Every year I go on one field trip with each of my kid's classes and last Wednesday, my daughter, Maya asked me to come with her class to Baycrest retirement homewhere her class volunteers once a month with a group of Seniors. I couldn't make it to the last one and I was free that afternoon so I thought, "why not?"
Maya said that we would be spending the afternoon interviewing one of the residents. She was so excited, even bringing a special clipboard to take her notes. On our walk over to the center Maya told me that the last time they went, her partner had held her hand the whole time and wondered if she would be there again.
We got to the centre, walked into the activity room and there was Maya's partner. Otherwise known as my great Auntie Irene. I think. I mean, she looked like my Aunt but so much older. And frailer. And there was something different about her eyes. I went over to her. "Auntie Irene?" I asked, timidly. She looked up at me.
"Yes. You're right. I do look a lot like Mary, my grandmother. I'm Cayla."
"Cayla!" Her eyes lit up and mine filled with tears. You see, this was not one of those old aunts who who gives you fruitcake and underpants once a year on Christmas; this was my Auntie Irene who took me in every weekend when I was a little kid when my parents were getting divorced and served me chicken soup and ice cream and my favorite, Jello with mandarain oranges.
I took a big gulp of my tea to help push the tears down and then I spoke, "This is my daughter, Maya." Auntie Irene had been in Baycrest since Maya was a baby and the two had never met. She looked at Maya for a long time and then gave her a big hug. Maya was all smiles. We sat down and Maya started her interview. This is when the tears I thought that the tea pushed down, came back. She couldn't remember how many children she had, what her favorite food was or what she liked to watch on TV. This was my first experience watching someone I love fall victim to dementia. It broke my heart.
|Maya interviewing her Great-great Auntie Irene.|
Soon after, my Uncle Mickey showed up. He recognized me at once, taking my face in his hands and, as always, marveled at how much I look like his sister, Mary. And then he turned to his wife to say hello. Her eyes lit up when she saw him and she pulled him in close to her and they kissed. Not just the familiar peck married couples get in the habit of giving each other after years of marriage but the kind of kiss that proclaimed that these two people really, really love each other. "Don't go anywhere." she said to him. He didn't. He sat down next to her and held her hand the entire time.
At the end of the afternoon, we gave and got the biggest hugs and kisses. We all said we would really try to see each other again soon. Maya and I put our jackets on and headed towards the elevator. While we waited, I turned and watched as my Uncle Mickey wheeled my Auntie Irene back to her room.
I'm really glad that I went on Maya's field trip that day. It was meant to be.
|True Love. Still strong after 53 years.|
My Auntie Irene was an unbelievable cook. Nothing fancy, just really, really good. So what I decided to share with you tonight is a recipe for two things that go well together and aren't fancy but are really really good: Cheeseburgers and Fries.