38,325 days…the later years

This is the 7th and final installment of my series on the remarkable life of my late Grandmother Marion. You can check the archives for the previous installments. I hope you enjoy.

When I left off my Grandfather had passed away at the age of 92. At the time, they were living in a really nice Assisted Living community. I feel the need to mention this because Marion was one of the only residents who didn’t need assistance.

They moved out of their tiny, quaint home into this facility on the condition that their house would not be sold while they were alive. With that detail secured, they made the move to a very small apartment in a building that could always be identified by the Ambulance parked out front with the engine running. The transition was difficult for Marion, there was only room for a small amount of her furniture in the apartment but she managed to take the pieces that made her the happiest and the rest went into storage. The place did have its advantages, there were other residents to make friends with, they didn’t have to worry about treacherous stairs and shoveling driveways anymore, and transportation was provided by the town. They were also offered extensive Visiting nursing care…Marion would have none of it. It wasn’t until my Grandfather started to really fail that she accepted the medical assistance. After he passed away, she had little difficulty caring for her apartment and for herself. She did accept the services of the volunteer “companions.” Some she became quite close with, others were unceremoniously shown the door. She wasn’t lonely. She disliked 80% of her neighbors for some reason or other (we never knew and stopped asking) but made a small circle of friends that kept her busy. She lived like this for years with little or no medical care. She watched her soap operas, went to the Senior center and lived for company, especially from my 4 kids, her great-grandchildren, who she absolutely adored.

 

My parents had retired to NH and only came down to visit Marion and maintain her house in order to resell it someday. I had a large house at the time so it made sense to have holidays at my house. I loved hosting the holidays. I had a big table to seat large groups, many chairs, and sofas to sleep off the inevitable food coma and several rooms so that we could all spread out. One of the big upsides of hosting was not having to take my kids out. They were free to be at home and be as wild or as mellow as they wanted. And they had a great room to get away from the adults. The previous owners had converted the garage into a giant “playroom” and after dinner that’s where you would find them.

One Thanksgiving, when Marion was 97 years old, she got off of the sofa after a brief siesta and went to the playroom to see what her beloved Great-Grandchildren were doing. The room entrance had a 1-inch drop that we were careful to tell people about. She did fine as she crossed over and checked on the kids. After she had watched them be wild and crazy for awhile she turned to exit the room. She failed to remember the step up and she went down. Hard. On her face. She didn’t even get her arms out. I was across the room, I didn’t have time to catch her, I could only watch in slo-mo as she went down. I will never forget the sickening sound as she hit the floor. She was in great pain. We called 911 and kept her still. The paramedics arrived and we all went outside to give them room. As they wheeled her out, her face bloodied, the paramedic leans into me and says, “Sir, your grandmother is 97 and claims that she’s not on any medications? Is that correct?”

“Yes, it is,” I replied. “Unless you count a daily aspirin.”

He continued on in amazement. An hour later she was released, the only injury she sustained was a broken tooth.

Later that year she was moved to a Nursing home after she developed some Gastrointestinal issues and was being hospitalized frequently. She wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon, she had just had surgery and had a Colostomy bag installed. She hated the bag and refused to learn how to care for herself with it. They wouldn’t let her leave until she mastered it but she was too stubborn. So stubborn that she asked to have the surgery reversed so that she could “use the crapper like everyone else”. At age 98 she was deemed healthy enough to do the surgery. She breezed through the surgery, amazed the doctors and moved to another assisted living facility. Incredible.

Previous to her 100th birthday, we called Good Morning America and requested that Al Roker feature her on the show. He did such stories all of the time and we hoped she would get a mention. He never responded. Marion shrugged her shoulders, said “the hell with him, dismissed it and moved on. Unfazed, we still gave her a hell of a party at the home. She shared her “Flag Cake” with everyone as she cheerfully, and without assistance, devoured her slice.

