I attended a wonderful luncheon two weeks ago to celebrate the one year anniversary of Encore, an adult respite program at Canterbury United Methodist Church. So many people attended the luncheon and celebrated the numerous achievements of Encore. It was a grand celebration.
Encore was established to be a safe place for people with dementia. Every activity is set up so that the participant feels successful. Every moment is perfectly planned out. The day starts when the person (like my dad) steps out of the car and is warmly greeted like a long-lost friend. Coffee is flowing and conversations are in full swing the moment they cross through the door.
Two things stood out to me during the celebration in June. The first was revealed to me in the video that played for our group. The video showed smiling faces sitting in chairs stretching and exercising just like a normal person (someone without dementia) might do each day. I quickly searched the video for my dad. There he was front and center wearing a wool vest (because it is June after all) and he was NOT exercising! That sounds about right! My dad was never big on exercising and even with dementia . . . he was still not exercising, Some things never change.
The second thing that jumped out at me was a comment that one of the many volunteers said as she addressed the group. She told the room that she loved being with our “people.” She told us that she enjoyed being with them and listening to their stories and laughing with them each day. She said “I love being with your ‘people’ even with their dementia.” She went on to say “I can only imagine how wonderful they were before they had dementia.” WOW!
I thought about my dad and the person he was today, with dementia. He is still a great man. He is funny and at times considerate and as I have said before, he is my hero. Gosh, how I wish these people had known my dad before dementia! Many of his traits are still part of him today but I am not sure I can explain how much “better” he was before dementia.
I wanted to stand up at my round table and shout my dad was AWESOME! I wish you had known him before dementia.
He was a banker. He served on committee’s at this very church. He was an Alpha Tau Omega in college and he still kept up with his college and neighborhood friends. My dad was a giver, not only in his professional life but in his private life as well. In the not so distant past, my dad sat in a hospital room with my mom and cried because he thought he was going to lose her. I held his head in my hands as he told me he would give his life for hers. He loved my mom and treated her like a queen. My dad was awesome and in many ways he still is but in some ways he is different. Now my dad sometimes thinks I am my sister. He may or may not recognize my mom, his wife, and he is losing his filter. He says things and words that he never said before.
Today, my dad misses his house. He misses the life that he had before dementia. He misses traveling with my mom, driving his favorite BMW, helping his children and his grandchildren. My dad misses life and I miss it for him.
So, I am glad you love being with my dad now that he has dementia but you would have been amazed at the man he was before dementia. He was truly amazing in almost every way.
My family is so lucky to have Encore in our life. We are blessed to have church members, people in our community and even people outside our community give their time and talents to be with our “people” each week. What would we do without you?
I will tell you what we would do without you. We would not have peace of mind that our father/mother/wife/husband/daughter/son was being loved while we get a much-needed break. We would not get to see the smile on their face when they leave the building holding their new creation. We would miss out on the tune they would be humming as they leave the Encore Choir. We would miss you, each and every one of you.
So, yes, I am sorry that you did not know my dad before his dementia. But you would be happy to know that if you DID know my dad before dementia, you would have loved him just as much.
You are awesome and we are blessed to have you in our life.
My dad is still awesome and I am still blessed to have him in my life.
So here is to being AWESOME together with Encore.