Thursday, April 20, 2017


Our beloved friend, Leonard, turned 91 yesterday.  He would say it this way:  "I'm 91 today, April the 19th, in the year 2 thousand and 17.  I was born at 3:00 AM on Monday, April the 19th, in the year nineteen twenty-six in Roanoke, Virginia.  They said that I was in a hurry to get here because I wouldn't wait until sunup."  Leonard has been Mom's best friend since she moved here in 2010.  They met at Raider Ranch.  We started giving Leonard rides to church.  Pretty soon, he was joining us for holidays.  Now he is a full-fledged member of the Lackey family.  He gives a beautiful blessing at every meal we share together.

For his birthday, we told him to pick a restaurant - sometimes it's Red Lobster, yesterday it was Cheddars.  He likes fish.  They have some sort of trout dish at Cheddars that suits his palate.  Wherever we go to eat, he always asks, "Do they have trout?  Do they have catfish? Do they  have pork chops?"  Plan D is usually chicken fingers.  For his joyous birthday celebrations, Alan tells Leonard that he can invite some friends.  This is a risky move because Leonard considers everyone he has ever met a friend.  Seriously, you cannot take the man ANYWHERE in town without hearing someone calling out from across a room, "Leonard!"  Alan and I just look at each other and grin shaking our heads.  The man no longer drives and is legally blind.  He lives in a retirement community.  But, somehow, he has developed an ever-growing circle of friends.

When the guest list swelled to 14 yesterday, I looked at Alan with wide eyes.  "You still gonna pick up the bill?!"  "Yup.  It's Leonard's birthday.  But, if someone pushed money into my hand, I might not resist."  I knew that was not true.  He ALWAYS grabs the check first at these shindigs.  Due to the mature ages of most of the invited guests, it was highly probable that someone would back out at the last minute due to "feelin' poorly."  We ended up with a party of 10.

Leonard came into the restaurant carrying a wrinkled plastic grocery sack that bulged with what I thought was "information."  Leonard LOVES information.  He gets about 10 extra bulletins at church on Sundays to mail to his friends in Baltimore so that they can keep up with what he's doing.  When we pick him up on Sundays, he generally has a sack of information for us that might include a program from the symphony or the monthly menu and activity calendar from his independent living facility or a flier that he picked up somewhere along the way.  He is so sweet to keep us informed of his daily activities.  

The bulging bag did not hold information, it was full of BIRTHDAY CARDS.  Thirty to be exact.  They had all been opened and enjoyed.  He simply wanted to "share the love" with us.  When we sat down at the table, he passed down a handwritten list to me so I could "read it later."  As I started to slip it into my purse, my mother-in-law clarified that he wanted me to read the list aloud to all of the birthday party attendees later in the evening.

Meems was in rare form last night.  She was very talkative and confused which made her rather entertaining.  

Last night, she was all...
"Tell Leonard to crawl under the table and come sit by us."

"Did Dobo bring whiskey to the party?"  [Let me explain.  Dobo was my dad's nickname.  Let's just say that he had a "taste for the drink."  While whiskey wasn't his drink of choice, it would not be unusual for him to come "prepared."]

"No, Mom.  Dobo's not coming.  He's dead, remember?"

"Good because I was going to get really mad if he came with whiskey to Leonard's party."  [Leonard is a teetotaler.]

At one point she regaled the lady next to her with the story of the man-eating catfish.  I blamed my niece, Kelly, for that because she ordered fried catfish for dinner.

Today she was all...
Here is the best part of the story.  The birthday cards.  Leonard received several more cards at dinner.  At the end of the meal, he beckoned for Alan to come around to his side of the table.  "Would you read all of my cards aloud for me?"  "You mean the ones that are unopened."  "Yes.  And all of the ones in the bag."  You know how the elderly treasure those long poems and sayings on the fronts of birthday cards?  Leonard is no exception.  I would have said something like, "Why don't I hold them up and tell who each card is from?"  Not Alan.  He is a true blue friend of Leonard.  He took the stack and read each and every card from the outside to the inside down to the last jot and tittle.  ALL THIRTY-FIVE.  EVERY WORD.  My heart almost burst with love for that man.  Leonard sat listening with a sweet smile on his face.  After each card was read, he would tell a little bit about the sender.  "He's been my best friend for 52 years!  He lives in Baltimore!  I talk to him twice a week on the telephone!"

The handwritten list?  It was a list of the 12 people who called to wish him a happy birthday.

Instead of cake, we ordered Leonard's absolute favorite dessert.  He has the same dessert after every meal he eats be it Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner or baked trout at Cheddars.  "One scoop of vanilla ice cream."  I should probably give you a heads up.  At Cheddars, they do not keep birthday candles on hand.  Had I known, I would have come prepared.  The manager did bring a couple of chocolate chip cookies and a coupon for chips and salsa to the Birthday Boy - neither of which Leonard will eat.  

