One of the services I offer to the seniors I assist is providing transportation for things like appointments and errand running. Sometimes I go alone, but most of the time I have a companion, as I did today. Arthur was my trusty sidekick for most of this afternoon, or maybe I was his. He's one of the folks I work with on a regular basis. Carting around an older person requires patience and stamina. Some days I run short on both.
Arthur had a list of things we needed to get done today, so we set out together to tackle it. Like most of the country, our area has been experiencing a most miserable heat wave for what seems like the last month and I have to say my mood has suffered greatly. Feeling like you're walking around trapped beneath a wet, wool blanket would make anyone cranky. Throw Arthur into the mix and I start popping sedatives like Tic Tacs. The key to surviving the day is to take slow, deep breaths, try not to let the little things get to you, and keep a smile on your face. Right.
After stopping by Arthur's mailbox to collect a week's worth of mail, we head to a local grocery store. The store's pharmacy has a special sale price going for walkers and Arthur had his eye on a new one. He called ahead of time and the pharmacy promised to hold a walker for him. It is waiting for us when we arrive. Arthur's eyes light up like Christmas at the sight of the shiny new red walker, complete with handbrakes and a black seat with a handy storage basket underneath. We pay the cashier and we are good to go.
We almost make it to the door when Arthur announces, rather loudly, "I want a horn."
I stop walking and turn to him. "Excuse me? A horn?"
"Yes. I want a horn."
"You mean like a bicycle horn?" Really?
"Yes, exactly like that. I want a toy for my walker."
One of the store managers and another employee overhear our exchange. "You can probably get one at Spencer's," offers one of the women.
"I am not going into Spencer's," I say.
"What's Spencer's?" Arthur wants to know.
"No, really, what is it? I haven't heard of them."
I send a warning glance to the two women and mouth a thank you at them. Do I have to explain to Arthur that Spencer's is an adult toy store? He's ornery enough without ammunition.
"It's a candy store," supplies the other helpful woman.
"Oh, I love candy!" Great.
"Yeah, adult candy. I'll tell you about it in the car. Let's go." I take his arm and usher him through the automatic doors and back out into the summertime inferno awaiting us in the parking lot.
Our next stop is at a government office where Arthur spends about forty minutes filling out paperwork which could have been done in at least half the time had he not been running his trap and flirting with the female employees. I do my best to remain patient, but every time he stops writing and starts talking I picture myself choking him. As I said, the heat does funny things to folks.
The next destination is Wal-Mart, where Arthur needs to pick up a few items. Before I know it, I find myself standing in front of a wall of bicycle accessories. I can't get lucky enough for Arthur to forget about the horn. He's nothing, if not sharp, that one.
"Do you really think you need a horn?"
"Yes. Now try one out. Let's see what they sound like."
I sigh and give one of the horns the gentlest squeeze I can manage. Honk. We looked at each other. The horn sounds like it belongs on a clown's nose.
"Try another one." I do. In fact, I honk several more horns, with each one producing the same wimpy sound.
"They're all the same," I say, hoping he'll give up and we can move on.
"No, they're not. Try that one." He points at the only other horn on display, some Air Blaster 2000 or something. It is larger and a bit more obnoxious than all the others.
I look around to make sure I am not about to frighten any babies, and go for it. HONK! I thought I saw a breeze blow through Arthur's buzz cut. What was this horn made for, a cruise ship?
"Yes! That's the one! I'll take it!" Of course. I surrender, drop the horn in the basket of Arthur's motorized cart, and we go about our business.
Our final errand requires a visit to a local jeweler who repairs eyeglasses. Arthur has two pairs in dire need of resuscitation. We drop off his glasses and I drive him home, weary from the day's events. We did get a lot accomplished today and I must admit to feeling good about that.
Above all, Arthur was happy, bicycle horn and all.
He said something to me today in a parking lot at one of our stops. He was playing around, but I got the message.
"You don't know how lucky you are to know me," he said.
"I thank God for you every day, Arthur." I unloaded his new walker from my car and we walked, side by side, down the sidewalk. Yes, it was a very good day.