Howdy from Cadillac

Let me introduce Lee “Cadillac” Price from Odessa, Texas

I had the opportunity one morning in June to travel to Odessa, Texas to meet a spry ole’ cowboy name Lee Price. Now Lee is 95 years old living by himself because he had vowed to his deceased wife that he would never go to a nursing home. So, Lee lives alone and seems to have withstood all the “haggling and fussing” over the fact that it is not safe for him to live alone. That is where the Interim Healthcare Foundation stepped in through the request of his social worker at Interim Hospice, Anna Navarrete. Anna requested a “responder unit” that Lee could use when he needed to call for help. It was my great opportunity to travel to Odessa (my home town) to help Lee figure out “that damn darn thang!”

Well, first, I decided to get up and drive to Odessa on a glorious fine West Texas morning watching the sun comes up sipping on coffee thinking about all that Anna had said about Lee. I was sort of excited to finally meet him. As I drove up in front of his house, I remembered as a young boy riding my bike down the street by his house. How funny our God is that over 50 years later he brings me back to a spot I traveled as a little boy biking with adventure in my heart.

As I went to the door I remembered Anna telling me Lee is nearly deaf. On the door scratched (probably with a knife) was the words “Kick the door.” So, I kicked, knocked and even walked around the house trying to get Lee to respond. I knew he was aware I was coming because I called him the day before (or shouted at him in the phone) that I was coming to see him. Well, the door opens and there is Lee in a wheelchair with a shirt, cowboy hat, boots, and no pants! Incredible! I thought to myself he may die with only his underwear and boots and cowboy hat! I have to admit that it was really funny. So, I took a deep breath and walked into the most cluttered, nasty but interesting house. I was receiving the privilege of looking at a man’s life spread out, boxed up and stacked up across his whole house and believe it or not, I felt privileged. I thought to myself this was going to be fun and it was.

Well, he and I got his pants on and he did apologize because he has Parkinson’s disease so bad he couldn’t get his pants pulled up. He had a few tricks to accomplish that were very interesting. I learned a few things about pulling up pants that morning. So, off went several hours of talking and looking at pictures and my thoughts were this man needed more than a responder unit. The first lesson from Lee was his name was Cadillac and he showed me a picture of him in 1948 with his brand new Cadillac. Thus came the name. I remember when we set up his responder unit how I repeated to the operator who would answer the calls for me to spell it, say it again, and then again and then she laughed and asked if I was serious. She asked me where we were at and I said Odessa, Texas and she laughed and said, “Only in West Texas could this be true.” She let me know she was raised only hours away. I learned a lot that morning that my trip to Odessa was my opportunity to get the “real gift” of a friendship and a history lesson.

It was nearly time for me to leave as we had been sitting at the kitchen table with me watching Cadillac swatting flies (check the picture with the green fly swatter!). He said, “Look under the table”……which I leaned down and looked under the table. There was a loaded six-shooter aimed at me taped to the table. I can’t write what I thought and nearly said but I felt my stomach just flip! He laughed and told me the minute he saw me, he like me. I was relieved. Yes, it was loaded and had the hammer ready to pull. I am glad I didn’t hit or move the table accidently that morning.

As I drove off about noon that day I was sad but at the same time laughing. He had a daughter and son who were at their wits end with him. He had a loving neighbor who watched after him and a man drove by and saw my car and pulled in and asked if he was OK because he didn’t recognize the car. He had a fantastic hospice nurse who sat with us most of the morning and a great social worker who had the patience of a loving care-giver. Yep, I got to watch an incredible hospice team at their best just comforting, loving, and giving. After all, he was not actively dying. He did need his medicine, his body cared for and his emotions loved on by a team who has learned patience in a whole new way. I observed a hospice team embrace his life and was making the final journey of his life with him in a respectful, patient and loving way. I thought to myself, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

For me, I was given yet another gift from an ole’ cowboy who needed our foundation’s help but he needed just the time to tell a stranger a story he had probably shared a hundred times. You see, the Vision of Interim Healthcare Foundation “….is that every person and family in our service area faced with an end of life illness would be aware of and have access to dignity, comfort, and compassion in an environment of their choice.”

My drive home was mixed with conflicting thoughts: “What was going to happen to Cadillac? It was a miracle he had not been robbed and beaten! He was not safe living alone. And then it came into resolve; Cadillac was given dignity, comfort and compassion in the environment of his choice today. I smiled and pulled in for gas ready to be home and to drop by my own dad’s to say hello and give him a hug at age 92.