wife and I drive to see her a couple of times a month now. 

Something happened a few years ago.  Her memory started to slip.  We thought it was funny.  She could be so delightful and so forgetful at the same time.  But it grew worse.  Her ability to take care of herself deteriorated.  We didn’t see it because weren’t there all the time.  Her friends saw it.  Her pastor saw it.  But we didn’t.  Finally, it became evident to us that it was beyond humorous.  It was serious and we helped her make the transition to a residential home.

The “paint kept peeling” and today, though still delightful ,her memory is really shot.  We called her last night to remind her we were coming today.  She won’t remember.  We’ll visit her after lunch and she won’t remember eating.  She’s still able to smile and “fake it”.  Amazing.  She knows my wife and if I walk in with my wife she’ll figure out who I am.  But if I come alone it provides stress for her as she can’t put a name to my face.  When we leave she’ll smile and walk us to the door but within the hour will have no recollection we were there.

Why do we visit then?  Some of have suggested the futility of visiting when dementia takes over.  Really?  You don’t think it’s a good idea to regularly visit a loved one when dementia is rampant?   When we raised three daughters from child hood to adulthood we supplied them with tons of hugs, especially when they were young.  They don’t remember the hugs specifically today but they are different due to the effort.  I pass a homeless guy on the corner on my way home from work.  He always gets a bit of loose change into his cup.  He doesn’t remember me but at least he eats a little at McDonald’s across the street.  He’s different because of my actions.

I guess my point is, some actions you do because you know that it’s better for the person in front of you to do them, than it would be if you didn’t.  Make sense?  It’s not a science, and it’s not precise like math, but when you love someone…you extend yourself for them and it’s better for them.  And yes, you do feel good because love is a reciprocal thing.

So, we are going to visit gramma for a couple of hours this afternoon.  Four hours there, 2 hour visit, four hours home.   It’s an opportunity to love someone who has loved us for more than we can remember.