Carl was a fabulous neighbor. Whenever he would walk to the store in our neighborhood, he would stop by and ask if I needed anything. He became a regular visitor for dinner with my family. He continued to attend church on the campus. One day that pastor suggested that I might drive him to church with my family, and we happily obliged.
When it was time to go to church, Carl would show up at our backdoor in his suit and tie. We never explained who he was, we just brought him and answered his questions. He drank coffee and mingled. I learned later that at first people thought he was my children’s grandfather. After he got comfortable, he walked up on the altar with his harmonica and joined the contemporary choir. They made a place for him. He learned the names of two people, got their phones numbers and when we were away, would get himself a ride to church.
Carl had pet birds and rabbits, but eventually decided to switch to one dog, and he took wonderful care of her. A few years after his big move, Carl’s mother passed away suddenly. He relied on us for support and our circle continued to be three, we added a friend of mine named Janet. We learned some new things about Carl then, and we adjusted. For instance, Carl only got his hair cut if you reminded him. He would go on his own, but you had to say it was time. Carl did not like his hair style. It was his mom’s choice. So after she passed, he changed to different styles.
I didn’t micromanage his life in any way and it would be a few more years before I would know just how he managed to be as independent as he was. Janet managed his doctor visits and after one of the visits, we found out that Carl was a diabetic. He asked us to stop by and pick them up to donate to a local shelter. I arrived to find three full paper grocery bags full of chocolate products, candy, cookies, hot chocolate mix. I was stunned and wondered if he became diabetic from eating all those sweets. He was not a reader but was inspired to recognize the words “sugar free”. He then bought sugar free cookies, candy, etc.
Janet decided to quit smoking. Carl listened to her reasoning and he too decided to quit..cold turkey! He packed up his pipes and tobacco and told me to come get it. He asked that I take that also to the shelter. I asked him, “If it’s not good for you, why would you give it away?” He replied: “Good point. Carl did not like to throw anything out. If there was a possibility to fix it or give it away, that was his expectation.
Carl’s mom left a trust to support Carl’s needs. Carl had a wonderful cruise with a big band theme. Music was very important to him. He had many harmonicas including a huge one that he bought with the help of our church’s pastor. Just to be clear, he had decided that the pastor would help him get the harmonica, and he actively pursued the pastor on his own to get that help.
We moved but we continued to support Carl and he continued to visit our home. After his mom’s passing, Janet and I made sure that he had a nice birthday, and good holiday experiences. My family loved Carl but Carl preferred holidays with Janet and her family. My family ate weird food(fish) and was a bit noisy(25 plus usually is).
Carl had many good years before his COPD and arthritis worsened. And we learned more about his independence as he became more dependent on us.
Stay tuned for Part 3 next week.