Submitted by Jack Levine
It was a busy morning at the clinic, about 8:00, when an elderly gentleman in his 80’s arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb. He said he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00.
I took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be quite some time before someone would be able to see him. I saw him looking at his watch and decided, since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound.
On exam, his cut was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and re-dress his wound. While finalizing the task, I asked him if he had another doctor’s appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry.
The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife.
As we talked, I asked if she would be upset if he was a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, and that she has not recognized him for more than three years now.
I was surprised and asked him, “And you still go every morning to be with her for breakfast even though she doesn’t know who you are?”
He smiled and patted my hand….and, looking deeply into my eyes, said “While she doesn’t know me, I still know who she is. Some 60 years ago we both pledged our love would last for better or worse. She doesn’t remember that special wedding day, but I guess it’s up to me to remember for the both of us.”
I held back my tears until he walked away in his slow but determined gait, but as soon as he turned the corner, I cried with joy. That, I thought, is the kind of love we all want in our lives.
As an advocate, I understand that life’s circumstances change, and as time goes by, things that were once true are in need of reconsideration. That happens in some marriages, and even in family relationships with our parents, children and grandchildren.
I am not one to judge why some people need to change their minds about love and family connections, but I do hope that before we make those decisions, we think deeply about what’s next for ourselves and others. Keeping our promises is serious business, and making commitments to the ones we love deserves every measure of heartfelt dedication to doing what is right.
Jack Levine, a family policy advocate based in Tallahassee, is founder of the 4Generations Institute. He serves as Partnership Director for GRAND Media and may be reached at Jack@4gen.org