Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Friend


My friend, who shall remain nameless to protect his privacy will be moving into an assisted care facility next week.  Actually, he needs total care but his partner is with him and will help him.

This picture was taken in the summer of 2010, the last time my friend visited me and Bill at our home.  He almost backed into the house.  Backing out of the driveway, he almost knocked over our neighbor's mailbox.  After those near misses we decided that was the last time we could have him drive his own car over to our house.  Actually, we were more afraid that he would injure himself or someone else on Route 1, which he has to cross to get to our house.

I won't go into all the details of my friend's decline only to say it is a combination of Parkinson's and dementia.  The last time I saw him was last week.  He was very confused and paranoid.  I'm not sure if he even knew who I was.

 I'm kneeling in on the left, my friend standing behind me- Ft. Devens, Mass - 1960
I met him when I was in the Army in 1960.  We both went to school together at Ft. Devens, Massachusetts.  Best friends, we never knew each other was gay.  No, we didn't have secret crushes on each other, we're not each other's "types."  However, we did remain good friends over the years.

Surprise birthday party for my friend - Philadelphia 1982
We both worked in center city Philadelphia for many years.  Then came a time when my friend grew tired of the rat race and left his job for the anonymity of rural southern Delaware.  His income took a major hit but he was happy.  He was free.  No more  daily commuting to Philadelphia from his home in Norwood, PA.  No more jumping through hoops for his bosses.  No more stepping over the homeless on his way to and from work.  Freedom!

One of the many lunches we used to have when we both worked in Philadelphia

After he moved to Delaware I often visited him at his single wide trailer on twenty-acres of wooded land which he called "The Ranch."  It was a getaway for me, him and many of his other friends.  We all just happened to be gay but no orgies.  Well, maybe a few if we got lucky at the bars but that's another blog entry.

Weekend at "The Ranch" 1980
When it came time for me to retire of course my first choice was southern Delaware where my friend lived.  I loved the relaxed way of life.  I loved the low taxes.  I loved the growing gay community where I felt more comfortable to be who I am.  Freedom!

About ten years ago I started to notice certain signs that things with my friend weren't quite right.  I pushed them out of my mind.  However, over the years these "signs" began accumulating until I no longer felt I was imagining things.

Gradually, my nightly phone calls to my friend to exchange the latest gossip, complaints,  jokes and endless repeating of war stories from our Army days drifted off to a few a week, then a few a month and now I don't call at all because no one is at the end of the line.

The last time I visited him was last week.  I don't think he knew who I was.  This morning Bill went down to visit him and his partner, they were there but didn't answer the door.

Next week I understand they are moving into an assisted living facility.

Many of my friends from my Army days have died.  Many of my classmates have died.  I still have two good friends left from high school, one of which I talk to almost everyday on FaceTime.  I make every day count.  I take nothing for granted.  Time is slipping away.

Probably never to be repeated again - one of our many dinners out at local cafes in Delaware


anne marie in philly said...

it is good that your friend is getting the help he seems to need. and you are in mourning for the long friendship you had with him has passed. thank dog for larry and dr. spo and your many other friends. {{{{{hugs}}}}}

Ron said...

Anne Marie,

Losing my friend Bob this way, his body is still here but his personality is gone, is perhaps one of the saddest things I've experienced in my lifetime. I wish you could have known him before he went downhill. You would have loved him and he would have loved you. You were just the type of "gal" he liked. So sad to see him this way. He will be getting good care though. I'll still visit him. I had a similar situation with my Mother towards the end. The only difference there was that she got mean. Thank goodness Bob isn't mean.


Bob said...

This line "now I don't call at all because no one is at the end of the line" broke my heart.
I have an aunt suffering from Alzheimer's and I know that feeling. It's lucky he has someone with him, whether he remembers or not.

Ron said...

Thank you Bob, you understand. It is so sad. So many times the past few years I would say "Are you there Bob? Are you there?" A silence then "Yeah." So sad. He wasn't there.

He is well liked by everyone and will be well taken care of. His nephews are taking care of the arrangements because he partner Jim is almost as bad as he is. The difference is that not many people like Jim. I don't either. And that's a shame.

Helen Lashbrook said...

Having someone 'die' from dementia is the worst kind of pain, they are still there in body, if not in mind, to remind you of the person they used to be. I lived with that with my Dad for the last six years. The really sad part was the relief when he died. Visiting your friend will not give you pleasure, but hopefully,you will be free from the guilt of not visiting; that was my experience.

Anonymous said...

I lost my favorite Aunt to Alzheimers many years ago. I used to go feed her dinner in the rest home, as the staff didn't do a very good job and my Uncle could not be bothered. She couldn't talk by this point, but I think she knew who I was. One visit I showed her the baby sweater and booties I crocheted for my first neice, tears poured out of her eyes. So I know there was still a little bit she understood.

So sorry about your friend.

Cindy from Sonoma

J.R. Smith said...

A very touching and moving piece. Thank you for sharing. My thoughts are with you and your friends as you all make this transition into the next phase of your lives and relationships. Peace.

Ron said...

J. R. Smith,

Thank you for your kind and compassionate comment.


Ron said...


Received your Christmas card today! Thank you. What a pleasant surprise!

Thank you for sharing your story about your aunt. This is the first time I've experienced full fledged dementia/Alzheimers with someone so close. My Mother developed dementia the last few months of her life but never this bad or as long (12 years) as my friend. What frustrates me is that I saw this coming years ago and no one would believe me, no one. I knew my friend and I knew something wasn't right. I understand that not much can be done to stop the progress of this condition but it was frustrating that others choose to ignore his condition until now where he literally cannot take care of himself from eating to going to the bathroom.

However, there are times that I 'get through" to him, usually by some story I tell him and he laughs. One of the few times he laughs these days. We alway had a joke where I would call him "Hon", which was our secret way of saying we weren't stereotypical gay guys (we're butch darn it!) He would always laugh when I called him "Hon." He still does, most of the time.

Thanks again for your comment Cindy.


Ron said...


You are so right, it is as if they did "die." And you're right, visiting him does not give me pleasure, I feel worse. I want to do something but I can't. All I can do is watch him slip farther and farther away.


Mark in DE said...

Having only met him within the last 18 months or so, it is very interesting to me to see these photos of him from 30 years ago when he was young and vibrant.

You are wise to live everyday with purpose and not take anything for granted.

Ron said...


He's totally different now than he was thirty, twenty or even ten years ago. I started to see his decline back in 2001. No one would believe me. I've lost a friend. I can't believe we used to talk on the phone almost every night. So many good times, gone. The last time I saw him, I don't think he knew who I was. I think he knew I was someone he knew but wasn't sure who. Very, very sad. Bill and I went by where they live tonight but couldn't bring ourselves to stop in.


Ur-spo said...

it is a reminder there is no 'death with dignity; there is only a life well lived so when it declines we have no regrets.

Randy in NEB. said...

Ron, Thanks for sharing another snippit of your life. Interesting and at the same time very poignant. I'm finding out now at 53 yrs, life has a way of catching up with a guy. Randy.

Ron said...


Bill and I just got back from a visit with my friend and his partner. His nephews and their wives are preparing for him and his partner to move into assisted living next week. They are very apprehensive about this big change in their lives but it is the only way to go. Watching all this I hope I don't go that route but one never knows does one? I appreciate every day of my freedom. I don't think my friend realizes what is happening but maybe that is best.


Ron said...

Again Dr. Spo, well said. That is why I and very serious about living a life "well lived." When my time comes I will have no regrets. I've done just about everything I've wanted to and I have enjoyed life immensely, especially the laughter part.