14 October 2017

At The Mansion, Hugs For Bob

By: Jon Katz

Hugs For Bob

It is hard for me to imagine the shock of losing a spouse of 65 years, we stopped at the Mansion today to say goodbye before we leave for New Mexico. As I mentioned earlier, a week is a long time at the Mansion, and i do have a little trepidation about leaving, but that is not healthy, we need our vacation.

Bob is holding up well, considering, he has some health issues of his own to deal with and is, as always, gracious and warm. I'm thinking of organizing a movie trek for Mansion residents once a month, that would be a fun and inexpensive outing.

Bob says he would like to see a movie, maybe I can get him to one after we get back from New Mexico. He was happy to see us, today, he gave me and Maria and big hug.

You can write Bob at the Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. A reminder that Halloween is coming up and the Mansion would welcome any special decorations your very fertile minds might concoct or buy. Same address, thanks.

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Video: At The Mansion, “Amazing Grace” For Shirley

By: Jon Katz

This has been a rough couple of weeks at the Mansion, and I will be thinking of my friends there while I am away.

Maria and I went to the Mansion to check on Connie and to say goodbye and let the residents and staff know we are going away for a week. A week is a long time at the Mansion, and an awful lot can happen in that time. So there were a lot of hugs, well wishes, and slightly sad goodbyes.

I am thinking of Bob, who lost his wife Shirley this week, they had been married for 65 years. A friend from Bob's church came by to see him, and they sang Amazing Grace.

Dorlisa, a staffer came by and she often sings "Amazing Grace" at memorial services and at besides of severely ill people. I asked Bob and his friend and DorLisa if they would repeat the song on video for the Army Of Good, and in honor of Shirley, who we did not get to know very well (except for Red).

They couldn't quite finish the second verse, but that was quite understandable, the song, sung on the Mansion porch, carried a lot of emotional power. Come and see. Bob is on the right.

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Getting Our Heads Straight: Journey To Abiquiu

By: Jon Katz

Getting Our Heads Straight

We are getting our heads straight for New Mexico this weekend, slowing down, cooling off our fevered brains, talking and thinking about our pilgrimage to a place Maria already loves, a place I already love without even having seen.

Maria lived in New Mexico for a time,and our trip there together will tie both of us to one of the most important experiences in her life. I am eager to go.

I've figured out my medications,  and my photography I'm bringing the monochrome black and white camera, and one portrait lens.

If I need a color image, I can borrow Maria's new Iphone 8, the camera is amazing. Reading about Georgia O'Keefe and other books about New Mexico art, I'm in a black and white mood.

This morning, Maria started reading to me in bed, she read from "Remembering Miss O'Keefe: Stories from Abiquiu," which was the  home of O'Keefe's famous Ghost Ranch. And where we willl be Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

It is lovely book by Margaret Wood, who left her home in the Midwest in 1977 to work as a companion and caregiver to O'Keefe

for five years.

The famed artist was then 89 years old, and her eyesight was failing. Wood was twenty-four, inexperienced and in awe of the formidable and demanding O'Keefe, who cared about every detail of her gardens and home. The book is an elegaic remembrance of her five years with O'Keefe and the beautiful small moments that made up the artist's life: tending the garden, preparing dinner, nighttime reading, afternoon walks at Ghost Ranch.

I bought the book for Maria some years ago, in a Museum bookstore, whoever spends time with Maria will spend time in museums.

I love hearing Maria read from this book, it has so much feeling for her, and now me. Maria is a completely different kind of artist than George O'Keefe and I don't mean to be comparing the two, yet O'Keefe's life  reminds me of Maria's life in several important ways.

Both are ferociously  dedicated to their work, both care much about every detail of their lives, their homes, the walls, their distinct way of dressing, their identities. Both love every herb and flower int he garden, and both love nature and draw great  strength and inspiration.

From what I've read of O'Keefe and her iron will, she always knew what she wanted to be, and Maria is only recently finding out for sure what she wants to be. But their passion for life is strikingly similar.

