Today I went to a group home across town where a dear family friend, Don Gabe, lives with six or so other people who need assisted living. Don is a former neighbor, and he and my husband, Jack, played cribbage once a week for years.
Don is one of those hidden treasures you find now and again. A veteran of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, he was a colonel when he retired. Years ago he and his wife, Nita, retired in Country Meadows, where Jack and I lived. The two families had many things in common, and had many good times together.
Then Nita was hit with Alzheimer’s. Don cared for her as long as possible, but finally it was necessary for her to live in a group home where she had 24-hour care. And what wonderful care by Bili and John Feeley. Don went to see Nita every day, unless he was ill. For years.
His heart began acting up, and after some thought, he decided to move into the home with Nita. He just couldn’t trust his heart to behave. Nita faded away in a sweet sense…she was always sweet, even with this horrible illness…and she died this past summer. With Don at her side.
I get over to chat with him every few weeks or so, and sometimes we go out for lunch. I have more fun learning about his history. He has a terrific memory. Born and raised in North Dakota, living in a house with no plumbing or central heating. The stories he tells about family night baths (Saturday, of course). And how he and Nita eloped. And the friends they made around the world as the Army moved them around. He was with the Corps of Engineers. And what a wonderful family he has.
I said all that to say that it was a pleasure, the day before Thanksgiving, to join Don and a number of others at Thanksgiving Dinner. The thing that I’ve noticed every time I’ve been in this home is the strong love the owners and staff have for their residents. And respect.
While I was there, he received a package of the most exquisite cookies from son Matt and daughter-in-law Debbie, who live in Hawaii. They sent a beautiful message, which Don read to us.
It meant the world to me to see Don and the other residents just glowing in that wonderful atmosphere. Nothing trumps love and respect. I drove home feeling deeply blessed. Plus, I made several new friends.