Her 101st, 102nd and 103rd birthdays would find her still alert, pushing her wheelchair with her feet around the entire facility, accusing people of stealing from her. When we visited her, they had to find her for us because she was never in her room.

Her 103rd birthday party was the last birthday my father, who was very ill with Parkinson’s disease, would spend with her. One very profound memory of that day, other than her recalling the name of her class President from her HS class of 1929, was her eating her favorite “Flag” cake without assistance…as we fed my father his because he was unable.

7 months after her 104th birthday, Marion started losing strength and would become bedridden. She was finally slipping mentally as well. To this point, with brief moments of not knowing what decade she was in, she was sharp as could be. Those “lapses” now became the norm. She was still alert, and when we visited her she had moments of clarity. But she was depressed and kept asking for Mel, her late husband. We increased our visitations, knowing the end was near.

5 weeks before her 105th birthday, she stopped taking nutrition. She had shriveled to a mere shadow of her former self and barely spoke. She did little more than writhe around in her bed, moaning. It seemed like she was attempting to communicate but we didn’t know if it was us or if she was dreaming. On April 28th, we were summoned by the nursing staff, they felt Marion would pass that day. My mother and I arrived and we were asked if there was any other family coming. My mother explained that the calls had been made but it would be a couple of days before some of them could make it. “But that’s too late” the nurse stated, “she won’t make it that long.”

My mother, as if in a trance and someone was speaking through her, said “No, she won’t die until May 2nd. The day her husband passed away.” The nurse was in disbelief. “Trust me,” Mom said. “I’m right about this.”

Marion, as predicted, passed away on May 2nd of 2015 just weeks shy of her 105th birthday. Her only medical condition was Scottish Alzheimer’s, a condition in which you forget everything except who you don’t like. I used that joke when I delivered her eulogy. I got a few laughs. I know she would have liked it.

Her funeral was sparsely attended, she outlived all of her friends and most of her family. It was hard to be sad, we instead celebrated her incredible life. If we mourned we only mourned the loss of the values, strength, and integrity that we will never find in any other generation than hers.

God bless, Marion. And Godspeed to you. We’re all better for knowing you.

38,325 days…a life truly lived part 6

If you have been following this series you will know that it is a dive into my family history, concentrating on the role of my deceased Grandmother who lived to almost 105 years old. If you would like to catch up you can here, here, here, here, and here.

Through my early teens, I didn’t have 2 things. Friends, and the trust of my parents. So, without a friend’s house to go to, and to spare me the indignity of a babysitter at 13, I continued to hang out at my Grandmother’s house on Friday night and Saturday morning. Come to think of it, my dignity still being a small factor, I really didn’t have a sitter because I tossed a rubber snake onto the lap of a sitter at age 12, effectively scaring the shit out of her, so sitters were no longer an option.

Grandma was glad to have me. The breakfast would continue to be the main event, but the rest of our ritual changed a bit, I would help her around the house, do housework or painting with Grandpa or just hang out and read a book. I enjoyed it. At age 13 Grandpa taught me how to use a lawnmower and I would cut his grass. At his suggestion, I began to solicit neighbors to do theirs as well, my neighborhood as well as theirs. As these things happen, I started to get busy cutting lawns and spent less time with Grandma.

At 15 I got a job at a local supermarket. Deciding that if I don’t come to her, my Grandmother would come to me. She did all of her food shopping on Saturday morning and I made sure that I made time to talk to her. She would stroll in, very upright and proper, dressed as well as she would for church. My friends and co-workers thought she was wonderful, and she soon became royalty. My co-workers bent over backward to see that Marion got whatever she needed. One of them once asked of her, “Marion, you’re retired. You could shop any day of the week why do you put up with the crowds on Saturday.”

“Because,” she said, “Billy isn’t here on a Tuesday morning now is he?”

‘Nuff said. I hadn’t actually realized that was why until she said it. But that’s Marion. A creature of habit and everything is done for a reason.

