Elaine Soloway's Caregiving Series: Matching Bands
In 1998, when Tommy and I got married, we went to Service Merchandise to buy matching gold wedding bands. It was the second marriage for both, we were in our 60's. I think we paid $25 for each. Fancy gems weren’t important to us back then; still aren't.
This year — 2012 — our gold rings still encircle our fingers, but we’ve added an accessory just a few inches below these symbols of our union.
We wear matching black flex bands with 2-inch-wide stainless metal plates. The engraving on the front side of Tommy’s reads: "Tom Madison, Aphasia, Chicago." On the inside: "Call Wife, Elaine Soloway," and my cell phone number.
While Tommy’s band is size 7, mine is 6. Engraved on the front side of mine is simply, "Elaine Soloway, Chicago." Thus far, I have no medical issue that requires explanation. Arthritis doesn't count, does it?
On the reverse of my band: "In Emergency, H. Soloway, MD," with my ex-husband's cell phone number. The two bands cost $46.90 including shipping and handling. Nearly the same as our gold ones.
I ordered our medical alert bracelets after Tommy got lost. “You shouldn’t let him travel alone,” a daughter had warned. But, I knew he treasured his CTA senior card, and I believed since all previous trips returned him home safely, he’d be fine. I had already taken away his car keys. I hated the idea of robbing him of one more symbol of independence.
On the afternoon Tommy got lost, he was on his way to see his speech therapist. Her office is at Michigan Ave. between Randolph and Washington in Chicago. One hour and 15 minutes after he left, the home phone rang. No one except marketers call on this line, and I’ve urged Tommy to only use my cell. But, I answered it.
Dead air. Finally, garbled words. “Honey, where are you?” I said. I held on to my desk. “Mmmm,” he got out.
“Are you in the subway?” I envisioned him in the depths, alone, scared. My grip tightened.
“Mmmm,” he repeated.
“Honey,” I pleaded. “Please find someone you can hand the phone to.”
I was grateful he carried his cell phone, grateful he could punch in the number — even if it was the landline — but terrified on how to find him.
Finally, a female voice. “Hi, this is Marcello’s.”
“Marcello’s on North Ave. and Halsted?” I asked.
“Tell my husband to wait there, I’m on my way.”
“Oh, he’s okay,” she said. “He just bought a slice of coffee cake.”
You know those photos of people doing super-human feats in an emergency? Wee women lifting automobiles off of trapped victims?
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