Ramblings from the Cove...
By Lars Gren
Seventh of May and it is the third day in succession that we have not had the wood stove firedup to augment the solar heat which in a normal year keeps us comfortable. I mentioned in the February entry that my tree gives an accurate prediction, and accurate it was. I hope to illustrate that with a couple of photos.
Today the sun is sparkling, causing what appear to be flashes on the almost still water lapping onto the rocky shore. It hints of spring yet the only visible sign of it is that there are a few daffodils blooming on the slope; but as to lilacs or Rhododendrons blooming, they will take a pass until next spring. The winter was not all gloom, however, for we did manage to leave early February for Minneola, Florida and the AIM retirement center. This being our third winter of having a stay there has made it almost a second home for us. Kea who is one of the two caregivers that traveled with us is especially good at socializing with old folks; of course you would have guessed that since she has been with us for over a year and tolerates my odd ways even to laughing at some of my stories. She is a great help in filling in the who, what, where and when that is nowhere to be found in my mind. Along with that she often plays the piano in the dining room where we take our lunch and that to the delight of the residents. Everyone knows Kea. This season she went home for a visit and the most oft question to me was not, “How are things?" but, “When is Kea coming back?” All in all we have been blessed over these past eight years with wonderful caregivers and we thank God for each one.
A blessing of being there (or I could say two) is the twice weekly morning tea/coffee time that ladies have a sort of social/story telling time of past experiences from the mission field as well as what is going on in the present time or in their family. It is surprising, although it shouldn’t be, that many of the 2nd and 3rd generation children are continuing the work their parents or grandparents began. There also seems to be time for odd or funny stories and so rarely is there a morning coffee without some good humor along with hair raising stories of close calls with a black mamba, the most feared of snakes, as well as of other critters large and small. Yes, men are welcomed but as a rule it is I and one or two others which is not bad as the ladies warmly invite us to the table. There are also afternoon or evening meetings where one opens up their life on the field and or perhaps an old style hymn sing where favorites are called and if so it is often John Barney asking for suggestions and leading with his stentorian voice that can make the walls reverberate and cover my off key singing. One such evening there was to be a talent show and I have asked Kea to tell you about this as she was a part of one offering. “ In February of ’14 there was to be a talent night and one of the missionaries that I had gotten to know well asked me if I would accompany her on the piano while she sang, Why Do I Love You?” from Showboat. Gladys had not sung publicly for many years, if ever, but had been encouraged by one of the other women there to do it, and Gladys grew in her excitement of singing this as a surprise to her husband of 60+ years, though she didn’t know how he would react. “I want him to sit up front,” she mentioned more than once, “and then when the song’s over I’m going to go over and kiss him. I really want him to kiss me back, but I don’t know if he will! He might be too embarrassed.” During one rehearsal, Gladys stopped singing mid-song to tell me how they had met, her initial impressions of Carl, when she first noticed the interest was mutual, etc; I just kept playing while Gladys related their story, and we decided it was rather a nice effect and should be included in the talent show.
In the ensuing rehearsals, Gladys shared more about how Carl had been such an encouragement and help to her in these latter years, and how rare it was these days to see men who really cherished their wives. By the last rehearsal, it had become evident that Gladys had more than enough material she wanted to share along with the song and would need to pare it down. As we worked through the song at the piano in the dining hall and discussed what was most important for Gladys to share, Gladys suddenly smiled at me and said, “Well, I think we’re done for the day.” I was a bit dumbfounded, as nothing had really been decided and this was our last opportunity to rehearse. Gladys then continued quietly, while keeping the same pleasant, relaxed countenance, “Marjorie just walked in, and I know she’s missing her husband, so this might be hard for her.” Marjorie’s husband Clarence had recently gone to rehab after a series of falls and was there indefinitely; they too had been married 60-some years. And so it was that the final rehearsal was set aside out of Gladys' sensitivity towards her sister in Christ.
On the night of the talent show, Gladys came to the point in the song where she broke off singing to tell their story and, sure enough, found there was too much to tell and too little time. As she continued to remember points she had wanted to mention, the emcee grew nervous and finally interjected, “Well, we still have several people to go after you, so we need to wrap it up.” Thinking this might fluster Gladys and prompt her to just end it and sit down; I quickly suggested she finish out the song from there. But Gladys one also of strength responded, “Oh, but I have something else to say” and she did, finishing in a little bit only to resume, as I suggested, the song, in preparations for her surprise grand finale; before she reached the final note, however, Carl rose from his seat and surprised her with a kiss. Suffice it to say that the crowd went wild.” To add to the hoped for kiss at the very end Carl brought in a lovely arrangement of roses for Gladys which topped off the evening of memories. The sweet memories of this came back to us later in the year as Carl left his dear Gladys for his eternal home. That is the one drawback there is of being there for only a couple of months in that each of the three years we have been there there is ‘an empty chair’ for one who has departed while we were at The Cove.
This year we did very little traveling away from the retirement center except for excursions to the grocery store, for as a rule we fix our own breakfast and supper. There were a number of times that we were invited to meals with those who have their own units rather than living in the assisted living unit where we are and thus got to know more of the life of the retirees. The Barneys whom I first met in Kenya had us a few times and a must there is a game of Rummikub in which I seem to be the "dummy." Oh well, someone has to lose.
As our departure date grew closer, there was one visit that we wanted to make and that was to see Gladys. Sometime in the fall it became apparent that she needed more care than she could receive at AIM and was moved to a nursing home. On our next to last day Kea and I visited her. We found her sitting in a lounge chair in a row of chairs all occupied by other patients. She smiled broadly and was so glad to see us, well for sure to see Kea, and we chatted over how she came to be there. Then followed something about her family and more just to Kea of how she missed Carl and talked about the last few days before he passed away. “And his last kisses were the best,” she declared with a grateful smile.
We had been back at the Cove for a week or so when the call came from AIM that Gladys had been called to her "permanent home." Another empty chair left behind for the reunion to end all reunions.
God bless y’all and that’s it from The Cove.