La Vita… Not so Dolce

HPB III

I’ve written a number of blogs about friendship and recently read a study showing that social relationships (friendships) are as important as an active lifestyle and good nutrition when it comes to longevity.

My best friend, Harry Bingham, had all those elements in his life but still didn’t make it. Occasionally, personal pain or a faulty gene gets in the way. It happened to Harry. A graduate of St. Paul’s, Harvard, and Tufts Medical School, he committed suicide and denied us a lifetime of shared friendship and adventures. He was 36 years old.

We met in Marine Corps Officer Candidate Class at Quantico, Virginia, and twelve weeks later we were commissioned 2nd Lieutenants. I was the public-school kid from the West Coast. He was an Eastern aristocrat. In the barracks at Quantico, he had the upper bunk and I had the lower. On our first day, as we were sitting on our bunks sorting our newly issued 782 gear and he dropped a steel helmet on my head. It’s how our friendship began.

We were very different, Harry and I. Not just East Coast versus West. Not just private school versus public. We had different temperaments as well. I was confident and cool. He was geeky and unsure of himself. It was a new environment and unfamiliar, but for some reason it was easier for me. I could tell what the drill sergeant wanted, kept my head low and did what was expected. Harry couldn’t figure it out, and that set him up as an object for bullying and punishment. Everyone in the platoon liked him and together we got him through.

Despite our differences, there was something each of us admired in the other. That was our bond. It’s hard to know exactly what it was, but it started at Quantico, and our friendship flourished until he killed himself 13 years later.

When he died his mother sent me his skis – a pair of original Head 360’s. She knew how much we enjoyed the sport and wanted to share something of his with me. I kept them for years, occasionally taking them out for a remembrance run. I even took them along on a helicopter ski trip to Canada and made one delicious powder run on them.

Harry’s father was an aristocrat. He inherited money and houses in Vermont and Hobe Sound as well as an apartment on Park Avenue in NYC. His grandfather traveled to France annually because “Vouvray and Nouveau Beaujolais don’t travel well.” And, then there’s the room in the Metropolitan Museum… his grandfather’s name carved in marble above the door and his Rubens painting of Adonis and Venus hanging inside.

Apollo and Venus

His parents were divorced, and his mother split her time between Owl’s Head, Maine, and a full floor apartment on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 66th Street in Manhattan. I envied his advantages, but was glad they weren’t my parents. As a middle-class kid from the Northwest, I was awed by the wealth but learned quickly that all that money, the best schools, and a listing in Who’s Who in America don’t always lead to a stable and healthy adulthood.

I’ve heard all the arguments for nature versus nurture. I don’t know the details of Harry’s childhood, but I do know his father’s emotional distance and high expectations nagged at him. In spite of his accomplishments at St. Paul’s, Harvard, the Marine Corps, and medical school it was never enough. He was never able to please his father. Was this what drove him to suicide, or was it a bad gene and predisposition to depression?

It’s been 46 years since he committed suicide. Except for a couple of years in and around Laguna Beach in California, we never lived in the same place at the same time, although we managed to see a lot of each other during the 13 years of our friendship. We beached it in California and skied together in Aspen and Squaw Valley. I once flew a Marine A4 from Alameda to Boston to spend Thanksgiving with him and his wife Diana, and he met my wife and me in Paris and shared our VW camper on the way to join a group of his friends at a lovely villa near on the west coast of Italy. The last time we were together was at our house in Mill Valley. He was visiting just before he swallowed a bucket of pills. He was saying goodbye to us.

Despite the differences in our backgrounds, Harry and I did have things in common. We liked gin, poetry, skiing, the Beach Boys, and the Marine Corps. We both married and divorced young. He married a family friend, his sister’s sister-in-law. Very New England incestuous. When he divorced, I couldn’t figure it out. I knew they loved each other deeply, but one summer while she was traveling with a family member in Europe and he was in his surgery residency in New York he had an affair with a friend of a friend. More New England incest? A Catholic convert, he was tortured and couldn’t forgive himself.

The following summer he joined Abby and me in Europe – and brought the woman with whom he had been unfaithful. We disliked her instantly and thought she was an arrogant unattractive bitch. When she discovered we were camping in a VW van on our way to Italy she nearly left us. I recently discovered that she was Faddle, one of the pair of White House interns known as Fiddle and Faddle, infamous for skinny dipping and boffing JFK in the White House swimming pool during their internships.

