Mom’s TV is on 24/7. My husband and I are not to blame for this. It started long before we started caring for her. When you enter the house, you can hear the mind-numbing chatter from the TV, and every once in a while, you’ll hear Mom laugh or gasp or call out to the character to “Be careful!”
Several months ago, as I was just getting ready to start preparing dinner, the power went out. I went outside to see if my neighbors were also without power, only to find several utility trucks on the street. One of the workers told me that we would be without power for 5 or 6 hours! I passed the word down the block, trying not to look as panicked as I felt. I knew I could go and grab some fast food for dinner, but what was I going to do with my mother-in-law for 6 hours without TV??? I know! Let’s read! Our shelves are full of books because I’ve been a literature teacher for 35 years, and my husband has more books than most libraries. We sat together that evening and read several stories from a short story book by candlelight. It was so much fun, and I haven’t see Mom so engaged in anything in a long time. Since that night, we’ve read 14 novels. I think we’re averaging one book every 2 weeks.
We both look so forward to our reading time. When we were reading the Chronicles of Narnia, Mom would ask, “Will you take me to Narnia?” After about 2 hours of reading, I would stop, and she would sigh happily. One day I asked, “Do you want me to turn the TV on now?” She said, “No, keep it off. I just want to stay in Narnia for a while.”
Right now we’re in our 4th book of the “Little House on the Prairie” series. Mom and I have now learned how to build log cabins, make a fireplace, plant and harvest corn, wheat, potatoes, etc. We laugh and cry with Laura and her family, and many of their adventures jog Mom’s memory about her young life. Mom’s stories have gotten fewer and fewer as her memory slips away, but I think reading is really helping sharpen her mind. Often, I will stop and ask her if she knows what a word or phrase means, and she usually does.
For years I’ve told young parents how important it is to read to their children, and now I want to encourage everyone to read to the elderly. What a difference it makes!