Thursday, December 22, 2016
a holiday tale for 2016
I never met Amos but here’s what I’ve been told...
About seventeen years ago, and both recently retired, Amos and his wife moved to their brand new home. Perhaps it was their first brand new home. A pleasant place – just this side of heaven – its fresh stucco painted white and its sizeable back yard sloping up to a green belt, shaded by an ancient, pre-subdivision black oak that seemed to cascade stubbornly hard-to-rake leaves heavily late in the fall. Amos maintained the house with paint and polish, and the yard, planting and replanting flowering shrubs and annuals, ensuring adequate water and mulch. The result? A bit of springtime stretching into sultry summers and many evenings watching moonrise while enjoying the warmth of lovingly caressed hands. Come November, he’d rake those leaves.
At some point, Amos’s wife passed. I’m not sure how long they were married, but I know that if my wife passed, I’d consider folding my tents and calling it a life. Clearly I’m not Amos.
Amos turned to the community in which he lived staying active at the lodge on various boards and councils and bocce tournaments. He kept his aging fingers on the pulse of his little way station ‘just this side of heaven.’ He organized transportation for those who couldn’t otherwise make an appointment or, perhaps, shop in 30-mile distant Santa Rosa. He participated in a kind of meals on wheels – maybe he started it – wherein those laid low by an illness or a loss had something hot delivered until order was restored in their lives. A fixture in the community, I picture him on morning walks greeting and being greeted by whomever else was out. I suspect that both handshakes and hugs were common. That’s the way it is in a community.
Perhaps a dozen years into Amos’s time in the neighborhood, circumstances turned the way circumstances do. Gradually, Amos transitioned from being the support to being provided for. Instead of driving people in to town, he found himself being driven. Instead of preparing meals for the infirm, meals began coming his way. I have no knowledge of how Amos felt about his freedom to assist being replaced by his need for assistance. I do know – people have told me – that folks signed up to take him places and bring him food. There was a waiting list.
One June, a few years back, Amos became housebound. In late autumn, as leaves rained off that old black oak and scuttled down the back yard slope, someone – family, I suppose – decided that caregivers should be employed to assist twenty-four hours a day. Because the following is part of what paid elder care does, many aides spent hours listening to records or watching television or swapping stories with Amos – or reading or dosing off while he rested – waiting for the moment when he needed assistance to the bathroom or help with nourishment.
At the same time, Amos’s focus during those days turned to ensuring the comfort and caring as much as he could for those whose charge was to care for him: MTV rather than college football; frozen pizza rather than chicken soup. Or so it was reported.
This I was also told: It was December 24th, Christmas Eve, four years ago. Shift change happened around 2:00 PM. His afternoon assistant was a young mother who lived on the other side of town. She had two toddlers, each probably bubbling with the anticipation and excitement that only that night’s visit from Saint Nick could bring.
Around five, the young mom began to stir in the kitchen, preparing Amos’s evening meal, when he called to her from the guest bedroom where his hospital bed was set. “Julia (I’m making up the name) Julia, come here.”
I suppose Julia came right to his side. “¿Está bien, Amos?”
“I’ll be fine, just fine,” he said. “But you. It’s a special night and you have two little ones at home.”
“Están con su papá. Son bien.”
“They should be with their mother.”
“No puedo. Mi turno no… no…”
I picture him raising a tired hand and, with a bluing finger pointing for emphasis: “Usted será. You will. Now please go on home for this evening. Gracias.”
In the ensuing moments, surely with many conflicting thoughts racing though the young mother-caregiver’s mind, the front door quietly clicked closed as, in the dusk of this special night – Christmas Eve – ‘Julia’ headed back across town.
In Amos’s Little village, emergency service response is, at most, three-and-a-half to four minutes from phone call to arrival.
Amos called 911 shortly after that door clicked shut.
Medics did not revive him.
How do I know all this? Through a fiduciary, we purchased Amos’s house. Over the past couple of years, countless neighbors have shared their stories, often reminiscing about a handshake or a hug. Two – maybe three – have spoken about that Christmas Eve. Others have asked if we knew Amos personally.
I’m beginning to think I can answer, “Yes.”
Church of the Open Road Press