My mother met Leonard in September of 2010. I wrote this blog post in April of 2011. It marked the beginning of a dear, dear relationship between two octogenarians who came from totally opposite backgrounds. It was also the beginning of our journey with Leonard as a family. He passed away in the wee hours of Saturday, February 22, 2020. It feels like the end of the Era of Leonard and Meems.
About two months after Mom moved into Raider Ranch, I asked her if she was making friends.
"Yes, there are a lot of nice people at Raider Ranch - Mamie Sue, Virginia, Betty Jo. I can't see their faces [macular degeneration], but I recognize some of their voices. I always know who Betty Jo is because she wears pretty turquoise necklaces. My best friend is Leonard."
"Yes. I eat with Leonard and Mr. Pruett every day." (She can't remember Mr. Pruett's first name.)
God bless Leonard. He is so patient with Mom. He can tell you what size Chico's pants she wears and what size she used to wear. He can tell you how many pounds Mom wants to lose and how she keeps gaining weight by eating sausage biscuits and gravy at the "free" breakfast buffet. (I think that when you call a meal "free," seniors eat like they will never have another meal this side of the pearly gates.)
Last week, I took Mom to Chico's to help her find some white crop pants. After trying on about 6 pairs of possibilities, - in the size she used to wear, the next size up, and the size that she's about to need if she keeps eating sausage biscuits - she decided that Talbots' pants usually fit her perfectly. Off to Talbots' we went. She tried on various sizes in petite pants. Then, she sent me to fetch the same sizes in "Missy" pants (regular people pants). We left Talbots empty handed after she had filled the saleslady in on all the sizes she had worn over the years. "I used to fit into Chicos' zeros! Now, I'm at Raider Ranch, and the food is really good!"
The next day, she called me in the late afternoon to tell me about her excursion to South Plains Mall in search of white crop pants at Dillard's. She was so proud of herself. Raider Ranch transports people to the mall once a week, and she had signed up for her little white crop pants adventure. I was shocked that, being legally blind and all, she had ventured out to the huge department store that was relatively unfamiliar to her.
"You went on the shuttle all by yourself, Mom?"
"Leonard went with me!"
"What did Leonard need at the mall?"
"Oh, he didn't need anything. He went along to help me find the ladies' department in Dillards."
"He's a SAINT! Did he pull sizes for you?"
"Oh, no. The saleslady did that. He just waited for me while I tried the pants on. [It takes her FOREVER to change pants and even longer for her to make a decision.] Then, he took me to Bath and Body so that I could get some lotion."
At this point, I envision Leonard leading Mom around in the mall like a seeing-eye dog and regret that I hadn't been there to take pictures of the whole experience. I feel tears well up in my eyes.
It was then that I realized that Leonard was actually MY best friend. He had all the time in the world to follow Mom around the ladies' department of Dillards. And, the patience.
Leonard's birthday was Tuesday. He turned 85. "Now he's the same age as me!" Mom chirped at Red Lobster during his birthday dinner. Alan let Leonard pick the restaurant. He likes Red Lobster because they have crab cakes. Leonard moved to Lubbock's Raider Ranch from Baltimore. He really misses his crab cakes.
We feasted on crab cakes and coconut shrimp. "You can get coconut shrimp at Raider Ranch. You just can't find any coconut on their shrimp," Leonard explained. Several cute waiters brought Leonard's dessert and sang Happy Birthday to him. The manager came over and gave us a small stack of $5 off coupons for our future visits to Red Lobster.
Mom and the Birthday Boy
I know what you're thinking. And, no. There is no romantic interest between these two besties. They walk arm and arm. They look after each other. It's a beautiful thing.
Now that Leonard is our best friend, I'm sure that there will be many more trips to Red Lobster.