My grandfather was diagnosed a few years back with a severe case of dementia. To me, it was the most heartbreaking news of my 2013.
Since I lost touch with my parents, I had to grapple with giving my daughter Sam an identity. Now, for some, grandparents might be a rarity. But in my culture, a child doesn’t need living or relative grandparents. The community takes the role.
I bundled up her bag, and set off on a walk with her. Her teeth are giving her a rough time ever since the beginning of the holidays last year, but so far some honey applied onto her gums works the trick. It’s a nice healthy treat too.
One thing most of us parents don’t understand is that our children, while at the formative stages, are so similar to the elderly. I have never seen elders as happy as they are with children.
Getting to my grandfather’s gate, he couldn’t recognize me. He hasn’t anyway, for the past five years. But after introducing myself over and over all those years, he never once asked again for my daughter’s name.
“Samantha,” he said.
And it stuck.
I don’t know how, but when the two of them played outside on the grass and in the tea fields, it was magic. He taught her how to count mangos as they fell from the branches, and how to clap. I have been trying to make her say my name right, and all she comes up with is “Zaaa”.
Till today, he has never asked for her name again. When I call, and re-introduce myself, he promptly asks how she’s doing.
And I am left with only joy and relief.
Memory can be a problem to us as we age. We tend to forget that all we are is mortal, and that someday it shall come to pass. Our children are a gift to memory, and to life as a whole. Without them, there would be no meaning to our constant struggle. There would be no joy to the livelihoods we have sacrificed to create.
Memory, children, and the elderly. No wonder they thrive as a daycare mash-up.