Dale Says

July 22, 2013

Walking with Toni

Filed under: Colorful Characters — Dale @ 10:52 am
It was a special evening for everyone. We were all dressed up in our best clothes for the annual fundraising dinner for Tel-Hi, the San Francisco neighborhood center that does so much good for so many people, and the Center had arranged a photographer at the entrance to take a photo of everyone who attended.
I stood outside greeting people and Toni sat next to me for quite awhile, taking in the steady stream of people who marched by. She was dressed up, too, including silver shoes that I hadn’t seen before, and she sat proudly in her electric scooter, taking in the event.
I’ve known Toni for a couple of years, and I’ve been very impressed with her! The scooter is a result of polio, which she had as a teenager, and she has been in one ever since. She can pull herself up and get around in her kitchen, but walking more than a few steps is beyond her ability.
Toni hasn’t let her disability hold her back, and she has never used it as an excuse. She has led a full and interesting life; having been (among other things) a teacher, minister, executive director, poet, activist, and many other roles that she hasn’t yet told me about. Despite being in her 70’s (and in a wheelchair), she is very active in all things San Francisco, and she rarely misses a poetry reading, book sale, concert, or political rally. She is well-read and well-informed, and is up-to-date on every news and political event. Her politics are a little left-wing for me, but I respect her knowledge and her convictions.
As the evening went on and Toni and I watched the dinner attendees pose for their photos, a lady asked Toni to have her photo taken with her. She happily obliged and rolled her scooter over to where the photos were being taken. After rolling into position, Toni changed her mind and decided she didn’t want to be in her chair in the photo, so she rolled off to the side. She indicated that she wanted me to come over to where she was sitting, and when I did she said she wanted my help to walk back into the photo area. I bent down so she could put her arm around my shoulder, and I helped her stand up. She steadied herself, and we took one small step. She hesitated for a minute and then took another step. She smiled, although I could tell the effort was taking a lot out of her, and she took another step. Now we were close, and the woman waiting for us encouraged her. “That’s it, Toni, just a few more steps.” She groaned a little, softly, and took another step, and then another. Finally, we were in position. She took her arm off my shoulder, grabbed my arm and the lady’s arm next to her and smiled. The camera clicked once, then again, and we were done. Toni put her arm back around my shoulder, thanked the person who had asked for her photo, and we made our way back to her scooter. She was relieved when she was finally settled back in her chair, and she thanked me.
I was so caught up in the moment that it took a while for me to realize what had just happened. I had a chance to help Toni, a lady who doesn’t ask for help very often. But more importantly, I had been given an opportunity that will live with me the rest of my life — I had a chance to walk with Toni.

July 19, 2013

One of the Happiest People

Filed under: Colorful Characters — Dale @ 9:58 am

Bob Aden was one of the happiest people I’ve ever met. He seemed content with his life, and he always seemed in a good mood. I worked for Bob while I was in high school, helping stock shelves and carry out groceries, and he set a terrific example for me. He was content with his life, and he took joy in seeing and helping people.

Bob was always working — putting milk in the dairy case, or checking out groceries, or taking food to a sick customer. He usually whistled while he worked, and he always took time to visit with customers.

Bob lived to 90, and he shared his life with Leah, the daughter of a minister. He knew what he was getting into when he married her, and he knew he would have to toe the line, which he did. He led a good life; very involved in his church and his family. He also had time for a beer, and for a little fun.

Bob’s family will miss him, but they know that he’s happy, as he always was.

Thanks, Bob, for showing us how to enjoy life!

July 9, 2013

Uncle George

Filed under: Colorful Characters — Dale @ 11:05 am

George was the uncle who stayed home and helped his father take care of the farm. That must have been a great relief to his father, who because of George could run the farm without hiring someone to help. It was one of the many good things George did with his life.

After high school, George served his country in the Marines during the Korean War. He looked very handsome in his Marine uniform, and I’m sure his military years were among the most adventurous of his life.

Following his discharge from the Marines George moved in with his mother and father. He didn’t marry for many years, and as kids we thought he would always be single. As the only unmarried son (and living on the farm) George’s job was to watch us kids when we visited our grandparents. That meant keeping track of us when we were in the basement playing pool, and making sure we didn’t pilfer Grandpa’s beers. George was good at watching us, too, and he was always patient with us — soft spoken and gentle, but firm enough to make us do what he wanted us to.

George let us help him with the farm chores, and we loved that. He let us help get the cows in and milk them. And I have a vague memory of sitting in his lap and steering the pick-up when driving into town.

George eventually did get married, to a lovely widow with three kids, whose husband was killed in a farming accident. Janice was the best thing that happened to George, because she completed him. He was no longer the batchelor brother, the childless sibling, and he had a family and someone to share his life. They had a son together, and George loved all four of their children equally.

Janice was very ill a few years ago, and that took a lot out of George. He did everything for her, in an incredibly loving way. During her long illness, he became even more soft spoken and he grew thin and pale. And I suspect that’s when his Altzheimer’s started.

It was ironic that about the time Janice recovered George got sick. I remember the first time I noticed it — Janice led him gently by the hand and helped him sit in his favorite chair. She kept him at home as long as she could, but eventually he couldn’t live there anymore. The first time I visited him in the nursing home he cried when we left. Altzheimer’s is a cruel disease, and it broke my heart to see my childhood hero a broken and sad man.

George is better off now, because he doesn’t have to suffer anymore. And his family is better off, too, although they will miss George for the rest of their lives. George is not a man you get over quickly. George’s family, like the rest of us who knew him, have many wonderful memories of a kind and gentle man.

Peace be with you, George

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