I once read an account by Henry David Thoreau of someone who had a sign above their bathing place that read, “Renew thyself, completely. Do it again and again, and forever again.” I’ve taken to reciting that thought in my own daily shower.
I am told, that my 83-year old father is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. My father lives with his second wife, who is several years younger than he. Because she seemed overwhelmed with his care, I stepped in several months ago to take Dad during the daytime hours on weekdays.
I wondered if I could apply my favorite thought to Dad’s world. Could Dad’s brain cells be stimulated by exposing him to a larger world? Gently removing him from his familiar world of office buildings and urban car trips, I began to coax him on trips out into the countryside, where it was my hope that he would drink in the beauty of nature while listening to music favorites from my cd collection. Perhaps new cells would awaken in his brain! In so doing I came upon a new world.
I discovered Dad! As I took him around each day, I began to see his enthusiasm for new experiences unfold. Gratitude poured from his lips daily. Often he was footing the bill for restaurant lunches for both of us. But one day I pulled out a homemade lunch of fruit and peanut butter sandwiches for us to eat as we sat parked on the main street of a small town that we had happened upon. His eyes lit up like a 5-year-old child and he was filled with delight at the unusual setting for our lunch. Another day we drove to a military base where we enjoyed colorful fall trees and the sight of the Missouri River from high upon a hill. Once, we entered a State Park and took the short walk to the overlook where we found another old man with his family, with whom Dad made a delightful connection.
I don’t know if Dad’s brain has grown new cells. I do know that he did better on his Alzheimer’s test the last couple of times he went in to see the doctor.
With each new trip Dad thinks of people he wants to bring along with us next time we come. He wants to rent a bus and bring all his friends and family along with us. I doubt that his busy friends of lawyers, doctors, and politicians would take time from their busy days to accompany Dad and I on a trip through the countryside. What a hoot to think of myself in an old school bus collecting men dressed in business suits from high office buildings to take them on a journey with Dad through open spaces for a peek at nature’s offerings! I imagine such a journey would refresh and renew every soul!
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