Memories at the Fair (dementia's sweet moments)


I had not been to my “home county” fair in nearly 20 years. Back in the day, I was heavily involved in 4-H, and our county supported 4-H like none other. We would live at the fair for 6 days each year …. preparing a float, setting up our food stand, washing cattle, modeling clothes, giving demonstrations, eating yummy fair food, attending ball games and tractor pulls, riding carnival rides, working at the food stand, and undoing it all on Monday. The venue was the city park with its little lake and grassy playground. Fair time was truly an idyllic time to a farm family in Nebraska.

So I was a little excited to help my mom serve ice cream at the Dairy Women’s booth this year. After a 3 hour car drive, I snaked my way into the fairgrounds and was directed to a parking spot by the cattle barns. The first hint that you made it to the fair OK is the smell. Yep, I was there, all right. Kids were out washing their cattle to show, just like in the good ole days. And then I heard my brother’s voice. Could that really be Ron announcing the dairy show? It sure was. Boy, did that bring the fair home to me. Or rather, it was me, coming home to the fair.

Needless to say, I had many nostalgic moments that afternoon, and my brain churned out some memories that I did not realize were still stored in there. But I also saw something magical happen in my mom’s brain, too. You see, my mother was recently diagnosed with dementia. We are moving her to an assisted living home in a couple of weeks. After years of taking care of my dad, her overtaxed body gave her a little break by erasing some of her stressful thoughts. She is more fun to be around now, giggles more often, and lets things slide that used to be her responsibility.

At the booth, she started out enjoying making ice cream cones and sundaes, but you could see that she was getting a little antsy. Besides, the wonderful person in charge had promised her time to watch her great-grandkids show their calves. So about one hour into the three hour shift, Mom disappeared and never looked back. When we caught up with her later, surrounded by cows, calves, and progeny of all ages, she was just beaming. We heard her tell the story of the great-grandchildren showing cattle at least 20 times that evening and the following day. This was a memory she was not going to forget.

I don’t know what it is about the county fair that produces the stuff that can stick with you for life, but it was fun to experience it last week. It was even more fun to watch my mom add one more golden memory to a bank that is getting rusty. There is always something to look forward to in life. The county fair is proof.

Peg Mace