Your 78th birthday is coming up in just a few days and I feel grateful to still have you in my life. Some days you seem reasonably strong and on others I can see a growing frailty like the cold evenings in fall that foreshadow the inevitable arrival of winter. In some ways you amaze me with how well you are doing given your bout with cancer, 34 years of living with diabetes and incessantly advancing dementia.
It is interesting that even as your short-term memory is fading (so frustrating for you!) that you still share old memories that help me get to know you better. When I am up visiting you and Mom I treasure the walks that we take together. We walk the same route every time and you often tell me the same stories, sometimes repeating the same stories you told me on our after lunch walk on our after dinner walk. But truly, I don’t mind. I am happy to hear your voice and be in your kind company.
Last week I was delighted to hear a story you never told me before about fishing with Grampa when you were a kid; how you’d walk across the top of the dam and go to the opposite side of the river where hardly anyone fished and Grampa would raise the board on the dam causing a current which drew the big trout right over to where you were fishing. Very clever! I’m sure it was fun catching those big fish. (I sure had fun fishing with you when I was a kid.)
I worry about your shuffling gate which causes you to walk on the side of the road rather than on the uneven surface of the town’s neglected sidewalks. I am glad that you walk every day though and that you aren’t in pain. And as you say most every time we walk, I’m sure your daily walks for the past 40 years have helped you to stay in as good a shape as you are giving you strength to fight the cancer and helping with circulation to minimize the damage from the diabetes. It also gives you structure to your day and pleasure walking along the river.
My birthday wish for you is complicated. I hope your 79th year holds more joy for you than pain, heart pain or physical. I hope that every day when you go out for your walk that you make it home safely with no falls, no accidentally stepping in front of a car and I hope that you will always know your way home.
To read a wonderful blog about a family living with dementia/Alzheimer’s check out “Things I Want to Tell My Mother”