Gene McGehee couldn't believe his good fortune. When the 91-year-old stepped outside his house in Vidalia, Louisiana, this week, he discovered a bunch of kids from the day care across the street who were willing and wanting to include him in their fun.
McGehee also met the day care teacher, Megan Nunez, and asked her for her name. "Every day I cross the street and we meet again," Megan said.
Again — and again — every day for three years now, Gene has been meeting Megan for what he thinks to be the very first time. Gene has severe dementia, and can barely remember his own face.
His daughter Cathy says he also suffered from loneliness — until those day care kids came into his life.
"Oh my goodness, they have been such a blessing to daddy. And he lights up," Cathy said.
For about an hour every afternoon, Gene enjoys time with the children. And although the night will erase every memory of the day, and a fog will smother every echo of laughter, something will remain in the recesses of his mind — something that will beckon him back whenever he hears the children playing.
"He just goes right to the front yard," Cathy said.
"And he remembers that this is going to be a joyful thing if he goes outside?" I asked.
"Exactly," Cathy responded, adding, "Because it's love. And, you know, everybody responds to love."
Megan says it's almost like an instinct. "We always tell the kids that his brain is kind of sick, but his heart remembers us," she said.
Dementia can rob so much — but apparently, compassion and acceptance is unforgettable.
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