The Picture Frame
As much as I kvetch (complain) to you about all the difficult moments… let me be fair and share with you some good ones as well.
A dear friend, Caren – in a moment of great kindness, offered to take me “away from it all.” She drove all the way from North Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to pick me up in her chariot. The day was mine. What would I like to do? She asked. Go to the best malls in Tel Aviv, was my immediate response. The idea of buying something beautiful which was not in the fruit or vegetable department was tantalizing. The best part of the trip, was the friendship and having arranged that I could come home whenever it suited me. It was a mini-vacation… twelve hours of no pills, no regime, no meals to plan or prepare, no questions about the date or time of day to answer, no confusion, no doctor appointments or bureaucracy to content with.
The purchase of an obscenely priced new lipstick from Dior (must I admit to being stupid enough to buy two?) – replenished my feeling of self-worth and the next stop at a lovely home store refreshed my memory of moments of luxury and the joy of the non-essentials of life. A shelf of sparkling silver, mirrored and glass picture frames caught my eye. In usual “Diamond fashion” I bought one of each size: small, medium and large. I knew I would find a purpose for them. The photographs sequestered in dozens of albums were just waiting to be selected for a prized position in the light of day.
With night skies and stars twinkling- Caren delivered me back to my front door, laden with packages. I was more than satisfied that the day has been a success. While I like to joke that Hubby’s mantra is “I complain…therefore I am…” Mine had always been: “I shop…therefore I am.” It is definitely a form of stroking the ego and saying to one’s self “I deserve this!”
When we were in business in Los Angeles – Hubby would volunteer for service abroad for a month each summer, leaving me to run our three retail stores. I told him that I was adding up the costs of his month away- (flights, meals, hotels etc.), and would be “off to Neiman Marcus” for my equivalent reward. It surely seemed fair to me! There is indeed a time and place for indulgence and foolish pleasures.
After two years of Covid-19 lock-downs, I must admit that the superficiality of my old mantra is more than embarrassing. It was a product of a Beverly Hills business in the world of fashion. I am now, twenty years later, more grounded and aligned with Rene Descartes and feel that “I think, therefore I am” is a far superior precept after all.
This morning I began looking for the perfect photograph for the smallest frame. I have a lovely selection of the only Lilliputian sized wedding photos every produced. Hubby and I were married 49 years ago and my parents (of blessed memory) decided that it was unnecessary to buy 8×10 glossy wedding photos, when the “proofs” would preserve the memory of the day just as well. I can honestly say that being the daughter of a former electrician and “small business” owner, who never had vast reserves of savings, I was truly unspoiled. I was a bit disappointed not to have a proper wedding album, but certainly would never have insisted on the additional expense. It somehow never dawned on me that my parents might have thought that my marriage had no chance of success, so why waste the money on an album of the occasion? Perhaps I should explain why they had a right to be in shock on the occasion of my marriage to Hubby.
It was a Hollywood style love story… Hubby and I met standing in line at JFK airport waiting for our TWA seat assignments for our flight to London. Through creative machinations of my own, we sat together on the airplane. After showing me “his” London the next day, he proposed marriage the same night. I actually accepted! It is a grand love story with wonderful details, which I will share, but not now as it is not the at all related to the purpose of this chapter. Suffice it to say that my parents had only eight weeks to plan both our civil and religious weddings. They never quite recuperated from my instantaneous decision.
Hubby liked to remind me (frequently) that when we married, I had a bank account with $1,500 in it, so he “married me for my money!” I have no idea why I thought I should mention this, but just in case you think I was born to wealth… I am setting the record straight.
The perfect wedding photo to be inserted into the new frame, appeared in the mini-wedding-album that I created. Of course, it was mini. The photos were mini! It is a photo of Hubby and I staring into one another’s eyes, drowning in romance. The photo was placed lovingly into the little glass frame this morning and I found myself transfixed by it. Hubby was so good looking! No wonder I fell for him. Is it possible that I was ever that thin or angelic? (Everyone is gorgeous when they are young.) I kept staring at it as the memories flooded back. The juxtaposition of those thoughts against our current reality dealing with all the ramifications of dementia is kaleidoscopic.
We all had a bad night last night. Even with a full dose of the new medication, Hubby was awake from 2:30 AM until the dawn. Violet was exhausted but kindly allowed me to return to sleep each of the three times that Hubby tried to wake me up. All of our appointments for the day needed to be cancelled as neither Hubby nor Violet would be rested enough to spend the day a distance away from their beckoning beds.
When Hubby awoke, I placed the picture frame with our wedding photo by his breakfast placemat and asked him if he knew who these people were. It took some considerable concentration, but he recognized himself. Thus, I asked:
“So. if that is you… who is the girl next to you”
He somehow sensed that it must be me and got the answer right, although I am not at all sure he actually recognized the 26-year-old me. He was so excited by the wedding photo that I showed him the mini-album. He did not recognize my father or many other people in the photos. When I showed him a lovely picture of his own father and mother, I asked him who the man was. He knew it was his Papa.
“So, if that is your Papa who is the lady with him?” I inquired.
Deep in thought, Hubby responded “His wife?”
It was a clever bluff indeed. He could not come up with the answer or the word “Mama” but was sharp enough to figure that this older couple must be married to one another. He spent hours looking at the photos. We both took time to pause and see the love that eventually brought us to this complicated moment in time.
I remember being young and an optimist. I remember thinking we would never age. Everything was ahead of us. I had never actually spent a lot of time with older people and had no clue what aging was about. Life fills in all the unknowns eventually. And thus, dear diary these new chapters are unfolding with highs and lows and moments of reflection. I am quite aware that were it not for Hubby’s condition, I would not find myself thinking so much about the past.
“To everything there is a time and a purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes had it right! Pete Seeger put it to music and “the Byrds” had a gold record titled “Turn, Turn, Turn” on the music charts. The melody constantly flows into my brain and brings forth contemplation on this very strange experience which we all share: life, death and infinity:
To everything turn, turn, turn
There is a season turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep…
….and a time to every purpose under heaven.