In 1983 my Grandparents celebrated their 50th Wedding anniversary at a Country Club in town. We managed to surprise them. Over 200 guests came to see Marion gracefully drag her clumsy but smiling husband across the dance floor. She was majestic, proud and as it occurred to me then, virtually ageless. When my turn came, it was my honor to dance with her. And I don’t dance with anyone.

Sadly, as life got busier for me I saw my Grandparents less and less. It wasn’t just on Holidays, but it was nothing like before. Life happens. But I always made it a point to call them and make sure they were ok. They always were.

In 2002, my beloved Grandfather passed away. He contracted pneumonia, which in turn “activated” dormant pockets of Asbestos in his lungs that he contracted while working on warships in the Navy. He was 92. He died, in their marital bed, holding my Grandmother’s hand. She was rightfully devastated. But not defeated. Many speculated that she, like many spouses of elderly, would go soon after. My mother, father and I all said No Way to that, she’s got a lot of years left in her.

We had no idea how right we would prove to be.

To be continued…

Enter Sandman

sandman

I was inspired to write about my nightly “battle of the Z’s” after reading this great post by Andrea. She’s got a great blog if you haven’t checked it out yet I recommend it. You can read her article here

Ugh
It’s 11:00 and I’m wide the fuck awake
You shouldn’t have napped in the afternoon dumbass
But I was tired…
The house is quiet, too quiet
If I stay downstairs I’ll keep them awake
If I go upstairs I’ll still keep them awake
those wood floors betray my every footstep
I’m overthinking this
Just go upstairs and watch Netflix on the laptop
But if I stay down here I’ll fall asleep in the recliner
You’ll get leg cramps in the recliner dummy
I’ll get leg cramps upstairs also
30 minutes go by, I’m sleepy.
Begrudgingly, I climb the stairs

I climb into my supposedly comfortable bed
The sheets aren’t right
The pillow’s not right
I’m getting annoyed
Fuck, I’m wide awake
Of course you are
You do this every night
I fire up the laptop and load Netflix
Need a show I’ve seen before
One without a laugh track,
it wakes me every damn laugh
But you’re awake anyway, aren’t you?
Yes, but I plan on falling asleep at some point don’t I?
One episode down, still wide awake
Guess I’ll watch another
It’s only sleep after all
What do I have to get up for?
The credits roll on another episode
Now I’m getting annoyed
Should I make a sandwich?
How about a nice glass of Scotch?
Oh yeah, I don’t do that anymore. Shit
And you don’t sleep anymore since you stopped, right?
I don’t have any Scotch
A turkey sandwich at 2 AM it is

I wake in the recliner
TV on low
crumbs in my lap
The sammich did the trick
What time is it?
3 AM?
This has to be a joke
I stumble upstairs again
Crap.
My water bottle is empty
Downstairs I go again to fill my bottle with water and ice
Did I actually drink a liter of water since I went to bed?
Knowing that I’m going to piss ten times makes me more awake
I’m thirsty and my kidneys don’t work
what am I supposed to do?

I’m upstairs again
I turn Netflix off
Now it’s too quiet
It’s back on again
Dammit.
I have to piss
This is getting old
Back in bed, taking deep breaths
I need to unwind or I’ll never sleep
I start thinking about every stupid thing I’ve done since 1st grade
That helps nothing
At some point, I fall asleep

I snap awake with a searing leg cramp
Practiced at this, I scream in pain on the inside
I throw the covers off
Force my locked, screaming foot to the floor
The calf muscle finally relaxes
I sit on the edge of the bed
Staring at the dark
I’m wide awake again
and I have to piss
Crawl back into bed
The absurdity has worn me down
I finally sleep

The first of 3 alarms go off at 7
No fucking way
I shut it off
I was having another of those dreams
About a person I knew, at a job I no longer have
I wasn’t having fun
if memory serves
I try to shake it off
When my head hits the pillow
It starts again, I can’t turn it off
I sit up and try to chase it away
Exhausted, I sleep again
I pick up where I left off
How is this possible?

