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It's the Little Things That Matter


My mom lives in a retirement community, aka, a 55+ community. It’s a lovely community, with a mix of single-family homes, condos, and “villas,” along with the usual amenities (game rooms, fitness center, pool, etc.) Shockingly, as I write this, I realize I am old enough to live in this community!! But that’s neither here nor there.

Anyway, if you’re old school, aka, kind of old, you’re probably thinking that everybody in this retirement community comes together to bring over casseroles, volunteer to do chores to help lift the caregiving burden, or otherwise offer expressions of support and encouragement, just like back in Iowa or Minnesota or Canada or wherever.

Hmm, not really.

When my mom’s neighbors aren’t waving jauntily from their golf carts as they drive past, they’re sunning at the pool, swatting at balls on the tennis course, or hanging out at the community restaurant/sports bar. In fairness, they may have their own elderly loved ones that they’re worried about, but they’re usually back in Iowa or Minnesota or Canada or being tended to by someone else.

Anyway, you get the idea. It’s easy to feel a little like Cinderella (pre-glass slipper) as I’m schlepping in another carton of Depends in the midst of all this fun and frivolity.

So imagine my surprise the other day when a neighbor out walking her dog stopped on the driveway and said to me, “Do you know your license plate is hanging crooked?”

She observed correctly. A couple days earlier, one of the two screws had apparently fallen out, leaving my license plate dangling perilously off the back bumper.

I pondered her question. Yes, I knew it was dangling. Yes, I knew it might fall off, creating another problem. Yes, I knew it was probably an easy fix. But I honestly did not have the energy, interest, or time to do anything about it. I ranked it at about 127 on my list of things to do.

I wanted to say in a snarky tone, “Thanks for the update.” Instead, I looked at her, smiled sweetly, and said, “Yes. Yes it is.”

I started to go in the house when she said, “It looks like it just needs a screw. Maybe I can look and see if I have one.”

That was it. I went into the house, and she went on her way.

Until a couple of days later when I happened to glance at the back of my car. Thankfully, the license plate was still on. But now it was hung on firmly, with two screws securely in place. As a bonus, the one corner of the plate that had somehow gotten bent along the way, was now completely smoothed out. I was back in business!

I knew my fairy godmother had to be this neighbor! I wrote her a thank you note telling her that the repair might have been a little thing to her but that it was a BIG thing to me.

Wondering how to help out someone who’s caring for an elderly loved one? Don’t worry about the grand gesture. It’s the little things that matter.

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