My New Friend

by JL Beeken on 8-26-2011

On the side I run a computer tutoring business. It’s what happens after years of answering all your friends’ and family’s computer questions. One day you think you might as well print a business card. And you do. And then you have a business.

But, it’s never what you think. Like someone’s going to phone you up and you’re going to write them into your appointment book real quick (name, address, 2:30 tomorrow work for you?, ok good, see you then) and go over to their house and answer their questions and they’re going to write you a cheque and you’re going to say thank-you and leave.

No. Life is never that simple.

Today, after 3 long phone calls and a week to make an appointment, cancel the appointment and make another appointment, I went to visit an 81-year old man who’s losing his memory. His mind, in other words.

A lovely bright spirit greeted me at the door and put me instantly at ease.

He loves his computer. He reads the news on it, and he reads email. He told me, proudly, over and over about the young fellow who built it for him 3 years ago. Today he was stuck on the arrangement of columns in his email program that used to be some other way and he wanted to know how to get it back. His memory didn’t allow him to tell me exactly how it used to be, only that it was different.

After half an hour of the clock ticking through arrangements and re-arrangements of his email, he leaned back in his chair and asked me what I thought he could sell the computer for. He’d already said on the phone this is what he wants to do or maybe he wants to give it to one of his sons, he’s not sure, but he wanted one shot with a ‘teacher’ to see if I could change his mind. Apparently I hadn’t.

Too much stress, he said. It’s all those boxes asking him questions; update this, do you want that, buy this, click here.

I wanted to hear about his life so I stayed another hour. He would ramble for awhile, periodically stopping blank and pointing at his head, “I’m having one of those …” and then not want to talk at all. “I don’t want to talk about all this,” he said, “I could write a book.” “You should,” I said. “Nah, I don’t want to write a book,” he said.

A former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, he must have been a lady-killer in his younger days. Tall, handsome, debonair. If my imagination pumps a little flesh into his cheeks and darkens his hair. Now a shell of the man with vacancy growing in his eyes. But … still able to strike a deal. “I’ll give you 50% if you can sell the computer,” he said, with a little hop and skip into the other room.

The doctors say he’s got maybe another year and a half before his mind’s completely gone.

“And hey! Thanks for not showing up dressed like a professor.”

“No problem. I only have T-shirts.”

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Judy 8-27-2011 at 3:25 PM

I bet you didn’t make a lot of money doing this job. Kindness has it’s own rewards and they will surely be yours

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JL 8-27-2011 at 3:36 PM

Unfortunately, making a lot of money has never been one of my talents. I’m still trying to learn. :)

I feel truly blessed (and saddened) by yesterday’s experience. Call me quirky. Here’s a man in exceptionally good spirits knowing he’s losing his mind. I’ve complained about much less.

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Margaret E 9-01-2011 at 1:56 PM

Sweet. And bittersweet.

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