When economics junior Jaymi Boynton moved to California from the East Coast, she left most of her family behind. Though her parents and sister moved with her, she didn’t have a strong relationship with her grandparents or extended family. Boynton felt like she was missing a part of her life, until she started visiting Lorraine Bailey every Friday.
San Luis Obispo resident Lorraine Bailey recently celebrated her 89th birthday. A survivor of polio and stage four colon cancer, she never expected to live so long. But because she has, she’s lived through the deaths of parents, close friends and even doctors that had taken care of her.
When Bailey was younger, she took care of her father. He moved from Denver to California and she wanted him to have someone to talk to when she wasn’t around. She called Caring Callers and a young man visited her father every week.
Video by Austin Linthicum
Caring Callers is a program through Wilshire Community Services that makes weekly in-home visits to lonely or isolated seniors.
“At first my dad said, ‘Well I don’t need anything like that,’ but later on he was looking forward to it and they’d talk for a long time,” Bailey said. “He’d have a big smile on his face and I thought it was wonderful. I never thought I’d be in a situation where I needed a Caring Caller.”
“But you’re stuck with me,” Boynton said, laughing.
Before she met Boynton, Bailey didn’t have the best impression of Cal Poly students, especially after the 2014 St. Fratty’s Day roof collapse. However, she thought it would be interesting to have a Cal Poly student over to see if the generational gap is actually as big as she thought.
“When Jaymi came into my life, she was a breath of fresh air,” Bailey said. “She’s also such a good example and restored my faith [in college students].”
The pair was reserved at first and asked questions like “how was your day?”— not exactly straying from polite small talk. But, after two years of visits, Boynton found in Bailey the relationship with a grandparent she felt was missing from her life.
Now every Friday at Bailey’s house, Boynton fills Bailey in on her school life while Bailey tells Boynton stories from her young adult life. They talk about everything from current politics to Bailey’s hatred of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. What were once reserved interactions turned into sassy banter. Above all, Boynton’s favorite visits are those that include life advice from Bailey.
“You don’t know this but I post these on Facebook,” Boynton said, turning to Bailey.
“The reason why she’s still around is because she knows how to laugh at life,” Boynton said. “Life is ridiculous, I love that. Life is ridiculous! Why are we taking it so seriously? That sort of thing has given me a really different point of view. Like I can get more things out of life than just work and school and that sort of thing. Live a little.”
Bailey’s life itself serves as a piece of advice. Boynton sees Bailey’s optimistic attitude through everything she’s endured as a reminder of how lucky she is. In return, Boynton gives Bailey a window into the life she used to have.
When Boynton first started visiting Bailey, she recorded her volunteer hours after each session. Now when Boynton visits Bailey, whose optimism and wisdom shines through the flowers in her garden and inside her living room, she loses track of her volunteer hours.
In Bailey, Boynton found a deep connection, full of laughter, stories and advice. She found a grandparent.