Adele', Judah and I were able to tag along with my mom and my sister (and a few of the children) to go and visit my Opa (grandfather) last weekend. With winter weather fast approaching, I didn't want to miss the opportunity while I had it.
I am so glad I did!
We stopped first to visit with my Aunt Jan, who let me borrow some old photographs of my Oma and Opa when they were young to make copies of for myself. I brought them in when we went to see Opa and, as we looked through them, I saw a glimpse or two of the old Opa.
You see, my Opa has Alzheimer's. He does not remember me at all (and sometimes, at his best, mistakes me for my mother-his daughter) nor does he remember where he is...who he is with, that Oma has died, what he just said and so on. The result is a vague circular discussion that seems to go round and round unless you some how stop or divert it. He is very gentlemanly about it all, for the most part. He says things like "You look like a nice girl." and "I say, m'lady, why do you not visit me more often?" He is good at chatting to a person without actually admitting that he does not remember their name or how they fit into his story. What he does not realize is that he often says the same thing that he said just a sentence before. Behind his eyes is an emptiness that I despise. I remember when his eyes were full of life, of joy, of stories...of all the things that made him HIM.
When those old photographs were brought out, though, a sparkle of joy was kindled again. He did not remember all the people in the photographs but, for a moment, he was out of that carousel of words that Alzheimer's has forced him to ride round and round. He was there. And those pictures- they reawakened a part of him, deep within, and he then began talking about the war! He began to relate stories of himself hiding Jews in the Underground during the Dutch Resistance. He spoke of a long engagement to Oma because they could not be married lest she be hurt by association if he were discovered to be helping the Jews. He recalled living in a church organ to escape with his life from the Germans. (All quite true stories, by the way.)
And for a moment...a beautiful moment... that was my Opa again. His eyes were full. His smile real. His words were memories instead of observations. It was only a brief glimpse- only a few minutes worth- but I have longed for those minutes for a very long time.
Well worth the wait.