Gene McGehee wakes each morning with a joy as if each day is bringing with it a brand new set of experiences and moments. That’s because the 91-year-old from Vidalia, Louisiana has severe dementia, so every time he falls asleep at night, the memories of the day are erased. On the upside of this tragic disease, Mr. McGehee is given the gift of starting fresh each day with interactions that feel completely brand new.
For the past three years, he has been making new best friends each day with the children who attend the day care across the street from his house. He also meets for what he thinks is the first time their teacher, Megan Nunez. In an interview with CBS, Nunez said:
“Every day I cross the street and we meet again.”
But something of the previous day’s interactions lingers in the recesses of his short term memory, because every day he almost instinctively goes outside to his front yard as if he knows something wonderful will happen when he gets there, his daughter Cathy shares.
Cathy also shared that her father snuffers from loneliness, and that his daily interactions with the children have worked wonders with boosting her father’s morale.
“Oh my goodness, they have been such a blessing to daddy. And he lights up,” Cathy said.
Mr. McGehee becomes so excited when the passel of children run to his yard, wanting to include them in their fun. They visit their neighbor for about an hour each day where they visit, play games, and even have dancing competitions. Then the children head back to their daycare until their next “playdate” the following day.
when explaining to the children why Mr. McGehee thinks he’s meeting the children and Ms. Nunez for the very first time each day, their teacher shares the following:
“We always tell the kids that his brain is kind of sick, but his heart remembers us.”
Of her father’s instinct to go outside in search of that wonderful expectation he has in his heart, daughter Cathy echoes Ms. Nunez sentiment by stating:
“Because it’s love. And, you know, everybody responds to love.”
Dementia can rob its victims of so much, often causing them to withdraw due to feeling extreme loneliness and isolation, but these children and their teacher have provided Gene McGehee with a reason to be excited for each day, and a way to interact meaningfully with his world.
Watch Steve Hartman share the sweet story in the following segment for ON THE ROAD