Hi everyone, today I am drinking an orange pekoe tea with milk, mostly because as I write this, I am in a hotel room with minimal tea selection lol. Thanks for joining me in Blogville, if you are new to reading my blogs, welcome, if you are returning, welcome back.
At the time of this little shopping excursion, my husband and I were in a southern Ontario community that we had only visited briefly once before, several years ago. We are unfamiliar with the streets and routes and rely on our GPS to get us around. For this little story I do not want to identify the store involved, mostly because I don’t want to get into trouble, so I am going to simply refer to it as a Store.
I will avoid elaborating on my concerns about the quality of tea/coffee at the hotel we were staying at, and simply say that we attended a Store to purchase a small coffee/tea maker to use at our hotel. Though we found one we liked on display, there was no stock on the shelf. Another customer, in search of the same item, was also wondering if they had any in stock. I found an employee, who passed me off to another employee, (I will call her Busy Bee), who indicated that she needed to seek out an employee who had possession of an inventory device. Busy Bee called several extensions, but to no avail. She left for a few minutes, came back, and decided to look it up herself and went off in search of a proper inventory device. While we waited, the pros and cons of each type of coffee/tea appliance were discussed between us and the other customer. He was a very friendly young man and we had a nice chat while we waited together. He was wearing a jacket with ‘By-Law Officer’ written on it. (If he happens to read this, I sincerely hope he found a suitable product.)
Finally, Busy Bee returns, advising that though they do not have any in stock at this store, there are 5 showing as available at the ABC Store location, 2 at the DEF Store location, and 1 showing at the GHI Store location. With an air of professional experience, Busy Bee advises us by saying, “So you should probably go to the Store that has five as you’d have a better chance to actually get one. Oh, and actually, you should probably call the Stores that only have one or two because, though my inventory device shows they have one or two, if someone steals one it doesn’t get into the inventory because it has to go through the cash for that. So you can actually call them and ask them to hold one for you because you are on your way to buy it.” All said without Busy Bee taking a breath.
So we asked, “Can you please give us the address to the ABC store?” “Sure, its 123 Fantasy Lane” she responded. I then said, “As you recommend to call first, can you provide a phone number for us?” Busy Bee looks it up, “555 123 4567”, she says.
We thanked her for the information and we and the other customer left.
So we get to the truck, drive across the road so my hubby can take a photo of a giant Canadian Flag waving gently in the wind. We then punch the 123 Fantasy Lane address into our GPS and begin driving. Ok, I am absolutely serious when I say the GPS tells us to turn right onto Blank Street, turn right onto Blank 2 Street, turn right onto Blank 3 street, and I am laughing out loud as I write that the next GPS direction we heard was, “You have arrived at your destination, 123 Fantasy Lane”.
We pull into the parking lot because I am laughing far too hard to continue driving at this point. My husband is shaking his head saying he cannot believe she gave us her own store’s address. So I said at least she gave us a phone number that we can call to get the correct address. I call, go through the directory of departments, listen to some canned music while on hold and finally a person picks up. I asked if that person could please give us the address of his store and he says, you guessed it, “123 Fantasy Lane”. I mean, you cannot make this stuff up! So I ask if there is another store located nearby and he says quite simply, “no”. Stellar customer service part 2 lol.
Now on a quest, my husband and I go to several major retail outlets in the area. No luck with the model we liked at the ABC store. At one store I am looking at a model we might have to settle on but cannot find a price. A nice young man in a suit catches my eye so I ask for his help. He hesitates briefly but then reluctantly comes over (the old lady pity card probably in action) and is able to find a tag on the shelf. As I am thanking him I realize that he is not actually a store employee when he starts his pitch about the merit of the store’s points card and even greater merit of having the store’s credit card. He looked so sad when he realized we already were enjoying the merits. But he was a good sport, with good customer service.
My husband and I wandered around for a bit before deciding to try another store. By the way, for my Northern Ontario readers, did you know that in Southern Ontario they do not like you to leave their retail stores without buying something. As we were on our quest my husband and I had to repeatedly follow the “If You Are Not Making A Purchase” protocol signs and corrals in order to get out of the stores. Many corrals actually leading you right past the customer service desks, like it was the store’s last effort to change your mind! We actually stopped at one and this lady knew customer service, she complimented my earrings and asked if she could help us find anything before we left? We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and asked about the appliance. After referring to her computer inventory, much to her, and our, disappointment they did not have the item. She had to let us leave empty handed.