When we arrived at the Italian villa, we met Fiddle, who was, by then, married to Harry’s lifelong friend, A. Whitney Ellsworth, the founder and publisher of the New York Review of Books. All very East Coast incestuous. Fiddle and Faddle. Whitney and Harry. Jack and Abby along with assorted cousins and wannabes.

We were there because Whitney had traded his Upper East Side apartment for a Roman architect’s hillside villa near Porto Ercole, and the trade included a guest membership at the nearby private beach club where deeply tanned, unselfconscious, slightly overweight women in tiny bikinis sipped Campari and lounged around on striped mats under beach umbrellas. All very La Dolce Vita.

Il Pellicano Beach Club

The “assorted cousins” in the entourage were two delightful college girls related to Fiddle, and every night, after a day at the beach, we flopped on overstuffed couches to listen to the girls’ newest discovery, James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James album. We were all smitten, and the cousins breathlessly gave us the history and provenance of James and the Taylor family – the father a professor, siblings James, Kate, and Livingston all singer songwriters, their discovery by the Beatles label in London, and later drug problems. We were in the prime of our lives and drunk on La Dolce Vita. 

All that took place years ago, but I’m reminded of Harry almost every day. My middle son is named Douglas Payne Bernard – my middle name and Harry’s – and my daughter Diana is named for his wife. Last summer, M and I spent a week with the older Diana and her extended family at their small compound in Little Compton, Rhode Island, where I first visited them 52 years ago. We were welcomed warmly. We are all family now. I’m so sorry Harry didn’t stick around to enjoy it with us. I’m still mad at him.

The Absolute Best Beach Town…

I love beaches… all kinds of beaches, but one section of the Florida Gulf Coast has had a pull on me for more than 50 years. That stretch is the 200 miles of pristine white sand and coastal island stretching from Pensacola Beach in the west to Apalachicola in the east. It’s all about the deep blue sky, the sand so bright it hurts your eyes. and clear green water that makes it look like a photo shopped travel poster.

Grayton Beach

There’s been noticeable change since I lived there in a one-story cinderblock house 100’ from the water’s edge at Pensacola Beach. A few years before my stay, a hurricane flattened the island and when reconstruction began it was felt that one-story, metal roof houses were the prudent choice. 

In those days, very few of the homes on Pensacola Beach were occupied year-round, so the beach was mine for 8 months of the year. From my kitchen window I watchd bottle-nosed dolphins swim by just offshore and I could walk on the beach for an hour and never see another soul. 

When I returned 30 years later, 504 Ariola Drive was a three-story wooden house in a row of three-story vacation homes, and there were no dolphins in the three days we walked the same stretch of beach.

But, the pull has remained strong and last month M and I rented an “old Florida” beach house – screened porch, outdoor shower, plywood and lathe construction with a metal roof – in Grayton Beach an hour east of Pensacola. We didn’t know anything about Grayton, but two friends who live nearby recommended it and put us in touch with a couple who own a “cabin” there. It’s not directly on the beach but just a short walk from it. It was perfect… and so is the town of Grayton Beach.

Smith Cabin

Grayton is one of the oldest townships on the Florida Panhandle and its future was ensured and character preserved, in 1964, when the Florida Board of Parks and Historical Memorials acquired 356 acres of beach, dune and wetland property to establish Grayton Beach State Park. Further land acquisitions were added and today the park borders the township on three sides with the Gulf of Mexico completing the fourth. Grayton was saved from the development frenzy descending on the Panhandle coast. 

Today, Grayton Beach is an oasis on Florida Highway 30A, the road that parallels the beach from Destin to Panama City. In the last 30 years, developers have built a number of planned communities, large and small, along 30A. Seaside, just west of Grayton Beach, was the first, and is known for its New Urbanist design. This small community of pastel colored houses with screened porches and white picket fences was the setting for the Jim Carrey’s The Truman Show and a suitable metaphor for the fakeness of such a town.

Other planned communities with names like Watercolor, Alys, and Rosemary Beach followed, each with its own flavor. Watercolor is rich and flashy with valet parking as the only alternative at many of the stops. M and I had a Happy Hour drink at FOOW (Fish Out of Water), an elegant hotel, where our company was a group of noisy women with tans as dark as walnut stain and aftermarket breasts so big they could hardly be contained by a bikini top. Donald Trump might like the place but we found it distracting and unattractive.

Alys is the next town on 30A going south. Also a manufactured town, its stark white architecture is modeled on either Greek Island churches or Bermuda hideaways – maybe both – but nothing about it seemed real.

