My friend had tears in her eyes as she shared her visit with a woman she hadn’t seen in years at an assisted living complex in town.
The facility was comfortable and well-appointed and the woman had excellent around-the-clock care but it was an emotional experience because she was not as my friend remembered her.
When she arrived for her visit she found the woman sitting alone in her small quiet room. She greeted her warmly and they fell right into catching up. My friend had invited a couple of other people to join her who had known the woman years ago as well and they all spent some quality time together.
As she shared the story of the visit with me I realized that the woman was the mother of the family who owned the house where many of my friend’s best teenage memories took place.
I bet most of us have one of those houses in our memory banks as well. The house where everyone seemed to gravitate after school, building homecoming floats or hanging out before and after football games. The house that always had cars in the driveway and if you didn’t have anything to do, you knew that there was a good chance you could find something happening or at least someone to talk to at this common gathering place.
You never went there to hang out with the parents but you did know them and they seemed to just be part of the house and the experience. They were Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so. In some cases, they could be a listening ear and offer advice that you would never probably accept from your own mom or dad, or maybe the people that kept everyone in line. These houses and the families that occupied them are imprinted on our adolescent memories.
I don’t know about you, but it never occurred to me that even though I was aging they were too. My Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so are always exactly as I left them, and in my mind the house is the same and everyone still gathers there.
So I imagine the frail woman sitting alone in the wheelchair who struggled a bit with her speech was not the person from the hustle and bustle of her high school memories.
As she shared the story with me she recounted her Mrs. So-and-so as tinier than she remembered but with the same beautiful face and flawless skin. I am sure Mrs. So-and-so remembered her guests as their former high school selves as well. That’s how memories work.
When the visitors reflected on the time with her they decided they should continue to go back and make new memories and it made them aware of others that might need a visit as well.
Her story reminded me of the time I spent delivering Meals On Wheels to the frail elderly in Lee County. I remember meeting so many wonderful people, who were living alone and unable to drive. Many had lost contact with friends because they were unable to leave their homes to socialize and stay connected. I am betting that many of them were Mr. and Mrs. So-and so’s as well.
There are some great nonprofit organizations in our community that are dedicated to reaching out to those who are aging and may not have the ability to stay connected. They are always looking for caring individuals to volunteer help overcome the isolation that many feel. You may not live in the community you grew up in, but there are some Mr. and Mrs. Somebody’s that would love to start some new memories with you.
If you would like to learn more about the organizations that help keep people connected as they age, or if you are involved in this work I would love to hear from you at [email protected].
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.