In a sober, philosophical mood, I could say that all we have left are our memories. At times, I feel that is really true. Friends came to visit this summer … and created new memories … memories set in this new environment!!! They are good. The visits also brought forward some of the old memories. Let me share new and old!!!.
Pete’s niece, Connie, her husband, Marty, and their daughter. Maddie, were in this area July 16th to 22nd … approximately. Connie is the daughter of Pete’s sister, Margie … and went to South Africa with us in the early 1970’s. Connie and her family had dinner here with us in the general dining room on July 16th and did lunch with us in the private dining room on July 22nd. Guests are nicely welcomed here at the assisted living. I guess it is my midwestern upbringing…I really enjoy having guests join us for meals.
Connie, Marty, and Maddie also visited us last summer … in Hammond. Pete was in the “memory care” unit of “Belle Maison. ” He had been at Summerfield assisted living, and he was definitely not ready for their assisted living. We had a wonderful doctor, Dr. Picou, who worked to get Pete into some nursing home in Hammond. He succeeded with what we had : Belle Maison memory care. Connie saw both Belle Maison and our current Village at Belmar. Of course, Village at Belmar was so much better at meeting Pete’s needs.
On Monday, August 6th, my cousin, Charlotte, flew in from Austin, Texas. The conversation was so good! And, Charlotte adjusted her plans with the idea that she and I would drive to Breckenridge on Tuesday. The staff would take care of Pete during my time away. That is part of what we are paying for — I can leave and know that Pete is receiving good care.
Charlotte and I left about 10:00 AM, and the drive was so beautiful, When Lori and Craig were young, we visited Pete’s sister, Maurine, and her husband, Bud, out here (Denver) every summer. I know we did drives through the mountains on those visits … but I do not remember the beautiful views Charlotte and I saw. Green …real green. We stopped in a little town, Frisco, thinking we were at Breckenridge. It was a wonderful mistake. First stop in Frisco … latte! Seriously, it must have been months since I had a latte. The stores were darling … and the sidewalks were smooth and wide. Bought a darling pair of earrings … I brought three pairs of earrings with me from Hammond!!! Then we found our choice for lunch … something “5th Avenue.” Since Charlotte was driving, I could have wine with our fabulous “flatbreads.” Our lovely waitress and one of the wait staff settled on a chardonnay from Mer Soleil. You must be getting the idea that this was just a marvelous day. Of course, the chardonnay was great. I bought the rest of the bottle … and have the empty bottle so I can be sure to get more!!! After lunch, Charlotte and I decided that we should really visit Breckenridge. We found it about 20 minutes further. Of course, houses, stores, ready for skiers! It was nice, but I will visit Frisco over Breckenridge!!!
We returned to the assisted living complex about 4:00 PM. Pete was napping. Charlotte joined us for dinner. We planned a quiet, conversation dominated Wednesday … and Charlotte flew back to Austin on Thursday. A wonderful visit … and memories.
The next visitors … Pete’s great niece … his brother, Art’s, granddaughter … and her husband and their three lovely children … ages 4, 6 … almost 7 , and 8. I know we met Mary … “Little Mary” I called her to differentiate from Pete’s Mother who was Mary … we surely saw “little Mary” with our visits to Pete’s Mother and Dad. We really got to know Little Mary when she was in College and would come to Mardi Gras with school friends … and they would all stay with us. I loved it … and I really liked Mary. Beautiful, intelligent, and quite caring and giving. A lot of Mary’s personality reminded me of Lori … and such traits were also in Pete’s Mother … a good memory! When Mary received her Master’s Degree from University of Nebraska at Omaha, we were at the Lake so we could attend the graduation. Next was Mary’s wedding … to extremely nice Bryan …. probably the best personality you could meet! And, we were there. The summer that Mary and Bryan’s children were around one and two years … Anna and Gregory … they came to visit us at the lake. We stocked up on children’s furniture! It was so much fun. I remember the two little ones on the living-room floor … we have pictures! Next summer after that, I called Mary and asked her to gather up the children and fly up for a visit … at which time Mary tells me that she has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Little Catherine is born within the year — and during the next summer … again, we are at the Lake … we drive to Omaha for little Catherine’s Baptism. Memories so big and meaningful. Mary and family visited us last year in Hammond and this year in Denver. Mary is an important part of our being in Denver. During the Hammond visit … August, 2017 … I am undecided on what to do to get Pete the medical care he needs. Mary and I are coming back from something. She is in the back seat. We are obviously talking about Pete. Mary says, “How do you think the medical care in Denver would compare to the medical care in Louisiana?” Two weeks later, I remember that statement. It is obvious that he will receive better care in Denver. I make the decision to move to Denver.
(Any readers still with me on this essay … thank you. It is clear that many old memories are brought back by my writing about new memories.)
Next visitors are Barb and Denny … probably our best friends … we have known each other since early days in Carbondale, Illinois — our first jobs (1965) … Southern Illinois University. Pete and Denny were both in Kiwanis. With another couple we did plays, dinners, Pete’s desserts, Pete and Denny and others playing pool. We moved to South Dakota in the early 1990″s. Then, Hammond, Louisiana. Denny and Barb visited Hammond several times; we made it back once to Carbondale. The Lake turned out to be a good place for visits. Barb and Denny had grandchildren in Milwaukee, Fargo, and in Alaska/Ohio/etc. Our place was a good meeting and stopping point during trips to Milwaukee and Fargo. Barb and I usually discussed our children and grandchildren while Pete and Denny drank fine whiskey and smoked cigars — not to excess — but just keeping memories alive.
Throughout our visitors’ coming, I think Pete recognized Connie and Little Mary. Denny walks into Pete’s room … Pete in bed … just waking up … and his smile at seeing Denny is bigger than any emotion since he fell. It is wonderful! Denny tries a conversation … but there is only a smile in return. Barb and Denny were here over a Friday and the week-end. They ate dinners with us .. and maybe a dessert for Denny! We took many walks. Denny would push Pete in his wheelchair, and Barb and I would walk at our slow pace and, again, talk about children and grandchildren … and about Pete. Barb left a gift of Illinois peaches and strawberries … canned, frozen, and ready to eat. Pete has enjoyed them for breakfast … and more left!!!
Barb and Denny have reservations for Breckenridge over Christmas. They will spend a night close to us both coming and going. If the weather is OK, we may visit them in Breckenridge … we will see.
Writing this essay has been great. I have revisited so many good memories … and I know more were created through these visits. Thank you’all so much.