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Lesson Learned

Ed Lewis is a retired Early Childhood Education Professor who loves adventure travel. He has explored the length of the Amazon River, lived in a cave in the Canary Island for 6 months, kayaked with Killer Whales in the San Juan Islands, and danced with the Duke of Arundel's daughter in jolly ol' England. He is a storyteller for adult and children's audiences. 

There once was a very old woman whose eyes had become dim, ears dull of hearing, and her mind wandered to only places she was familiar with.

Her family would often find her hitchhiking naked down the only road through Happy Camp, California next to the Klamath River, climbing jagged cliffs barefoot, and speaking languages they could not decipher.

Her daughter and son-in-law were becoming increasingly disturbed by her behavior and eventually gave up trying to care for her. The other aunts and uncles were too preoccupied with personal issues and wanted her placed in a rest home.

Some of them would gladly get rid of the "old coot". In their eyes she was an embarrassment to the family dignity and frankly they had no idea how to deal with this "disease" in the 1960s.

Her 18-year-old grandson, on the other hand, saw a funny, playful, wise woman who would tell him stories of fanciful and faraway places. He also remembered how she would always sing him to sleep as a young child with his favorite lullaby, Hush Little Baby. If you know some of it, please join me:





Hush little baby, don't say a word
Grandma's gonna buy you a Mockingbird;
And if that mocking bird won't sing,
Grandma's gonna buy you a diamond ring.
Diamond ring turns brass—looking glass, glass gets broke—billy goat, goat won't pull—cart and bull; cart & bull turns over—dog named Rover; dog named Rover won't bark—horse & cart; horse & cart fall down—you'll still be the sweetest little baby in town.

The relatives did eventually place the "family embarrassment" in a cheap, run down, understaffed rest home where after three months her grandson visited her. They talked for hours of places and people that made no specific sense to the boy, yet he was transported into her imaginings anyway.

Grandma didn't seem to know who the boy was as she told these fanciful stories while looking at the ceiling with glazed, white eyes. But for a few brief moments she looked deep inside him and said, "Don't ever put your parents in a death camp like this. It is no place for the living so I won't be here much longer.







In two weeks she died in her sleep, alone with no one by her bedside. The relatives had a quiet, almost hushed funeral and seldom referred to the "family embarrassed" again.

I never forgot my Grandmother though, and I never forgot the many lessons learned from her. I love you Grandma Sadie!!!!!

So when my father developed Alzheimer's seven years ago and could no longer care for himself and the family wanted to put him in a rest home, I took him into my home. With the help of friends, some family members, and hospice workers we cared for him for the remaining three years of his life.

On the day of his death I helped Dad put on his finest suit, comb his hair, and together with my 28-year-old son, we sang his favorite lullaby, the one I had learned many years ago from my beloved grandmother.

If you feel like it, please join me: Hush little baby, don't' say a word...

~ Ed Lewis




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