Alys

Last in the lineup of the planned communities on Highway 30A is Rosemary Beach. The town’s website describes it as:

One of South Walton’s planned New Urbanist communities, Rosemary Beach is an architectural treasure trove, boasting influences from the West Indies, New Orleans, Charleston and St. Augustine, among others.”

At least it’s a mixture of styles, and unlike Dallas Alys there are some trees to hide the pretentious brand-newness of it all.

No… tourists and wannabes may like the fakery of Watercolor, Seaside, Alys, and Rosemary Beach, but we’re in love with Grayton Beach, a real place where real people live and play. The friends that put us on to it, Tom and Linda, introduced us to several of their friends while we were there, including a husband and wife who are both ex-Navy pilots. Today, she’s a 787 Captain for United and he’s recently retired from Delta. They’ve lived in Grayton Beach for years as have the couple we rented the “cabin” from. They, Kelly and Billy, are both lawyers and have lived in Grayton most of their lives, but, make no mistake, Billy is no small-town ambulance chaser. He’s a big-time serious lawyer, having worked on big cases like the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill case and now he’s “of counsel” to the State of Florida’s in its lawsuit against opioid pharmaceutical manufacturers.

We loved our week in Kelly and Billy’s “cabin” – morning lattes at Black Bear Bakery, afternoon wine on the screened in porch, and dinner at Borago, an upscale Italian bistro just around the corner. Hard to beat. 

Grayton Beach is special and though I still love California’s Laguna Beach, there are no beaches in the world like the white sand beaches of the Florida Panhandle. We’re already talking about going back next year.

Speed Dining in NOLA…

There are so many great things to do in New Orleans. It was the last stop on our odyssey through the South, but with temperatures in the mid-90’s and only 48 hours in town, M and I opted to pass on the sites and do some serious speed eating. We were there four years ago and tried several of the better-known restaurants – Emeril’s, Central Grocery, Café du Monde, Johnny’s Po’ Boys, Superior Seafood – and I had eaten at Brennan’s and Commander’s Palace in years past. This time we were looking for a more local experience. Two friends, a public defender in NOLA and another friend who went to school at Tulane, gave us their top picks. So, we culled the list of referrals and came up with four – dinner at Upperline, lunch and dinner the next day at Pêche and Jewel of the South, and lunch at Le Petite Grocery before heading to the airport. 

Speed-dining is like speed-dating with most of the mystery removed. There’s no problem finding reliable restaurant reviews. I doubt the same thing is true for speed dating. So glad we’re not in that scrum these days.

Our hotel, the St. Charles Inn, on St. Charles Avenue was perfect. We could take the funky aging streetcar, avoid parking problems, and not worry about drinking and driving. Location is everything, especially with a little local color thrown in.

St. Charles Streetcar

Our due diligence told us that Upperline, a local favorite, was run by JoAnn Cleavenger, the sometimes querulous, eccentric art collector who is the creator, matriarch, and gatekeeper at this perennial James Beard award winning restaurant. It was a good choice for our first meal. JoAnn is about our age and treats her customers in the old New Orleans house as if they are guests in her home. She talked to us at length about how she started the restaurant on a shoestring in 1983. She ran the front of the house. Her son was in the kitchen, and the waiters got by on tips.

JoAnn Clevenger at the hostess station

I won’t bore you with everything we ate over the 48 hours but will try to give you a “taste” of what was special at each one. At Upperline, we opted for the three-course tasting menu but the first course of fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade would have made the meal memorable all by itself. After our delicious entrees, we finished with “Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brûlée” sprinkled with candied pralines and staggered out into the steamy NOLA night.

The food fest continued on Monday at Pêche in the Central District near the World War II Museum (an absolute must for NOLA visitors). The energetic lunch crowd was a mix of business people and out of towners. It’s a good sized, wood-lined, open room but divided nicely into a couple of discrete spaces and a bar so that it doesn’t feel like a warehouse. I started with a half-dozen small juicy oysters on ice and followed with a crab jalapeño angel hair pasta washed down with local brown ale. It was perfect after our binge at Upperline the night before.

Lunch at Peche

Two good strategies for speed-dining are small portions and an afternoon nap, so following lunch at Pêche we took a long break before heading to our evening meal at Jewel of the SouthJewel is the latest effort of two James Beard award winners and listed on Eater.com as one of the hottest new restaurants in town. Located in an old house on the edge of the French Quarter, Jewel is more bar than traditional restaurant. Its specialty is craft cocktails, like this Crusta Alcala, an artsy concoction of mezcal, tequila, yellow Chartreuse, Crème de Cacao, and chocolate bitters in a glass rimmed with caramelized sugar and black pepper. 

