A couple of weeks ago, my niece came for a visit with her three kids.  This is the niece who moved her family to Grand Rapids six years ago to help my parents stay in their home.  It was her family who moved in with my Dad, the week before my Mom died, realizing the days of my parents living alone were done.

My great-nephews and great-niece had the experience of inter-generational living.  They saw the day-to-day care that aging requires.  When they were down, we were hanging out and one of them said, “I bet you miss your Dad, don’t you?”  Easy question to answer.  I thanked them again for their help (and they did help) in taking care of “Pada”.  I reminded them of how much my Dad loved them and said, “sometimes it’s hard for me to believe he died.”  The nine-year-old agreed and said, “when I was home I heard the noise that Pada’s walker made on the rug when he got up from his nap.  At first I just forgot and thought, “he’s up but then it kind of freaked me out because I saw his walker wasn’t there and I remembered”.

The seven-year-old said, “I miss Pada but he did really love us.” I commented that he used to tell me stories about them every time I called on the phone.  They wanted to know what stories he had told.  They laughed as I retold some of them.  I also told them that my Dad would say to me, “those kids, they bring the sunshine every day.”  They both smiled at that.

I realized the reminiscing is sweet.  That those we love, live in the memories and the stories we tell.  Which brings me to my saddest thing.  My youngest great-nephew was 18 months old when my Dad died.  He was my Dad’s buddy.  The oldest and the youngest somehow in perfect sync.  He too, helped take care of my Dad. he brought my Dad the raisins for his daily oatmeal, and helped my niece get my Dad ready for bed.  He had sweet little games he played with my Dad.  And he won’t remember my Dad.  We’ll tell him and show him pictures.  I think he needs his own photo book of picture of him with my Dad, his “Pada” book.  But he won’t have his own memories like the other kids.

Sometimes the memories are bittersweet.  Sometimes the memories actually hurt.  But I know memories also help heal and sustain us. I am grateful for the memories…and the sweet shared memories with my family, that remind us how fortunate we were.