My friend, Linda, called the other morning about 9 --- before defenses were fully up and on a day when I'd left the list of excuses for not doing stuff in another room.
"Good morning, Frank, this is Linda," she said. "How would you like to ...?" she continued --- or something to that effect.
Linda coordinates Lucas County Health Center Volunteer Services, a program that manages not just hospital volunteers but hundreds of others who give their time to dozens of agencies, projects and programs across the county, including the Lucas County Historical Society.
A "how would you like to?" from Linda generally precedes an opportunity.
Linda explained that an older health center patient, scheduled to be there for several days, was lonely and would appreciate company. She was recruiting volunteers to stop in and just visit twice a day, once in the morning and again in the afternoon.
"Which would you like?"
Now I have a long and honorable record as a volunteer --- everything from driving an ambulance to chairing a library board --- but had never done anything quite like this. And I'm not sure exactly why Linda called; perhaps a combination of desperation and the fact that I generally can talk to nearly anyone about nearly anything (other than sports) --- at great length.
Like I said, I'd left my list of excuses in the other room.
The entrances to the hospital were blocked when I got there yesterday morning because a medivac helicopter was incoming and the helipad is located in front of the building's main and emergency entrances.
So I parked at St. Andrew's and walked in across our back yard, listening to make sure the chopper wasn't nearby as I crossed the pad.
We hear these choppers during church services now and then and always say a prayer for those aboard.
I go back in my head to Saigon and the Third Field Hospital medivac pads, across a busy street from the hospital itself --- part of the background of my day in another life as I worked nearby.
Mary is 95, fragile and frustrated because her stamina is gone, hooked to oxygen, dozing a little. She has a small but loving immediate family --- including three grandsons --- who live elsewhere and have other responsibilities, so can't be with her all the time.
I believe her family and friends know her by another of her given names, but "Mary" it is among the hospital staff. She is an accomplished conversationalist.
It was Veterans Day, so we talked a little about Mary's late husband --- who died at 91 in 2009 --- a World War II veteran and railroad man who moved home to Lucas and became a mainstay of his community after retirement.
Her family and spiritual roots run deep in the Community of Christ, formerly RLDS or Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
LDS/RLDS history is an interest of mine, so we talked a lot about that --- trips to Nauvoo, the pipe organ in the auditorium at Independence, the fact that the grave of Emma Smith's second husband, Lewis Bidamon, has recently been marked in the Smith family cemetery at Nauvoo, areas of disagreement between the RLDS and the LDS, and much more.
And we talked about her ancestors --- family names to conjure with in Lucas. The ancestors who were RLDS converts in Wales and ended up unexpectedly in Utah, then had to make their way back to Iowa; the grandfather trained as a musician in the Welsh tradition who had to supplement the family income by working as a coal miner; the grandfather who died in the mines.
Mary was getting a little tired by now, so I said "goodbye" and headed home.
One of the best mornings I've spent recently.
If Linda calls and asks casually, "How would you like to ...?" consider throwing caution to the wind and doing it.