A Crusta Alcala

Jewel’s food offerings, also artsy, are small plates listed on a chalk board, but the simple menu is deceptively upscale. We shared a burrata over chard pesto with toasted pecans served in a simple shallow dish. It was to die for and after licking the bowl we split the best key lime pie of the many we sampled during our three weeks on the road. 

M is very outgoing, and our restaurant experiences are always enhanced when she makes her newest best friends. I’m not at all garrulous, but she is adept at opening conversations with strangers. At Upperline, we talked with a young economics professor from the University of Chicago but at Jewel of the South we got into a much more animated and extended conversation with Adam and Stacy, a graphic designer and his art teacher girlfriend. I always enjoy these offhand, spur of the moment conversations, especially with locals, and find that they often add significantly to our appreciation of these new places. Years ago, I traveled alone in Europe for five months and hardly met anyone. Now, I meet people every time we go out to dinner (or to the market). Without M I wouldn’t know how to start a conversation, but with her help I’m almost a bon vivant.

Jewel is an odd contradiction of funky and upscale, and the house has a lovely courtyard for evenings when it’s more temperate than what we experienced. Jewel was a different dining experience, but without question I’d go back.

Jewel of the South Courtyard

Our final meal in New Orleans was lunch at La Petite Grocery. I knew nothing about it other than several friends had given it rave reviews. I thought it might be like Central Grocery, the Decatur Street mecca for muffuletta sandwich lovers. Instead, it turned out to be an elegant, period-style dining room on Magazine Street. The owner-executive chef, Justin Devillier, won the James Beard award for Best Chef: South after being a finalist in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. 

It sounds like sacrilege to say I had the cheeseburger when the place serves sensational French cuisine, but, on the recommendation of a friend, that’s what I had. M had an eye-popping pumpkin curry soup with slivered almonds and chives, and for dessert we split the strange sounding lemon-basil ice cream. Everything, and I mean everything, was delicious. The ice cream suffered a little from its lack of artistic presentation – two scoops in a bowl that was a little too large – but the flavors made up for it.

In the end, it was an intense, food packed 48 hours. NOLA is a special place for foodies, an amalgam of French, Cajun, Creole, and international cuisines. We think of Seattle as a foodie destination, but New Orleans is over the top in that regard. There is no way to sample all of the good spots – even for a resident. It must be said that given the hot climate and abundance of good food it’s no wonder that there is a noticeable weight problem among its citizens. After just 48 hours we’re committed to lean cuisine until those five pounds are gone.

Bon Appetite!

Travels in the Low Country…

This is the “Low Country.” Before our recent trip through the “Old South,” I knew almost nothing about this 187 miles of South Carolina coastline with its barrier or Sea Islands. Traditionally, the phrase refers to the former slave holding areas where rice and indigo, both labor intensive crops that thrived in the hot, wet, sub-tropical climate, were the foundation of its economy. I’ve always had an affinity for the “big sky” vistas of the western high desert, but this astonishingly beautiful landscape with its long chartreuse-colored sea grasses, blue sky, live oak, Spanish moss, and tidewater is equally striking.

Charleston, with its well-preserved historic district and well-deserved reputation as a food lover’s destination, was our first stop, and since arriving we’ve marveled at its wonderful South of Broad mansions, enjoyed the tastes and flavors of the city, and the soft sibilant ya’lls of its residents. After four days of acclimation in the “Holy City,” our first true experience of antebellum life was a stop at Magnolia Plantation, an estate established in 1676 and still held in trust by descendants of the Drayton family, its original owners. 

Magnolia Plantation’s Main House

For nearly two centuries, the Draytons amassed great wealth through the cultivation of “Carolina Gold,” a special variety of rice, but following the Civil War, no longer able to rely on slave labor, the estate fell on hard times forcing the owners to sell three-fourths of their property and convert the plantation into a ceremonial garden. 

The visit to Magnolia Plantation was not our first encounter with America’s slave owning past. In 2016, M and I spent three weeks visiting revolutionary and Civil War sites in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia as well as the battlefield at Gettysburg. We both find it difficult to reconcile the natural beauty of these areas with the inhuman treatment of their formerly enslaved populations. In 1860, there were 4 million slaves in the United States, 400,000 of them in South Carolina. Magnolia Plantation “owned” 235. Today, Magnolia is public garden, but it is difficult to walk its grounds in the Carolina heat without feeling the suffering of its enslaved population.