My last alarm goes off at 8
I need to get up
Why?
You’re unemployed
Where the hell do you have to be?
Good point
I put my head down again
I wake again at 9:30
That was the best 90 minutes of sleep all night
and now I have to get up

Downstairs I go
Coffee is in order
The aroma pleases me
but does not wake me
I’m more tired than when I went to bed
I ponder over my steaming mug
the knowledge that in 13 short hours…

I get to do it all over again

the watcher

Today was a really beautiful day at the lake. June has been a bit of a disappointment this year in the Lakes Region. Many cool, overcast days, and the ones that were sunny weren’t very warm. The wind has been persistent as it has taken a hot sunny day and morphed it into sweatshirt weather. If I was a weekend-only resident I would be pretty discouraged, every weekend has been awful but one. I guess I’ve found one advantage to being an unemployed, quasi-homeless piece of shit. If a Tuesday is nice I can enjoy it.

Today I sat lakeside and stared at the magnificent view from our beach. Our housing community offers beach rights to a really nice spot on the lake and it is as close to a sacred spot as I have. I have been enjoying this view for almost 37 years. Previous to that I enjoyed the “Main Lake” section when we were seasonal campers from the time I was 6 years old.

The sun was out in full, there was barely a cloud in the sky. The breeze, true to form, cooled me off every time it gusted. I sat transfixed by the view as if it was new to me.  Light waves, the only remnant of the passing of the many boats entering and exiting the Marina to our right lightly slapped at the shore. I can never get enough of the boats. Big boats and small boats, expensive Cabin Cruisers to Kayaks to row boats with hand-operated motors went back and forth, full of happy passengers. Most of the boats, as well as the elegant houses that lined the evergreen shores as far as the eye can see proudly waved American Flags. I almost felt out of place, for if one didn’t know better it would be easy to assume that this is a place only for those of affluence. Yet here I am.

I look to the raft for the hundredth time to check on the girls. They haven’t moved. My precious 16-year-old daughter, let’s call her B, and her friend Alex, who is like a daughter to me also, haven’t moved. They might even be asleep. They don’t look cold. Good for them I think to myself as I put on my sweatshirt. Billy Mac, I scold myself, I know it’s not your fault, but what is wrong with you?

Fuck you, I’m cold.

 

I have decades of memories of fun times on this lake. I was outside all of the time, usually on or in the lake. I learned to swim on this lake. I learned to scuba dive. I learned to waterski, dropping that one ski and skiing slalom was one of the biggest moments of my life. When I was a teenager I brought my friends up here and we swam and water skied until we were told to get out.

When I became a Dad, I had my kids up here as often as possible. The memories of them as toddlers excitedly splashing in 6 inches of water as we held them, belly-laughing as only a toddler can with smiles as wide as the universe itself, dance in my mind. As they got older, the four of them played together in the water, threw each other off of the raft and begged to stay when I told them to come out. Of course, I was in there with them at that point and it was my wife making me wrap it up. It didn’t matter, we would then play frisbee, throw the baseball and have the time of our lives. The expressions on their sleeping faces in the car on the way home said it all. Of course, I was tired as well, I was active with them.

After a long hiatus, the kids began coming up here again last year. They are all grown, the oldest 3 have jobs and coming up is difficult to schedule. I get it, it was like that for me also at that age. Now that their mother and father are separated, they come up to see me. And we go to the beach whenever possible.

The difference is, I can no longer throw the ball or the frisbee for hours. I can no longer water ski. I barely go in the water because it needs to be 90 with no breeze for me to get wet and not shiver and quake after like a junkie in need of a fix. Despite the repeated calls of “Dad, come on in!” or “Dad, let’s play catch” or “Dad, let’s throw the frisbee” I find myself saying no. I just can’t.

