When memory fails…

An elderly lady walked into the store this morning.   She asked if we have a phone book. I inquired who she needed to call, certain that I could look it up on my phone faster than I could locate that pesky phone book. She looked at me as if she was about to cry, and in a clear delicate voice, said “I don’t know. I have memory problems and don’t remember where I was going.” She turned around and walked out with a pained shuffle.  Taken completely off guard by the situation, I let the other manager on duty know that I was going to go out to her car, make sure she was safe, and get her any help I could.

As I approached the window it was evident that she was crying.  “Excuse me ma’am.  What can I do to help you?  Can I call your family?” Again, she didn’t know. She said she remembered that she was supposed to be going to an appointment but had no idea where.  Wiping her tears, she said she had been calling the last number on her phone, but kept getting their answering machine.  She handed me the phone and it was the automated pick a number menu at the start of most office calls. When in doubt select 0.

What do you say when you don’t know either party in an awkward three part conversation??  What do you say when you don’t want to further disgrace the elderly lady who is clearly already humiliated by her lapse of lucidity??  It went like this:
“Hi. My name is ____ and I’m calling from _____.  I’m in the parking lot with Mrs._____ who is likely supposed to be at your office, or may already be late.”  The receptionist recognized her name.  “Mrs._____ is a bit confused on your location and what service you provide.”
The receptionist immediately understood.

I repeated the office location, and as soon as I said Food City Mrs. says “I know Food City.  My doctor’s office is near there.”  With the receptionist’s help, we got her back on track.  The office called me back to let me know she had arrived.  Had I not heard from the office, the next call would have been the police with a BOL for her vehicle between my location and the doctor (2 miles away).  Throughout the day I considered the balance between the dignity of self sufficiency and acceptance of deficiency as it effects personal safety.  As much as it hurts my heart, I hope that this is a wake up call for her and for whomever might care for her.  Sweet Mrs. probably should not be unescorted in a moderately sized city, albeit one that is safer than many.   This is how Grand-pa ends up in Minnesota with no recollection of how he got there.  This is how people are taken advantage of, and the reason there is now a national Silver Alert for missing and endangered elders.

How hard is that day going to be?  Will I feel my heart and will break?  Or will I know when the day has arrived that I’m a danger to myself and others?  I’d never seen it up close.  Watching her frustration as her mind failed her, and yet was still present enough that she knew it was failing….that might be my new greatest fear.


Ephemeral strings…a tribute

I’m not sure I have the words….

Though I am shocked and incredibly saddened, this is not my poignant heartbreak to mourn.

Last night we received news of the entirely unexpected passing of a friend.  I call him friend, though I knew him less than two weeks.  As a childhood friend of the person I consider to be my best friend, he was welcomed to our home.  We shared food, laughter, and stories by the fire during his (albeit brief) visit to our area.  He was a huge personality.  He had heart-felt resonant laugh that could be felt as it boomed from his wide genuine smile.

On first meeting, it was clear that he was a kind soul who had LIVED his brief life.  A passion for experience and knowledge was palpable, as was an underlying sense that his life hadn’t always been easy.   Though I have NO idea what his up-bringing was, there was little doubt that perseverance and positivity had brought him to his successes and relationships and (his words as I recall them) “the family you choose”….and today he is no longer walking among us.  With no why or how, he simply evaporated from our sphere.

As I consider what, when weighed against my 39 years, was such a brief encounter, I’m in awe at the ephemeral strings we attach to each other through our lives.   I can’t begin to count the number of people I’ve shared conversation, education, meals, laughs, or tears with.  How am I to know what weight I’ve left in someone else’s life.  Have I left light or laughter?  Have I left hurt or harsh thoughts?  When my time comes, will someone ponder that time that we shared a fire, good stories, and lots of laughter??  We are all deeply connected in ways we may never anticipate.  Time is fleeting and it is far to easy to forget each other in our busy day to day.  I challenge you…because I am challenging myself…reach out to someone every day.  Remind someone that you are thinking of them.  Remind someone that you appreciate them.  Remind someone that you care and are present in their life TODAY –  because tomorrows are no guarantee.

Though I knew you only a flicker of your life, I wish you peace in your journey Richie.  May your LIFE continue to inspire, that those you left behind may find our own peace in your absence.