Have I told this story before?

By Gerre Joiner | Published Wednesday, August 3, 2016

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I’ve discovered some things about getting/being old and spending a lot of time with my peers (old people).

It’s possible to tell the same story to the same old crowd and everyone is entertained. Half of the folks don’t remember having heard it. The others are uncertain, thinking, “That story sounds familiar, but I’m not sure.”

In almost every crowd, there’s a smarty pants who actually does remember the story and says so. He has created the possibility in the minds of the crowd that you don’t remember having told the story before.

But in every gathering, there’s always one person who might not have heard the story. If you’ve heard them before, don’t stop me. I want to hear ’em again.

  • My brother and I rode our stick horses into town from the farm. When we arrived, my brother turned to me and said, “I’m just as tired as if we’d been walking.”
  • We were so poor when I was growing up, my mother would gather us kids around the supper table and read to us from the cookbook. I had a deaf sister. She almost starved.
  • A preacher was making calls throughout the neighborhood. He approached a house and noticed a little boy trying to reach the doorbell. The preacher helped the child by stepping up on the porch and ringing the bell.

Then he asked, “What do you do when this person answers the door?”

The boy answered, “I usually run before she answers the door.”

  • Two men, serving as casket-bearers, looked over the top of the casket on the way down the steps of the church.

As they approached the coach, one man said, “He told us his feet were killing him. Nobody believed him.”

  • Heard about a man who was so sick he was at death’s door. The doctor pulled him through.
  • A famous pastor (famous because his services were broadcast on the local cable station) was visiting in the nursing home. He spoke to one of the residents as he passed by. She didn’t seem to recognize him.

He turned around, walked back to her and asked, “Do you know who I am?” The lady said, “No, but if you’ll go down to that desk down there, they’ll tell you.”

  • An elderly couple was well-known for sharing everything. They were spotted in a restaurant. He was eating. She was not eating.

Someone asked, “I thought you shared everything with each other. Why are you eating and she’s not?”

The man replied, “It’s my turn with the teeth.”


I visited with Kenny Shaw recently at the coffee shop and he told me a story about his brother-in-law. Terry Masten was a few years older than Kenny and was married to Kenny’s sister, Hazel.

Terry was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease when he was a 70-year-old man. It was difficult for the family to see their loved one slip into the fog associated with this terrible disease. The true nature of this gentleman included serving and honoring his friends, his family and even casual acquaintances.

One day Hazel phoned Kenny. Then she phoned the paramedics. Terry was in need of immediate care, and she knew, based on Terry’s body language (backed up to a wall in a self-protective posture), that she would need help. Kenny drove to their home.

After a few minutes, Kenny knew he would have no success trying to get his brother-in-law away from the wall and into his vehicle.

When the paramedic team arrived, they took a moment to evaluate the situation. Then one of the men turned to Kenny and asked, “Are you kin to this man?”

Kenny said, “He’s my brother-in-law.”

Then he asked Kenny, “What’s your name?”

After Kenny’s answers, the paramedic approached Terry and said, “Kenny’s having trouble with his heart. We need your help getting him to the hospital. Can you help us?”

Immediately, Terry eased away from the wall, took Kenny by the arm, helped the medical team place him on the stretcher and strap him down in the ambulance.

After the men had secured Kenny in the ambulance, and while Terry was still holding his arm, a paramedic asked, “Are you OK?”

Kenny, not too fond of tight places and straps said, “I’m fine, but I won’t be for long. Please get me off this stretcher as soon as possible.”

(I’m trying to remember the exact words Kenny told me he used during this exchange. I’m not sure he used the word “please.”)

The human mind is a complex piece of equipment. Sometimes in the fog of dementia, and in spite of the debilitating disease, one’s genuine nature shines through.

This was a memorable day for Terry Masten’s family. They still talk about it.

Now I’m trying to remember: Have I ever told that story before?

Gerre Joiner is a semi-retired church musician and has lived in Decatur since 1999.

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