Yesterday my friend Liz reminded me about John Prine’s song Hello in There. She had responded to a story I’d shared on social media about an interaction with a stranger I met on a walk. I am reminded how much I miss my elderly friends who have died. Like Mom. While some might say I offered the gift of time and attention, I know I got as much or more out of the deal. I wouldn’t have gotten to know them as I did if I hadn’t hung out in the Assisted Living Facility Mom moved into after Dad died. And now, I remember them frequently as do my friends: their adult children, caregivers and other volunteers. You know who you are.
From the start I spent enough time in this facility that a few residents thought I was an employee. Perk for me was getting to know most of the residents over the years Mom lived there. Not long after she moved in I began a monthly program I called Armchair Travels. I shared my own stories and photos, researched others, and most importantly, invited these friends to share their own. I quickly learned I had to do my homework: they asked tough questions about these different parts of the world!
Not long after publishing My Music Man, we began a book club. Each month for 14 months, I read one chapter aloud to my friends. It didn’t really matter if my friends remembered the previous chapter or not, or joined in one month and not another. I heard their stories about growing up in places like Chicago, Montana, Ireland and Joseph.
I miss you Sue and Arline and Betty and Betty and June and Pat and Wendell and Ray and Mark and Polly and Loene and Bev and Lorrie and Mom, among others. Thank you for sharing yourselves: your stories, voices, joys and fears with me.