The Best Medicine

When I was a child my family loved to spend time with our cousins in the Netherlands, the Brauns.

The Brauns were a fun clan—they always sent my brother and me chocolate at Christmas!–made even more special by the fact that they were my father’s only remaining family in Europe.

(My father came to this country in 1920 when he was almost two years old. Most of his relatives either immigrated to the U.S. or died in the Holocaust. The Brauns were hidden by Catholics throughout the Nazi occupation of Holland and in fact eventually converted from Judaism to Catholicism.)

During one memorable visit the Brauns took us to see a fascinating social experiment—a planned community that featured rows of apartments. The buildings were two stories high.

Elders lived in the lower stories. Families with children lived in the upper stories.

The rationale was that both older people and very young people benefit from being in frequent contact with each other.

I don’t know whether this community still exists. I hope it does.

I was reminded of it this week when I saw an example of the magic of intergenerational contact.

My mother is still recovering from her most recent infection, and she tends to be sleepy and a little confused.

On Tuesday, however, she got back a little of her customary focus when our delightful friend Joan Sutton came to visit.

Joan

Joan works with seniors and has a definite way with them. In the year or so that we have known her she has recommended doctors, therapists, and aides for Taffy.

She is clearly interested in older people, and they respond to her vivacity with enthusiasm. She tends to get more memories and more smiles out of my mother than just about anyone else we know.

This week Joan outdid herself in terms of stimulation by bringing along her two-month-old baby, Wyatt.

My mother couldn’t take her eyes off the baby.

She told him how good he was, examined his perfect little toes, held him, and generally had a wonderful time.

Even Truffle found the baby fascinating. As for me, I’m a sucker for anyone small and cute—and they don’t come much smaller or cuter than Wyatt.

Our friend Susan has promised to bring her baby Joshua to visit when we get back to Massachusetts so my mother can have another dose of baby magic.

If we could just bottle the feeling she gets when she’s with the very young, it would be a lot more effective for curing what ails her than most of the pills she takes.

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17 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is fabulous Tinky! Taffy looks so happy! I grew up with both of my grandparents in the same big old farmhouse. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that fact-we all were together as a family and I and my 6 siblings benefited so much for just being with them and having their support. I should also mention that we had ONE bathroom-yes, ONE! Love the pictures. Keep on keepin’ on Tinky!! PS Hope you’re not waiting for all the snow to be gone in Western MA before you come back because we’ll be seeing you in JULY by the looks of things.

  2. The photo of Truffle, Wyatt and Taffy is just priceless!

  3. It seems just to have feelings of memories of the past such as babies makes an impression, how profound. I now have a friend that had to care for her male companion with Alheimers disease and she is totally devastated over his children moving him to another town for his care…..I wish I could help her adjust. She is elderly and is lonely. Any advice for how I can help a caretaker that no longer has that commitment?

    • Doris, my little nephew simply doesn’t believe that people used to share bathrooms–let alone bedrooms! His room is larger than apartments I have lived in.

      Abigail, I couldn’t agree more.

      Loyce, I can understand your friend’s sadness. One always wonders whether children have made the right decision, but they (we!) do the best they can. I would suggest that your friend try volunteering with a group that visits senior shut ins. I know they exist near where I live in both Massachusetts and Virginia so they must be near you, too!

  4. I was interested in learning of your dad’s background. I didn’t know that he was originally from Europe. Also interesting that the Brauns converted to Catholicism since I think that the prevailing religion in Holland is Protestant. My Swedish family took in a Jewish family during the war and kept up with them after they emigrated to Canada.

    The pictures of Jan with the baby are wonderful. She’s obviously in her element with small creatures since I know you have said she loves her animals, too. What a great day she must have had!

    • She even remembered the baby the next day. I prompted her by showing her the photos, but still….

      I don’t know how they found Catholics in Holland (now that I think of it, maybe they were still living in Poland then, but I don’t think so), but that’s what I was told. I wish I could ask the family now!

  5. Forgot to mention that I grew up with grandparents, too. When my parents decided to have a house built, two years after they were married, my grandparents contracted to have one built right next door in that brand-new community. So when I came along, I had free rein of two houses, got to know the older generation very well, and was cared for by all. It was a very nice way to grow up.

    • We had that arrangement for a while, Nancy, in Virginia; the rest of the family was right down the street! Here we contemplated it but couldn’t see how we could handle another house! The apartment is not quite so convenient; visits with Michael and his parents have to be arranged. But it’s a start.

  6. These pictures brought tears to my eyes! So precious! Taffy looks so happy with that sweet baby.

    Mom was always very involved in her church’s Ladies Bible Class, which had members that ranged in age from young mothers to much older ladies such as herself. When she moved to assisted living and especially when she declined so much mentally, a couple of the young moms brought their kids to visit. Mother could not stop talking about the babies and little ones. One mother brought her two elementary kids and had them play their violins for Mom. Again, she loved it. It was so kind of them to do that and it brought so much joy to my mother.

  7. Wonderful! So glad you are making such good friends, both very young, medium and older!
    It is snowing a lovely lazy snow here today, near your Hawley home…some spring!
    Love to you both!
    Cara

    • Kay, I’ll bet the kids loved it every bit as much!

      Cara, I hope you thaw soon. We are aiming or May 1 or so…….

  8. I just noticed something: a little BOY in PINK pants??? Great heavens, he will need a therapist’s couch to get over THAT trauma! (LOL!)

  9. I was so busy looking at the lovely quilt, I nearly forgot to look at your Mum and the baby!! Beautiful photos – your Mum looks the picture of contentment, holding the baby. It was interesting to read of your European roots – perhaps one day you will be able to visit again – and I could meet you in Holland – it’s only a short hop by plane for me …. I used to travel via Amsterdam when I went to Indonesia.

    • Nancy, I think the pants were actually red and white! Frayed, I wish I could tell you that someone I know had made the quilt; I purchased it at a discount store. But it does brighten up an old loveseat. I hope someday we can indeed meet in Holland; what a fun idea.

  10. What a great story. I loved the photos too. I also wish that all generations would have the chance to be around each other more.

  11. Wonderful story and wonderful photos. I’ve been off the internet for awhile and am just catching up on all your lovely posts. Taffy is looking very lovely in these (and I loved her St. Patrick’s Day outfit!).

    • She liked it, too! Welcome back, Grad……


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