Dad was beaming. He was surrounded by his grandchildren, his son, his daughter-in-law and his friends and loving every minute of it. The N.C. Veterans Home was doing wonders for him as he had rediscovered his smile and was quick to display a sharp sense of humor, including correcting his son’s gig line and finding small points to correct in military fashion on his overall appearance. Each correction came with a wink, a smile and a pat on the shoulder. It was good to see Dad doing so well!
Luz wanted to show Dad the work she was doing to raise support for the Philippine Mission and pulled out a long faux pearl necklace for Dad to admire. “Wow!” Dad gasped in wonder. Luz teased and winked, “I bet you’d like to give this to your girlfriend wouldn’t you?” Dad smiled widely and said, “I sure would!” Luz stopped smiling. “And who is THAT?” Luz shot back. Dad didn’t hesitate. “Why, Georgia of course!” He again smiled. “She’s the only one for me!” We were all stunned. I thought, “Here we go again. How do we break it to him AGAIN that Mom’s gone?” Luz was a bit wiser and asked another question. “Where is Georgia now?” She asked. “Oh, she’s off to college! Gonna marry her when I go on leave!” Dad proudly reported. In his mind, it was 1962. He was for the moment, 21 year-old SGT Sam Jackson of the “Jumping out of High Performance Aircraft while in Flight” 101st Airborne Division and his Fiancée, Georgia, was a college senior about to graduate who awaited his arrival in Texas to become Mrs. Sam Jackson.
Luz continued, “How did you meet Georgia?” SGT Jackson carried on. “We practically grew up together! Running, wrestling, fighting, talking – she was my best friend! And could she run! Couldn’t a boy in the Gulf touch her – I think she could’ve beat Wilma Rudolph if her Mother hadn’t thought running in a circle was foolishness! I was stronger though!” He explained. “She’s a special girl.” His told a few more tales and his voice trailed off though his smile continued as his look grew distant. In a moment, 21 year-old, hard-charging, SGT Jackson returned to the recesses of my father’s mind and the retired grandpa we knew today returned. He was still happy, having traveled his personal time warp with relative ease and with less pain than I had witnessed in previous visits.
Later during this particular visit, having some time alone, I asked Dad for his current thoughts about Mom. He reminisced from a widower’s perspective about the years he had revisited in his time travel – How Mom LOVED the Screaming Eagles and had to warm up to the 82nd after his return from Vietnam and PCS (Permanent Change of Station) to Fort Bragg. He smiled when he remembered how he had joked with Mom that during his days as a Screaming Eagle, the claim had been that the “AA” on the “All American” Division’s patch really stood for “Almost Airborne”! I suddenly remembered a whimsical smirk on my mother’s face the first time I asked her what the “AA” on Daddy’s shoulder meant? Dad mostly recalled her sweetness and recounted his love for her. It was a healing moment for him and for me. There had been some bumpy times during the last years they shared together with Dad stumbling on the path and Mom patiently enduring strange mental lapses and odd behavior that were warning bells for the condition I was witnessing now.
Whatever had been going on during those troubled times, it appeared to me that in the deepest regions of his heart, his love had never wavered and in the long reel of his life’s story, his true love always was and always would be Georgia Jackson. Amazingly, my father’s malady had offered me a rare glimpse into his mind before I was born and reaffirmed the love I had witnessed during my growing up years but had come to doubt. It further reminded me that I myself was blessed with a wise and loving wife who through her tenderness of heart and love for all that is mine, opened a door I believed to be eternally sealed and in turn sealed my confidence in the prevalence of true love, even beyond the boundaries of time and space. My experience calls to mind the verse that affirms the eternal presence of God’s love whatever our circumstances may communicate:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8:38-39.
NOTHING can separate from God’s love! That’s Good News! The resurfacing of my father’s love for my mother, though imperfect, reassures me of the perfect and eternal love of my Heavenly Father has for me no matter how I feel or what challenges I may face in times to come. Who knew that my dad’s dementia would serve as a portal to the testimony to just how powerful love is and just how long it can last! If you’ve given up hope that true love exists, I pray this little story has rekindled your expectations and given you just a little push to trust in the God Who has always loved you and will never stop! Until time brings us together again…