On Friday, our facility held a cook out as a fundraiser for Alzheimer Research. Usually, the most upbeat visits are when all the residents and their families are together celebrating. Friday was no different.
Our children and grandchildren came to see their Papa J. It had been several months since my son, from Los Angeles, had seen his dad, so we anxiously stood outside the glass doors of the dining room where the Alzheimer patients were having their lunch. The aides cheerfully tapped Jerry on the shoulder to get him pointed our way. The last time he saw Mark, they both embraced with unforgettable sobs of endearment. Sobs were a good thing in that it meant that Jerry still recognized him, which is so important to the loved one. This time as Jerry was led closer to us his look was gazed as he stood, tall and frail, wondering who these people were.
Each one of us, kept smiling, "Hey, Dad." "It's me." "It's Mark." "It's Amanda." until we could get a response of some sort. LIttle McCauley stood thigh high hugging his legs. We took him down the hall to the outside where all the families and staff were feverishly seating their loved ones and serving up burgers and slaw. It was a gloriously clear sunny day, perfect for a day in the "park". It warmed this mama's heart for me to watch my kids serve their dad and gently hold his hands to help him sit. The kids ran out on the grass and were not underfoot, which was good.
No matter what tricks we used, it seemed impossible to get much of a response out of Jerry. The aides have said that this is pretty much the way he is every day now. He's definitely shifted again in his decline. HOWEVER, their was one trick that we hadn't tried. Mark went back inside and brought out a big red rubber ball! As a family, we lifted Jerry out of his chair and walked out onto the grass. Mark said, "Here, dad. Catch!" Not only did Jerry catch it, but he immediately tossed it back! There was a connection! We saw him smile! He'd catch. He'd carry it around. He'd toss it. He'd walk off with it. Friends popped out from inside with smiles as they watched the entertainment. Our cameras were snapping as we tried to capture these moments. Happy moments. Red rubber ball moments. The kind that we scramble for and don't want to forget.