My dear friend and fabulous “Ripple Guy” Steve Harper put up a post on his blog yesterday that was just so touching, I wanted to share it. I’ve had the honor of meeting Steve’s dad several times on his trips to Austin, and yes, he is as sweet and special as he sounds. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did. Thanks for visiting!
Breakfast Fairies Revisited, By Steve Harper
Dad spent the last ten years caring for my mom as she battled Alzheimer’s Disease. The last three or four Mom was unable to care for herself and Dad took on the role of serving all of her needs. Morning, noon and night he cared for her. He bathed her. He dressed her. He fed her. His entire life was consumed by the care he gave my Mom. Taking on both the physical and emotional stress and refusing to never once consider raising the white flag and agreeing to put her in a facility.
I can not imagine how he summoned the courage to do it day in and day out. His only breaks were quick jaunts to Austin while my sister Debbie cared for my mom so he could get a few days away. That was his life and I imagine for a lot of people they would have considered it a most miserable existence for both of my parents. Somehow I don’t think either of of them felt that way. In fact the lessons in love that were learned if you watched those two over these past few years would soften even the hardest of hearts.
I used to worry that my Dad was alone in his care for my mom. None of us kids live exactly close to Albuquerque where they live. I worried that Dad’s almost daily constant push to get mom out of the house was taking a toll on them both physically. After all it would take quite an effort to get mom in and out of a car and into a restaurant.
However I now know it was those quick trips to Starbucks or those lengthy trips to their favorite breakfast, lunch and dinner spots was exactly what was needed. Although it took mom forever to eat a meal (2 hours would not be unheard of), my dad would sit there patiently feeding her one fork or spoonful at time all the while chatting away about this and that – despite no return conversation.
It was during these many times that something incredible happened. Mom and Dad inspired people along the way. Countless people came up to them and offered stories of their own battles with an aging spouse, parent or grandparent. They would shake my dad’s hand and offer a gentle pat on Mom’s back. They would let him know he was not alone and how lucky my mom was to have such a caring and loving steward at her side.
Rarely a month went by without Dad calling excited to share a story of their meal magically being bought by some stranger. Sometimes the strangers would reveal themselves but more often than not they didn’t. Endless numbers of waiters, waitresses and even bus boys would buy my parents dessert with their tip money. Not to mention those restaurant owners and managers that would just end up tearing up their check and telling Dad “Your money is no good here!”
Dad eventually ended up calling these folks his Breakfast Fairies thanks in part to a note that he received after one meal. It read, “caregivers need care too!” signed the Breakfast Fairy.
Yes I was worried my dad was alone in his care for my mom but have since come to realize he never really was.
As I went home for my mom’s funeral we went to all of their old eating spots. One by one I watched dad share the news of my mom’s passing. Waiters, waitresses, regular customers at more places than I can count gave hugs, told stories of Dad’s care for Mom and just how inspired they were by him and mom. It was then I realized these people whom were strangers to most were more than that to my parents; they were family.
I have no idea how many meals along the way were purchased for my parents but it was a lot. I know Dad was at first unnerved by this outpouring of kindness, not exactly knowing how to respond, especially when the Breakfast Fairy preferred to remain anonymous. Eventually he grew comfortable with these gentle but ever so meaningful Ripples offered by others and he soon jumped in becoming a Breakfast Fairy for others himself.
As the days and weeks have passed since Mom’s funeral, I know dad has found comfort in going to his old haunts. The outpouring of love and care that people have showed him these past few weeks and ultimately these past few years has to warm and heal his heart. That makes the distance between us almost bearable in my mind.
It doesn’t take much to make a indelible impact on someone’s life. If you take nothing more from this post than this…know you have the power to make someone feel special and loved. It just may be exactly what they needed to know.
Be a Breakfast Fairy and pick up someone’s check next time you are at breakfast, lunch or dinner. The Ripples you create will undoubtedly come back to you!
Heck if we all do it, we may really start something here!
Here are links to a few previous posts on the Breakfast Fairy topic.