31 October

Spooky Time At The Mansion. Memories Are Like The Tide…

by Jon Katz
Spooky Time At The Mansion: Peggie The Ding Bat

The Mansion Halloween party was a hoot, and it was revealing as well. Walking the halls of the Mansion, I felt myself crossing the boundary between the world of assisted care and the world beyond.

It was touching, poignant and at times, funny. The residents at the Mansion live in their own sometimes isolated world – the rest of the world has more or less abandoned them and run away from them.

The party excited them, as they often get excited when the outside world intrudes and connects and they discover they are not forgotten. It is a stimulating thing for them.

Peggie, the happiest resident of the Mansion most days, looked glum. “Is anything wrong?,” I asked. She said she heard I might be moving to New Mexico, and I said this was not true. She said she missed her family sometimes, and her life with them.

It is like that in the Mansion, moods change, they rise and fall. Memories come rushing back sometimes, and then they just melt away sometimes.

As I walked out of the great room where the party was, I ran into Joan who grabbed my arm and said, “I can’t remember where my room is.” Would you like some help?, I asked. “Yes, I would, thank you,” she said, and she took my arm and we walked down the stairs to her room.

The room was bare of belongings or pictures or paintings, Joan believes she is going home every morning, so she packs up all of her belongings. The rest of the day, she forgets she is going home and walks the halls of the Mansion.

I brought some paintings to her room to hang on the wall, but she packed them up and wrapped them, and stacked them against the wall, she said she was going to take them home the next morning. The staff told me not to give her anything that she could pack.

I congratulated another resident I ran into on winning an aware for good costume, and she said she was eager to show her award to her husband, he just loves Halloween, she said.

She would show him at dinner. She did not recall writing a story for me about her husband a few months ago, he died 20 years ago. I did not remind her or correct her, of course.

It was the Halloween Party, I am sure, that sent her back in time. She loved it.

When I brought Joan down to her room, I ran into John downstairs, he is a tall man of many moods. Sometimes he wants to see Red, sometimes he doesn’t.

He grabbed my arm and welcomed me back, he said he was worried that I might have encountered some terrorists in New Mexico. “Did the terrorists try to hurt you?,” he asked.

No, I said, don’t worry. I didn’t see any terrorists in New Mexico.

In the Mansion, the world is like a tide, sometimes it trickles or flows inside, sometimes it recedes beyond reach or sight. It is always there, ebbing and flowing, and the thing is to ride along with the tide, wherever it goes.

It feels good to love.

31 October

Connie’s Chair Is On The Way. Many Thanks To The Army Of Good.

by Jon Katz
Connie Got Her Chair

I wanted to tell you right away that I placed the order for Connie’s chair last night around 9 p.m., the Army Of Good sent more than $1,000 in donations for her chair and for the Mansion Fund by then, and I thank you, I just don’t have any better words.

I bought a Medlift three-way reclining chair with infrared heat for $889 with free shipping, I spent an hour reading the Medlift reviews and this is a company that is well reviewed and regarded and experienced in reclining lifts for the elderly.

The chair will arrive in 6 to 10 days. I thought I would wait until Wednesday to order it, but I had enough money quickly, there was no reason to wait.

It was not the cheapest chair but the best reviewed and the one that will meet Connie’s needs. I don’t think there’s time to mess around with returns and trials. I wanted to be sure.

I am not free to disclose medical details except to say that Connie  is suffering greatly.

This chair will not cure her or miraculously end her struggle. There are no miracles in assisted care.

But it will make her much more comfortable as she struggles to heal, and for whatever remaining time she has in her life.

You are keeping hope alive for me and for so many other people with your generosity and trust and empathy.  It is, in fact, so much better to do good than to argue about what is good. this is our path back to compassion and peace.

Connie badly needs this chair to try and get well, and I don’t wish to mislead anybody, her struggle will be an uphill and difficult one.

The lift reclining chair will at the very least make her more comfortable as she works bravely and with great heart to be well, and to stay at the Mansion.  It’s infrared heat will help her back to heal, and the chair’s flexibility and mobility will help her move and stimulate her circulation.

Her doctors are hopeful. The way Medicaid facilities work is this – assisted care facilities provide food and shelter and minimal care, if the resident needs continuous medical care on a higher level, they must go to a nursing home.

