18 September 2017

Secrets Of The Old Red Barn

By: Jon Katz

Secrets Of The Old Red Barn

I pass this old barn on County Route 313 all the time, it is the road out of town that leads to Vermont, and there are several beautiful old barns on the road. This one speaks to e, it looks as if it has many secrets behind those doors, it is beautiful and fused to the land, it looks as if it grew right out of a garden. If you wish to buy it as an 8 1/2 by 11 print – lots of people say they want barn photos – Maria will sell it –  info at [email protected] – for $75 plus $10 shipping – $85 total. This barn has some magic in it, at least for me.

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Still Life: Flowers from The Farmer’s Market

By: Jon Katz

Flowers From The Farmer's Market

I saw these flowers at the Farmer's Market Sunday and brought them home for Maria, who had a stomach bug and was resting. I took this photo with my archomat lens and I loved the depth and richness of the colors.

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The Mansion: Diane And Red

By: Jon Katz

Diane And Bill

Diane is always happy to see Red, she puts her walker to the side, sits down holds him close. "I will never hurt you," she says to him, over and again. "I promise you, I will never hurt you,  you will be safe with me." I think he knows that is so.

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Walking With Bill, Talking With Bill. The Painful Art Of Listening

By: Jon Katz

Talking With Bill

Bill is having a hard time now, he is recovering from a stroke, he feels cut off from his community – he is gay – he admits to being unhappy with his life right now, he sometimes feels he has lost interest in life.  He years for his community, and for a lover. He feels there is little chance of that in his life now, he is 82 years old and living at the Mansion, a Medicaid Assisted Care Facility.

Bill had a hard day yesterday, today was brighter. He received the first of the letters being sent to him by gays from around the country who read the blog. and know of him.

He showed me one and I read part of it to him, it was a lovely and thoughtful letter from John P, who lives in Minnesota. John is in his 60's and works for a non-profit, and he wrote Bill about the need to be closeted at times in  his life, and to his recent marriage to a man he had been with for 20 years before the state of Minnesota permitted gay marriage in 2013.

The letter was warm and direct, John talked about a garage sale he and his husband were having, about the art they have collected over the years, and his family and friends. Bill loved the letter, he cannot read write now or write back yet. John was the first person to write to Bill, I saw more letters arriving as I was leaving.

The letter was all about community and a shared life, and I think it gave Bill something to think about.

John is a regular reader of the blog, "I understand from Jon Katz's blog post that you have some disability resulting from a stroke and that  you are not able to respond to correspondence. That's totally okay with me. I do hope that you are doing well, and I will write again."

It was a lovely letter, a perfect letter, just what Bill needed to hear. He had the staff – and me – read it and re-read it to him. A number of people in the area are planning visits with Bill so he can meet some other members of his community and feel more connected to his life.

Bill is challenging for me, and for the Mansion staff. In hospice, I learned about active listening. I'm not there to cheer him up, talk him up, tell him he's okay, or challenge his feelings. I'm just there to listen, and I think this is what Bill needs badly right now, he is looking for reasons to have hope in his life, and finding too few.

Bill told me he was waiting for me, he felt badly that he had not listened to any of the audio book CD's I got him or to the CD player I brought him. He said he felt guilty, but "I just can't seem to do things like that yet, I'm just not ready."  I told him he had nothing to feel badly about, he could get to the tapes this week, next month, next year or never. There are no strings attached to the things I bring you, I said. You can use them or not.

I said we ought to talk about things he might like to do – taking walks together, visits with Red, reading letters, or just talking, something I think he badly needs to do. We spent an hour together today. I asked him if he liked flowers, and he said he loved flowers, I said I would bring him some. I call this filling in the holes. He has lost nearly everything of value to him, he needs to start moving the other way if he can.

Flowers? What for?, he asked.

"Because they are beautiful and you love them," I said. And they would brighten up the room.

Tomorrow, we will be taking a walk together, Bill said he would like that. I can't make Bill happy or change the reality of his life. I can listen to him and with some help, fill in some of the holes in his life. I've spent some time with stroke victims before and his depression and confusion are not unusual. So many basic and fundamental tenets of life – speech, reading, sight – I have the feeling he needs to find some things he likes, as well as mourn the things he has lost. But only he can do that, I can't do that for him.

I left Red in Connie's room when I went to talk to Bill, at on point he became tearful, recalling a lover he once had and still misses. Red came running across the hallway and nosed open the door and rushed into the room and put his head on Bill's knee. Sometimes that dog scares me.

In a few weeks, Bill is undergoing eye surgery and that may make it easier for him to read once more.

Being gay is important to Bill and he says what he most needs is to be among people like himself. Not easy at the Mansion, an assisted care facility in a small upstate New York town where Bill is the only acknowledged gay person in residence.  The staff is working hard to  help him.

It seems he took a long walk at lunch awhile back and ended up at a local tavern, he says he wanted a drink.  I don't know if he got one. I hope to get the rest of that story in a day or so.

Bill and I talked for over an hour. He said he was grateful for the visit. A small start, but a good one.  We are talking to one another, there is trust and honesty, no small things.

This is all up to him. I will do my best to listen.

Bill would love to receive letters from people who are gay, I asked him if he would also like to receive messages from people who are not, and he said certainly, he would. You can write Bill c/o Bill, The Mansion, 11 S.Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. And thanks.

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The “I Love My Belly” Potholder

By: Jon Katz

The "I Love My Belly" Potholder

Maria went into her studio this morning with a twinkle in her eye, and she came out a few hours later with her first drawing for a pretty wonderful new potholder series, it is called the "I love My Belly" Potholder and she is selling them for $25 plus shipping, details on her blog.

They are not yet for sale, but she usually takes pre-orders ([email protected]).
They clearly were inspired by her belly dancing class, which has inspired a transformation in the way Maria thinks of her body.

The belly dancers will be performing on at our Open House at 1 p.m., Saturday, October 7.

They'll do three ten-minute sets with a short break in between each set. I suspect this potholder series will be a big hit.

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