Grandfather had been living with his son and his son's family for the past two years.
He first moved in when the loneliness became unbearable. His wife of 53 years had passed on and he was at a loss as to how to live life without her.
He became depressed and after a while began to forget things. He had trouble recalling the names of his grandchildren and whether or not he had eaten breakfast.
His son became alarmed when he was found wandering outside one day, unable to find his house.
The stroke was the deciding factor in having Grandfather move to his son's house.
Grandfather had trouble communicating, as his words were often garbled and unintelligible. He had trouble controlling the left side of his face and would sometimes drool. Although he could feed himself, he wasn't usually involved in the typical dinnertime conversations and banter that his son's family enjoyed.
What's more, Grandfather became self-conscious and couldn't help feeling bitter about how life had treated him.
A place apart
So it wasn't with too much trepidation when he was given a “special” place to eat his meals.
The family pulled out an old card table from the basement and covered it with a heavy cloth. They stuck the table and a chair near the table where the rest of the family ate, but not so close as to include Grandfather in any part of the meal discussions.
He sat, he ate, and he stared out the window while the rest of the family carried on.
This became the ritual and life went on, leaving Grandfather behind a little more each and every day.
Then the change came.
Things changed one day when Grandfather's son came home early from work and went downstairs to the kids' play room.
The daughter and son had their usual assortment of stuffed animals out and were having a tea party. They even went so far as to have real cookies out and a place and setting for all the animals and themselves at the table.
Except for one stuffed animal.
It was the first one that the father had bought for his kids when they were just babies, and it was worn and threadbare. It had seen better days and was not the kids' favorite anymore.
This animal was at a different table.
It was near the table where the rest of the animals and kids ate, but not so close as to include it in any part of the tea party.
The father asked his kids, “Why is that stuffed animal separated from you kids and the rest of the animals?”
The kids replied, “Oh, that's you, Daddy! You can't eat with us anymore because you’re old and sick.”
Sometimes life has a way of exposing our shame.
Sometimes we realize that mistakes have been made.
Sometimes the reasons aren't important.
Change can result from a cold, hard look into the face of reality.
Change came to this family after that moment.
Grandfather no longer sits alone during mealtimes. Grandfather is included in conversations even though his responses are hard to understand.
This became the new ritual and life went on, including Grandfather a little bit more each and every day.
Originally posted in May 2010, this story was inspired by the caring people who I train every week. I'd love to hear your thoughts and stories too. Please share in the comments!
Get helpful hints for providing exceptional dementia care.