Here’s a story with a happy ending.
At 10pm Saturday night, my coworker, 19-year-old Steven Lamarche and I had just locked the front doors of the Village Variety store in Glenburn, Maine.
About a minute later, we heard someone knocking on the doors, which isn’t unusual. Figuring that the old man just needed gasoline, I offered to leave the pumps on so he could use his credit card outside to get gas. It seemed that he was confused as to how to go about doing that, as many people are, so I offered to pump the gas for him. It took him a while to find his credit card, but after passing it to me, I watched him pull up to wrong side of the pump.
When I walked over to tell him that he was on the wrong side, my concern grew as I saw him fidgeting with buttons and levers inside the vehicle, I assume trying to figure out how to turn the vehicle off. I told him that the hose wouldn’t reach and that he would have to pull the vehicle around to the other side. Still unsure of his mental state, but certainly questioning it more, I asked him if he was alright and if he wanted me to call anyone for him. He said he was fine.
As he pulled the vehicle to the front doors of the store, instead of the pumps as instructed, I went inside with his credit card in my hand and dialed 911. I explained that the old man seemed discombobulated and that he didn’t seem to know who he was or where he was going. I said I thought that perhaps he had Alzheimers. I gave the New Hampshire license plate number and I read “James Marshall” off his credit card to the dispatcher and she told me to keep him there until an officer showed up.
The more I talked to the Mr. Marshall, the more I realized that I couldn’t let him get back into his vehicle. He told me that he was trying to go east. I tried to get as much information out of him as possible. He thought he was still in New Hampshire and he kept saying how it was late and he wanted to take a nap in his car. I told him it was too cold and that he should come inside and have some coffee. He willingly came in with me and I sat him in the small dining area with some coffee and a muffin.
I told Mr. Marshall that I was going to grab a map and show him where he was. I couldn’t find a regular map so I grabbed a Maine snowmobile trail map and took it to the back table. After I unfolded it, he said, “What state is this?” I said, “It’s Maine. You’re in Maine.” to which he replied, “No, I’m in New Hampshire. I just left there.”
The phone rang and I asked Steven to go down and talk to him while I answered the phone, which he did. I picked up the phone and it was the dispatcher. She informed me that his family had reported him missing out of New Hampshire and to keep him there at all costs.
After he was bored with the map, it was harder to distract him so we just said whatever we could to get his attention.
At nearly 11pm, the paramedics walked in after Mr. Marshall had washed his hands in the restroom. They accessed him, talked to him for a while and waited for the state trooper to get there. After the trooper arrived, more questions were asked and they informed him that his family had reported him missing. They told him that he would be transported by ambulance to the EMMC where his son from Vermont would pick him up in the morning.
The trooper parked Mr. Marshall’s vehicle on the side of the store and everyone left. One of the EMTs said, “Good call” and gave me a thumbs up as they all walked out the door. There was a sudden feeling of relief that engulfed me. Mr. Marshall would be reunited with his family. A son would have his father and a wife would have her husband.
It was a happy ending to a situation that too many times turns out tragic and I wouldn’t have had a better Mother’s Day gift.