Maria is as determined to be an artist as any human I've ever met,  and there is not a plant or cactus or tree or bush or pot or windowsill she does not care about and  respect and love. I live in an art gallery, my wife is the curator.

In the foreword to her lovely book – Maria wants to read it to me on the plane – Wood, now a speech language pathologist based in Santa Fe (I would love to meet her)  writes about learning of O'Keefe's death in 1986 at the age of ninety-eight. By then, she could no longer live at Ghost Ranch.

"I thought about the variety of feelings I had experienced with her," wrote Wood, "from exasperation to love. I reflected upon her remarkable life. When I thought about her death, I hoped she had died peacefully. I wished she could have died at Ghost Ranch, the place she loved best, gazing toward Pedernal in one direction, the brilliantly colored cliffs in another. In my mind, her regal spirit still reigns over that entire kingdom, from the magical flat-topped mountains to those majestic cliffs."

This is the right mindset for us, the right story to hear,  this is the right place for us to visit together, we will drink from this sweet well and be nourished by it. Somehow, it is what we are about, a pilgrimage we need to take. We want to step our ourselves, we are as tired as we are happy. We always celebrate creativity, and in that sense, Abiquiu is a shrine.

Maria has a long list of museums she wants us to see in New Mexico, and I am game for that.

We are committed to doing some resting too, but we are always committed to that, and we never seem able to do it. At some point, one has to accept who he or she is.

This morning, we both swore we were going to Abiquiu with a spiritual head  seeking quiet – we are staying in a village nearby –  and then we listed about 15 museums and pueblos and weaving communities  we wanted to visit nearby, and in  Taos and Santa Fe.

If we do even half of them,  and we will, do all of them there will not be a lot of time to rest, we won't be there too long.

The book is getting us in the right mind, but the truth is, we always have fun together, even when we drive down the road. New Mexico will be a joyous feast.

I love the stories Wood tells about her life with O'Keefe, whom she came to love and call a friend. Over that time, O'Keefe lost her memory and most of her sight, and could no longer paint. Her spirit was a force of nature.

We both hope to draw from her genius and her spirit and her great strength. Tomorrow night, we begin the pilgrimage to Abiquiu. We are more than ready.

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Getting Gussed, Getting Neutered

By: Jon Katz

Getting Neutered

Being "gussed" is a new verb around here, when Gus decides to kiss your face, it is like a crazed bumblebee on speed, he leaps and snorts and goes up and down the side of your face. Maria knelt down in the grass to take a photo and he came charging over and she got "gussed." Yesterday, he jumped up on my lap and then my shoulders and climbed up and sat on the top of my bald head, leaning down to chew on my ears.

I was not prepared for this, I had been "gussed." I made an appointment for Gus to be neutered on November 2 at the Cambridge Valley clinic. He's ready, he's lifting his leg and humping various toys.

It's time to keep the mellow alive in him, although it is sad he won't be bred. He is a great dog. A touch of mellowing won't hurt a bit.

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The Mansion’s Thelma And Louise

By: Jon Katz

The Mansion's Thelma And Louise

It would seem inappropriate to call Alice and Jean my girlfriends, but there is something too it. I love these two, they often walk together in the hallway to prop up each other on the way to the dining room, and they are two sweet and shy and loving people.

Alice is my date on the Mansion outings when I am there, she takes my hand and I help guide her. Jean has a wicked sense of humor and a great love of dogs.

They were each married a long time, and think of their late husbands often. They both love living in the Mansion now, they feel safe and cared for there. They are a lot of fun to be around, their spirits and minds are strong and sharp. Alice is in her 90's, Jean a decade younger.

She is also obsessed with housekeeping and often decides to vacuum the Mansion carpets for the fun of it. Whenever I take their photo, the laugh and blush, and they ask me if I want to break my camera. I tell them they are two beautiful women, and the camera very much loves them.

Jean misses her dogs very much and has a dog bed and a stuffed dog by her bed. You can write Alice (left) or Jean c/o The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

A reminder that Halloween is coming up and the Mansion will have some kind of holiday celebration. Letters and messages and favors will be much appreciated. Send Halloween decorations to Julie Smith, Activities Director, The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

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