I just fucking sit there.

The fatigue is just too much. And it’s getting worse.

The very idea of walking up the hill to get the truck. so that I may drive down again and load all of the gear is intimidating enough. I have distinct parameters on how much energy I can expend at one time. So. to their repeated inquiries for me to join them I find myself saying “No, I’ll just watch you for now” and then endure the disappointed faces. They know, they understand, they hate how it reminds them that their father is sick. What they don’t realize is that I don’t want to watch, I have to.

The “used-to’s” that this disease has made me embrace are harder to deal with than the symptoms.

38,325 days…a life truly lived cont’d

If you have been following this series you will know that it is a dive into my family history, concentrating on the role of my deceased Grandmother who lived to almost 105 years old. If you would like to catch up you can here, here, here and here.

In the last entry in this saga, I was describing the sleepovers at the Grandparents house. Without hyperbole, I tell you that these are among the finest moments of my childhood. I had left off with the need to go to bed early when I slept over because the next morning at the breakfast table always proved to be the highlight of the day and I needed to be rested for it.

My Grandmother was a saint on earth, she really was. She had so many wonderful qualities about her. Unfortunately, a sense of humor was not one of them. In this sense, she married the wrong man. Mel was a tireless jokester and he loved an audience.

Breakfast was always at 8 AM. I would wake before that to the smell of bacon. Even if bacon wasn’t on the menu. Marion cooked everything in bacon fat and a black skillet. Everything she cooked smelled like bacon. As an aside, isn’t it incredible that she lived to that age cooking with only bacon drippings from a Chock Full O’Nuts coffee can? I would usually come downstairs when I smelt breakfast or heard her clanging around. Sleepy-eyed, I would come into the kitchen and get a warm greeting from her.  My Grandfather would never come to the kitchen until he was called. He would putter around in the basement in the morning or watch the news in the living room which was a mere 15 feet from the kitchen. He knew the coffee was brewed and breakfast was done but when I was there he insisted on being called…nay screamed for. Marion would call him once or twice and he would ignore her. When she yelled, that was his cue and the show was about to begin. He would then walk into the tiny kitchen with his famous devilish grin, in his pajama bottoms, a worn wife-beater, and slippers and say “what are you yelling for, I’m right here!?” Marion would shoot him a look for being a smartass. That’s when he would wink at me with those wicked eyes and his trademark bushy eyebrows. Yay, I would think, the show’s about to start!

The show didn’t always begin the same way. Sometimes he would start stacking cups and saucers precariously high and wait to get yelled at. Other times he would put salt in her Marion’s sugar bowl. Sometimes he would each behind him and put the creamer back in the refrigerator and then ask her why there’s no cream for his coffee. Other times he would just start off by acting deaf. No matter how it began, it ended with him being yelled at and a playful wink in my direction. Marion was fussing to make everything just right for me and he did everything he could to mess it up. Marion, God bless her fell for the bait every time. This apparently happened when my mom was little also and she never really caught on. It was her drive to make everything “just right” that caused her frustration, I wish she found it half as funny as her husband and I did.

After breakfast, Mel would retreat to the basement where he shaved in an old sink with a straight razor. His show was over, now it was me and Grandma time. They didn’t have much of a yard for me to play in and they lived on a very busy street so I was usually inside. Her routine became mine. I helped her clean up from breakfast, including the occasional broken saucer that her menace of a husband broke when balancing it on his head or spinning it on a spoon, drained her black skillet into the famous coffee can and then the day began.

