Press Pause: around the world in 45 days…


Prior to leaving on our journey Laurel and I spoke of many “what if” scenarios, and the actions we would take should those situations play out.  One of those possibilities was for a loved one to get sick.  Unfortunately, that ‘unlikely’ event played out last week when Uncle Billy fell ill with pneumonia, and shortly after was bedridden as doctors tried to stabilize this infection coupled with his history of congestive heart failure.  Certainly our previous discussions prepared us for this possibility, but our swift motions of clicks at the café re-affirmed our commitment to family first…we flew out the next day.

Billy is eighty-six years old, has been deaf since the day he was born, never lived on his own (until his sister passed away last year), and has never been afforded the opportunity of a formal education.   Our ability to communicate freely amongst each other may be impeded by the lack of a shared language, but our discussions and time together have been the most enjoyable. 

Laurel brought me down to meet Billy and her grandmother, Ann Boyd, three years ago. 

Ann Boyd (never mentioned as only ‘Ann’) was a storyteller through her words…but Billy, he expressed his stories through movement and repetition.  He will gladly share with you stories of horseback riding when he was younger or the time him, Laurel, and I went miniature golfing down at the beach, through elaborate yet sometimes rogue hand motions…sometimes these gestures are difficult to understand…and when you don’t he will blurt ‘NO,’ and promptly look away from you.  What has grasped me about Billy is the simplicity in which he lives, self-awareness, and ability to adapt.

Last year Billy was faced with a significant change with the passing of his sister, his living situation was about to change.  As an after thought it should not have been a surprise that Billy navigated this revision with precision because he has demonstrated an ability to thrive through a regimented schedule.  This approach enabled Billy to learn the location of his new apartment, the times of his meals, and when he would receive his eye-drops on a daily basis.  Small incremental focus guided Billy through his first few days alone, and he continues to enjoy success to this day.  Billy’s example of consistency is certainly not the only sample of a regimented lifestyle, but it certainly had the power to resonate with me in a way that not many stories have.

The hesitation with structure is the false idea that structure inhibits the potential for randomness to enter your day.  Randomness and change is going to come regardless of what you are or are not planning for.  Whether you are in an independent living facility in a small town in North Carolina or if you are at a café on the beaches of Cairns, Australia.  An outline to your day…even a rough one…just helps you to prepare for the inevitable changes that lie ahead.

After two weeks in the hospital Billy has gotten strong enough to go back to the physical therapy wing of his living complex.  With his determination, and ability to adapt I can’t wait to go back down to visit him soon when he makes it back up to the second floor where his apartment will be waiting for him.

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