Happy Birthday 91st birthday, Sweet Leonard.  You bring so much joy and laughter and grace and into our family.  We cherish your friendship.  You are so loved by so many.  And, trust me on this, if Dobo had risen from his grave and crashed the party with a jug of Jim Beam, Meems would have beat the tar out of him.

My niece, Kelly, wrote the sweet post below...

Monday, April 17, 2017

Meems and Leo Go to a Weddin'

The ladies in Aberdeen house at Meem's assisted living facility had been all a-twitter.  For several months, they had been anticipating the day.  During Bingo last Monday, Meems made several comments about the bride who happened to be "calling" Bingo that day.

"I'd be too nervous to be playing Bingo if I was about to get married!"

"Mom, the wedding isn't until Friday."


Forty-eight seconds later:

"She needs to go get ready for the wedding!"

And, so on...and, so on...

One of Aberdeen's beloved caregivers, April, was getting married to her sweetheart, Eric.  She loves the ladies of Aberdeen well, and they love her back.  One of the more mentally alert ladies gathered cash from each of the other ladies to purchase a Walmart gift certificate for the bride and groom.  The assisted living facility is a "cash free," all-inclusive society meaning that most of the purses bear only Kleenex and lipstick.  Some of the ladies had to dip into the Bingo quarters they had saved up over the months.  (bingo = 3 quarters  blackout = 4 quarters)  Mom has about $39 in quarters tucked away.  Not bad for a legally blind person who has trouble finding the giant numbers on the Bingo cards.  The ladies proudly presented a $200 gift certificate to a very surprised bride one day when they were gathered around the dining tables having lunch.

As the day of the wedding approached, Leonard called me on several occasions to remind me.  "Your mother is going to April's wedding!  Are you going?!"  "Yes, Leonard, I'm going to meet the transportation van at the wedding."  "I didn't get no invitation."  (That's a direct quotation.  Mother has scolded him about his use of double negatives since the day they met.  Leonard was a high school math teacher.  Apparently, grammar is low on his list.)  "Well, Leonard, maybe April just wanted it to be a 'girl thing.'"  "That's probably right."  I knew that he would give his right arm to see Miss April's wedding.  Last Thursday night at about 9:00PM, he called me.  "Am I supposed to go have lunch with your mother tomorrow since they are going to the wedding?  I guess they are going to have to leave for the wedding at 1:00 since it starts at 1:30.  I'm not sure that I'm supposed to go eat with her."  I told him that he could call the facility Friday morning for "clarification." 

Friday dawned misty and cool with promises of afternoon sun.  At lunchtime, I dropped by Aberdeen to see if Meems was having a "sleepy day" in which case she would not be aware that she was even at a wedding.  She was wide awake and finishing up her lunch with Leonard.  One of the caregivers happily announced, "Leonard's going to the wedding, too!" His face lit up with a broad smile.  "I'm going with your mother to Miss April's wedding!!"  My heart sang on his behalf.

The ladies looked like flowers in their nicest pants and cutest blouses.  I spied lipstick and earbobs and the air was sweet with perfumes.  Lunch had been served early so that they could board the wedding van at 1:00.  Last minute trips to the bathroom were made.  At 12:30, motorized wheelchairs, old school wheelchairs, and 4-wheeled walkers began to parade towards the main lobby.  Excitement filled the air.  "The van is here!"  They were goin' to a weddin'!

The wedding was the second for both the bride and groom.  It was held in a tiny chapel nestled in a canyon just outside the Lubbock city limits.  By the time I arrived, some of the ladies were all situated in chairs, their walkers stowed in the back of the room.   Several of the women had chosen aisle seats so that they could see April's smiling face as she walked down the aisle.  Wheelchairs lined the back row.   Seriously, people.  My heart almost burst at the sight of those smiling, softly wrinkled faces.

The wedding was short and sweet.  A friend officiated.  "And now, by the power vested in me by the American Association of Wedding Officiants and the State of Texas..."  After the kiss, the Ladies of Aberdeen clapped their withered hands heartily.  Cupcakes were passed out.  Pictures were taken.  Congratulations were given.  Friday, April  14th, had become a happy memory in the life stories of nine women whose day to day existence is quiet and predictable - except for Bingo days.

Congrats to the bride and groom!  April, I cannot even begin to thank you enough for including the Ladies of Aberdeen and LEONARD!  They were blessed beyond measure to be counted as invited guests to a momentous occasion in the life of someone who treats them with love, dignity, and respect.  I wish you and Eric years of joy and happiness.

Postscript:  Mom asked me at least 3 times during the wedding if we were at Bryce Canyon.  

Those are not Meems' earrings.  She did
not know whose they were or who put
them on her.

She can't finish 1/2 of a grilled cheese
sandwich, but she can polish off a cupcake
after eatin' a turkey dinner.

The real-life groom actually looked
delightfully happy to be gettin' hitched!
Meems, April and Leonard


Meems had a very special visitor this weekend.  Our friend, Laura Ard, flew down from DC to spend time with her.  Laura lived next door t...