Lessons from Mary

IMG-20120607-00041My mother-in-law passed away a few weeks ago. I’ve written about Mary in the past. You may remember that strong, stubborn Irish woman who depleted her savings caring for her Alzheimer’s-stricken husband, or the woman whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and made a fresh start with some new friends and a few prized possessions in an assisted-living facility. Mary was 86 when she died after a brief illness and hospitalization. Her experience taught me a few things worth sharing. Some of your most precious belongings may be the easiest to lose.  In the transitions from assisted living to the hospital to skilled nursing, those facilities managed to lose Mary’s upper dentures, her glasses and her hearing aid. I’ve never been arrested or put in jail, but I wonder, if I was in jail, whether someone would inventory my personal belongings and keep all my possessions intact by storing them in a plastic bag. If I recall all the “Law and Order” episodes I’ve watched, the contents...

Living in hiding


At a recent senior services visioning meeting for the City of Thousand Oaks, our table group came up with our future vision: “A community that provides easy-to-navigate and ongoing support of quality of life throughout the aging process.” I think about this vision a lot as it pertains to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors. Today’s LGBT elders are the last generation to have lived their childhood and young adulthood in hiding. They grew up at a time when there was no concept of “coming out” to family and friends because the disclosure could lead to institutionalization. I know this from observational experience. One high school summer in the early ’70s, I had a job at a private mental health facility doing administrative work with my mom. I remember asking my mother what might be wrong with this nice young man I’d seen around the facility. She told me he was homosexual and his parents placed him in the facility to “fix him.” That nice young man would be around 65...