A Caring Village

at 12:35 AM

Four years ago, my 90-year-old father fell and broke his hip and became wheelchair bound.  When he got out of rehab, Dad wanted to hire live-in help and move back home, but I knew it wouldn't work, so we sold his house and he moved to an assisted living center.   

Dad was an introvert. Mom used to say he could live like a hermit as long as he had his Wall Street Journals, but I didn't agree. I encouraged him to try some of the activities at the facility, and I think mostly to please me, he did. He went on a field trip to the De Young, and joined a Tai Chi class.  

I started hearing about the people he sat with at Table 14 in the dining room. Jules had emigrated from France as a young man and started a nursery business. Lily's son was a professor at the University of Utah, where I went to school. Jim liked to tell stories about playing football for Penn State.  

I always went with Dad to his medical appointments. Those outings were a nice break from routine, but they were exhausting. Once Dad got out of the car, he'd hold the walker in his lap while I pushed the wheelchair. Half the time there was no automatic door opener, so I had to set the walker against the side of the building in order to get him through the door.

To every one of you who looked up from your magazine, or who were going through the door in the opposite direction and turned back and said, "Could I give you a hand?", I'm so grateful.  You did more than open a door. You became part of my "village." You helped me take care of my father.  

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I loved Dad and wanted him to be happy, but one person can't do it all. So to the members of Table 14 at Alma Via, to the caregivers who laughed at his jokes, to the doctors who engaged him with intelligent conversation, and to the many strangers who opened doors: Thank you.  You included my father in your circles of human caring and kindness, and made his life a little richer. May your gifts come back to you many, many fold.

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With a Perspective, I'm Anne Lamb.
       
Anne Lamb works at the Presidio Trust and is writing a series of essays about caring for her elderly parents.

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