Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Simplest Pleasures Are The Best.

We've been having some lovely sunny weather here in Seattle the last few days, so I wasn't surprised when I pulled in to the driveway of Dad's AFH and saw him sitting at the patio table with a few of the other residents.  The thing that did surprise me was the jaunty, straw cowboy hat he was sporting.  (I could kick myself for not taking a picture; I'm still not used to the whole camera-in-my-phone thing.)  I'm not sure if his caregivers were afraid he would get too much sun or what.  He was bundled up in a jacket, too, so perhaps they were afraid he would get cold.  Anyway, everyone looked happy as they enjoyed the warm sun and the fragrance drifting down from a nearby cherry tree.

I greeted Dad my usual way - looking directly into his eyes as I said hello, wondering as always if I had truly seen or just imagined a spark of recognition in his washed-out blue eyes.  The caregiver moved some chair around so that I could sit next to Dad, and I began to relax, enjoying the heat of the sun on the top of my head and the occasional soft breeze.  The caregiver and I began to chat about the nice weather and Dad and how he was eating and walking. I noticed that the woman at the end of the table, Mimi, had a thick book she was focused intently on, although she had looked up briefly to say hello when I sat down.  It took me a while to realize that in the whole time I was there, she never turned a page.  Another gentleman slumped in a wheelchair wore thick, dark glasses against the brightness, but seemed determined to add to the conversation - adjusting his hearing aides repeatedly and throwing in the odd, random sentence.   After a little bit, the caregiver got up and went inside, returning with another of the residents in a wheelchair, sporting her own little jaunty hat and a big smile at being outside with other people.

As the caregiver and I talked and laughed, I could tell that Dad was listening in - he likes to hear chit-chat and laughter around him and he chuckles along with everyone else even though he probably doesn't understand.  We talked about Dad's job as an engineer and the fact that he loved airplanes and classic cars.  The caregiver was impressed that Dad had owned a Corvette!  He told me that Dad still had occasional chatty periods, although he was mostly quiet.  I squeezed Dad's arm and said that he had always been a quiet sort of person, but that I always felt there was more going on behind his eyes then he let on.  I caught a little expression on Dad's face just then that made me believe I was probably right in that regard.

We continued to sit together, basking in the sun, watching pink and white petals drift down from the tree - Dad in his cowboy hat, Mimi not-reading her book, Chuck making comments...  It was a pleasure to rest and be with my dad and his housemates, and it struck me on the way home that, regardless of illness, age, or advanced dementia - simple pleasures are still valuable.  The caregiver and I didn't have dementia, yet we weren't enjoying ourselves any more than the others.  Old or young, cognitively challenged or lucid, sick or well - it doesn't matter.  The feel of the sun, the smell of Spring, the opportunity to sit outside again after five months of cold and rain...we all value that no matter who we are.

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