Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
Our family had just enjoyed 3 straight days of Milwaukee Irish Fest when we decided on that very late Sunday afternoon it was time to drag our tired bodies back home. Before we started our walk from the north end of the Summerfest grounds to the south end and our car, little Kyla wanted to explore a nearby castle display. She went off with Mom while I headed a few feet to an area shaded by trees to rest.
A group of people were also there but when they walked away, the shade now had but two people, me and an elderly man in a motorized wheelchair. After a short time it was apparent the man was alone.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
He burst into a huge grin, nodded in the affirmative and didn’t grunt. It was more like mumbling, his tongue extremely swollen.
“Is anyone with you?”
I kept inquiring, even though I knew he could not speak.
He gestured toward a binder on the tray table attached to his wheelchair. I read that he could hear me and understand me and could communicate by pointing to letters in the book. So we chatted.
He told me he was OK and was not alone. Another elderly man working as a volunteer in a tent saw what was happening and approached to ask if I knew the man in the wheelchair who had been sitting there alone for at least 20 minutes.
The wheelchair-bound man kept spelling out what he wanted to tell me. There was a name and phone number at the top of the page that contained the alphabet.
H-E-S M-Y B-R-O-T-H-E-R.
There was another name listed at the top of the same page.
“Are you Florian?”
“Should I call your brother?”
I decided to make the call anyway.
No one answered so I left a message.
About 20 minutes had passed, so that meant Florian had been sitting there unattended by whomever he came with for over 40 minutes. All the while I kept speaking in a friendly, reassuring tone to Florian who seemed to be far less bothered than me.
Now someone approached. He had a walkie-talkie and a shirt that read Irish Fest Security. The volunteer thought I had finally come to retrieve Florian. When I gave him an update on what I had done the security official said they had been checking on Florian and he was out of the hot sun and was doing fine so there was no need to worry. He thanked me and left.
A few minutes later, an elderly couple in the same age range as Florian showed up. The man turned out to be Florian’s brother. He didn’t hear his cellphone ring when I called, claiming it was too noisy outside.
I politely expressed concern that Florian had been there alone for quite some time. Yes, the couple admitted they left Florian at that spot with the woman saying they do it all the time, at State Fair, Festa Italiana.
“He’s just fine,” one of them said with a smile. And Florian was smiling, too, as if to say I told you so.
A huge part of me found this entire episode unconscionable. With regard to large outdoor events, Milwaukee’s Irish Fest is about as safe as it gets. Even so, dumping a wheelchair-bound elderly person in some shade so you can go off gallivanting is beyond selfish.
I told Florian it was nice to meet him and wished him well.
I’m trying to recall if I got a “thank you” for watching Florian. It’s really not that important. What is?