Saturday, September 7, 2019

Car Conversations

We had our annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s fundraising “Traffic Stop” on Labor Day. As usual, the day had its busy times and its lulls. Our collections depend on the traffic building up at the stop sign in my hometown.

We took our positions along the road with our collection buckets. My granddaughter entertained with her purple flag. She threw it in the air and after it whirled around, she caught it, whipping into a pose. Several people applauded, others cheered, and some commented on how impressive she was.

“You are helping my collections,” I told her. I commented on her poses after she caught it.

“I’m not showing off,” she said. “I went down on my knee because that’s how I was able to catch the flag.” She laughed and tossed it high. “If I wanted to show off,” she said, “I would do this.” She caught the flag and did the splits.

This year, the city police officer decided to direct traffic—to avoid the backlog. This has only happened a couple of times in the 21 years we’ve collected. As the traffic approached us, the officer stood in the intersection, gesturing for the cars to keep moving.

One lady stopped in front of me, ignoring the urgency of the officer. She dropped a donation into the container I held out for her. With tears welling up in her eyes, she said, “My husband died from Alzheimer’s about this time last year.”

With those few words, we connected. “I’m so sorry. I lost my husband to dementia too,” I said. She paused a moment, as if she had much more to say but couldn’t find the words. Then she drove through the intersection.

“He isn’t doing us any favors,” I told my sister. “It’s a little hard to collect when the traffic is whizzing by.” At least he wasn’t there all the time. He would leave and return periodically.

Car after car ignored the opportunity to go through the intersection as they paused to give us collections and share their stories. My granddaughter said, “The officer underestimated the generosity of people.”

The cool morning turned into a warm afternoon. We had mini-conversations with the donors. One woman handed me a $20 bill. “This is to honor my mom and my grandma. They both have Alzheimer’s.”

After each donation, I said, “Thank you, have a safe trip home.” Several people automatically said, “You too.” Some of them seemed to hesitate as they realized they had wished me a safe trip. One lady seemed particularly frustrated that she had said it. I laughed. “Everyone says the same thing,” I assured her.

One man told me, “I don’t have any money, but I’m going to the bank. I’ll be back,” he promised.

The day wore on. I heard stories about moms, dads, sisters, brothers, and friends who were living with dementia or had died with it.

The officer had left the intersection and we saw his car on a side street. We assumed he was keeping an eye on the traffic from the comfort of his car rather than standing in the middle of a hot street. We heard a siren. He pulled a car over in front of where my daughter-in-law Stacey was collecting. After he finished writing the ticket and walked back to his patrol car, I saw a hand come out the window to give Stacey a donation.

The afternoon sun was beating mercilessly down on us, so we began to gather up the signs and pinwheels. A car drove onto the side street behind us and handed Stacey a $20 bill.

After he drove off, she turned to me and said, “That man told me he had to go to the bank.”

“He told me the same thing! I never really thought he meant it,” I said.

I guess you just can’t underestimate the generosity of people.

Copyright © September 2019 by L.S. Fisher

1 comment:

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