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Bringing Dinner Cheer to an Active Elder

Updated on October 7, 2012

An Afternoon with Raleigh

He doesn’t glide across the room with the gracefulness of a gazelle anymore; but given a little extra time and a metal walker, his iron-clad determination will help propel him throughout his ranch-style home. While many older people may be asking “What day is it?” Cousin Raleigh is usually wondering if he’ll be able to fit all the things that he wants to do into the day at hand.

“I’m alone but not lonely,” he says. And, that certainly rings true as his phone impatiently buzzes from callers who have something to share or just want to hear his comforting voice. He is quite the social media meister, emailing his family and acquaintances the latest take on a story of interest or his “Laff” of the day. Sometimes he’s hanging out with new friends on Facebook.

Raleigh in the collar
Raleigh in the collar

Expiration Date

Business affairs and activities seem never-ending, but family experiences with special people in our lives have an expiration date. Even though all our schedules are packed to the brim, my family can always clear space for an afternoon at Raleigh’s place. We pick a time when our agendas line up; then make plans to prepare food for a wonderful family meal. There are just no substitutions for some things in life, such as face-to-face time with the ones we love. On an earlier occasion when we brought dinner, his daughter and grandsons were there, and it was charming to see Raleigh beam with pride at the success of his offspring as they are growing and prospering in life.

Challah and Crisp

When we began to assemble our menu, with a focus on healthy fare, we couldn’t recall if he had any allergies. We phoned to ask if there were any foods he couldn’t eat.

“Oh no,” he responded, “I can eat anything. Bring it on!”

Peaches and blueberries
Peaches and blueberries

We decided to cook salmon as our main course, since it is usually agreeable to everyone. We created a delicious honey mustard lemon sauce for the salmon. We made corn on the cob, green beans and potatoes, green salad, challah (my daughter’s specialty) and peach/blueberry crisp. We charted the cooking schedule so that everything would be done about the same time. Then we loaded it into the car and dashed out for the half-hour drive to his house.

Our dinner spread
Our dinner spread

Food, Family and Fellowship

When my husband, daughter and I arrived at Raleigh’s, we rang the bell first, then headed back to the van to get the food. This allowed Raleigh an extra minute or two to get to the door without feeling rushed. “Come on in,” he welcomed, giving everyone a cautious hug so as not to “spill the beans,” or other aromatic delights in our pots and pans. We were all starving by the time we sat down to eat. The food was still warm when the plates were served, beckoning us to a culinary encounter that we hoped would be as appetizing as the conversation. Raleigh offered a blessing, giving thanks for “the hands that have prepared this bountiful meal.”

A picture from his past
A picture from his past

“Rev. Dr. Raleigh Daniel Hairston,” who has earned a host of degrees and awards, was buttoned down and relaxed, as he savored his salmon in good “company.” He has a storied background of serving as a cleric, social worker, probation officer, college professor, fraternity scroller and family historian. I was fascinated the first time I saw him in his collar, and witnessed how he worshipped with members, colleagues and friends in the Episcopal Church. He is so highly thought of since his days as a rector and his faith glows even stronger now that he is in his senior years. I’ve seen many of his early pictures, including some depicting his Army life. I look forward to him sharing those stories during our many dinners to come.

Glad we came
Glad we came

Chatting with Cousins

As we ate, another cousin called him from Virginia and he paused his meal to talk to her. The person he was speaking with was having health problems, so he took the time to listen and to share thoughts with her. You never know when you may be having your last conversation with someone. After he hung up, we continued our lively exchange, catching up on the news about other family members and laughing at a funny story here and there. It seemed that we timed our courses out just right, nothing overcooked or too dry. We could tell that Raleigh was glad that we came.

After we washed all the dishes and put them away, we said our good-byes and headed home. It was another successful visit with someone we truly love. We left with full stomachs and warm hearts, dreaming up another mouthwatering menu for a future dinner with Raleigh. Spending time with elders can be so rewarding. Just giving an hour or two of your day to listen to their experiences can truly enrich their lives and yours.

Dr. Raleigh Hairston

Home-Cooked Care

It’s easy to get caught up in our lives and neglect those around us who would truly enjoy a little visit now and then. Perhaps there is someone in your life – a mom, dad, sibling, grandparent or friend -- who doesn’t get around as easily as they used to, or who lives alone and would relish a home-cooked meal delivered with love and conversation. If you don’t have time to cook, pick up some take-out and be sure to leave leftovers for them to enjoy later. If a family feud is hindering your outreach, push it aside for a day and share some smiles about the positive things that you have in common. Your relative or acquaintance may not be as lively and sharp-minded as our Cousin Raleigh, but you’ll no doubt detect a twinkle in their eye and a satisfying smile in response to your tasteful act of kindness.

Tomorrow Is Not Promised

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An Afternoon with Raleigh: Audio File


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    • Your Cousins profile imageAUTHOR

      Your Cousins 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks for sharing our family moment with my Cousin Raleigh. Every new experience with him is priceless!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      So nice that you and your family take time for the older members of your family. So many people seem not to realize how short time is and that one day there will be no chance to ask questions or learn details of life years ago for their parents or grandparents. Voted up and beautiful.

    • Your Cousins profile imageAUTHOR

      Your Cousins 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks MartieCoetser. It's important not to miss the life stories that they have to tell. One day we may find ourselves in their position, wishing that someone would show us some love.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      "You never know when you may be having your last conversation with someone."

      "Tomorrow Is Not Promised..."

      A thought-provoking and most relevant hub about not shutting out the elders, but to pay them regular visits and enrich our souls and minds with their conversations.

      One feels so bad when an elder passes away and you know you've ignored your own wish to visit them.

      Voted up, well-presented and touching :)

    • Your Cousins profile imageAUTHOR

      Your Cousins 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks for reading. You are a very special person -- willing to give your time to cheer others. Our seniors could use more people like you!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Fascinating read YC, I love reading about other peoples relatives and what they do, our elders are so important, I don't have any now, and I miss them so much, up until last year I used to visit my friends mother too, but she passed away this year, so now I am looking for another senior to take care off! lol!

    • Your Cousins profile imageAUTHOR

      Your Cousins 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      It's certainly worth the sacrifice. Thanks rajan jolly.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      6 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very useful and interesting hub. We ought to take out time to spend with our elders and one can see that they really are glad and grateful for this.

      Voted up & interesting.

    • Your Cousins profile imageAUTHOR

      Your Cousins 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I totally agree ignugent17. Sometimes we may not realize how much a little kindness and nourishment means to a shut-in relative or friend.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      It will really make a person happy if you visit them and eat with them.

      Voted up and more!

    • Your Cousins profile imageAUTHOR

      Your Cousins 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Cousin Raleigh is a gem. He has so many experiences stored up to share, I just hope I have time to hear them all!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with your family yet again and highlighting the importance of not leaving the older folk out. Thanks for sharing, and I vote up and share too!


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