When You Want to Hit the Rewind Button of Life
You know what they say about when you do good, you feel good. I am feeling good right now and a little sad too.
I went to visit a high school peer. I have not seen him since 1969 and knew nothing about the twists and turns in his life nor did he know much about me.
“Trish, you were a homeroom rep and I remember you were from Mother of Divine Providence parish. Your dad was my insurance agent for a couple of years.”
I have a vivid recollection that he played the lead part in the senior play Oklahoma and was in the marching band. Carrying something big, maybe a tuba. Life after high school for him was proudly serving in the Navy and on to Da Nang near the South China Sea in Vietnam. The other kids in the class were spending time in Ocean City.
I did not know him well in high school although he was in most of my classes. He was tall, quiet, nice looking, and not a troublemaker. We connected on FB last week. I noticed that he lived in an assisted living community.
Wait; hold on, you are my age. Just 61, what could you be doing there?
“In 2007, due to a disease, I had both legs amputated, a week apart,” he told me. “My career was in electronics as a field engineer and I spent a lot of time on the road. I loved my job.”
I had plans to visit my cousin today. She lives a mile from the facility. I texted him and asked if I could stop by.
And as I walked through the lobby to meet him, I carried my tote bags filled with adorable stuffed animals donated by friends and passed them out to the 15 ladies sitting silently in the lobby. They smiled, laughed and thanked me…but the real thanks goes to all of the people who collected them for me.
And I gave each lady a Team of Angels pin; well actually, I gave them two or three so they had gifts to give to friends.
So tonight, I am deep in thought. Trying to fathom what he is going through –being 61, in a facility with huge plate glass windows, with people much older, where the activities are geared towards the interests of the elderly such as BINGO and chair exercises. And of coming to live in the facility with just two suitcase of belongings.
And what about the first night of going into a dining room and sitting down with strangers for your meal? What helped him to get through those first few days? And who do you turn to when you need comfort? And when you feel lonely? Or when you need something at CVS?
On a beautiful day like today when other guys your age are doing yard work, golfing, making reservations to take their wife out for dinner, fishing with the grandkids, putting a wind chime in a tree, working in a powerhouse career, or putting paintbrushes in the kitchen sink to soak – you are in a motorized scooter.
No more of the old life – no car, house, pets, or electronic puttering hobbies in the garage.
So what is the significance of this impromptu visit today?
My first thought is that I would like to form a loosely named Sunshine Club so that people can stop by and visit – or send a card, a FB message, call on the phone; perhaps take him out for lunch or a movie, maybe bring a few guys over to play cards, go to a shopping mall or a church service or meeting? How about a birthday cake or a holiday visit? (He has a wheelchair that fits in the trunk of a car.)
Are you an entertainer? Can you volunteer to bring an activity there? Maybe he would like to do a Bible Study or play a board game. Or just stop by for a cup of coffee in the Bistro.
Can each of us in some way offer caring, companionship and concern?
What if it was your brother? What if it was you?
I would feel frantic and helpless and sad and mad and know that I would love to hear from kids in my old neighborhood, co-workers, my Girl Scout troop, and grade school and high school friends.
I would be crying in despair, “God, where are You? Why did you let this happen to me?”
His life now is a far cry from working for the Fortune 500 company that he dedicated many decades to. He is cheerful and optimistic, and easy to talk to. He didn’t speak an unkind word about anyone.
And he feels that he has a new relationship with God. He visits the dementia unit and tries to be an advocate for the elderly that sit around him. They come to him and ask for help. He is the young kid on the block. He has only been living there since December.
He smiled and said, “I just try to help everybody that I can.”
He is the kind of man that shares the love in his heart with others. He didn’t talk about discouragement. He asked questions about my life. We didn’t talk about acceptance but that was unspoken.
I wish that I could hit the rewind button for him so his life would go back to the way it was before the suspected Agent Orange took his legs and a lot of his life. He gave 8 years to the United States Navy and had special clearance for work during the Vietnam War. He was wearing a cap with the insignia and name of his Navy ship.
A few years ago, my husband fell 45 feet from a window and was critically injured. He fell onto a concrete slab. By the grace of God he survived and did not sustain lasting injuries although they were life threatening at the time. I pondered that God was merciful and saved John from the fate of being paralyzed living in a nursing home. http://www.speakingaboutdepression.com
People say. “Thank God” so casually these days. After my visit today, I truly say “Thank God” for my mobility. I acknowledge the Source. There but for the grace of God go I.
I thought of the words of a hymn we used to sing in church.
We are not divided, All one body we, One in hope and doctrine, One in charity.
If you would like to do anything at all, please let me know. I will give you his contact information. Thank you!
Patricia Mohan Gallagher “Trisha”