Last week Jerry and I had dinner with friends. The food was excellent. First we had wine with a spread of anchovy toasts, prosciutto wrapped melon wedges, delicious cheese and wine grapes. Dinner was succulent lamb patties accompanied by carrots cooked with cumin and a vegetable mélange. Lis and Mark used to own and operate the Beach Store Café in the days when it was a fine restaurant.
The house itself was a work of art, crafted from finely finished wood and decorated with lovely objects collected on travels or created by the hosts’ talented children. The surrounding gardens were manicured and mulched. The view across fields was snow covered Mt Baker and Sisters mountains.
Besides her collection of peony varieties Lis raises vegetables for a produce stand and she and Mark keep more than 100 laying chickens. Mark still works as a respiratory therapist. The other guests, Barbara and Toby, who have just retired, live in Santa Fe in the winter and have a tiny but elegant cabin here on Lummi where they spend summers.
We talked about books and movies and sailboats and local people and local events and ferry politics. We talked about house construction, different kinds of wood and their uses and wood stoves for heating. We talked about food and chickens and more.
There was something on our minds that we only mentioned briefly, but it was there: the aches and pains of time. Jerry and I are both approaching 80. The others are much younger. But one member of each couple has issues with joints. Toby has just had knee replacements, and Lis is contemplating a hip replacement.
I have had a sudden flare of joint problems. First it was the left knee. Then other joints — the other knee, shoulder, fingers, wrists and finally, back. I got up one morning feeling as if I had suddenly crossed the 100 year mark. Nothing in my body seemed to be working properly. The doctor mostly dismissed it. “Osteoarthritis” he said. Inevitable result of aging. Finally, after some discussion he agreed to another x-ray and some blood tests. I have not yet done these. I am reluctant to have tests that the doctor seems to feel are not necessary. I remember that my mother pestered the medical world with demands for tests when what was really the matter was old age. And she remained physically fit until just before she died.
Our next social engagement was an art opening which included some work by Lorna Libert who teaches the art class I am currently taking. It was held at St Josephs hospital and called “Healing through Art.” Jerry remarked that he had never been in this part of the hospital. I reminded him that he had been there when he had his heart attack, but he came via the emergency room rather than through the front lobby. The art reception was in the cafeteria where we greeted Lorna and picked up a map of the art locations in the corridors.
We took the elevator to the next floor up where we found groups of well dressed people wandering the corridors and sipping wine while chatting and looking at the paintings, prints and photographs of the show.
From time to time patients on stretchers with IV bags attached, busy doctors, orderlies and technicians threaded their way through the loitering guests. At one point a small but determined nurse came striding down a long corridor calling out loudly: “ Move to the left, coming through, move to the left!” She was fast followed by stretcher bearing a middle aged bearded man who looked more dead than alive.
It seemed a good thing to let the world display itself in the hidden, sequestered habitat of the hospital: a party among the dying and recovering. It’s all part of life.
Last night we were invited to an engagement party. Our friends Holly and Brian had invited what seemed like everyone on the island to a party celebrating the engagement of their son Jeff to a beautiful young lady named Max who has just finished her Ph. D.– I think in some field of biology because I heard snippets of conversations which included mention of rat urine.
It was a good party: a pot luck in which people outdid each other with exotic dishes. There was a table with do-it-yourself oyster opening. I opened and ate 2 of them. I talked to many people of all ages. I had an adult conversation with the 18 year old son of a friend who I have known since he was a little kid. I talked to the sister of the bride to be about Los Angeles (where she lives) and how it has changed in the 35 years since I lived there. I told my friend Thurid that I was the oldest person at the party. She said no, she was, but when we compared ages I won by a long way at 79.
Brian demonstrated his chicken coop invention: Brian is an inventor. A big TV screen was mounted on the living room wall and the party gathered to watch a slide show of the bride and groom to be, from babyhood to engagement.
After champagne toasts to the happy couple Jerry and I said our goodbyes. We were tired and needed the peace of our own home. We left the younger folk to a long evening of dancing and celebrating.