Patterico's Pontifications


Filling The Gap

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:38 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Taking a break from the political news of the day, I wanted to tell you about walks with Mary. It’s always good for me to step away from the chaos of the world, back to real life , you know, where we live.

Mary is my elderly neighbor. Up until this summer, she had been an active and lively resident of our neighborhood. Tiny like a little bird, and capped with white cotton puff hair, she would scurry about feeding her cats in her open garage, drive to the neighborhood market in her big red Buick, and chat with neighbors. Then, without warning, she disappeared from sight. We discovered she had become a shut-in. Out of the blue, her legs no longer obeyed the command to walk. The outside world threatened to become a memory as her world became confined to the four walls of her home. Her family arranged for a caretaker to come every morning to get her up and help with her personal needs, and then after breakfast, propped her up in her recliner to spend the day in the company of a blaring TV and curtains opened so she could watch her neighborhood pass by until family members brought dinner. Hard of hearing, vision fading, and legs no longer working properly, loneliness set in. How could it not?

Several years ago, I experienced a series of awful physical setbacks, and one of the realities I faced was a period of not being able to walk without the aid of a walker, and without tremendous pain. It was a very dark and lonely time, and it was a daily struggle to remain optimistic that eventually I would be able to walk normally again and come to the end of the dark tunnel I found myself in. It was hell getting there, but through God’s grace, eventually I did.

For a few months now, I have been pushing Mary several miles every day in her wheelchair. Because that’s what you do when you can, and your friend can’t – you push and walk.

While we walk, we talk about the day’s weather, critique gardens, say hello to the pups that we know by name, and of course, chat with any neighbors who happen to be outside. And in between, she repeatedly tells me what a good girl I am to take her out and how much she appreciates it. She says she feels better being in the sunshine again. Who wouldn’t? But here’s the thing, I’m really the one who benefits from our walks. Who could bear knowing their elderly neighbor was essentially trapped in their home? I couldn’t. So we walk. And the best thing about being with Mary is the history she carries with her. The first car she drove was a Willys-Knight. The first election she voted in was Truman versus Dewey. She remembers the years when the rain was unrelenting and the now bone-dry zanjas regularly overflowed and wreaked havoc on the roads. She remembers her boyfriend enlisting in the Army so he could fight the Nazis. And she remembers marrying him when he returned. Mary has also regaled me with stories about our sleepy town, including the 1948 unsolved mystery of a popular high school classmate murdered while on a date with her boyfriend, who was also a fellow classmate and heir to his family’s fortune. No one was charged with the murder that took place on a dark road. There were two suspects: her boyfriend, and according to the boyfriend, an unidentified man with a sawed-off shotgun attempting to rob them. Was there a cover-up? Did his family’s country club status help get him off? And why, some 50 years later when local journalists dug up the story and began looking into it, were they warned to “leave it alone”? According to Mary, townspeople had indeed believed there was a cover-up. Both families went into seclusion behind the walls of their grand old mansions, and rumors of alcoholism and lost fortunes persisted. Mary is a full volume of walking-talking history just waiting to have her pages turned.

For an hour out of each day, the simple pleasure of taking Mary for a walk is mine. This filling the gap is an unglamorous and unremarkable “calling”, and one that suits me just fine. I love that I continue to walk with ease. I love that I can walk for someone else. And I especially love that for at least this season, a little bird can experience the warm autumn sun on her face and still be blinded by a brilliant blue sky before she is called to fly away home.



23 Responses to “Filling The Gap”

  1. Hello.

    Dana (86e864)

  2. you’re the heart and soul of red cup season done right i love you

    happyfeet (831175)

  3. plus who knew you could write

    happyfeet (831175)

  4. I would say bless you both, but you’re already blessed.

    DRJ (15874d)

  5. I am curious: dis she vote for Truman or Dewey?

    I have known many people who were eligible to vote back then. From them you would conclude that Truman won in a 1964/1984 type landslide.

    NCC (1ea7f3)

  6. beautiful

    steveg (fed1c9)

  7. I gave a dollar to a panhandler on Friday.

    Today I took both of my walkers and my quad cane, a six-inch earth auger, 50 lbs. of fast-setting concrete, a level, a trowel, a 7/16 ratchet, and dug an 7-inch by 18-inch post hole and installed a 36-inch fence post brace to a loose cedar fence post. Like this, except that I’m better looking than that guy and so is the daughter’s fence.

    There’s the “me” self which is perceived and the “I” self which acts. (William James can explain it better, or even totally differently, and he wrote much less obtusely than his brother if you want to give him a look.) If you allow how you are perceived, by yourself or others, to control how you act, you will be in deep doodoo. But if you refuse to sit alone in your room and go and hear the music play — better yet play some yourself — life can be a cabaret.

    nk (dbc370)

  8. We call my station in life “middle age” but, in truth, I am almost certainly far closer to the end than the beginning.

    Everything still works, but reflexes and reactions are getting slower, little cuts and injuries take longer to heal, and joints pop and click and ache more regularly these days.

    I now go out of my way to look for mothers with kids and people a bit older that look like they need help. I think of it as “paying it forward.” That day, probably not far off, I will need that little extra help and hope someone will be thinking of others then.

    Bless you for helping Mary. I hope it inspires the rest of us to look for those around us in greater need. It would be a better place if we all did this more regularly.

    WarEagle82 (44dbd0)

  9. William James can explain it better, or even totally differently, and he wrote much less obtusely than his brother if you want to give him a look.

    Everybody wrote less obtusely than his brother.

    We all deserve to have a Mary in our life to remind us of what truly matters, and we all deserve to have a Dana to take us out into the sun once we cannot go on our own. Lovely post.

    JVW (dd1278)

  10. Bless your heart, Dana.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  11. This makes my heart warm.

    JD (34f761)

  12. On days with bad news, or people behaving poorly, it’s good to read positive things.

    Some people, when they do good deeds, sprain their shoulders patting themselves on the back. Dana, you get it: you “did a good deed” because it was (i) the right thing to do, and (ii) you know how it felt to be isolated.

    Thank you for writing this, and sharing your time with your neighbor. Please tell Mary that folks far and wide appreciate her stories and experiences.

    Simon Jester (2708f4)

  13. Thanks for bringing me/us back to what’s really important. Your’s is a great Christmas story.

    bald01 (f38852)

  14. Mary is truly blessed to have you in her life, Dana. What a lovely story.

    PatAZ (9d1bb3)

  15. Thanks for this lovely breath of fresh air, Dana.

    Lynne W (105e42)

  16. Great post! Lifted me up when I felt down, thnks.

    I’ll fly away.

    felipe (b5e0f4)

  17. It’s good having friends.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  18. He or she who has a servant’s heart will always be blessed. You do for others what you can do.

    Comanche Voter (1d5c8b)

  19. Amazing how TRUTH can pop off a page.

    Tragic how rarely it does, anymore.

    Thank you, Dana.

    Ed from SFV (3400a5)

  20. I often look for “Mary’s” myself. They are so full of wisdom and clarity.

    and she thinks you rock!

    Just Me (51a08d)

  21. Matthew 25:40 – 40 “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

    Beautiful story. And what a discovery of an interesting life well lived.

    K9Ranger (e41843)

  22. what a beautiful post. (and a beautiful thing to do) Made my day. Thanks, Dana!

    no one of consequence (f4d463)

  23. Dana, reading about you and Mary has been the most poignantly beautiful part of my day, and that’s saying something as I’m surrounded by baby elephants frolicking with their mamas.

    Charlotte, travelling on Lake Kariba (989b51)

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