October 24, 2012
I went to have lunch earlier this week with my 93-year-old father. He lives in a wonderful assisted living facility in Johns Creek, where the atmosphere is calming, pleasant and friendly. My dad is, for all practical purposes, blind, so this atmosphere matters even more to him than they might to you or to me. He feels safe and well cared for in his home.
Dad is always happy when one of his children comes to visit, as time is the most precious commodity to an elderly parent. I’m coming to learn that it’s the most precious element to all of us, but an aging parent is acutely aware of that fact. Dad is sweet and welcoming whenever any one of us arrives, and it’s always tough to say goodbye when it’s time to leave him.
I’m always amused when I watch my father interact with the nurses, staff and other residents where he lives. I’m a firm believer that people who choose to go into the profession of caring for the elderly are of a special ilk; there is a front-row seat in heaven for those folks.
No matter my dad’s mood, the men and women who look after him on a daily basis treat him with dignity and respect, along with a seemingly bottomless supply of friendliness. They smile, they speak kindly, and they treat him gently.
I had to laugh – just to myself of course – when we had lunch together, as we were seated at a table with two other men. Even at that age, there seems to be a pecking order, a hierarchy, and it’s based solely on who’s resided at that address the longest. It seems that, at that table anyway, my dad outranked the other two gentlemen. Passersby spoke to Dad first, the servers served him first, and the women who were lunching paid special attention to him before greeting anyone else.
Needless to say, my dad is in his element. Sure, he’d rather be living in his own house, surrounded by all of his own stuff, but at 93 that’s just not practical and hasn’t been for years. So he holds court pretty much daily, flirts a bit with nurses one-third his age, eats very well, and waits for a phone call or a visit.
I made a mental note as I left him in his tidy apartment to be sure to carve out more opportunities like the one we had this week, just the two of us talking about nothing in particular, but saying, “I love you” just the same.
Yes, my dad would be quick to tell you that time is indeed the most precious commodity.
Carole Townsend is also a Gwinnett Daily Post staff correspondent and author of two books: “Southern Fried White Trash” and her newest, “Red Lipstick and Clean Underwear” (released October 15). She is also a regular guest on FOX News Radio station WYXC 1270 AM on Wednesdays during the Live Drive at 5. Townsend has been quoted on msnbc.com, in the LA Times, USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor, been featured on FOX 5 Television News and CNN, and is often a guest on television and radio shows nationwide. She currently travels throughout the southeast, meeting readers at book signings and speaking publicly at various events.