I participate in a micro blogging site called Twitter (if you’re on, you can follow me @missusP). If you don’t know what Twitter is… and you want to learn more, you can read more in various blog posts, online articles or by simply typing “What is Twitter” into any search engine.
Anyway, one of the users I follow, Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee… better known as the Wine Library TV celebrity) has made an Internet plea for today to be “Good People Day.” I’m pretty skeptical about such things…but then I thought of one of the best people in the universe, my Grandfather. If we’re talking good people, I must share his story (which is a post I’ve been meaning to write anyway so this is a good push).
Everyone knows traditional marriage vows include “til death to us part” and “in sickness and in health.” Likewise, we know that today, few people actually keep these commitments (with 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce, sadly, these promises have become almost meaningless). My grandfather is a rare, focused and stubborn man who took these vows to a level of commitment few people ever know in their lifetime.
My grandmother was diagnosed with “dementia” (read: Alzheimer’s) in her mid 60s (just like her mother before her). My grandfather watched several heart-breaking years as this horrible disease crept up on her. She knew it at moments when she couldn’t remember her own address, her name, or how to get home. After it overtook her, he tried for many years to take care of her on his own. He had watched his mother-in-law go through a terrible nursing home experience that had soured him greatly.
If you are at all familiar with Alzheimer’s you will understand why he couldn’t keep this care up on his own. Eventually, with the help of family and friends, he did put her in a great nursing home. But, unlike many people in this world who dispose of ill loved one’s like they might drop of a dog at the pound… he remained present every single day.
Every day my grandfather, aka Papa, would arrive at the nursing home at 6 a.m. He would help my grandmother (aka Mimi) get dressed, brush her teeth, comb her hair, etc. He fed her breakfast, lunch and dinner. He made sure she got her “exercise,” took her outside for sunshine, read to her, painted her nails and spent every single day for over a decade taking care of her at the home. He put her to bed before leaving for the day and, although she didn’t talk, eat on her own or show any other signs of interaction, she always puckered up to kiss him back when he asked nicely.
This is not a typical arrangement. The hospital staff knew this and let him “do his thing” – awed by his love and dedication. He befriended many of them over the years – becoming a constant presence in their lives just as much as he was in Mimi’s. He’d teach them about his favorite subjects like jazz music, funny quotes and new books to read. He’d bring them gifts like CDs, flowers, books and more. He brightened not only the lives of my grandmother but everyone in that hospital, every single day.
The level of this dedication could often be misunderstood. Some worried that he spent too much time at the home.. not enough time focusing on his own needs. But this is what made him happy, this is what he promised to do. I know very few people that have upheld such promises in such a tremendous way.
My grandmother passed away in November 2006. My grandfather still goes to the nursing home on a regular basis to visit other patients, friends he’s made along the way, and even use the hospital gym.
I hope you will agree, that’s a good – no, great – person.