Family Devotion, Every Day

 A great Father’s Day story to share courtesy of ABHOW:

ABHOW_FathersDay

Judge Winton McKibben and son, Brian, connect at Piedmont Gardens in Oakland

At first glance, retired Judge Winton (Mac) McKibben and his adult son, Brian, may not seem to have a lot in common.

Before his retirement, Mac, now a resident of Piedmont Gardens in Oakland, presided over numerous challenging cases as a Municipal and Superior Court judge in Oakland. Before Brian retired, he was a music teacher, educator and administrator in Berkeley. The two men had different careers and different interests. Still, father and son can be found together at breakfast every Friday morning — and frequently more often. Beyond their differences, they are bound by what they do have in common: love and devotion to family.

This love and devotion became critically important in 2008 when Margaret, Mac’s wife of 66 years at the time, fell, hitting her head. She suffered a brain injury that left her with symptoms of dementia. Unable to provide the 24-hour care she needed, Mac transferred her to a skilled nursing community in the area.

“From that time on, I have spent more and more time with my dad,” Brian says. He says he tried to fill the void his mother’s absence left by deepening his relationship with Mac. “Dad and I really enjoy each other’s company. Our conversations run far and wide: sports, politics, foreign affairs, music, and just the activities of the day,” he says.

Whether it’s sharing breakfast, going on shopping trips or having Sunday dinner, Brian sees his dad frequently. It helps too that in June 2013, Mac wanted to live in a community where he and Margaret could be together, so they both moved into Piedmont Gardens — he, on the residential living side and she, in skilled nursing.

Brian, still in nearby Berkeley, wanted to be involved with Piedmont Gardens as well. When his parents moved in, he volunteered to begin a musical program for residents, including his mother, several times a month.

In his program, Musical Memories, Brian uses his MP3 player to play familiar songs that bring back memories, but also new songs that create memories. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, music can help stimulate and engage adults, even those with late-stage dementia. Songs that were familiar in childhood can spark interaction, while unfamiliar songs can help develop new responses, such as increased relaxation.

Brian McKibben leads a Musical Memories program at The Grove, ABHOW’s memory support program.

Brian McKibben leads a Musical Memories program at The Grove, ABHOW’s memory support program.

Brian thoroughly enjoys sharing his music with the 20 – 30 regular resident attendees who become increasingly active during the program, tapping their toes or fingers to the beat. “We have a rocking good time,” he says, playing selections that might include Beethoven, Schubert, The Beatles and Sinatra. “My mom often keeps time by clapping or tapping her fingers. She doesn’t remember individual pieces very well, but she responds actively to the wide variety of songs and pieces I play. It makes me happy to see her enjoying the music,” he adds.

Kevin Smith, Piedmont Gardens’ Executive Director, says he welcomes the opportunity to involve families in activities with residents. “It’s a match made in heaven when something done for the family also embraces the rest of the community.”

Mac appreciates Brian’s contribution too. “I don’t have that skill or talent that he does,” he says of Brian’s musical ability. “I think he gets those qualities from his mother,” Mac says, which makes it even more special. Sometimes Mac joins Margaret for the musical treat, but other times, he’s busy with his own activities and misses his son’s program. But that’s all right. He knows his son is nearby and that they’ll see each other soon.

This Father’s Day, when Mac goes to Brian’s house for dinner with his son and Emily, Brian’s wife of 46 years, it may be a special holiday, but because of the closeness between father and son — this family time won’t be an unusual occurrence.

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