Our first real taste of today’s Low Country came as we approached Beaufort, a remarkably beautiful small city, that was our first layover on the trip south from Charleston. As we traveled through this landscape, we listened to two books on Audible – Pat Conroy’s South of Broad, a novel set in Charleston, and Tony Horwitz’s Spying on the South, a retracing of Frederick Law Olmsted’s 1850 journey through the South, looking at how things have or have not changed. Both books have added to our appreciation for the culture of the region pre and post-Civil War.

The South Carolina coast is dotted with barrier islands, from Edisto, Hunting, Lady’s, and Daufuskie (where Pat Conroy taught school for one year) and on to Port Royale and Hilton Head Island. The Low Country is nominally limited to the South Carolina coastal waterways, but the islands continue into Georgia with Saint Simons, Sea Island, and the Carnegie family’s Cumberland Island and on even further, into Florida, with the picturesque village of Fernandina on Amelia Island.

This is a breathtaking corner of America that few of us know well. It is well worth a visit, both for its beauty but also as a reminder of the nation’s checkered history. Wonderful antebellum homes stand in contrast to rows of slave quarters on those same estates. Charleston and Savannah are charmingly restored cities that reveal themselves as examples of America’s interest in historic preservation. Both were important in early America’s history, Charleston as a thriving port and Savannah as the center of its cotton-based economy, but both relied on enslaved people to build and maintain those elegant homes. I can’t help but remember that the 1994 bestseller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil took place in Savannah and may be a suitable description of the region as a whole.

On Amelia Island the passage of time and its contrasts are especially noticeable. The island has a colorful history having been ruled over five centuries by eight different flags. In the 20th century it was the center of the shrimp fishing industry, but competition from overseas decimated the fleet, taking it down from over 100 boats to the three that call it home port today. Similarly, during the Great Depression the island was suffering from the economic devastation of the times but two giant companies, Kraft and Rayonier came to the rescue building enormous pulp mills, one to the east, producing fiber for cardboard, and one to the west making cellulous for use in making paper, clothing and plastics. Both plants produce smelly emissions and their unsightly industrial architecture dominates the otherwise beautiful Low Country landscape. The old town itself is quaint, well maintained, and from its streets the tourist is unaware of the industrial ugliness but leave the harbor on a river cruise and the two plants bracketing the town’s lovely historic center are a blight.

Pulp Mills on either side of Fernandina Village on Amelia Island

This is the “new south” struggling to establish a new identity. Communities rich in history are confronting the ugliness of a slave holding heritage, and others devastated by foreign competition seek to reinvent and recreate an economic infrastructure with good jobs that will sustain them. America’s current political divisions mirror the divide this historic region has always struggled to mask between the haves and have nots.

Wild horses on Cumberland Island

We have loved exploring this extraordinary landscape and learning its history. In 2016, we traveled in the Tidewater region of Maryland and Virginia, an area with an equally rich colonial history. We visited the homes of five American presidents – all slave owners. It’s clear to me from our travels now and then that America will forever be tarnished by the scar of its inhumane legacy. It is equally clear that America has made great strides in its effort to heal this wound. I can only hope the we continue the healing process and pull this divided nation together for our future.

** Footnote: Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Horwitz, the author of Spying on the South, died earlier this year, at age 60, while on a book tour promoting this book.

One Life to Live…

I’m a big James Taylor fan. I own most of his music – recorded, printed, and filmed – but my favorite song is undoubtedly the one whose first and last lines are “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.”

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
Any fool can do it
There ain’t nothing to it
Nobody knows how we got to
The top of the hill
But since we’re on our way down
We might as well enjoy the ride

The secret of love is in opening up your heart
It’s okay to feel afraid
But don’t let that stand in your way
‘Cause anyone knows that love is the only road
And since we’re only here for a while

Might as well show some style

Give us a smile

Isn’t it a lovely ride?
Sliding down
Gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride
Now the thing about time is that time
Isn’t really real
It’s just your point of view
How does it feel for you
Einstein said he could never understand it all
Planets spinning through space
The smile upon your face
Welcome to the human race
Some kind of lovely ride
I’ll be sliding down
I’ll be gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride
Isn’t it a lovely ride?
See me sliding down
Gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride
The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time

Try not to try too hard/It’s just a lovely ride.

