About ten years ago, I was in Los Angeles attending a trade show for business. At the end of the trip, I had made plans to meet a former intern for brunch before flying out of town. We decided she would pick me up at my hotel, we would grab brunch and then she would drive me to the airport so we would have more time to catch-up (she was pursuing an acting career and had some good stories to share).
We decided to go to a hotel restaurant on the beach in Santa Monica since it was on the way to the airport. We had not made reservations anywhere because we knew we would be so busy talking that any place would do. The Concierge informed us that their restaurant was booked, but, if we didn't mind, they would seat us in their breezeway section, right off the hotel lobby as their outside patio was closed. We said that would be fine.
We sat down and proceeded to start talking away. A little later a few people sat down at the other table near us but we didn't really pay attention to them as we were deep in conversation.
The waitress brought our omelets and then she delivered a bowl of fruit to the table next to us and said, very loud and slowly, "Here you go, here is your fruit". My friend turned to me and said, "She is talking to them like they are in an old folk's home". I looked up and then I realized that the person sitting at the other table was former President Ronald Reagan and his nurse and 2 Secret Service officers.
He had a baseball cap on and took it off and read the name of the team logo on it as if he were seeing it for the first time. He then looked up at me and waved and then said something to his nurse and pointed at me. I winked at her to let her know that I knew the situation and that everything was cool. She then said to me, "he is flirting with you". We then all laughed and so did he. He seemed to think that I was someone he knew.
We continued with our breakfast and they continued with theirs. One of the Secret Service officers came over to our table to say hello and told us that they had just gone for a walk on the beach and sometimes stopped in for breakfast afterwards (I think he probably really was flirting with us). President Reagan finished his breakfast at about the same time we finished ours. We decided we would hit the bathroom and then leave. The Secret Service officers and the nurse told President Reagan it was time to go but he did not want to get up. After we finished in the bathroom, he was still sitting at the table, refusing to leave. The Secret Service officer said goodbye to us and said that this happens sometimes with the President - I told him I understood because we experienced the same thing with my own grandfather when he had Alzheimer's Disease.
It was amazing to me that we were next to a man who had been president of the United States for two terms but no one in this busy restaurant and hotel even knew he was there - he was sitting in the "leftover" section with us. For all his success, he was just another guy trying to get through another day while dealing with the effects of Alzheimer's Disease.
"Meet them where they are" is the advice given to caregivers. No matter who you are or what you've done in this lifetime, we are all equals when it comes to aging.
And that's my story about breakfast with the President.
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