When I had him evaluated by an elder care program, Dad did indeed prove to have mild cognitive impairment. He was characterized as an “Emerald” in the kind GEM system they used. Each impairment had its own gem symbol. And that was how I came to view my Dad in this new light – as a gem!
Dad and I found new ways to communicate during this time. One of our favorites was just hanging out with each other – just being together. I remember particularly sharing a cup of coffee, sitting in the health center staring out at beautiful Lake Superior. Words were unnecessary – it was just our togetherness that mattered.
Another common thread we shared was our love of show tunes. We had always loved singing together, and now we loved sitting together and listening to music that was familiar and brought back great memories.
We came together also as I cared for him in new ways. Dad hadn’t been able to shave with a regular razor, so I bought him an electric one – and he enjoyed it when I helped him go over a few spots he had missed. I remember feeding him also as he was dying, using a baby spoon and remembering how he fed me as a premature infant. It was comforting to be reminded of our circle of life.
Dad managed to live well into his 100th year; just six weeks shy of his 101st birthday. He took delight in simple things – “breakfast is my favorite meal of the day,” “Grace really loves me!” (My pet miniature poodle). When learning that a nurse caring for Dad was Irish, he belted out, “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.” Dad kept his positive outlook and good humor to the end of his life and in return we were all just happy to have him here so long.