None of the Mansion residents wish to go to nursing homes.

Connie is adamant that she wants to say in the Mansion, and the Mansion staff is working hard to help her stay there.

The chair will  help her, but she, of course, must ultimately decide  how much she wishes to help herself. The chair will be a huge incentive and morale boost for her, and thanks, thanks, thanks.

I am simply overwhelmed at the compassion that so many of you displayed so readily, sending contributions that ranged from $5 to $25 to $300 within minutes of my asking for help. I just won’t know tonight exactly how much money is coming in, the Army Of Good is certainly on the march.

Almost every message said they were happy to help Connie and also to replenish the Mansion refugee fund which had begun to run low – I decided to give everyone a rest and didn’t solicit much these past weeks and months.

I said last night that any overage would go immediately to the fund that supports the Mansion residents and the immigrant refugees we are also trying to help. I will be re-connecting with them later in the week.

Tomorrow, I will go to the Mansion to help with the poetry workshop we are working on and to tell Connie her chair is on the way, she doesn’t need to try to get the chair herself.

I think we will accomplish both goals tonight – getting Connie her chair and helping the fund so we can continue our good work.

So Connie’s chair is on the way, and I’ll count up the donations, I believe the fund will end up close to where I would like it, between $1,500 and $2,500.  I wanted to share this news right away.

I will figure it all out in the morning. Today lifted my heart. I realized today I frightened a number of people by writing we were thinking of moving to New Mexico, some of the residents were quite upset with me for thinking about it.

I said we did think about it, New Mexico is a very beautiful place, but we are not going anywhere in the foreseeable future. We have lots of good work to do here, or perhaps at all. It feels like home to me, and I think, also to Maria.

I thank you with all of my heart, I hope you appreciate yourselves and what you have done.

31 October

Jean, The Mansion Halloween Party

by Jon Katz
The Mansion Halloween Party rocked along from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Jean was a knockout and a costume prize winner (Maria and I were the judges. I gave her some Navajo art from New Mexico and she gave me a big kiss on my cheek. Maria demanded to know who had left a lipstick smudge. “My girlfriend,” I said.

Jean is a wonderful human being and  a sweetheart. You can mail her c/o The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. The residents put a lot of work into their costumes. More photos tonight.

31 October

Wild Halloween At The Mansion. Thanks For Helping To Make It Happen

by Jon Katz
Wild Party At The Mansion: Madeline

We had a wild and lively Halloween Party at the Mansion today. Madeline won for most colorful costume, the Army of Good sent much appreciated hats, lei’s, cards, pins, cut-outs, napkins, cookies and muffins, flowers and Halloween decorations. There was also a band playing music.

“This is so wonderful for us,” she said, “this food, this music, these wonderful decorations, it means so much to us, I don’t know if anyone can imagine.” I think they can, I said, they do it all the time. And I bet they will do it again for Christmas, the residents are still talking about that party, and they don’t usually remember that far back.

In fact, one member of the AOG has already sent a box of Christmas decorations and gifts.

The party went on for two hours, the costumes were pretty inventive, I will put some photos of them up later this evening. They had a lot of fun, and they reveled in the favors, games and treats you all sent them from all over the country. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Madeline is right, I can’t really even describe how much your gifts and cards and letters have meant to these people, they were happy and engaged, it was great fun.

I will provide an updated residents list later in the week. For now, it’s Jean, Ellen, Mary, Gerry, Sylvie, Jane, Diane, Alice, Jean, Madeline, Joan, Allan, William, Ruth, John K., Helen, Connie, Brother Peter, Guerda, Robert, Shirley, Alanna, Barbara, Peggie, Dorothy, Art, Brenda, John Z.

You can write them c/o The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

I don’t wish to overburden people, the holidays are coming up. I think it best to focus on Christmas, I’ll arrange for some Thanksgiving lunch celebration during that week. I’d love to see them get the wonderful Christmas they got last year, with gifts under the tree for everyone.

That was the beginning of something special, one of the first major initiatives of the Army of Good, and a clear signal to the residents that they were not alone. If anyone wishes to send some Thanksgiving decorations, that would be wonderful, but I think it might be meaningful to focus on Christmas, I don’t want to ask too much of people.

The residents will never forget it, it tells them what they most need to know and hear – they have not been forgotten.

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