This morning I got a phone call from an old friend of mine and my mothers - a lovely blast from the past. It is funny how talking to people who know "the old Phyllis" makes me both happy and sad. It leaves me feeling sad, of course, because it reminds me of how much of Mom we've lost. But, mostly they make me happy because they allow me the pleasure of remembering.
I totally love the town we moved to over ten years ago, but when you move away from where your family and childhood friends live, you never feel fully "known". You lose the enjoyment of shared stories, the jogging of long forgotten memories or better yet - people telling you things about yourself that you didn't know.
Well, today I discovered something I am surprised took me so long to hear about. Two years ago, my mother's neighbour, Austin passed away. He was only 65 years old. I am still a little shocked it took so long for this news to get to me and am embarrassed I never got to pass on my condolences. But mostly, I'm sad that I never got to tell him how thankful I am for everything he did for my mom.
Austin, wasn't just a "next door neighbour" in the sense that many of us (in our transient lives) think of neighbours. I am not sure when Austin and his family moved next door but (just like my parents) it was long before I was born and another twenty years after I left home. I can't remember a time he wasn't puttering out in his garage or offering a wave from his back deck.
After my father passed away, Austin and his wife are the reason my mom was able to stay in her home as long as she did. During the winter months, he'd often pick up a few groceries for her, pop by to chat, became the lawn mower, snow remover and handy man. One night, mom wasn't feeling well and had been up a few times in the night. The next morning Austin was over - he'd seen the light on and wanted to know if she was ok. In her final difficult days living at home - when the dementia and delirium had made her come unglued - he shared our heart ache and was sad to see her go.
So, today I want to give tribute to this kind and helpful man. Sadly, my mom will not remember him, nor does she remember the home my father built or the town she once loved so very much. Her memories have become unraveled like a ball of yarn with only the oldest ones holding on for dear life. Instead of a picture of our family home, above her bed is the black and white photograph of her childhood home and the long ago memories of her parents and siblings. But, I remember Austin. With the aging population, the increase in dementia and the focus on keeping people in their homes longer, our world is going to need more people like him.
I am reminded that I too need to be bold enough to knock on the door of someone next door sometimes and say, "Hey, I saw your light on - are you ok?"