Tuesdays with (CCRI’s) Morrie
Written by Amber Lobdell
I remember my very first training shift at CCRI, nervously walking up the stairs to my clients’ home. Morrie was sitting in a folding chair watching for their bus. I remember thinking he looked like Woody Allen with his signature black glasses. I don’t think anyone has ever greeted me so excitedly. Morrie eagerly asked me so many questions about myself…where was I from? How many siblings did I have? Did I go to college? What am I about? He had coffee in the most delicate little tea cup with roses painted on it and yet he was gesturing wildly. I saw the coffee splashing on the floor and he was totally clueless that it was happening because he was so focused on getting to know me.
From that day on I spent 14 hours per week working beside Morrie on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. They were my own version of “Tuesdays with Morrie” and I so looked forward to them. Morrie couldn’t sit still, he always had to be talking, entertaining, or scheming. He would invite several sites over to the house and we would have a big party almost every week. He was so busy at the party- sitting down with each individual and making them feel like they were the most important person in the room, coffee splashing onto the floor. Morrie knew staff’s talents and would orchestrate a fun evening for everyone. He would have me think up an art project for us all to do while another staff played guitar. His eyes would light up when he thought of something fun everyone could do…like making s’mores around the table with his mini s’more maker, building garden boxes so each of the guys we serve could have their own garden on the deck, and not-so-secretly making the home into a petting zoo with kittens, guinea pigs, and chicks. Everyone was laughing and smiling. When I saw clients on other days of the week when Morrie wasn’t working they always asked, “how’s Morrie?” Morrie taught me how important it was to make others feel important.
Morrie was my friend. He never let me live down the time I called him the week of my wedding and said, “can you check the site for my marriage license? I lost it.” And sure enough…it was there in the staff room under some papers. I opened the door to go pick it up and Morrie just laughed at me and handed it over. There were so many nights where my shift would end and Morrie would say his classic line, “looks like it’s time for you to head for the hills.” Yet there I would stand 45 minutes past my shift while the guys all slept, talking to Morrie about my baby, my brother, my experience at school, our ideas for events for the guys, Morrie’s children who he affectionately referred to as “the real estate one” or “the DNR son” or the “Microsoft one” and of course Gretchen. Morrie was the best listener and had the best advice.
I started a new position after working with Morrie for a few years. It was on Thursdays and Fridays, so my Tuesdays with Morrie were gone. Every Thursday when I got to work I’d see coffee stains on the white tile floor and smile.
When I got the news that Morrie has passed away, I felt the need to write something to honor him. He taught me so much and he loved others so well. I don’t think I’ll ever know anyone like him. So I want to try to be more like him in the way he makes others feel like they matter. In the way that a simple conversation and reaching out to one another can make the biggest difference. I will so miss those coffee stains. I mean, I’d spill them on the floor again but it wouldn’t have the same meaning. In my mind, they will be the loveliest memory of Morrie- a sparkle in his eye, so invested in somebody that it caused him to not feel the hot coffee dripping down his hand.
Morrie was a caregiver at CCRI for 16 years. He spent his time with us getting to know everyone he came into contact with. He initiated get togethers between homes and started a potluck type gathering called Round Robin. Morrie made a tremendous impact and will be greatly missed. Read his full obituary here: http://www.wrightfuneral.com/obituary/Maurice-Morrie-Orval-Nissen/Hitterdal-MN/1736788