This week was filled with Alzheimer’s buddies activities including reflection sessions and our end-of-the-semester brunch. The reflection session is one activity all members of HCAB are required to attend because we believe that the time we utilize allows our us to grow as better individuals and volunteers to our buddies. Additionally, it allows issues to be brought into a safe space to be discussed. Therefore, volunteers can learn from each other and work through challenges together. During the reflection session I held, there were approximately ten students. It was really neat hearing about the different buddies that our volunteers have formed special bonds with. Although we go to the same building, the activities in which we partake in vary from playing Bingo, listening to music, to playing the piano. Meanwhile, despite the differences in age, gender, and health of our buddies, we were able to connect with each other through through challenges of getting to know our buddy and grow together.
Today was the semesterly brunch, and I had a lovely time meeting Pearl’s son, Lesley. I have met him previously during visits and brunches. For me, I had the wonderful opportunity to learn more about Pearl. The most striking thing I learned was how independent she was: she worked at a bank until she was 80, taught piano when she was younger to little children, and learned how to drive at the age of 60! Lesley told me that the one thing he never lacked growing up was love. I also learned about him--given that he’s retired, he spends a lot of time with his family: both the younger and older generation. It’s clear that the values of family were instilled in his by Pearl, and he continues to pass these on. Lesley’s relationship to his grandchildren are so sweet: they spend time with him every Tuesday. Meanwhile, Lesley visits Pearl every day, and Pearl is always so happy to see him. During brunch, the conversation with Lesley ranged our pasts, presents, and futures. The intergenerational aspect of HCAB was so prominent during this brunch in the best way possible.
Looking around, it was clear that other volunteers and their family members enjoyed themselves. There were sharing of stories, laughter, and tears (some seniors were graduating). During brunch, Lesley cut up Pearl's food for her, which she ate. He recounted how before he would feed her. To his amusement, Pearl would tell him: you know, I can feed myself. Again, I couldn’t help but be proud and awed by Pearl’s spirit. I had a great time learning more about Pearl and her son though this brunch.
While, Lesley was very grateful for the time I spent with Pearl, I expressed how grateful I was to know Pearl through HCAB. Despite being a writer, words could not do me justice. As I hugged Pearl and Lesly goodbye, I told Lesley how I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance between him and his mother. “I will take that as the highest compliment,” he chuckled at me. I couldn't but agree more.
I was also able to obtain Lesley’s email through which I hope to contact him more often. This brunch ended Harvard College Alzheimer’s Buddies for this semester on a nice, sweet note. However, since I am in Cambridge during the summer, I hope to visit Pearl during the summer--I’ll be sure to keep you all posted!
- Ellen Zhang