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11th August
2010
written by Susan

She popped into our lives rather unexpectedly this past Saturday.  A petite little blonde, wide-eyed wearing big round glasses and driving a classic old Mercedes Benz . No doubt, she could easily be your Grandmother or mine!        

On the way to a Saturday morning hair appointment across town, she became confused. Flora Nicely (yes, that’s her real name) missed the Malvern Avenue stop sign and plowed into the middle of a busy through-street intersection. I turned just in time to see her hit the back end of a small car, pushing hard enough to spin it a full 360 degrees.      

My husband and I set coffee mugs down, dashed across the lawn and out into the street. The small car driver was shaken but reported no injury. I ran ahead to the Mercedes and that is when I met Flora for the first time.               

She was confused and scared.  I asked her if she was hurt and proceeded to confirm that she was not physically injured. We unsnapped her seatbelt and gently lifted both legs to the side. Everything looked good to me. I’m ok she insisted.              

Her first question was “Did someone hit me…or did I do something?”               

Uhh. Well… I reported – it looks like you hit that car down the street. The good news is that the driver isn’t hurt.         

I could see Flora melt in fear and concern. I reached out and took her hand in mine. It was a natural reaction; perhaps I could provide some comfort and strength by holding on.  

From iStock Photo Library

The police were on their way. In the meantime, we called her hairdresser, contacted her neighbor (who drove over to help), located the insurance and registration papers, and kept her comfortable. And we small talked.  

She said she was 91 years old (the DOB on her driver’s license was 1916), living on her own, and had been driving since she was 15. Her daughter and family were in Paris on vacation. She had both knees and one hip replaced in recent years; her walker was folded and lay neatly on the back seat next to the aluminum cane. Flora kept remarking how beautiful the neighborhood looked and how much she liked all the old bungalow homes and front yard flower gardens. When she happened to remember her immediate predicament, the talk shifted to what would happen next – what the officer might do and how bad the damage was on the cars.  

Flora didn’t have to say it out loud, but she was terrified about losing something very precious and dear – her driver’s license. My heart was heavy since the future was easy to see. There is no way Flora would be cruising the streets of Fullerton CA again!  

I had the privilege of holding Flora Nicely’s hand many times in that hour and one half. I couldn’t help but think about her life and how it would change as a result of this incident. Could she let go gracefully?  

The impact of losing the last vestige of independence best known as a driver’s license can be overwhelming for the independent elderly. In fact, most of us – elderly or not – would be bummed about handing over our keys forever. No one wants to become dependent on family, neighbors, and friends; but what if you have no other choice?  

The Groovy Gals of West Floral Park, CA. One of the three still drives.

After our morning with Flora, I’m convinced that being dependent on others for a ride is something that we should be preparing for in advance.  After all, some degree of dependency at some unknown moment in time is our destiny – yours and mine!                 

Until then, pause and take a look around. Surely there is someone within your reach who could use a hand. Offer to drive your “neighborhood Flora” to the hairdresser, the store, or bank on a regular basis. Every day that you help them celebrate their remaining independence is a gift!                 

Now don’t forget to tuck the walker and cane in the back. And while you’re out, think about stopping for a light meal. Who knows where a little lunch + small talk might take you?                 

Most of all, enjoy the ride. 

May you find WISDOM in holding hands with your Flora Nicely. May you be a source of LOVE and kindness wherever you go.     

3 Comments

  1. Carol Hull
    12/08/2010

    Susan,
    What a wonderful story and it sends a very important message to the elderly who think they are going to be able to drive by themselves forever (me included).

    I am sure you heard by about Marion passing.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Carol

  2. Dave Coats
    05/09/2010

    Flora was blessed to have crossed (met?) this milestone in her life with you nearby.

    Thanks for your example and the reminder that selfless service to others is eternal.

  3. Auntiegrav
    08/09/2010

    Thanks for this, Susan Marie. From the bottom of my usually cold, dark heart. My family was hit by someone in a similar situation some years ago. My children both had broken legs, and my wife and I severe whiplash. I was angry, but not at the elderly lady who plowed into us at 60 mph; I was angry at her relatives that weren’t taking care of her needs.
    This is one of the darkest aspects of the Marketing Society which separates families so that everyone buys a separate house and fills it with junk they don’t need, and we let it happen. Our parents are sent out of the homes they built and our children are told they have to move away to be “successful”. Meanwhile, the small towns are turned into cow-based factories of disease and the foundations of our future families are consumed. We hear complaints about the ‘losses’ in the Afghan war, but we kill tens of thousands with automobiles that most people don’t even need, except in some twisted ‘reality’ where little green pieces of paper can think.