Adopt-a-Grandparent: Some Things You Never Forget

By: Allison Ramp

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When I started volunteering with Adopt-A-Grandparent, I really didn’t know exactly what to expect. My own grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – a disease that brings with it much uncertainty and confusion. When I visited her, I never knew exactly what she was taking in, processing, and understanding. Sometimes she knew my name, sometimes not. The last time I saw her, I held her hand while she explained to me for the ump-teenth time the story behind her angel collection (at least a thousand strong at this point). In those moments, she just needed someone to sit beside her and listen to the things she’d never forget.

DSC_0836 smallI’d seen Oddfellows Senior Home dozens of times in my jaunts around the periphery of the Whitman bubble, but I’d never been inside. I had no clue what sort of condition my adopted grandparent would be in. When the time came to meet Charlotte, I didn’t know that her room was called the “Blue Ribbon Room” because of the dozens of combined medals she and her roommate had won knitting and cross-stitching up a storm at every county fair. I didn’t know that Charlotte’s hearing aid was turned off half the time, but she could read lips with the best of ‘em. I didn’t know that she loved poetry or that she regularly giggled just as hard and long as a 4 year old. However, my weekly visits with Charlotte, spent knitting, crafting, and chatting about her past revealed all these things to me and more. Just as with my own grandmother, I wasn’t always sure what to say, but Charlotte was content to slip stitch after stitch from one needle to the next (always willing to tear out even the slightest imperfection) while she recounted again and again the fun she and her late husband had on their epic cross country road trip. She just needed someone to knit on beside her and listen to the things she’d never forget.

As I entered the position of Adopt-A-Grandparent Intern this year, I wasn’t sure what all it would entail. I was pleasantly surprised at the Fall Student Activities Fair, that my program had earned quite the reputation and that it pretty well promoted itself. Upon entering into my spiel of “The Adopt-A-Grandparent program is…”, I was often interrupted by, “Oh, I’ve heard all about it and can’t wait to sign up!”. Recruitment, training, and matching volunteers with their grandparents was smooth sailing with the help of the incredible Activity Directors at Oddfellows. That left the bulk of my workload centered on planning our big annual events – the Hoe-Down, this year’s newly added Valentine’s Carnival, and the ever-popular Senior Prom.

Having attended Senior Prom in years past, I was familiar with the essentials – a classy, but fun photo-booth area, denture-friendly snacks, décor to the theme of my choice, and a killer oldies playlist. However, as I spent the weeks leading up to Prom perfecting my Spring Fling decorations, I had no way of knowing exactly how the afternoon would go. With the help of my volunteers, the venue was perfectly polished and ready to go! Guests arrived early and dressed to the nines. Residents needed a little coaxing, but once on the floor with a Whitman student in hand, it was amazing how their feet, hips, and hands came alive as they remembered all the steps from sock hops long ago. The place ignited with ear-to-ear grins and laughter as we danced the afternoon away. As the event came to a close, I offered to escort one resident back to her room, to which she politely declined, “Why would I want to leave when there’s good music playing here?” She was perfectly content to sit and hum along to the songs she’d never forget.

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