My daughter Becca engages my father in ways that other people, even my mother, cannot. Watching them sing and “perform,” I’ve come to realize that these two loves of my life simply meet together on common ground. Becca and her Opa are able to cherish the present; their expectations limited to the joy they experience in one another’s company.
Dad has had dementia for 15 years. Becca, now a freshman performing arts major at NYU, has only a toddler’s memory of her grandfather in his full brilliance. And while my father watched Becca grow into a talented singer, he has accepted her as she is at every stage of her life. Others might look at my father and see what was, or look at my daughter and see what could be, butOpa and Becca always embrace one another in the moment (he never asks about her post-college plan!).
Over the holidays, I vowed to take inspiration from Dad and Becca and really celebrate the moment. My husband and I gathered with our three adult children, my still-active 83-year-old mother and my father, whose personality shines through the fog, and who remarkably continues to thrive with dementia -- past his 85th birthday. That we could be together this year was a gift. Old business and worries about the future were put aside. There will be plenty of time for those distractions after the New Year.
Striving to be “in the moment” for my parents and children is the closest I’ll come to a New Year’s resolution. I’m at a life stage when grand pronouncements about my future diet and exercise habits seem silly. But I do have a goal to continue writing this blog through the coming months. You see, I know I’m not the only adult of my “sandwich generation” who has accepted responsibility for parents, children, a career, a household and a dozen obligations in between. Sometimes that torch is hard to carry. I hope that by sharing the lessons and rewards of the journey, we can start a dialog and all ultimately benefit from each other’s experiences.
So tell me, what do you do to “live in the moment” with your aging parents?
For now, I’m going to spend some time watching Dad and Becca, and some time embracing the others who bring light to my table. Happy New Year!