As we were about to visit the nearby community where Busy Bee said there was 1 item in stock we decided to give the GHI Store location a chance. We looked sadly up at the display model beaming over the empty shelf below when I spied an employee stocking a shelf. Why not? “Excuse me, are you able to check an item’s availability for us?” This young man instantly stopped what he was doing and said, “Certainly. How can I help?” I was going to let him know that someone had probably stolen their last appliance from the shelf and he will need to adjust the inventory accordingly, but instead I asked, “do you happen to have one of these (pointing to the display) available? Another store said you might.” Well, this young man, whom I shall call Employee of the Day, not only confirmed that there was one in stock, but he told us our approximate wait time while he went off to find the item in the back. He confirmed that the colour of the appliance they had in stock would work, and then off he went. This young man then returned in record time with the item in his hands and he proudly handed it to us. Our quest had ended! Our faith in customer service was renewed. Thank you Employee of the Day!
Note- It is not lost on me that in hindsight, it appears that the Store where Busy Bee worked was the Store that actually showed they had five in stock. Tell me honesty though, would YOU have gone back in there?
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Wow, I am not even sure what kind of tea goes with how I’m feeling as I try to put these thoughts down. This may be as hard to read as it is to write so I caution readers who have elderly parents, or those who have lost their parents, that this blog may contain triggers.
As I write this, I am enjoying the privilege of visiting my 97 year old mom for a few days. (We do not live in the same community so most of our communication is by phone.) The moment I walked into her house I could see a further decline in mom since my last visit only a few weeks ago. I’m losing my mom second by second and it is breaking my heart. I just want to stop time. My husbands’ mom, sadly so much younger than mom is, also travelled a difficult health journey before we lost her. My husband and I both lost our dads so suddenly, our heads were spinning, but this? This is a different kind of hurt.
I have some friends who remind me constantly that I am lucky to still have mom, because they know the pain of having lost their parents, and know what they would give to be in my place, to have had more time. I thank them for their thoughts and reminders because I feel that it makes me more aware and appreciative of the privilege of still having my mom around. It reminds me to look at her and soak up every second, to tell her that I love her, and to thank her for being my mom.
For those who have experienced it, there is a type of role reversal that takes place with very ill or elderly parents. Let me explain my experience with it, though yours may have been very different.
When I was a child, I used to fall asleep to the sound of my mother’s Singer sewing machine that she had bought from the old Cochrane High School many moons ago and used for years and years. If it was not the drone of the sewing machine, it was the tick tick tick of her knitting needles, lulling me to sleep. My mom’s hands were always creating something. On my last visit to mom’s I noticed a rip in a pillow from her bed so I got busy sewing it up while she napped. Suddenly she’s awake and saying “You are so busy and I’m being lazy.” Acknowledging that she taught me to sew I replied, “If it wasn’t for you mom, I could not fix this pillow. Thank you for teaching me so that I can do this for you.”
My mom was a wonderful cook and home baker. When she first retired she took up the challenge of learning how to make buns, a skill that had alluded her for years much to her dismay. She did it. Her home baked buns were so good people used to love to receive them from her, and she gave away many. When visiting my parents, we learned NEVER to throw out the potato water as this was the apparent bun baking secret ingredient. Recently, she was looking over the variety of gluten free cookies and muffins I had made for her and she noted “I’m gonna get fat.” I thanked her for teaching me to bake so that I could make these treats for her. She winked and said, “but you still can’t make buns like I can.” (To this day I make sure she never sees me throw out the potato water.)
My mom was always so good, calm and reassuring, especially when my brother or I got hurt. She always said she had wanted to be a nurse. The sight of blood never got to her. I remember one time my dad had to go to the hospital as he needed to have an impaled fishing hook removed from his eye lid and there was mom, calmly checking out the wound and saying it needed stitches. In the meantime, my brother and I were cringing in the corner unable to look at our dad’s injury without feeling nauseous. Mom would always tell us that scabs are nature’s bandages that would fall off when our cut was healed enough. Recently, she has developed a bad habit of picking at some scabs on skin. One time when I was visiting she started picking at a scab on her temple. I said, “Stop picking at that mom, you’re going to make it bleed again. Remember how you used to tell us that scabs are nature’s bandages?” Apparently, when you are 97 years old you do not appreciate hearing your own words as a ‘life lesson’. She looked me in the eye and said, “Hah! I guess you fell for that” and gave me a huge grin. That leads me to another moment when I once wanted to ask her to look at my slowly healing cesarian section incision. I remember asking her, “Am I too old to ask you to look at my incision?” She looked me in the eye and said, “You are never too old to need your mother Lynn.” She is so right.
