The Gift of Lillie Ann! 

I wish I had a picture to share of Lillie Ann, my new friend from Dallas. But since I don’t, just picture a spry 96 year old woman dressed to kill and powering her own wheelchair while serving as Greeter at the huge rehabilitation and care facility where I spoke this past Tuesday. In some respects this was an event to forget from the very start, beginning three weeks ago when I learned I wasn’t going to be reimbursed for my $379 flight to Dallas due to a miscommunication on both the host and my parts. To honor my commitment I said I’d come anyway and eat the cost of my flight. 

The woman who had originally booked me had changed jobs, but forwarded my name and info to her replacement who was to host me. The smartest thing that probably should have occurred would have been for the replacement to cancel the event since I wasn’t a speaker she selected. From the moment we met I felt as if I was interrupting my host’s day simply by arriving. She took me to an open area with tables and chairs in the lobby and announced I would be giving my presentation there. Though the lobby was beautiful, it definitely wasn’t suited for a presentation of any sort as interviews and therapy sessions were going on, and family members were sitting and talking loudly etc. But I believe I can make anything work so I pressed on searching out the best strategy for this situation. 

After pointing to the area where I’d be speaking, my “host” disappeared saying she’d be right back. (she never did return). As I was looking around to locate a water fountain and rest room after my two and a half hour flight, Lillie Ann appeared!!!! “Hi Loretta, I’m Lillie Ann”. And with that we were old friends!! She scrounged up a bottle of water from somewhere and gave me a mini tour of the facility, including the Memory Care area for dementia patients. We had a blast together for the 45 minutes preceding my talk, sharing personal stories about our lives!! I felt honored to be in her presence, as she had been a Professor and Researcher at Stanford and had also taught in the DC area for ten years. After retiring from teaching at age 60, she became a buyer for Bloomingdales!!! No wonder she looked fabulous!!

A few minutes after 2pm, I went searching for my “host” and found her in an office having lunch with a co-worker and clearly gossiping about other workers. She looked up at me seemingly aggravated that I had interrupted. I quickly asked, “should I get started with the presentation?” Without even getting up, she waved me off and said “oh yes, go ahead”… But there again was Lilllie Ann to save the day!! She confidently announced to the small crowd “meet Loretta Veney who came all the way from DC to share her Mom Doris with us, so listen up!!” She had already told me she couldn’t stay for the presentation, so she squeezed my hand and gave me a big smile and said “share your gifts with them” before rolling off down the hall. What a Greeter and Ambassador for the facility she is!! I was in awe of her! 

One of the women in attendance was also an author, and we exchanged books and quickly became friends. It turned out that I didn’t even actually give a presentation, we just sat around a table and all shared our stories. On that day I got paid for doing more listening than talking, but I believe it was a gift for those who needed it. 

I’ve thought of Lillie Ann a great deal since Tuesday. She told me she was going to break my Great Grandmother’s record of living to 106 years old. I told her I’d come back to see her in 10 years to celebrate her 106th birthday with her. She promised me she would still be there! Lillie Ann has every trait my Mom never had. She is confident, assertive and positive, yet I know my pre-dementia Mom would have loved Lillie Ann because of her genuine caring and warmth, two of Mom’s best traits. On a day when I was feeling somewhat rejected, and really could have used a hug from my Mom, I was given the gift of Lillie Ann instead. And on that day, Lillie Ann was more than enough! 


2 thoughts on “The Gift of Lillie Ann! 

  1. Loretta, I’ve sought to find a word to express my instant reaction to this, your story of being lost and found, being left and reclaimed – by your host (though other words come to my mind!) and precious Lillie Ann. Each was an agent of surprise in your day. Your host, in a most disappointing way. Lillie Ann, in a most redemptive way. As always, I admire you and your perseverance, your pluck, your chutzpah! Not many could make the proverbial lemonade out of lemons as you have done so many times and did in this instance. Brava!

    • Thanks Paul! It was quite the day! As I departed the facility I saw that my “host” was in her office on the phone. The woman behind the reception desk asked, “do you need her”. I wanted to say “I’m leaving, why would I need her NOW!!??” I just said “Nope”… Waved and left. The best part of the day of course was getting on a flight that left two hours earlier than my ticketed flight and getting out of Dallas as quickly as possible! I definitely agree with your assessment of my day, as only you could describe it!! I did the best I could that day given what little I had to work with! We were promised refreshments of cookies and fruit for the presentation but we never got that either! Thankfully I had a Starbucks granola bar in my purse and that turned out to be a pretty good snack!! Thanks again!!

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