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The Best Advice I Ever Got

March 25, 2014

papa poolSince college, I’ve spent at least one week every year down in Florida hanging out with my grandparents. Early on, I would shuffle back and forth between my mother’s and my father’s parents, as their condos were just seven miles apart.

Unbeknownst to me until a few years ago, those trips were less about lounging by the pool, eating dinner at 4:30 or seeing how many sugar packets one could stuff into their purses at the diner, and more about gaining insight into the aging process.

While I don’t have a master’s degree in Geriatric Psychology, I do know a great deal about seniors. Which is why I was chosen to go on Papa Patrol last week. And while it was nice to spend a week with my grandfather, I could see there were times he wasn’t the man I used to know. The man who I can still picture standing behind the deli counter in his grocery store making me a ham (“Don’t tell nana”) sandwich and conversing with customers. Instead I saw a 93-year-old man, walking painfully slow, confused about his medication and scared about the future.

Having unofficially studied the aging process, I knew to be calm, sympathetic and caring – caring being the optimal word. I saw firsthand how uncaring many in health care, Medicare, and long-term care can be. Anyone who’s had to deal with these places is familiar with the frustrating red tape, but imagine doing this with hearing that’s failing, blurry eyesight and a mind that isn’t as sharp as it once was. The world can be pretty terrifying as it races by. Our twilight years should be spent enjoying grandchildren, not arguing with pharmacists at Walgreens.

Every night, Papa and I tackled organizing projects. Not only because I’m good at them, but because it kept his mind occupied, as that was the toughest part of the papa addressday. One evening we went through his old address book and I rewrote the names into a new one. As Papa read through each page he would sigh and say, “I don’t know who dis is” or “I don’t call him anymore” or “They’re dead.”

Of all the lessons I’ve learned over the years from this older generation, such as “save your money,” the biggest piece of advice came last week.

“Don’t get old,” my grandfather said.

“Okay, Papa,” I said. “I’ll try.”





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  1. marilyn permalink

    Love it!!!!! And oh so TRUE!!!!! Hope your trip home was good. Miss you!!

  2. On the other hand “don’t get old” turns into “what’s the alternative”.

    Some people at 85 are playing tennis 3 days a week (my mom’s best pal for the past 56 years) and some people are like my beloved only Uncle Daniel. At 88 he has survived quintuple bypass, cancer of the clavicle, prostate cancer, two back surgeries, double hip replacement, and leukemia, not in that order…and it is possible I’m forgetting a surgery or condition or two. He still enjoys life at an extremely slow pace with plenty of snoozing in between reading, visiting with family and breaking bread with his wife. We credit her for these last years of his due to her incredible devotion and love.

    Definitely love through “Papa Patrol” goes a long way. But getting old isn’t for the faint hearted.

  3. Daniel Brooks permalink

    sad, and sweet

    thanks for sharing as always Date: Tue, 25 Mar 2014 16:06:09 +0000 To:

  4. Jamie Barr permalink

    The Golden years! HA!

  5. Jen Landry permalink


  6. Auntie M permalink

    What else is there to say?

  7. richard aberson permalink

    Excellent advice from a True Hero!           ham sandwich?—okay I won’t tell

  8. Kalliopi permalink

    I know what you mean. My dad suffered a stroke 2 1/2 years ago, and I have him living with me. He has forgotten alot of things i.e. that he was married and has kids/grandkids. Simple tasks as where the bathroom is (it is across his bedroom). Fortunately I have found a lady that has patients and she comes and takes care of him a few hours a day. But I have seen people treat elderly as if they are stupid. As his doctor said to me “It is as if you have a new baby everyday” I don’t think you need to have studied Geriatric Psychology to know how to treat them, it is just common knowledge. God give us strength to help them be happy and secure.

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