Marion was not much of a house cleaner despite her obsessive tendencies. Her table, earlier cleared for the breakfast debacle, was immediately covered with 86 pounds of clutter that was moved to the fourth, unused chair. She was a hoarder before it was a thing. She made enough room each day to do her letters. Her letters are a lasting memory, both due to how outdated the whole “mail” thing is now and how much of a part of her life they were. She wrote to everyone and she absolutely lived to get mail in return. When the mailman came she moved like a hyperactive child to that mailbox. She kept in touch with High School friends and she had a large family in California. Sadly, I have not met most of them. Christmas cards and letters were the highlight of her year. I would be subjected to her reading her letters to me from people I didn’t know yet she continued to act as if I did. I regret being annoyed at that now, she really loved to share her mail with me. It occurs to me that she would hate today’s lightning fast, impersonal communications. An email would never bring her the joy that opening a card that she would read 20 times and keep 20 years.

If I was lucky, they would take me to the Senior Center in the afternoon. They were always old, as far back as I can remember. Maybe they were the youngest ones in the group but they ran with the older crowd. The Senior center had Bingo for her, multiple widows to flirt with my dapper grandfather, and a bunch of people that just loved seeing me. To be fair, I loved them. I have always enjoyed talking to the elderly. They had such stories to tell and I really enjoyed them. It wouldn’t surprise me if I found that I was immediately good in History class because of all of the Vets that I talked to and all of the women who did their share to keep this great country running during the war.

This routine would carry on into my early teens. Marion and I were inseparable. I was her “Dear Billy” and her pride in me helped me through my awkward teenage years of hormones, bullies and finding myself. She was non-judgemental and always there with a Root Beer Float and a hug.

more tomorrow…

200 posts

I wrote my first blog post on August 24th of last year. It was not my first attempt at blogging but at that time I had promised myself that I would give it a real shot.

At first, it was difficult, I was showing my ass to the world as I discussed with a faceless, anonymous audience my innermost feelings, beliefs, and vulnerabilities as I entered what I can still call the lowest period of my life. At first, no one read my work. Then, a few people took notice and seemed to gravitate towards my brutally honest but generally positive style. Those people became my reason for keeping on and I now can’t imagine my life without their valued insight and friendship.

It’s not about likes or follows, it is about the cathartic effect of writing, especially when you pour pain to paper and people, maybe just one, gets something out of it.

Thank you for letting Superman fly over your airspace these 200 times, I don’t expect to stop anytime soon.

Right place, right time

I can’t help but notice that lately, I have found myself in exactly the right place at the right time.

Last weekend, at Wal-Mart, I was walking in the right place when a young boy broke free from his mother’s clutch in the parking lot.  I took two steps and grabbed him by the arm before he made it into the path of traffic. The mother gave me a breathless Thank you and I tipped my beloved Red Sox Scalli Cap at her and went on my way.

Yesterday I was at the Supermarket and I noticed a sweet old lady staring helplessly at an item on the top shelf. I knew she wanted it, I knew she wouldn’t ask for help and I also knew no one was going to even if she did. I approached her, asked if she would like some help and retrieved the item for her. She was so grateful, it’s sad that the world has come to this. Then, one aisle over, a very short mother with two toddlers caused an accidental avalanche of cereal boxes by reaching and I caught several boxes before they hit her on the head.

None of these things were too out of the ordinary, but they were bunched pretty tightly together. As I tend to do, I was reminded of a memory, a time when being in the right place at the right time became a day that I will never forget. One that also, for the first time, convinced me that my Dad may have been right when he told me that everything happens for a reason.

After my Kidney Transplant in 2011, I chose to join the Fraternity of Freemasonry. It was something that I had always thought about as a younger man. It started as far back as my Great Uncle Cyrus’s funeral. He was a wonderful man that just lived too far away so I barely knew him as a child. We exchanged letters and my Grandmother said that he was quite fond of me despite our few meetings.

In 1981 Cyrus passed away. My Mom, Dad, Grandparents and I made the trek to clean out his stately house on the coast of Cape Cod. It took the whole weekend to dig through his belongings and it would conclude with the reading of his last will and testament. I don’t remember everything about it but I do remember when the attorney announced that I was to receive his late wife’s car, a 65 Ford Falcon ( a real gem that I had for years). The other standout from that day was my the dismayed look on my Grandmother’s face as a seemingly endless list of $5000.00 donations to various institutions and charities was read. It was money that she thought she would get as the Executrix of his will. I would later find out that those donations were made in the name of Freemasonry, the oldest and most honorable fraternity in the world. I was intrigued, to say the least.

