Friday, March 28, 2008

Deja Vu

Elizabeth encountered an incident earlier this week, this moved her sufficiently to want to write something about it. This is her story.

Remember Bob

He shook my hand firmly, holding it tight. Then he wouldn’t let go. This was my first impression that something was wrong. His blue eyes stared at me intently and I got a little uncomfortable. He was a good foot taller and perhaps a 100 pounds more. What did he want? I panicked a little. Let go of my hand, I pleaded mentally. Which finally, he did.

“Nice to meet you Bob,” I stammered. Quickly I grabbed the door handle to my new home and disappeared into the apartment. “Eric! ERIC!!” I had been here less than 24 hours and already something seemed wrong.

Bob is our neighbor. He lives alone. Eric has known him for a little time and proceeded to tell me that Bob has Alzheimers. This is more noticeable when you study him a little. With time, we have become accustomed to his routine; Price is Right from 11 to noon, then he’s promptly out the door for his daily walk through town. Bob cuts a very striking figure, quite tall with a shock of the whitest hair. When he walks his hands are clasped behind his back, and an ever increasing stoop. He waves and smiles at strangers. Bob is a harmless creature as he putters along, inquisitively looking in through store windows.

Once in a while, he pops into the local hotel for a beer. Sometimes, we would see him doing what Eric has termed his chicken dance on the street. He is a happy go lucky guy, a real character. I wish I could dance with such abandon. On two occasions that I know of, Bob returned home with a black eye and a couple of cuts to his face. Who would do such a thing to this innocent man?

Bob has a family, but you would hardly know it. They give him a dutiful gift on his birthday, also at Christmas. It ends there. Even so, he doesn’t seem lonely. He has his daily walks and the people on the street.

3 years ago I was filling out Christmas cards and had some left over. I filled one out for Bob and put it under his door. He told the whole building that he got a card. He was so happy. Our neighbors let us know. He never said a word to us. This has become a tradition now. When we move, Bob will always get a Christmas card.


I was in one of the local confectionaries yesterday getting a couple of lottery tickets. The cashier suddenly stiffened and said, “Oh, that guy always gives me the creeps.” I looked at her quizzically and she motioned to the window. Bob was looking in, and then he left.

“Oh no, no, no”, I said. “That’s Bob. He has Alzheimer’s. He’s harmless.”

She stared at me. Relieved, she said, “Thank you so much for telling me. Now it makes sense. Thank you.”

I remembered the first time I shook hands with Bob, now this cashier getting upset. It occurred to me, how many others?
Just how many Bobs are out there suffering Alzheimer’s, giving people the wrong impression? Even more, how many of us recognize it for what it is?



Janice Thomson said...

A powerful message here - one we need to think about more often. One hopes they truly are not lonely or feel hurt by people's reactions. It is so wonderful you send him a card each year! What compassionate people.

Eric Valentine said...

Thank you for your observations Janice.

It's true that so many things in life become unnoticed casualties of passing time, ~ Bobs Alzheimers is one of them.

zirelda said...

Good post. My mother has a friend who is a retired school teacher. He used to baby sit Rach a couple of years ago. He started acting strangely and made Rach uncomfortable so we didn't have him keep her anymore. They moved to another town and I heard he went out for milk and got lost. Then I heard he has Alzheimers which I had wondered about when Rach became uncomfortable with him.

Anonymous said...

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Eric Valentine said...

Thank you Zirelda for your story. It just goes to show that these things do happen.

Sadly when they occur it's so easy to miss the obvious.

Eric Valentine said...

Hi Ananya, thanks for visiting my site & for your kind words. :)

Shades said...

I liked it Eric.. You write so well..!

drips of paint said...

very lovely post, really one of the best ... thanks...

he went around telling everyone he got a card ...:))

Stacey said...

Dear Eric
Unfortunately in our world, people judge what they dont understand,be it Alzheimers or any other brain disorder ,and by this amazing post maybe others will stop and think twice.
And if by sending a christmas card every year puts a smile on his face then that speaks a million words.
A heart warming story Eric thank you for sharing it. :-)

Eric Valentine said...

Thanks for your kind words Shades. :)


This story this time was Elizabeths story that she wrote. I just tweaked a little.

She is a big help to me when I write. She always checks my writing out, for my punctuation is not the greatest. Many times Elizabeth even comes up with ideas for me to write about. :)

Eric Valentine said...

Hi Tim, always good to see you here. Glad you liked the story.

Stay well my friend. :)

Eric Valentine said...

Hello Stacey, sadly I have to agree about people and how they judge so harshly.

I find that a lot of people are afraid of the "Bobs" of the world.

Glad you liked the story. :)

Leon said...

Thank you Elizabeth! My mother-in-law has Alzheimers and we have to remind ourselves on occasion that she does not control most of her "strange" behavior. We have also learned that it's important to maintain a sense of humor to prevent ourselves from becoming terribly depressed at what the life of this once vibrant woman has become. Your story is that nudge that tells us to retain our sensitivity to the lives of others.

Eric Valentine said...

Thanks Leon, Elizabeth & I really appreciate your story of your MIL. We have a bit of a soft spot for Bob especially as we know of his situation & circumstances.

Things like this bring a whole new meaning these days to the phrase, "I am my brothers keeper."

Have a good day my friend. :)

Augs Casa said...

I feel for Bob. It's a shame he is misunderstood because of his condition. I'm sure if you sit with him for a spell You can get some good conversations out of him.

Someday mate, I know you and I will sit down and I look forward to hearing about your adventures in person.


Judith Shapiro said...

wonderful post. thanks.

Julie at Virtual Voyage said...

Thanks for this post, Eric, as Janice said, this is a message we need to think about more often. Such a complex issue, isn't it.

Eric Valentine said...

Hey Augs! nice seeing you again. Yes Bob actually does have good conversation at times, he also remembers me for he always asks if I'm ok.. :)

You & I meeting and sitting is a bit of a stretch haha, takes me all my time to get to the store. LOL Maybe if I won the lottery.. :)

Eric Valentine said...

Thank you Judith. :)

Eric Valentine said...

You are welcome Julie, yes sadly it is complex. Things are sometimes made worse because of the pressure on, or lack of family.

forsythia said...

A simple thing like a card can make someone so happy. Also, it was so wonderful you had the opportunity to explain to the woman who was leery of Bob why he seemed so "creepy." A wonderful story!

Eric Valentine said...

Thank you Forsythia, opportunity surely did present itself that day. Thanks for your visit again. :)

newnorth said...

Powerful story. I'm not in the same situation but I know a simple card has made everything just a little easier to deal with.

Eric Valentine said...

Thanks Newnorth. :)