By Sarah Beth Childers

September 25, 2017


My boyfriend’s Grandad is ninety-one. I met him after dementia had wrested his control of the family business and emptied his mind of vocabulary. “Robert’s wife,” Grandad immediately styled me, the word girlfriend rinsed from his brain like the knockout roses and hackberry in his backyard. 

Grandad remembers the planes he flew over Italy in World War II, but he can’t remember that he’s tried Coke or Dr. Pepper. “That Dr. Pepper is a good drink,” he says, holding up the can for me to read, eyes shining with discovery. 

A couple of weeks after I met Robert, I ate a casserole at Grandad’s kitchen table. Robert warned me that Grandad would pray over the meal despite the dementia, explaining, “I love his prayers. It’s like he free associates with God.” 

And I love Grandad’s prayers. They don’t include a disguised sermon about the black sheep cousin or assert his patriarchal dominance over the family. When Grandad bows his wispy white head, squeezes his wrinkled eyelids, and begins, “Thank you, Dear Lord,” I feel his gratitude: his long-dead wife and living daughters, his safe return from Mussolini’s Italy, his grandson who cares enough to make sure he eats every day. Often, Grandad descends into a wasteland of words, connecting blessings, family, country, and company with “help to help to help,” but sometimes, he gets stuck on his thankfulness. One night, he bowed his head over the pot roast and said only, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Comments (9) - Post a Comment
Tracy Line at 8:47am EDT - September 25, 2017
What a nice way to start the morning!
Lisa at 9:13am EDT - September 25, 2017
So so lovely and we so much need this kind of writing in our world today. With Great Gratitude to YOU!!
katherine soniat at 12:02pm EDT - September 25, 2017
The fall chill in the air and your beautiful story. It's time for Thanksgiving! I plan to share this with my family that day. Me, I will think of this beautiful story today and at every meal. Thank you.
Candace at 1:19pm EDT - September 25, 2017
And, Sarah Beth, thank you, thank you, thank you....
Claudia Geagan at 1:55pm EDT - September 25, 2017
Simply gorgeous.
Anne at 3:20pm EDT - September 25, 2017
You made my day and gave me a reminder to be thankful for all the blessings I have ... I take them for granted to such a degree and I don't even have Alzheimer's.
Marc at 7:47pm EDT - September 26, 2017
Wonderful piece! A difficult topic, portrayed in a very touching way.
Erika Giles at 11:12pm EDT - September 26, 2017
I love his prayers. Its like he free associates with God.

Is there any better definition of prayer, of spirituality?
Hannah Saltmarsh at 9:20pm EDT - September 27, 2017

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