Old and Gray

My Great Aunt "Dude"

I believe I wrote this four years ago.  It may have been more.  This sweet couple is no longer with us.  I woke up thinking about them this morning and had to go find this.  I need the reminder…

They have been married for 73 years.   He was born in this territory before New Mexico became a state.   He and his father used to bring sausage into town in their wagon to sell to the café.  They’d butcher three hogs at a time, and his mother would make sleeves for the sausage out of old bed sheets.   They both love to talk about those days.  She lived in Missouri, and ice-skated on their pond in Idaho as a girl.   They fell in love and were married.   They taught school for years.   They were born one day apart, so both celebrated their 94th birthday the week of Thanksgiving.

She asks the same questions over and over again, and strains to hear the answer.  Alzheimer’s plays cruel tricks on her mind.    He sits in a wheelchair and has as sharp a mind as ever.   They have no children.    They are my great-aunt and great-uncle.   They call me Sisty (that’s what they call all the girls in the family), and I call them Dude and Summie.   They live in a beautiful nursing home two hours away.

I wish I could say that I visit them every week.   I try to visit them every month, but many times fail at that.    I love our conversations, and I know they do too.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving is known for its shopping fame.  I’m not much of a shopper, and could make a list of a thousand things I’d rather do than hit a mall on the busiest day of the year, so I was glad when my mom asked if I’d like to drive over and spend the afternoon visiting with Dude and Summie.   We live in a small town, and they live in fairly big city where lots of people love to go shopping.   Wouldn’t you know, one of my aunts asked us to pop into a store and pick up a couple of things she needed while we were there.   Well, we ooched our way through the parking lot with bumper to bumper traffic, and walked up and down the crowded aisles trying to find the things on her list.   The streets were packed with cars, and every parking lot we saw was loaded.   It was a beautiful West Texas day.   Warm sunshine that only called for a sweater.  The perfect day to be out and about.

It was a relief to get out of the congestion as we made our way to the other side of town, but the contrast was too stark and overwhelming as we pulled into the large parking lot of the nursing home where only two cars were parked.  The list of my sins of omission is long.   Good intentions go undone.  There are so many more precious family members and friends who need to be visited, more cards to send, more calls to make.   That empty parking lot broke my heart.   May it ever be a memory that causes me to take action.

This can easily become a season so filled with activities, that many noble deeds go undone.   May I encourage you to make special plans to visit the elderly throughout this holiday season.

Isaiah 46:4

I am your God and will take care of you

Until you are old and your hair is gray.

I made you and will care for you;

I will give you help and rescue you.


As servants of God, may we be used by Him to fulfill this promise.

(See “I Have This Hot Shower” for pictures of Uncle Sumner as a little boy.)

15 Responses to “Old and Gray”

  1. Betty Williamson says:

    Sandy, this is so beautiful, and so true. Have you considered submitting this to some place like Guideposts? It really deserves a bigger audience.

  2. Kristina says:

    Aw. Made me wanna cry….

    I remember, back in first grade, our class visited the nursing home and we were all paired up with an old person we had no idea who was. A lot of them were grouchy, but some of them knew about Pokemon cards (which were the bomb back then, by the way), and we all wanted those grandmas. Mine always seemed to disappear, so I got a knew one every month…. The last one I had had been in the newspaper back in the 70’s for being a Santa Claus for an orphanage on Christmas. I thought that was cool.

  3. Sheryl Borden says:

    Sandy, what a beautiful story and so meaningful. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. Sandy says:

    Thank you Betty. I’m just thankful I have this outlet for sharing, and I’m thrilled when anyone wants to spread the word about my site. I know you’ve done so in the past.. and I’m honored!

  5. Sandy says:

    Kristina, thanks for sharing this. I loved reading it!

  6. Sue Moore says:

    What a lovely visit with these two elderly loved ones. They may be here no longer, yet they are very much a part of life today! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about them and would like to have more of their lifestory to read. Thank you for sharing this part, Sandy.
    Smiles ~ Sue

  7. Robin Green says:

    A very good and very timely reminder, Sandy. . . and beautifully written.

  8. Marcea Clive says:

    Sandy, thanks for this story.

  9. Jan Purvis says:

    Thanks for sharing this. It is beautiful….so nice to remember those wonderful, special people.

  10. Kim Mann says:

    Excellent, as always! Aunt Dude & Uncle Sumner were such wonderful people. Brought a tear to my eye…

  11. Nico says:

    Loved your thoughts, Sandy. We lost Barney’s sister this year. She was 10 years older than Barney. We loved to visit Ralph and Selia on their ranch in Estancia. They had been married 57 years. Our Thanksgiving dinner with Ralph included a bunch of veggies that she had planted in the garden. We were pretty emotional when we shared some of her special apple butter from last year. Ralph sent us back to Portales with her canned beets and some zucchini relish. How will we ever be able to eat the last of her relish and beets?

  12. Sandy says:

    Oh… I know the feeling of seeing the last of the “canned goods” in the pantry. Nico, my heart goes out to you and Barney this holiday season as you celebrate the first Thanksgiving and first Christmas without her.

  13. Cheryl Black says:

    I don’t think I saw this a year ago or maybe just don’t remember. How beautiful. And gives me new resolve to do more of the right things for others instead of focusing on “me”. Thanks, Sandy.

  14. Kim says:

    A good reminder for today..

  15. Anita says:

    What a lovely way to remind us of those we love and want to remember without guilt or remorse; thank you, Sandy.

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