A letter from Jack

Happy Holidays, Friends and Relations:

The view of Washington at night from the air can be spectacular if you’re not strapped down to a stretcher in a Maryland State Police Medivac helicopter looking horizontally at it through rain-smeared windows as we whiz past lights and buildings. How I got in this position is still an unknown but here I am, heading for the Washington Hospital Emergency Facility to see what’s wrong–learned it was a stroke. I’ve spent most of my working life below the Mason-Dixon line, I guess I should consider myself a Southerner but that just doesn’t feel right. Anyway, Dixie we are here!

The Friend’s House Retirement Community is a collection of buildings built over the last 40 years on an 80-acre campus that had been part of the old Smith estate in Sandy Spring, Md.

It may seem strange to see a little white toy poodle wandering the halls, but that’s “Roo”, part of the team of “Kanga” and “Roo” (that’s Pogo talk). Her owner brings her in and let’s her chase a little red ball down the corridor for the amusement of everyone. I’ve never seen her have an “accident” but she does get let out periodically.

Rob’s job is to be snuggled. One day a woman resident was having a bad case of the “Oh, Dears” at full volume. She was offered a toy stuffed animal which was rapidly rejected. Nothing but the real thing would do so Roo was called in and placed on the woman’s lap. Instant calm settled in. I didn’t stay around to see how the two were later separated, but Roo’s job was clear.

During the first 4 months I’ve moved around a lot from Thomas Hall (Rehab) to short stays at Montgomery Hospital, back to Thomas Hall several times while my body was trying to heal.

I am currently staying in Stabler Hall sharing a room with Danny Auerbach, a member of an old Sandy Spring family who also needs walking practice. Peggy is still residing in our apartment and we share lunch and dinner together every day.

Stabler Hall has many amenities such as a popcorn wagon which cruises the corridors every Wednesday afternoon, that is very enjoyable. Free, too.

Sunday and Friday afternoons it’s free ice-cream time. A “little red wagon” carrying three 5-gallon tubs of ice-cream plus throw-away cups and spoons makes it way between selected locations. Quitting time is determined by the clock and also by the softness of the remaining ice-cream.

Don’t get the idea that eating is our chief entertainment (although for some who spend their time waiting in the dining room it may be). We get outside entertainers who volunteer their time and talent for our pleasure, often just before lunch. Some are really good…

Stabler Hall has two levels with a single elevator. My room is on the second level with most of the residents (including Peggy) on the first floor. Don’t worry, the place is built on a slope so both levels have ground access. I’ve often wondered what we’d do if the elevator didn’t work. The answer is…walk! Several years ago I observed the wait staff formed in a “bucket brigade” to carry the foot trays up to the dining room. Then just last week a power hiccup I came to the stalled elevator. Maintenance had been called but I said “Let’s walk.” I’ve been trained on single steps but here was a whole staircase… A group of three angels quickly formed around me, one to guide me, one behind to whisper reminders (“Keep your whole foot on the step!”) and the third to handle my wheelchair. The wheelchair angel bumped it up to the first landing where he said “Enough!”, gathered the 35-pound machine in his arms and trudged it directly to the top of the stairs… I say “Bless you angels, all. I’m glad we could do it and I wish good health to our solitary elevator!”

We’ve been writing this Christmas letter for many years, largely to save us from individually penning it on each card. The subject has often been our vacation travels, but not this letter! I fear our travel days are over or severely curtailed, but we’ve seen most of the places we wanted to see.

On that note, we’ll wish you a pleasant holiday season and a grand 2014!

Jack & Peggy

Jack Fogarty


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