When Larry handed me the envelope with “Open 0” scribbled on the front, I sensed it was something important. Larry is a charismatic guy who strived for the best and is a cherished member at Augustana Care Open Circle Adult Day Services. His faith has carried him through rocky times and his belief in the power of prayer has touched and changed many lives. His journey with Alzheimer’s disease has presented new challenges and obstacles. He struggles to find words and his understanding of time has created an emotion that he is not familiar with, anger. Having recently experienced a day filled with these challenges and emotions, he was standing by me with an envelope. I opened it up and inside was a thank you card. “For being so thoughtful…for being special…for just being you.” Below he signed his name. This was so thoughtful but after learning the story of this card, it is even more cherished.
Larry’s wife Sue had picked him up from Augustana Care Open Circle Adult Day Services the day before. When he got in the car, Sue knew he had something on his mind. He had to “get something.” She had no idea what it was. “I’ll know it when I see it.” They drove through their neighborhood, past familiar shops. They stopped in front of the grocery store. “Is it in there?” “No, no.” Larry replied. Finally, they stopped in front of the Hallmark Store. That was the place. Sue tried to think if there was a birthday or occasion in their family. “Do you need a birthday card?” Maybe someone at the center was having a birthday. “I’ll know it when I see it.” He walked up the aisles until he found the Thank You cards. He looked at several and finally picked out the one that I now held in my hand.
The card symbolizes more to me than just a statement of appreciation. I reflect back on times in a foreign country when I was not able to accomplish the simplest task. I remember a day in Rome when buying stamps for my postcards took me half a day. Who knew that the line I was standing in was for those on a pension to pick up their checks? That was just a language barrier. Larry was trying something greater, to interpret a feeling he was having. Also, I think of Sue. Her willingness to listen from the heart and go the extra mile to fulfill this wish, took insight and patience. To me the card is a message from deep inside the experience of Alzheimer’s disease. It is the constant effort we must but forth to understand what often cannot be expressed. We must listen from the heart.
I will keep Larry’s thank you card. It is evidence of the always present person we are here to support.
Augustana Care Open Circle Adult Day Services provides respite care for caregivers while helping people with changing physical, cognitive, and/or social abilities to enjoy fulfilling lives. We offer three convenient locations throughout the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area. Each of our locations offer programs, recreation, personal care, respite and social connections to individuals with memory loss or other emotional and physical needs. Contact one of our centers to learn more about how Augustana Care Open Circle can support care partners to find balance and meaning in a life touched by memory loss or other diagnosis.
The author, Patty Crawford, is the Center Manager at Augustana Care Open Circle of Apple Valley. She has been a part of Augustana Care for over 40 years. Patty is also a sought after public speaker on subjects of aging. She weaves her insight and research into meaningful presentations. Patty is a Master of Leadership graduate from Augsburg University.