Long before George H W Bush took to the clouds, skydiving, on his Birthday there was Bob.
Bob, who the story centers around, was one of the first clients that I look back on that taught me a great deal about how I would forever look at aging. He along with countless others were my teachers and would forever shape my views on how we should live out our lives, during our final curtain call, with character and insight.
Bob, soft-spoken within a skeletal frame, stood about 6 ft tall. A man in his late 80s carried an old Cape Cod surname and was infrequently visited by family and friends since he may have outlived most everyone in his life. He called the nursing home where he lived his home and was adored by all staff. They became his family.
Bob moved about the halls slowly but deliberately and attended every activity. He was usually the first one in the big room waiting for the others.
I remembered an activity I started back then getting residents to think about something they wanted to do in their life despite their age or limitations. The primary goal was to encourage residents to share their wishes through memories and past dreams.
Old and new memories are generally a foundation for fulfilling one’s wishes, and it was Bob, without hesitation, voicing his desire to go up in a plane.
It had been years since he flew if he even ever did but he just knew he wanted to experience the feeling of flight.
I don’t remember who made the initial request, but I remember the day I received the call granting Bob’s wish. There was a pilot ready to take Bob for a ride, in 1-2 days and he requested that someone must accompany him for the flight. I was excited for Bob, a simple man who spent most of his life on the island and now he wished to see his homeland from the sky, his beloved Cape Cod.
“Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.” Eric Roth
This was Bob’s opportunity to take flight and even if my own fears prevented me from sharing the experience I wasn’t going to let myself stand in his way.
This is where the story turns from creating dreams to missed opportunities; while I would love to recount on how Bob’s hollow eyes stared out the tiny plane’s window and soaked in the beautiful shoreline that stretches across Cape Cod Bay to the Atlantic Ocean and then along Nantucket Sound, I can’t. You see, I was too afraid to accompany him.
After, Bob became somewhat of a celebrity. The newspaper was there to do a story and I can still remember a picture taken of him standing in front of the plane alongside the pilot.
Bob lived out the remainder of his years at the Nursing Home where he played bingo, chatted with friends, walked the long halls and enjoyed the company of the other residents and staff. He continued to age without perfection but maintained strong character and faith and took advantage of every little opportunity that came his way.
Challenged with memory loss in an old man’s body he boarded a tiny plane, fearless and filled with excitement all in hope of new adventure.
He continued to evolve every day, at his own pace, until he passed away leaving a legacy of courage in the heart of a young woman who feared to take flight alongside him. - JMD