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The Parking Lots are Full

In this blog: Sickness Sucks

Notes from Joy

BOOB Girl Talk for your groups

The BOOB Girl Series

Sickness Sucks

It was still dark outside. It would be at least three hours before the first rays of the February sun slipped through the floor-to-ceiling windows in the Meadow Lakes Retirement Community’s spacious dining room.

There was one occupant. She was sitting at Table 12, looking out at the darkness. A cup of tea – Earl Grey – steamed on the table beside her. Her fingers were laced through the handle of the mug.

Hadley Joy Morris Whitfield felt as dark as the trees outside the windows.

It was totally still, but she still did not hear the soft sounds of footsteps behind her.

She jumped at the touch on her shoulder, gentle as it was.

She turned.

“I didn’t hear you, Raven,” she said quietly. “You were so quiet.”

“I’m an Apache,” the tall Indian said, smiling down at Hadley. He pulled a chair over and sat down close beside her. Their arms touched.

“You are here. Disturbing the Force.”

She felt him smile.

Hadley was wearing a floor-length pink bathrobe with the outline of a kitten face near the bottom of one hem. Her feet were warm in matching pink slippers. Raven was dressed in faded jeans, a flannel shirt and moccasins.

“Thinking about serious things,” Hadley said, her voice soft.

He could tell she had been crying.

He was quiet. He liked quiet. When you are quiet the other person will usually fill the silence with important words.

Hadley filled it.

“So many of my loves are sick,” she began. “Joan, my friend in Florida, died. I only have two cousins, one of them is in assisted living, wheelchair bound and on dialysis.”

She took a breath, followed by a sip of tea. “The other is diabetic with lots of problems. My third cousin died this year.”

“Lots of sickness,” Raven said, nodding.

“Just in my little family we have two with diabetes, we have ulcerative colitis/Crohn's Lupus/Arthritis, a recent aneurysm, a severe undiagnosed pain and A-Fib.” She sighed. One of my best friends has just been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 85. Another just finished chemotherapy.” She took still another breath. “And another friend in Florida has just gone on hospice.”

The list went on: “Denni’s son just moved in with her. He is 61 and on dialysis and her husband has severe COPD. Another’s son-in-law has Alzheimer’s, and a friend in Maine is on heavy-duty Prednisone for a rare arthritis that makes every joint so painful it’s unbearable.”

“Sixty is young,” Raven reflected, thinking of the two men on Hadley’s list.

Hadley laughed a mirthless laugh.

“I pray for them all every night when I crawl into bed, but the prayer list is so long I fall asleep before I get through it.”

“Sleep is good.”

She wiped her eyes with a napkin she had been holding in her hand.

“So much worry,” Raven said softly.

Hadley smiled in the darkness. “Do you realize everything you’ve said has only been a three-word statement?”

“I’m an Apache.”

They both laughed a soft laugh.

Raven was Robinson Leary’s “Late in Life Love,” a statement they all cherished. He lived at Meadow Lakes now, with Robbie, and was part of the friendship group of Hadley, Robbie, Mary Rose McGill, her husband Wiley Vondra, Marge Aaron and Alphonso Greatwood and of course, Geoffrey, their oversized mastiff.

Hadley heard soft paw clicks on the wooden floor and Geoffrey limped through the dining room and lay down with a sigh and a thump at Raven’s feet.

Hadley reached down between their chairs and rubbed the big dog’s head.

They were silent for a while.

“It’s hard with so many people I love being sick.” Hadley said in a whisper. “Who is next? When will the other shoe fall? Will it be one of us?” She waved her hand over Table 12.

‘Very hard indeed,” Raven replied. “One of us? Someday it will.” He rubbed one foot over Geoffrey’s back.

After a time, Raven spoke again. “Decade of Death,” he said.

“How do you mean? And it will take more than three words.”

She could feel Raven smile. “When we reach a certain age, we enter what we call a Decade of Death. We are now in our 70’s and 80’s and either could be our Decade of Death. We hope for, as the Lakota say, a good wiconte, a good death.”

“There is so much sickness,” Hadley said. “You drive by a hospital or our surgical center down the street, and the parking lots are packed.”

“This is true.”

They were quiet again. The only sound was Goeffrey’s soft sore.

Raven stood. Geoffrey woke up, scrambled to his feet and stood beside his man.

“Time to go,” he put both hands on Hadley’s shoulders, leaned down and kissed the top of her head.

“Tine for gratitude,” he said, and she could hear the depth of meaning behind his words.

He went out the door silently. Only the click of Geoffrey’s paws accompanied him.

“Time for gratitude,” she whispered to herself.

Time for Gratitude.

Raven had said that first at a funeral for one of the Meadow Lakes residents.

Hadley smiled to herself. Funerals and doctor’s appointments. The social highlights of the elderly. “God’s waiting room,” was a quote that applied to everywhere old people lived together.

Raven had used an example of picturing in your head all the people you love, then feeling equally loved by them.

“Comes in waves,” Raven had said in his three-word statement. The love you feel being returned from the people you love, comes in waves and surrounds you.

Hadley closed her eyes. She pictures her friends gathered in a big group. Up front she put her son and grandchildren and cousins. She smiled as she thought how she often called her family, “Beloved Strangers.”

She began to name them all, naming each one, “I am grateful for you, Julia, I am grateful for you, Ellen, I am grateful ---” She went through them all.

When she was finished, she leaned back. Raven was right. Love came at her like a wave. She could feel the love others had for her as well as the love and gratitude she had for all of them. How lucky she was to love and be loved by all these people.


Her eyes flew open. The first gentle light of the day was playing at the windows. Stacy, Hadley’s favorite server was standing over her, holding her empty tea mug.

“Oh Geez!” Hadley said. She had fallen asleep. The kitchen crew was bustling around cooking breakfast and making the dining room ready. The rich smell of breakfast meats filled the big room.

Hadley looked down at her pink robe and slippers.

“Oh Geeze!” she said again.

Stacy laughed, reached down, and took hold of Hadley’s hand, pulling her up and into a hug.

“Good morning, lady,” Stacy said with a big smile.

Stacy was a beautiful young black woman with gorgeous, crocheted braids that were gathered behind her head.

Hadley hugged back.

“I’m out of here!” Hadley said.

“Gone like a freight train, gone like yesterday, gone like a Civil War Soldier, bang, bang,” Stacy said, singing her version of the old Montgomery Gentry song.

Gratitude. Raven had said, eases pain and s