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When OTs Wore White Shoes

An Unexpected Reminder on Father’s Day

Published June 23, 2015 12:43 PM by Debra Karplus
We treated Dad to lunch at one of his favorite casual dining restaurants on Father's Day. Before entering the building, the restaurant host promptly greeted us as with a smile and was extremely helpful opening the doors for us. He quickly seated us at a table and provided us menus.

We were hungry and ready to eat, but to our dismay, it took much longer than it should have for any waiter to come to our table. We found this to be odd, as at eleven in the morning, the place was fairly empty of any customers. We were all getting rather impatient. Eventually, we had to ask the host to send a waiter over to our table.

Finally, a young man, probably in his thirties, came to our table, and with somewhat of a toothless grin introduced himself as "Joseph." He was a chatty fellow, who seemed to be trying way too hard to get our order right, and when the food and drink finally arrived at our table the milk shake was the wrong size and the coffee was forgotten. When we mentioned these errors, Joseph apologized repeatedly, and finally returned with Dad's coffee.

 After that, Joseph doted on us, coming to our table numerous times to be sure that everything was okay. And it was. It was becoming obvious to me, the occupational therapist daughter, that Joseph probably had mental retardation and perhaps some other disability as well.

"So, will you get to spend some of Father's Day with your father?" our very personable dad asked Joseph. And that's when we learned all about him.

Joseph lived with his Dad and would see his Dad later in the day when his shift was over. He also had another job as a cashier at the gas station across the street. 

I praised Joseph for being such a hard worker and said "Your mom raised a good guy". And that's when we told us that his mother had died a few weeks prior of coronary obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He told us way more details that we should have heard about her disease and about her last months, weeks, and days.

Joseph became misty eyed and we did too, partly because of his emotional pain and partly because of our own. What a humbling coincidence that he had had a nearly identical experience that we had on exactly the same timetable as ours. And his way of dealing with his loss was not at all unlike ours.

As an occupational therapist, you are very likely to encounter a person with mental retardation sometime in either your professional or your personal life. Never forget to be sensitive and compassionate and never undermine the fact that their emotions are much like yours and mine.

I wouldn't say that our Father's Day lunch this year was life changing, but it was an eye opener and a reminder that we are all very much alike in so many ways.

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1 comments

An addendum to my Father's Day tale...

Dad just called, specifically to tell me that he went back to that restaurant for lunch yesterday, and Joseph is still employed there.  

Way to go, Joseph!  Way to go, Dad!

Both of you have gotten my day off to a glorious beginning.

Debra Karplus July 12, 2015 10:48 AM
CHAMPAIGN

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