Holiday Cheer

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Every year, my neighbors and I host a holiday gathering for our block. It’s a good time to catch up on news in the neighborhood where I have lived for 27 years. Jim, who is 95, slowly ambles up the driveway with his walker, his caregiver guiding him by his elbow. He sits on the wicker sofa in the patio while all around him, neighbors are chatting and mingling, moving about. I sit with Jim for a spell.

“I don’t know too many people here anymore,” he says. “I’ve been in my house for 64 years and almost everybody I know has died.” He tells me the story, again, of how his wife, now 91, fell six years ago and how the part of her brain that stores memory is gone. She is mostly bedridden these days and has a caregiver devoted to her full-time in their home.

“She doesn’t remember me,” he says, wistful. “Every morning I say ‘Good Morning’ and sometimes she answers back. She doesn’t know me. But I never give up hope.”

His eyes lock with mine and I nod in understanding.

“I miss the conversation the most. You know what I mean,” he says, glancing at my husband.

“Yes, I do,” I say. And in that moment, I also know that it doesn’t matter if you are 45 or 55 or 95. When your spouse loses the ability to communicate, you never do give up hope.

“I’ve been lucky all my life,” he says. “I raised kids, made good investments. My wife doesn’t ever complain and she still has her sense of humor.”

Jim raps his knuckles on the wood pillar next to the sofa. “I’m still lucky.”

I have to agree.

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