In 2012 I was consumed with the desire to “pay it forward” after a wonderful person stepped out of the shadows and gave me a life-saving organ transplant. I decided that it was the perfect time to look into Freemasonry, to honor my Great Uncle and better myself. You may have heard that Freemasonry, or Masonry, is highly secretive. To a degree that is true. We have some. But it is no secret that men join to become better men; better husbands, fathers, brothers, friends etc.,. they are known to do this through those things which are larger than oneself. Charity chief among them.

I applied, petitioned for membership and in February, a date that I hoped my father would live to see (he died the previous December), I became a Master Mason. It was the beginning of my journey to being a better person and I had a fire in my belly.

That very February I learned about a Masonic program called the “HELP” program. It is created by, managed and operated exclusively by Masons, all of which are unpaid volunteers. It is an incredible program, we collect donated medical equipment and supplies from families who have either lost a relative or recuperated from a serious illness. It is a program spread by word-of-mouth only and is free to the public for as long as they need it. I knew that I had to check it out so I signed up to volunteer the following Saturday morning.

The local chapter of the Help program was in the parking lot of a local Masonic lodge where they worked out of locked storage containers. We were fortunate to have an unseasonably warm day for February. It wasn’t hard to imagine how unpleasant it must have been on cold, wintry days. Being my first day, I knew nothing about what to do other than signing in. So I took the opportunity to survey the equipment they had to offer. I was actually amazed at the number of motorized beds, mattresses. walkers, commodes, adult diapers and therapeutic equipment available to the public. I was also quite impressed with the amount of fellow Masons, or Brothers as we call each other, toiling away repairing and cleaning equipment and preparing for the rush. As the Newbie, I just sat back and watched.

It wasn’t long before “the rush” began. Cars filled the parking lot and people were milling about looking at the equipment. I was standing awkwardly at the back when a woman walked up to me and abruptly asked me if I “worked here”. I quickly replied that I was a volunteer but I would be glad to help her. To be honest, at first impression I didn’t like her. She was abrupt, seemed impatient and she violated my cardinal rule, she didn’t say hello to me. Fortunately, I quickly reminded myself where I was and why people came here. They had a very ill person to care for. I gave her my full attention.

She truly had no idea what she needed and after aimlessly dragging me around she admitted it. I inquired of her who was sick and the condition. To my amazement, she answered that it was her father, 74, who was in the advanced phase of Parkinson’s disease. I was floored. Just 2 months before I had lost my father, at 74, to Parkinson’s. I became emotional but I adhered to the task at hand. I began to show her all of the equipment that we had available that would make caring for her father easier. I got her a walker, a commode. a lift that helps get a person out of bed and many more items. We spent over an hour picking the items out and talking about our dads.

After we “checked out” all of the equipment I walked to her van to help her load everything into her car. As I was lifting one of the heavier items she asked me why I (we) do this. I explained to her that Masons are a charitable group and we, by definition help people. She asked me if I was here every Saturday. I explained that it was entirely up to me how often I volunteered. She looked me in the eye and asked me,

“What are the odds that you and I would pick this Saturday and that I would end up asking you, perhaps the best person ever to help me out, for help?”

“I think this is a moment that was meant to happen. I sincerely hope that it will be of assistance to your father.”

She smiled, reached in and hugged me (catching me completely by surprise) and walked around her car to get in. As she ducked out of sight into her seat she smiled again. It was a sad smile, almost forced through a face heavy with sadness, but it was one I will never forget.

There were many lessons learned that day but the predominant theme was that it was an incredible case of “right place, right time.”

And it is a tough act to follow.