Two people reach across a dining table to hold hands in front of an empty chair with a heart design in the wood.

Grandma and Grandpa's Kitchen Table

I am new to the Alzheimer’s game, although not really. My grandpa started slipping away years ago. He had home health home care coming to check on him. My grandma got what help she could out on the farm. I remember her saying after he passed, that she was now alone at the kitchen table, but in reality, she had been alone at the table for a long time. It broke my heart for her, my beloved grandma.

Memories of grandpa

I have countless memories of love and laughter around that kitchen table and the best food ever! I am forever ruined for fried chicken, fried catfish, and biscuits with fig preserves. No one could make them better or come close. Neighbors and kinfolk would drop by, and she would tell them to pull up a chair and make themselves a plate! Then there would be more stories and more laughter! Like the time my grandpa Bennett ran over my cousin's bike. “Bent it?!,” my cousin exclaimed indignantly, “He broke it clean in two!"

My grandpa had the best laugh! Everyone in that small Mississippi Delta community knew it! He loved to hunt and fish. He would take my brother and me out on the tractor to feed the cows, which was terrifying when you are tiny and a herd of hungry cows is headed your way! They are big and might not notice if they ate me instead of the hay!

Grandpa literally went to bed with the chickens and was up with the cows. Grandma would get up early with him to make coffee in his old aluminum percolator before he went out to gather the eggs they would eat for breakfast at that kitchen table later after the sun came up.

Grandpa became the famous Gum Man

Grandpa used to smoke, but one day just stopped and started chewing gum. He would always have a pack of Juicy Fruit or a few pieces of Bazooka Joe in his pocket. All our kids and cousins knew where to go for a piece! The kids at his church called him The Gum Man. He was super popular and happy to share.

My grandpa, with his weathered face and leather-like hands, would pass out gum to all us young’ uns and would take us fishing and bait a million hooks and scale a million fish! “Are they big enough to keep, grampaw?” “If they are big enough to bite, they are big enough to eat,” he would laugh! Ooooohhhh and grandma would fry them! They would do ANYTHING for us! They taught me to love and how you do for the family.

After diagnosis, grandpa couldn't leave home

But grandpa couldn’t come to my wedding. He couldn’t leave home and the safe familiarity of the six-mile radius he had walked or driven for three-quarters of a century. He was so sorry! He asked me, grief-stricken, ”You know I love you, right?” but he just couldn’t do it.

Grandpa didn’t laugh as often. He didn’t talk as much. Grandma couldn’t find him one day, but he wasn’t on the front porch whittling. The truck was gone. They found him at church in town. He still knew how to get there, even if it weren’t Sunday. Nobody let grandpa drive after that.

Remembering grandpa and all the good years

I miss him. I will treasure the love he showed me and all of us. I am richer for it. I hope he knew how much it all meant to me. I hope he knew I wasn’t mad he couldn’t come to my wedding. He couldn’t help it. I’m sorry that by the time my kids came along, there would be no more gum or fishing. But, I won’t let the last few years take away all of the good years that preceded them. I can tell the stories.

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