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If there is one thing my dad will probably never forgive me for it is the lack of grandchildren in his life, although my older brother and sister should take some share in creating that disappointment as well, failing as we all did in finding our soul mates while dad was alive.
He passed away in the latter part of April 2012 after a 19-year battle with vascular dementia, never knowing the joy, fun and occasional despair of being a grandparent. He always loved children, and without his dementia I am quite sure he would have been nagging me and my siblings to find suitable partners, get married and produce a continuation of the bloodline!
Dad’s nine years in three different care homes saw him light up every time children visited, from pupils at local schools who came to provide entertainment, to the carers who, one by one, got married, had babies and then brought them in for us all to have a cuddle. Whatever their age, these visiting youngsters brought refreshing laughter and energy to the lives of people going through the toughest battle imaginable.
I am a great believer in the power of generations, at the opposite ends of life, uniting and finding common ground. In fact in my experience children often interact with people who have advanced dementia far better than adults can. They are much more accepting of cognitive impairment, offer unconditional kindness and generosity, and have a huge capacity to nurture those who would ordinarily be nurturing them.
I have now met a wonderful man, and if we ever have a family of our own I will undoubtedly feed those young and enquiring minds not just with all the wonderful memories of my dad, but also teach them the lessons dad’s dementia taught me. They would then understand the importance of caring for older people when they require our help, the need to cherish every moment with them, to always respect them, and to look beyond what they see to the person within.
If we can support youthful compassion with education and guidance we can graduate a generation not afraid of the D word.
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