My mother had such a sharp wit and sense of humour but she is fading fast. We are not sure what is causing this decline, arterial aging, dementia, or some other sinister ‘reward’ for living as long as she has, all these 97 years so far. She is still such a kind and caring person who does not look her age, but slowly is becoming more and more child-like, confused, and forgetful. Let me share some examples.
Recently I had baked some of her GF cookies first thing in the morning. A few of them went missing from the cooling rack without explanation. However, I did notice a tiny, guilty smile on mom’s face. Consequently, when her ‘meals on wheels’ arrived she didn’t want to eat the meal, making the case that, as a rule, she she keeps it for supper. That theory was disproved when I saw her eat her ‘meals on wheels’ meal the other day when we had just arrived for our visit. As a fun test, I put the 3 included dessert choices in front of her and magically her appetite reappeared as she grabbed a freshly baked cookie and dug into the strawberry mousse. Man, if I’d have tried anything like that when I as a kid!
A difficult example occurred when mom recently took out a photo of her grandson, (my son), and his wife and said to me, “these two were actors and now they are married.” I mean, she is quite correct, factually speaking, as my son and daughter-in-law did meet during a play they appeared in together. Mom continued by explaining that “They are very nice, she came to visit me once and spent time talking with me.” Though it bothers me that she does not always know who my son is, honestly, the bottom line is that I am happy that she has such a nice memory of meeting my son’s wife. Life lesson; always take time to chat with seniors, it matters.
Another odd time came about when mom suddenly picked up and was reviewing an old pantyhose cardboard where she keeps important phone numbers written down. She was looking it over and chatting about the people listed on the cardboard when suddenly she read the name of someone she knew who has passed away and said, “oh there’s ****’s number, she’s passed away” she said sadly. Expecting a chat about that person, I’ll admit that I was startled when mom suddenly grabbed a pen saying, “well I guess I’ll stroke her number out” and proceeded to do just that.
This is a confusing time for us both, one minute she calls me by my aunt’s name, and in the next minute mercilessly beats me at cards. She can seem far away one second and then suddenly right with me. If this behaviour is confusing for me, I cannot imagine how it feels for her. This is my mom, my mother, the woman who raised me and taught me so much. It is notable to mention that my mother, who taught me to be kind and respect other people, now receives the kindness and respect of her PSW helpers whom she affectionately calls ‘the help’ or ‘my girls’. These people are truly angels on earth.
I try never to correct mom about things. Respectfully she has taught me so much and has probably forgotten more than I have ever learned. Who cares if she thinks Saturday is Monday? Instead, I do my best to try to lead her around to the right answer, but only if the right answer matters. For example, the other day she had forgotten to take her lunch pill so I handed it to her with a glass of water. She looked at me and said, “I take one of these at lunch time and one at supper and its not supper time yet”. I simply agreed and said I wondered which meal that this pill that was left on the table might be for. She looked at the clock and said it was probably her lunch pill and that I had likely forgotten to give it to her at lunch time.
The oddest thing happened the other day. Mom randomly picked up a pen and paper and asked me what year it is. I told her. Then she asked me what year she was born. I told her. She’s quiet for a little bit, looks up at me in shock and says, “don’t tell me I’m 97?” I asked, “did you just do the math?” “Yes” she replied, “no wonder I’m slowing down.” “No wonder mom.” I agreed.
When my mother asks me the same thing many times in a row, I am grateful to be able to tell her the answer many times in a row. I am grateful that she is still here to ask me questions and to hear my answers. When my mom calls me by my aunt’s name, I answer, because she is simply calling out to someone she loves, it doesn’t really matter what name she is using, I am grateful just to be able to still hear her voice. I love you mom!
Thank you for reading. As usual, please know that I would love to hear your thoughts, stories and comments. If you prefer a less public forum, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org