Thursday, June 2, 2011

"I'm Calvin, I'm Named After the President"

Friendly eyes meeting mine, an exuberant hand shake, followed with  "I'm Calvin, I'm named after the President".
Our dearest friend Andrea was on her way back to our house late last night and stopped at a gas station to fill her tank when she was approached by an elderly gentleman who asked if she knew the directions to Estacada.  Estacada is a small rural town about an hour from Portland.  While giving him directions, she could see a fog of confusion cloud the worried face.  She decided it would be best if she just had him follow her and she would attempt to get him to the freeway where the signage would direct him the rest of the way.  Good plan, but Calvin was truly out of his element and barely able to keep up at twenty five miles per hour.  The freeway entrance they were headed towards is also about twenty blocks from Menagerie Manor so Andrea called us and filled us in, and asked that we meet them at the Burger-Ville near the freeway entrance.  Upon arrival Andrea walked Calvin to the corner and pointed out the freeway entrance, but the old gent just shook his head and with tears in his eyes said he was just so confused.  Andrea suggested that they go into the restaurant and get him something to eat and perhaps contact someone that knows him.  He said he didn't know anyone, frustrated she then asked if he had any family.  Calvin then said "oh yes, I have four sons and a daughter".  He then pulled out a card which had all their names and numbers.  Andrea started calling and finally got hold of a son-in-law.  By this time MeMa and I walked in.  Calvin was a tall elder Jimmy Stewart sort of gentlemen, the type of person that could make a friend of another after just meeting for the first time.  I held out my hand and introduced myself and he immediately greeted me with his friendly smile and told me his name was Calvin and that he was named after the president.  I talked quietly to Calvin and then said "I hear you are a bit confused about how to get home from here".  He was embarrassed at that so I said "oh don't worry, if it wasn't for my wife I'd be lost all the time".  Calvin chuckled at that and immediately calmed.  I ordered a couple of cheeseburgers and a hot coffee that he gladly accepted.  Calvin started reciting some of his past life, often repeating parts of his story unaware that he had just told us that.  Thinking of the Jimmy Stewart movie "Harvey" I looked around half expecting to see the movies Alzheimer-inflicted characters imaginary giant rabbit sitting in the corner.  We listened to the life story of a  self made man, husband and father who still lived on family land that once gave comfort and food to the adults that now must care for him and attempt to give him the independence as long as it doesn't endanger him.  Obviously Calvin should no longer have access to a vehicle, but having gone through this with MeMa's father just last year we know and sympathize with his children as this is one of the worst battles in losing his independence.  Calvin told us that he worked for a paper company for twenty eight years, but then the second time he told us it was twenty one years.  He raised Jersey milk cows and had-hand milked all twelve cows everyday and sold the milk for extra income.  Calvin was quite proud of his life and hard work and as he recited his life the nervousness of his night's adventure subsided, his face became more relaxed and his smile a more natural feature rather then the confused nervous smile of an old gentleman out of his element.  The Burger-ville was closed to the rest of Portland as we talked until his Son-in-law and grandson came to take him home, but in the forty-five minutes that it took for them to reach us we were happily entertained by Calvin's story.  He was one of twelve children raised on  that same family land.   His father slowly dying of Emphysema sold firewood to the big city folks.  Too sick to cut the wood Calvin and his brothers would cut the three cords of wood and load it on their fathers old truck.  Unable to drive, three of the boys would ride in with their father and deliver the wood to customers in the city.  I marveled at the history of this family, hard working folks of bygone years.  I was impressed with the ingenuity and perseverance of a family that held it together because that is what they did back then.  When life passed them lemons they made lemonade, they didn't give up which has become the way of life for many people today.  They gathered what was theirs and took pride in what was left.
Calvin's family came through the doors and after scolding the old man for what he had done, they offered money for our time which I turned down for a handshake and told them we were just happy that we got to visit with Calvin and get him back to his loved ones.
Reflecting back on our evening with Calvin made me think about our own frustrating year with MeMa's father who is now in the permanent care of a very nice facility that handles all his needs.  MeMa visits him three days a week for their game of cribbage and making sure that none of his cares go unmet.  My parents are a bit younger and they lead a complete independent life.  But there will come a day when needs change and decisions will have to be made for all of us, but for today I would like to wish Calvin and his family all the best.  God bless Calvin who was named after the President.


  1. I loved reading this post! It made me so thankful that you are my brother... older brother. You and Mema did something very special for Calvin... named after the president... you took time to comfort him and really listen to him. I only wish more people would take time out of their busy day and give that time to someone like Calvin. His family has a long road ahead of them and I pray that they have the strength and love to see it through. Being a caregiver is a difficult time... but it can be a blessing as well.

  2. You and your family are good people Doc! I know there're people out there who would have done what your family did for Calvin...however, they're few and far between.

    The scolding he received was rather unnecessary...I know it's difficult for family when older family members loose their ability to do things but if happens to them they wouldn't want to be scolded.

    Good post...thank you for sharing!

  3. Wonderful post, Doc. And I agree. God bless Calvin and his family; and of course you and all of your family, too. ♥

  4. Hey Little Brother,
    We were kind of disappointed when the family came because he was in the middle of telling us about how he had fought the Germans during World War II.

    Thanks and yes I agree the scolding was unnecessary, but stress will bring the worst out in some people.

    Thanks, you’re a sweet heart.

  5. Such a warm-hearted post, Doc. The right attitude can make all the difference to this frightening condition. My sweet mother-in-law suffered for several years, eventually not always knowing who we were. One day she told my husband, "Remember, Peter, it's not always me talking."