Published 2:53 pm Thursday, December 3, 2009
Oh, is there any greater pleasure on these long, winter, evenings than to curl up with a good book, interrupted only by the intermittent desire to admire the crackling fire through the cut-crystal housing your single malt? A well-earned respite, surely, after a day of shopping, cleaning, and baking for the holidays (I write baking for normal women. I havent baked since 1978 when I gave one of my Christmas cookies to the family dog and he broke a tooth on it).
There is, actually, something even better than curling up with a good book. Curling up, or at least sitting close to, a living book and by this I mean the oft-forgotten human being residing in a nursing home.
When I lived in Los Angeles, the leafy, residential street on which I lived intersected with busy Beverly Blvd and at the corner sat Sharon Care Nursing Home. Having read somewhere a horrifying statement that declared 80% of all nursing home residents never receive a visit during their stay, not even from family prompted me into action. I vowed to walk down to Sharon on each Wednesday, after lunch, to make some new friends and, as happens with any volunteer work, I found I received far more than I ever gave.
The people I met and the stories of their lives were far more fascinating than any novel I have ever read. These dear souls have since departed this life but allow me to share a few introductions:
Barry, a long-retired bit actor who looked exactly like Jackie Gleason in The Honeymooners had, in his youth, been a south-paw pitcher for the then Cleveland Browns. Nellie, an amazing beauty with dark brown eyes and breathtaking cheekbones had been thrice divorced but was later left an enormously wealthy widow with a grand house in Hancock Park.
While on the beach in San Diego with her then handsome husband, she swore Nancy Regan had strolled past and stared unabashedly and, from what she told me, most inappropriately at the mans physique. Hey, Nancy! Nellie called. Put your eyes back in your head! Mary Ann was 101 and still had a faded clipping from her hometown newspaper telling the story of how she and her sister had been caught on a railroad trestle with a train approaching and nowhere to go and so flung themselves face down on the tracks, miraculously surviving as the train roared over them. And one lovely gentleman, recuperating from colon cancer surgery and waiting to go home to Palm Springs, told me of his career in the entertainment industry: from working with&bsp; Ella Fitzgerald and Glen Miller to producing Sinatra albums.
No one knows the true story of Millers death. he told me plainly. He didnt get shot down. What happened was the boys were on their way back to France, theyd been drinking, and whoever was flying the plane made a hard landing, the plane flipped, and they were killed. We went out of our way to keep it out of the press~ America didnt need to hear a story like that at the time.
Now, what do you say upon hearing that? This gentleman was neither senile or hazy with medication. Even if he were lying through his teeth, what a story!
This Christmas, when our thoughts turn to the less fortunate and remembering the widows and the orphans, it is good to realize that, for many, a single day, when alone, seems an eternity. A simple visit may become a relationship you will both cherish for the rest of your lives. And thats the best story of all.~I’m Just Saying by Pam Stone