Sunday, September 28, 2014


The police were at our house for a little over an hour last Sunday. David was outside working on his truck, and I was getting ready for a birthday party. He walked into the kitchen, his eyes scanning the counter. "I need my phone. I need my phone." I stood, reaching across the table to hand it to him. "There's a lady in our driveway. She's been walking for five hours and she doesn't know where she is. I told her I was going to get my phone and she just said, 'please don't leave me here.' We need to get her help."

We sat her on the patio and got her a glass of water. She explained that she was new to Boise and had gone for a walk that morning, only to become confused. Her hands writhed in her lap, giving away the fear and nervousness that lurked behind her calm smile. Morgan danced around her, asking questions about who she was and where she lived. "Lucille," she said, Morgan's questions seemingly putting her at ease. Morgan explained to her that we were going to a party, proudly showing Lucille the bright blue polish she had picked for her friend. The conversation fell into silence again, Lucille looking back to her lap. I noticed the tips of several of her fingers were missing, and I stopped myself from asking her what happened.

I began to ask Lucille some questions, trying to collect enough information to help her get home. She had a daughter. And two granddaughters. She lived with her daughter. No wait, she stayed with her granddaughter. They were 6 and 12. Or maybe one of them was 20. She was able to provide me with names, and I immediately began searching online. I discovered that her daughter did indeed live just a few blocks from us, but I could not find a phone number to call her.

David explained to Lucille that we were going to call the police. "But the police only come when you're in trouble," her voice trembled. "No, they also come to help, and today they're going to help us." And they did. Two officers pulled in front of our house; we met them in the driveway so as not to further upset Lucille. I gave them all the information I had, handing them the smattering of information I was able to pull from Facebook. "We're going to leave her here, if that's alright. The last thing she needs right now is to be put in the back of a police car." I looked at my watch, we were going to be late for the party.

While the officers searched for family, we again chatted with Lucille. By now, Morgan had brought out her favorite pencil and a note card, showing Lucille her first grade penmanship as she wrote out the words Happy Birthday. Lucille told us that her husband had recently died and that she moved here from Lewiston. "I lived in Boise once, but it was a long time ago," she explained. We chatted about the weather, and her walk that morning, trying to make light of what was clearly troubling all of us. The party could wait, this was much more important.

The screech of tires pulled my eyes to the road. A young woman leaped from her car, running across the street while her driver's side door swung widely open. "I am so sorry, I am just so sorry!  We didn't know she got out. I am supposed to be babysitting and I didn't even hear her leave." I tried to calm her, letting her know that her grandmother was safe. She wasn't listening, "We have alarms on all the doors, and I thought she was napping. She won't wear her ID and I was supposed to be in charge of her." She looked desperately at us and then the officers, trying to gauge whether she was indeed in trouble for leaving her grandmother unattended.

"She's okay, she's really okay," I explained. "If we see your grandma again, we'll know exactly how to get her home." Lucille stood, the wave of relief clear as she met eyes with someone she knew. Down the sidewalk they walked, her granddaughter guiding her back to the car. "Good bye Lucille, it was nice to meet you!!!" Morgan exclaimed loudly. Lucille turned back "Good bye, Morgan. It was nice to meet you, too."

As they all pulled away, we scrambled to finish getting ready for the party. There was no time to discuss or reflect on the last hour. We piled into the truck, frantically trying to make up for lost time. As we rode in silence, David and I shared a glance. Lucille, I had discovered, was just a few years older than our own parents. The time we spent with her was humbling, a painful reminder of how fragile life is. Lucille was alone and scared, at the mercy of two strangers on a Sunday afternoon.

"Mom, but do you think she'll be okay?" Morgan suddenly spoke from the back seat, reminding me that she, too, had shared in this experience. Before I could respond, she answered her own question with another. "We just needed to make her feel comfortable. Do you think we made her feel comfortable? I think we really made her feel comfortable."  "Yes, Morgan, I think we did the best we could."

And I do, because making someone feel safe is sometimes more important than just about anything else.

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