Yesterday was our most full day of this January visit. In the morning “Ex”-daughter-in-law Sue, Kiera, and I drove to Essex to visit dear old friends Nancy and Ray, and their son Gil who now lives with them to help care for Ray, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s nine years ago. Here’s student architect Ray, back in 1969, on the iconic Life Magazine cover sporting the iconic T-shirt he designed for the protests.
And here he is now, having just arrived home from his thrice-weekly 8 AM to 3 PM Daycare, Gil standing behind.
Ray, at home, spends most of his time lying down, and suffers from lots of physical ailments, including diabetes. In fact, this was the one of the running themes of my visit. All of us are, obviously, aging, and many of us beginning to show it, big time. Besides my tremor, Nancy is in pain all over, says she’s about to visit a specialist, and Gil worries about my son Sean and grandson Drew doing so much intense rowing; says he tried it for one semester in college, and it hurt his back. And that it still hurts! He’s 42. Then, yesterday evening, during dinner at Sue’s with old friends Rose and Dan, Rose, 62, who has had a bad left knee for years, from years of intense snowboarding, she says, on her final ski run last March of a two-week vacation on western mountain slopes, broke her pelvis, also on the left side, and five weeks ago, finally had that knee replaced. She still walks with a pronounced limp. “I never appreciated how being handicapped affects you until I became handicapped!” Amen!
Our own bodies teach us compassion for others.
Yesterday, I got pics of Ray and Nancy and Gil’s wonderful place, full of light, and as Nancy says, with great appreciation, “We have sunsets every evening!” Here’s yesterday’s sunset view from her sliding door to the porch and beyond.
All that afternoon light helps her indoor gardenia to thrive in winter! I smelled one of the open blossoms. Heavenly! And there are many more, set to open.
Before we went up there I was concerned lest all this ongoing care for Ray had taken the spirit out of Gil and Nancy. Not so! And both are very appreciative of not only their beautiful environment, but for all the help they receive from others. The daycare people; the woman who comes in at 4 p.m. to give Ray his meds, and whose husband Nancy once dated way back when; the once a month cleaners, and so on. Nancy says she has a group of female friends, all of whom care for old ailing husbands, and get together for an exercise program once a week.
And, Gil says, two months ago, I started delivering for Meals-On-Wheels, and when I see all these old people with no one, isolated in their homes, it puts my petty annoyances at living with my folks again into perspective. In fact handsome, charismatic Gil, who originally went out to L.A. full of dreams to become an actor and ended up as an investment banker, says that probably the work he should do now is to become an activities director for a retirement home. Perfect for this beautiful, flamboyant gay man who has always entertained us from the time he was young, and is loved wherever he goes.
At one point Gil asked Sue to please french braid the long hair of his modified mohawk and put it in a topknot. Here they are, complete with plate of cookies Nancy has just extended . . .
Here’s Nancy preparing fruit for us after our long, sunny breezy, walk on nearby Crane Beach. and uphill to the Crane Estate, near Ipswich. (Sorry, didn’t bring my phone for pics.) If your toilet says Crane, that’s this family, which brought plumbing to the U.S.A. BTW: nearby is the Maritime Museum, which memorializes, Nancy says, the only factory in the world that built two masted schooners to navigate the high seas.
Kiera at Nancy’s:
Back in Acton after a 90 minute drive home, Rose brought old pics with her to dinner last night, including this one, of Sue, Sean, and baby Kiera, on vacation in Oregon.