Saturday, January 11, 2014


My friend George is 94 1/2 and lives in Portland.  I met him 10-11 years ago when I wanted to pay it forward.  Mr. Ralph's mom was able to live in her own apartment until the very end because folks in her little town (Vincennes, Indiana) pitched in to help her out most days because her only child lived out of state.

I figured there must be a grandperson in Portland whose kids lived out of state and I could become her helper.  My first volunteer job was at my local adult community center.  I let everyone know I'd like to "adopt" a grandparent to form a friendship with ... who just needed an extra helping hand sometimes.  Through our hair stylist, I met Grandma Pat.

They lived in a condo complex a mile from our home ... and they had a swimming pool so Kate was always interested in visiting also.  Pat would always invite her over for a special Halloween treat just so she could see her costume.

Over time, Mr. Ralph and George were pulled into our friendship, sharing day trips and dinners and holidays.  Pat had Parkinson's Disease and wasn't able to get out on her own.  George was a very devoted husband but hey ... he doesn't like browsing or tea houses or trips to the daffodil farm.  So we would have a field trip every week.  We had SOOOO much fun (she bought a pair of shoes ... her fetish ... and had me hide them at my house and deliver them when he was away ... because she had about 200 pair!!!)

George broke his ankle (skiing) early in our friendship and was unable to manage the household duties. I stepped in for daily visits.  What a hoot!  They used one set of dishes(china)  AND silverware (yes, real silver) for breakfast and lunch and a totally different set for dinner. They had "elevenses" and cocktail hour every day.  Pat could not carry the crystal pitcher, or anything really, so we devised a modification to their routine.  We got her a walker with a basket (getting a walker took a lot of convincing) and a seat so she could bring things to the dining table.  I bought juice in individual cans that she could carry then open at the table.  When I came after lunch to load the dishwasher (boy did she hate waiting with breakfast dishes in the sink), I would set up the cocktail station with their nibbles.  I kept George out of the way by bringing him the WSJ every day ... and after than six weeks, he got a subscription!

Eventually she had to move to in-home 24 hour care but I came every week with a coffee or hot chocolate and some good gossip .... or recipe ... or a People magazine.  George went every single day.  When she died, one of the first things he said was "will you still come visit me every week?"  And so I did.

He has since moved to a retirement community and was pretty sad when I started spending more time in Maui than in Portland.  He learned how to Skype and we email and phone each other.

Gosh is he happy to hear that I will be doing majority of time in Portland!!!  Me too.


  1. Wow, 94 1/2 and Skyping! I'm impressed.

    You're paying it forward is a similar to what Don and I did with the elderly in our contact...not quite as hands-on daily stuff as you did but with big projects and emergencies. We couldn't help my folks all that much because of distance, so we helped elderly neighbors instead. When it's your time to get payback from a neighbor you sure can say you earned it! What a great thing to do, when you adopted a grandmother.

  2. I only did daily for that six week stretch. Usually once a week and maybe a phone call in between. Just the right amount. I never felt an "obligation" it was just mutual fun!