Dad Has Dementia

Week 12: Thank You, Stranger, for Your Kindness

Last updated:

April 02, 2010

I'm by no means a patient person. In fact, I admit to frequent temper tantrums, usually directed at myself. The other evening, I threw down the Nintendo Wii controller and stalked off in disgust when I kept dying in Super Mario Bros. (Hey, world 6-5 is a killer.)

When it comes to relating to other people, however, I work very hard to maintain my cool. And I've always tried to be especially patient with older people. My parents instilled in me an appreciation of the Golden Rule, and I'm a believer in the adage "There, but for the grace of God, go I." So, I dial down my Type A side when it comes to dealing with senior citizens. Waiting a few extra moments in the grocery line for an elderly woman to fish exact change out of her pocketbook and then get everything stowed away again? No problem. Slowing my stride to avoid the appearance of crowding a little old man entering a restaurant with his walker? Happy to do it.

Apparently, not everyone shares this sensibility.

I've been, frankly, appalled at people's behavior toward my dad when we're out in public. They openly sigh, scowl, and roll their eyes when he and his walker momentarily (and inadvertently) block the aisle in Wal-Mart. Some people have made sarcastic comments, like, "Um, EXCUSE US," when Dad can't quite maneuver out of their way quickly enough in a crowded restaurant. Staff people become openly exasperated when they have to repeat information to him "“ not once, but twice "“ and then he still doesn't understand what they're trying to convey.

That's why our treatment at a local eatery today was so refreshing.

We had stopped by this particular coffee shop once before, a few weeks ago. It's a busy place, popular for its baked goods. We had been out shopping when Dad announced he wanted some ice cream. I doubted this particular cafe had ice cream, but I know Dad always likes a great cup of coffee, and I knew positively the restaurant offered that.

For some reason, Dad was impressed with the friendliness of a young guy manning the counter that day. (Maybe it was because he did, indeed, produce the requested ice cream.) When we returned today, I was surprised that the same clerk not only recognized Dad but left his position behind the register to walk over where Dad sat and exchange pleasantries. It didn't bother the clerk one whit that Dad had a hard time hearing him; he made Dad laugh and even personally brought him a cup of coffee. Dad was tickled pink.

And so, to that young man, I'd like to say, "Thank you." It's nice to know that true geniality and good naturedness still exist in society today. You can be sure we'll be back to patronize your coffee shop again. Often.