Mom likes to say that she and her friend, DJ, brought the neighborhood together. She met DJ and her fat schnauzer, Maggie, about ten years ago when we first moved to Twin Lakes and the two have logged a lot of miles walking together since then. In the early days, they would walk the neighborhood two to three times per day. They would get home from one walk and call each other to start planning the next one. Even when Mom couldn’t remember her grandkid’s names, she could remember DJ’s phone number.
Along the way, they would stop and talk to any and all neighbors who might be outside and wave at every car that went by whether they knew the driver or not. Mom would call out to every gardener, window washer and UPS delivery person as well, surprising them and I will admit, slightly embarrassing us. No one entered our neighborhood without being greeted by Mom and DJ.
DJ was a master gardener at one time so she handed out free planting, pruning and weeding advice to anyone who would listen. One day they noticed that the commemorative flower bed on the corner of the golf course looked very unkempt. Before long, they were dragging rakes and buckets to the corner and weeding and pruning the flowers and bushes. Maggie and our Jack Russell Terrier, Suki, would sit and supervise while the ladies worked. Don’t think for a minute that they stopped waving at the passing cars though!
In the past few months, Mom hasn’t been able to walk very far unassisted. Sending her out to walk with DJ has not been an option and thankfully she hasn’t even asked to do so. The Saturday before Easter was such a beautiful day that I wanted to get her outside to see all of the flowers blooming in our neighborhood. I suggested we call DJ and take a walk all together. We leashed up the dogs and strolled over to DJ’S house. Mom walked slowly holding on to my arm.
Along the way, neighbors who I’ve never met opened their doors and came out shouting, “Mary!” They all hugged and greeted her like long lost friends. Because she is a good faker, none of them realized that she had forgotten them completely. What she recognized in each though was a friendly face and she was thrilled to reap the attention from every sweet friend that stopped us. They asked her how she was feeling and why she was using me as a walking stick, few of them realizing that she has late stage Alzheimer’s and will likely never regain her ability to walk alone. She just smiled and soaked up the love.
When we got to DJ’s house, she and Maggie were equally thrilled to see Mom. At almost 85, DJ lives alone and somehow manages to take care of herself and Maggie with the help of her family stopping by from time to time. DJ often tells me I’ve done such a good job with my “daughter” referring in all seriousness to Mom. She gets confused about her parents still being alive and calls me often to ask me the time or date or to say that her phone is not working even though she uses it to call me. But DJ adores Mom. She says she loves walking with Mom because Mom is such a “lady” and doesn’t just want to talk about men and going dancing. ( Not sure who else she’s been walking with!) She also said she looks forward to the two of them being able to walk alone again, meaning without me. I hated to break her heart so I just nodded.
We passed several more neighbors who stopped to talk, hug and offer biscuits to the dogs. Somewhere along the way, it dawned on me that DJ and Mom really had brought the neighborhood together with all of their waving. Rocky and I walk the dogs every day and never get this kind of reception!
Before we got home, Mom said she was dizzy and I had to help her to the ground so she wouldn’t fall. I had to call Rocky to come get us in the car. I don’t know that she will be able to do too many more neighborhood walks but I’m glad I got to do this one with her. She’s proved that even when you’ve lost your ability to live independently, you can still bring a neighborhood together with a smile and a wave!