Jan. 7, 2022

ELDER ABUSE, TOO-OFTEN DELIVERED BY FAMILY.

It seems I’ve always been a people-watcher. It probably started when I was in the third grade and the Chief of Police visited our classroom to lecture us about safety.  I loved learning so---I was a good listener, especially when the person speaking held a position of authority.  Not only did he instruct the class to NEVER get in the car with a stranger but to always be aware of our surroundings and especially---the people around us.  He explained how our minds should serve as our Cameras---taking remembered "pictures" as we stood at the bus stop, or walking in our neighborhood, or encountering a person acting strange or different.   The Police Chief gave us a short lesson in the important details to remember----like approximate Height, Age, Weight, Skin Color, and—any unusual habits or characteristics---like a funny walk or limp or maybe a funny accent or an odd way of talking. Learning to be a  “detective” has serves me well.  Two days ago-- when I needed a few things from Walmart--I observed an abusive situation-- I simply couldn't ignore.

They were walking in front of me in the parking lot and I slowed down to accommodate their much-slower pace. The woman seemed fragile and unsure of herself. Her struggle to walk led me to believe her unsteadiness was caused by balance problems or maybe the after- effects of a stroke.  I wondered why the man beside her wasn’t holding her arm to help guide and support her. He, on the other hand, appeared younger and quite-confident in his stride-- his white tennis shorts exposing tan legs that looked smooth and fit. Overall, I decided the twosome consisted of a son, probably in his late fifties, and a mother, who was probably in her early to mid-eighties.  Judging from the bored expression on his face, I felt certain this son was helping his mother--out of a sense of duty-- rather than a respectful and everlasting love.

The frustrated woman was trying—unsuccessfully--- to “keep up” with the man’s pace.  She knew he was irritated by the number of times he stopped—looked back at her impatiently---then began walking again.  Once inside, he selected a shopping cart for himself before handing the woman a small shopping basket with a handle. I heard him tell the woman: “Take this and go get those disgusting undergarment-things you wear.  If you have trouble finding them or you can’t reach them---then find someone to help you. I’ll shop for what’s on the shopping list and I don’t need you along to slow me down.  I’m only going to tell you one more time. Don’t go anywhere else after you get your damn diapers! I expect you to be standing by the pharmacy checkout when I come back to get you---do you hear me?!?!?” The man turned and, pushing his shopping cart in another direction, left the little woman standing in the middle of the shopping cart aisle-- wobbly, confused, and alone.

By this time, I’d found my own shopping cart and made a decision.  I “pulled in” beside the little woman and quickly-introduced myself.  Then--I removed the shopping basket from her arm, placed it in my cart, and said:  “Okay, just put your hands beside mine and, together, we’re going to take a little Walmart adventure!  Since we’re both girls--- we just-might-be shopping for the same things and---we’ll have more fun---together”. I was rewarded with the woman’s sudden smile, a loving-pat on my hands, and then we were “off and away” to search for-- unmentionables!

I helped this delightful stranger find what she needed as she joined me in laughing and talking—like close, girlhood friends. I was right about the man being her son. Actually he was her only child who lived in Little Rock and visited her once a month—for two days.  She carefully-praised--rather than criticize her only family member but—I sensed her deep-longing to feel loved.

As she obediently waited for her son, I stood beside my new friend so she could steady-herself with my shopping cart. Seeing me--a stranger-- standing with his mother--seemed to “unnerve” him—and looking directly at me, he commented: “What’s wrong?  What the hell did she do?”  I forced a smile then introduced myself.

Offering a good-bye hug to the now-smiling and bright-eyed Mother---- I quietly addressed her son with a brief farewell: “Your unfailing love and devotion is ALL the support your Mother needs. She’s a delightfully-smart woman who shared a few moments of fun with me. Next time----show her some respect by allowing her to have her-own damn shopping cart. She’s certainly earned it.”