Last week a staff member of Menno Place asked (her request is a command to me) to accompany her to where she did not say, but I presume it had something to do with Menno Place – Home – or Society, and therefore entrusted the director who also happens to be a minister's wife, to direct me at the right path and not to lead me astray, and therefore let her lead me, like a willing sheep, to where she wanted me to go.
I was allowed to sit into a comfortable chair next to the chauffeur since that chair was made vacant by another staff member who likely was to occupy that seat, but suddenly, by one reason or another was unable to attend whatever we were to attend. At no time did I feel anxious since she proved to be a solid driver and made me feel as safe as if driven by my daughters or granddaughter.
I enjoyed our drive to through Abbotsford and later over the highway via known and unknown places as I seldom venture out beyond the eleven acres on which I live. I was informed by the woman I only know as a writer, a director, an organizer and a speaker and a few more things at Menno Place and has an infectious smile, at this time that we were going to Trinity Western University, of which I had seen only the red brick building in times gone by when I raced by on the adjacent highway, when I was still in possession of a legal driver's license, and had also in the news read about the trouble they had with accrediting lawyers, well, who has not trouble with lawyers, I wonder?
I walked into into a classroom behind my walker and ahead of my invitor Sharon, who organizes everything at at our campus, is stakeholder and whatever you can think of and has authority to boss people around, which whenever she does and even when she does not, performs with that contagious smile.
When I first met Sharon I was afraid of her, because here was a person who because of her titles and things is a person of high standing as she is director, communication, and stakeholder, engagement, she is a writer, speaker, photographs, and bio-s, I don't have a clue what a bio-er is or does, but she has obviously been a student at a university, and as a result has a BA behind her name which I thought was the name of my gas station in Tsawassen when I lived there.
Now, on the other hand my father was a landarbeider, which means a ground worker, working in the polder-land with a shovel, he called a botch, making summer dikes in the mud outside the sea-dikes during the hungry thirties before the second world war, and digging ditches and canals in the newly created polder, after the war.
Because he was a good Christian man he was chosen an elder in our church, reading a sermon when no preacher was available, but sometimes a student from the nearby seminary would preach and my father would tell us around the the dinner table the young man's name, where he hailed from, and would also inform us of which seminary he was a student.
Father held a student in very high esteem, perhaps because this student, like my father, was not yet ordained and therefore could not give the blessing over the congregation at the end of the service. Father always uttered the word student with reverence. Students were what the disciples were to Jesus, studying to be men of god at least if they were students of the right seminary or University, and once ordained, were qualified to pastor the flock of the chosen ones, the new testament church, and were then given authority to bless the congregation after the worship service.
After a journey through a dizzying maze of corridors of the University led by Sharon, who tried several doors before she found the right room, I was finally able to relax on a nice chair, comfortably leaning on my walker in front of me, waiting for things beyond my control and ability to happen.
And so I, from a humble come-off, now sat next to a learned and established Sharon on my right, and would you believe it a Professor (!) on my left, in front of two dozen STUDENTS waiting for things to happen from either the prof or of Sharon, while I, calmly enjoying my lowly stage in life, knowing that I was unable to play a roll in what was ordained to unfold, when Sharon with a wide smile shocked me out of my socks when she bend over my way, looked right into my unsuspecting eyes, and with her customary wide smile whispered
“OK Lex, start talking.”
Here we are, it's eight PM, twenty-plus bored and tired students after a busy day studying are herded together to hear a probably long speech about 'the olden days' by an old man past his bedtime, and for that privilege had to wait half an hour because the old man couldn't find their place of learning.
Did you ever experienced over fifty weary eyes hitting yours, shooting into pairs for double effect, to accusingly scold you for wasting their time?
I want to appease them and start with introducing myself as one of the seven-hundred residents of Menno Place in Abbotsford and more than likely babble a little about the good times we have there, and from thereon talk about most everything under the sun, too much for an old person to remember.
I had heard that most students were trained to be counselors and nurses and were hesitant to visit an old age facility like ours so I talked about how scared I was when I registered for a full semester at Kwantlen collage when I was 56 years old, and I heard the real students ask each other how many courses they were able to get, and how nice the students were to me, who age-wise I could've been their grandfather.
As I progressed I found it easy to talk to the mainly female audience as I seemed to have their attention. I told them how the fear of a person person in an unfamiliar place can change suddenly into confidence, as happened to me at Kwantlen collage, now a University. One of the five profs I had in English, creative writing, political science, philosophy, and college-skills, had got involved with a young student from my hometown. The entanglement was so hard on him he saw no way out and came to me for help. (!) He loved his wife sooo much but loved the other woman aaalmost as much. What was he to do?
He originated from Saskatchewan. It was about the end of the semester and my advise which was given in all earnest, was for him to walk from Ladner to Saskatchewan and back, by this time his mind should be cleared, and he would back in time for the fall semester. A year later I ran into him during a teacher strike, when I spotted him on the picket line. He called me over for a coffee in the school cafeteria, where he confessed that he had not followed my advice to walk, that he was still with his wife, that the other woman had left him, he thanked me for my counseling, walked back to the picket line, and left me to pay for his coffee.
To really drive the point home not to be scared, I added how embarrassed I was to undress in front of a healthcare worker, who I knew as a friend, to help me getting a shower when up to that time my mother and my wife were the only females who had seen me naked and how my embarrassment was unnecessary, when the young lady, being a professional healthcare worker, put me at ease by saying 'This is what we do,' and we stayed friends.
The longer I talked to the lovely students the more smiles I saw and even some laughter. I was happy to be of help to these young women and at the end I got several nice hugs, even of the two male students who were present. To talk I think one should keep eye contact with the audience during the entire episode, which was not hard to do in my case since my audience consisted of beautiful people who I hope to meet again next month, when they are scheduled to visit us at Menno place as part of their training to get familiar with old people like me, whom they will be serving in the near future.
I thought about my father whose dream was, like mine, to become a preacher and never realized his dream. He might have been proud had he seen me speak for an hour, as I was told, at a University for goodness sake. Best of all I am grateful I was able to do something positive for Menno Place.
This is what Sharon Simpson BA said about our adventure:
Lex joined me in the CPSY 616 Family Systems: Marriage and Family Counseling course (Master program) at Trinity Western University. Menno Place has partnered in this course for five years to enhance understanding and empathy for elderly seniors and their families.
The students are partnered with a senior for two visits.
Lex came to speak about his experiences and to help the students in their understanding of issues that relate specifically to seniors. He was absolutely incredible! - I wish I had videotaped him. His storytelling was amazing and comedic timing impeccable. He endeared the students to himself and others his age with transparent, authentic and thoughtful stories that told of caring for Anne, receiving care, finding God in creation, loving his home and the people he encounters, loss of son, challenges in marriage, pride in his family, and so much more. Brave,bold, genuine and appropriately hilarious. It was a sacred evening. Thanks, Lex.
Can't get a better test result, I'll take it. Thanks Sharon. Whoops, here's another.
Thank -you Sharon for the wonderful rendition of my dad's greatest attributes....his zest for talking to people through humor even though the topic may not be. I have always admired his talents of writing stories, but his ability to touch people through his spoken words was even greater. Love you so very much Dad, Jacki Smid Nielsen.
That is my dearest daughter. Thank you so much, Jacki.
I am a rich man.