This is the story of Mr. Parks.
Mr. Parks is a resident of Piedmont Place. Now a frail man, his eyesight is still sharp and he’ll see us coming from afar. Better still, he greets us by name. He and I have developed a secret handshake that doubles as a competition to see which of us can point the index finger first. He enjoys winning.
Mr. Parks patrols the hallway outside his room from a wheelchair. He doesn’t have much to say, but what he does, he says often. First, he’ll tell his story:
I’m ninety-three years old. My mama passed when I was five; my daddy passed when I was twelve. I had to work hard all my life to get by.
He is quick to offer encouragement and sage advice:
It’s a good thing you’re doin’ for your mother. You’re takin’ good care of her. Your mom is the same height as my wife and she has the same kind of spunk. She walks around this place every day; I see her doin’ it. She’s a good woman. You keep on doin’ what your doin’ for her. God loves it.
And he’s quick to preach an impromptu sermon:
God is on the throne; He’s in charge. He knows what’s goin’ on and He loves to reward us.
Mr. Parks is nothing if not consistent. These same thoughts are delivered each and every time I see him. But he’s such a nice man and is a joy to chat with.
One day, three weeks ago, I passed his room; it was empty. I quickly inquired at the nurse’s station about his location. Relief ! He’d been moved just down the hall. I found him and asked how he liked his new accommodations. I was mildly surprised to hear him say that he didn’t like his new room at all. This was the first negative remark I’d ever heard from him.
His opinion did not change and, finally, a couple of weeks ago, his grandson had him transferred to another Assisted Living facility about ten miles away. I dug around a bit and learned his new location.
Lisa and I paid Mr. Parks a surprise visit on Saturday. Lying in bed, he turned toward the door, recognized us and, with a great shout, jumped out of bed to greet us. He stood up for handshakes and hugs and never once sat in his wheelchair.
Mr. Parks doesn’t like his new accommodations, either. Truthfully, his new facility isn’t nearly as nice as the old one, and we were saddened to see that he’d taken a step down. But the core spirit still lives in the man and we had a delightful visit. He even walked us halfway down the hall as we left.
Some stories are just too touching for words.