It’s great advice, but “Welcome to the human race” is equally important. I’ve been able to enjoy the ride because I’m privileged, and most of that privilege has nothing to do with hard work. Today, it’s a combination of age, experience, and genetics that helps me appreciate my good fortune and empathize with others less fortunate.

I’ve written a lot about death and dying lately. There’s just too much of it. My friends are dying “natural” deaths. I read the obituary of another one this morning. I know that’s normal, but Hurricane Dorian is wreaking havoc in the Bahamas, and mass murderers in El Paso, Dayton, and Odessa took 39 lives last month… and that’s not normal. Those 39 and the residents of the Bahamas don’t deserve it and can’t enjoy the lovely ride no matter how hard they try. Sadly, their lives might have been spared if our elected officials had the courage and wisdom to legislate on climate and guns. Shame on them, and shame on us for not electing representatives willing to acknowledge and confront these problems.

But, it isn’t only death that deprives us of our friends and family. In the last few years I’ve lost a number of friends and family members–not to death but to dementia. In many ways, death is easier to cope with, more normal. It’s sudden and final. Dementia, on the other hand, is an especially cruel slow taking that leaves the body but destroys the brain.

A Facebook post by the daughter of an old friend of mine caught my eye recently. She was celebrating her Dad’s birthday and wrote that he “may not be able to Facebook anymore, but he still makes me laugh.” It was touching but enigmatic, so I asked her to explain. She told me that he/they were dealing with dementia. Mild now but progressing. I was devastated. He and I have known each other for 55 years. An accomplished painter, actor, and musician, I saw him in an Arthur Miller play Off-Broadway and heard him play guitar and sing at the Troubadour in LA, watched his regular gig with a musical group on the Andy Williams TV show, and marveled at his 30+ years in a leading role on a well-known soap opera.

We even “attended” Mick Jagger’s wedding to Bianca together, i.e. stood outside the Hotel de Ville with all the locals in St. Tropez to see the couple emerge from the ceremony and get in their Rolls Royce.

Other Singers

My favorite story about our friendship also took place in St. Tropez, and I never let him forget it. He and his wife were visiting from New York, and on that particular day, we were walking along the harbor-side quai toward Senequier, the famous people-watching bar, to have a glass of Rose de Provence, when a young woman with a pronounced Queens accent ran up and said, “Oh, Dr. Larry (not his name), I’m missing you.” Dr. Larry was the character he played on the soap and this star-struck young woman was desperate to know what was happening on the show while she was on vacation in France. “Dr. Larry,” smiling and gracious, filled her in, gave her an autograph, kissed her on the cheek, and she departed with a big smile. That’s just the kind of person he was. I suspect he’s still just as gracious. I don’t want to imagine him any other way, least of all as someone struggling to remember where he lives, how to drive, or who the person standing in front of him is.

Dementia touches more and more of us these days. I have a family member and two other friends dealing with the diagnosis and it isn’t just the patient that suffers. Time and again I see how the stress and pressure of patient care weighs on friends and relatives asked to make critical care decisions. It’s sad and painful. I’m reminded of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner, who retired from the court to care for her Alzheimer’s afflicted husband, but who, in a particularly cruel turn of events, stood by helplessly as he attached himself romantically to another dementia patient in his Memory Care facility.

Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride
Now the thing about time is that time
Isn’t really real
It’s just your point of view
How does it feel for you
Einstein said he could never understand it all
Planets spinning through space
The smile upon your face
Welcome to the human race

Welcome to the human race. Remember, we only have one life to live, so we have to live it now in the best way we know while holding those important to us close.

After this blog was published, I received a comment/note from a friend whose husband is declining mentally. I asked if I could publish her response and she said yes. The names are removed, but here’s the comment.

This piece spoke to my heart. Since ____ was diagnosed with cognitive decline, we are living each day the best we know how. We sometimes reflect on the passage of time and those memories that are dear to us, but more importantly we have a heightened awareness of the present. In some ways our life is like being at sea again. Each day was a new dawning. Sometimes there would be a squall on the horizon and we would batten down the hatches, put on our safety harnesses, and wait. Then as suddenly as the squall appeared it would dissipate and with a smile we would share a tot of rum. I remember a time we had to seek shelter from a storm off Newcastle, Australia. We had no detailed charts of the harbor. We called the Coast Guard for an assist, but they weren’t able to help. Miraculously we found our way, relying on each other to steady the course. Once again, we find ourselves in uncharted waters. With some courage and a little know how we will hold each other close and greet each new dawning.

Thank you, Jack for a time to reflect!