Spending time with family means you get to know your family members a little better, which isn't always a good thing. You notice their little quirks or see their wrinkles a little more clearly. When you only see people once a year, age becomes more noticeable.
This particular reunion last weekend in Pennsylvania we all noticed some changes in Uncle Don, my mom's brother. He is 76 and he lives in New York with his wife of almost 40 years--Denise. They never had children, but they love animals and take in any animal in need. At the moment they have four dogs and three cats---all older animals who need homes.
Hysterically witty, Don is the second of four kids. His laugh was always boisterous and somewhat obnoxious, but full of pure joy.
He always made us laugh.
This time, however, he kind of made us cry. We have been hearing about Uncle Don's developing signs of dementia for a few years now. Aunt Denise fills us in on the stories and her concerns. This weekend there was no denying his state. He wanted desperately to be included, but it was almost impossible for him to carry on a normal conversation. He repeated jokes or interjected comments inappropriately. I know he didn't know who I was and was confused who Julie and Johnny belonged to, and sometimes he was unsure what we were doing.
But he was absolutely delighted to be with family. He knew his brother and sisters (including my mom) and loved hiking, laughing and sitting by the campfire.
|The Carson siblings on the Carson trail. |
From left (Jeanne, Bob, Don and Mary Lou)
It was so hard to see my Uncle Don this way, but it was important. We still love him even though he's not how we remember him and once and a while we'd see a glimmer of the old Uncle Don.
|My mom with Uncle Don, laughing on a hiking trail|