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Friday, October 8, 2010

An Elderly Encounter

I find it interesting the stories that some of the elderly people in our lives can tell. A person of 90 some years can tell you a story from the 1920's as accurate as a right angel, yet can't remember what they had for breakfast that day.

Although aging is a process that scares me and often annoys me, one thing that I enjoy about elderly folks is their friendliness and their need to communicate with others.

Today, as I sat on a bench outside the Newton Clinic waiting for my husband and kids to arrive, I was sought out by a man who had stories to tell and no one to tell them to. I saw him approaching in his electric wheel chair. He was cruising with a purpose and as he zoomed by me on his wheels his eyes trailed behind him as he attempted to figure out my current situation. He got about 5 feet past me before the words processed from his brain and traveled to his mouth. He shifted his chair in reverse and rolled right up next to me. He looked at me, looked at my crutches, then looked down at my boot and back at my crutches.
Finally he opened his mouth and he stuttered, "Well what are those for?"
I could immediately tell he was a fun loving guy the way he flaunted his electric mode of transportation so I replied, "Those are for getting me around! Not everyone can have a fancy set of wheels like you!"
He thought for a moment and I was getting nervous as I couldn't read his reaction to my smart alec comment. He looked me in the eye and said, "Well did you fall off your horse?"
I laughed and joked, "I wish the story was that interesting!"
He looked me up and down making me a bit uncomfortable and asked, "You fall off your motorcycle?"
A little taken back by that question, I chuckled. I thought, does he really see me as a biker chick with my purple crutches and matching sock with purple heart stickers on my boot? I decided to set him straight and give him an honest reply (or close to honest) and said, "No, that would be too interesting for me! I just stepped off a curb wrong."
With a disappointed look he stated, "You broke your leg."
"No," I replied, "Just my foot."
With that he gave my crutches one last look and rolled away to the window to bask in the sun. Not five minutes later he came back my way and once again stopped next to me. I gave him a friendly smile and he looked at me with a wise expression, pointed his wrinkled and crooked finger and said, "You be more careful." Then with one flip of a switch he reeled away.
Once again he got about five feet from me and stopped. I could tell even from the back of his head that a thought process had occurred. With a back flip of a switch, he once again came at me slowly, in reverse. The only thing missing from this scene was the beeping of a backing up slow moving vehicle. He stopped directly in front of me and his story began.
"When I was a boy, I was always getting into everything. If there was something I wasn't supposed to get into, I got into it. I climbed tree's and ran around. I was so wild that I broke my bones all the time. I broke my leg, my arm, and my other leg and then I got Polio." He stopped and stared waiting for my reaction.
"Wow!" I replied with an astonished tone, "Polio is some tough stuff to get over!"
He looked down at my boot again and said, "And here I am...."
Smiling directly at him I exclaimed, "And here you are!"
Looking down the hall past me he spoke lightly and said, "Well I'm over at Park Center, here and well." With that he shifted into drive and strolled off and I trailed him with, "I hear it's a wonderful place to be!"

I may never see this man again. I may never know his entire story. What I do know is that him seeing me with my crutches and patched up foot triggered some past memories of his life that he wanted to share. They weren't very detailed memories, but I was happy to be a listening ear and a friendly smile for him to see. He probably forgot about me and our conversation on his drive back over to Park Center but I haven't nor will I forget him. He made me realize that everyone has a story...a purpose for being...and something to share. Sometimes I think we get too caught up in our busy lives and we never slow down enough to watch and listen. I hope I made this mans day a little bit brighter just as he did mine.

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