My dad is semi retired. He has a part time job that usually keeps him busy closer to full time depending on the season. I have three kids and a full time job. Let’s just say we don’t necessarily run in the same circles. I’m a homebody with my party of five and he’s the social butterfly I was in my 20’s and early 30’s. I couldn’t keep up if I tried. We don’t get to see each other as often as I would like.
But, today he was visiting his brother at his new placement and I was planning to take the kids there anyway. It was the perfect opportunity to sneak in a visit with Papa, too. My kids hadn’t seen Uncle Chuck in…ever for a couple of them. Unfortunately Covid, work, a small yet significant distance and his varying health has prevented regular visits. I’ve only recently started seeing him frequently myself.
My kids have never been in an elder care facility and have had little contact with people in wheelchairs much less an entire building of them. I prepped them on the way there telling them that Uncle Chuck probably won’t recognize me and will definitely not recognize them. But we will talk to him anyway. We can tell him a story or a funny joke. We can ask him a question or show him a doll. But he might not answer right away. It’s OK. I told them that he will likely only say a few words and might fall asleep. It doesn’t mean that he’s bored. He just gets tired because he’s lived such a super full life. I reminded them that everyone’s bodies move in different ways and we were likely to see a lot of wheelchairs. They were prepared.
We joined my dad and his friend in a visiting room where Uncle Chuck was enjoying a cup of coffee after mass. I reintroduced myself as I always do. He seemed to recognize me—or at least eyeballed my bag where I usually have some cookies or donuts. We introduced the kids and as always, McKenna’s name sparked recognition. George was curious what Uncle Chuck’s middle name is but I wasn’t sure he would remember. He did. He remembered his middle name as well as his Brother name. Uncle Chuck is an Irish Christian Brother—like a nun or a priest…but a brother. He remember he took that name when taking his vows. He remembered my mom’s name was Debbie. He always had a soft spot for her. I dug out a package of our favorite cookies to share. I’m not sure who enjoyed them more, Uncle Chuck or Theo. It was a nice visit.
The visit was made nicer by an invitation to lunch from Papa and his friend. We went to an old school, tavern style pizza parlor near our house. It was so great to get caught up and enjoy a hot meal I didn’t make; while my children were entertained by other people. The kids had a blast and asked when we were going for our next visit and lunch. McKenna has been thinking of books she can read to Uncle Chuck and practicing her best jokes. George is planning which hot wheels to bring. And Theo keeps stashing cookies I can only assume are to share with the other Cookie Monster in the family.