I was wandering the halls of the Mansion Assisted Care Facility Friday, looking for volunteers to act in our "Night Of Four Skits" on April 4. I ran into Madeline and Joan, two of my favorite friends at the Mansion. They were both laughing and making noise and dancing with one another, and I said "what is going on here?"
And they both stopped, and said at the same time. "we are Wonderful Ladies and this is the Wonderful Ladies Club."
"Are you dancing?,"I asked. "Of course," said Madeline, "can't you see? Take our picture!" I needed no additional encouragement, and I much-loved the joy and connection between these two.
They look out for one another.
"I think it's about wonderful…or something," said Joan, smiling.
They are, in fact, wonderful ladies.
"How long has this club been around?," I asked. "Oh, about three minutes," said Madeline.
Madeline is in her 90's and she is fierce warrior for thinking, singing, writing and culture, this, she says, is because she comes from New York City. She admits to being a bit of a New York City snob. "After all," she says haughtily, "they have the Yankees there."
Joan and I are working on her memory and having much fun and success, we are reading together, her memory is reasserting itself.
But I loved the spirit of these two, these proud, undaunted, determined women, struggling every day to lead a meaningful and loving life. People tend to write off the elderly, content to keep them out of sight, as our culture pushes them out of sight, happy to keep them alive for profit, but not willing to think much about how they will live their lives.
They are lucky to be in the Mansion. That is the best place I have seen.
Some, I see, are broken by this process, and surrender to it. Others never do.
I asked Madeline and Joan if they wished to continue the idea of the Very Wonderful Ladies Club – their memory is not always on the surface. I volunteered to remind them in case they got distracted or it slipped their minds. I can already picture the dances and parties.
Good ideas can fade at the Mansion, there are so many things to do first. Both of these wonderful ladies have signed up to be in our play,"Night Of Four Skits."
"Please," said Madeline. "Oh yes," said Joan. "We are wonderful ladies."
You can write to Madeline or Joan c/o The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12818. As a rule, Joan cannot read or respond to your letters, but they will be read to her and sometimes, she can reply. She loves getting them.