from Sandy Needham

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Denver/Boulder/São Paulo Dispatch


My oldest sister, Janet, buried a second husband, Rex, a little more than a year ago. She sold the house and moved into a condominium nearby in a suburb of Denver. I decided many months ago to visit her new place over my holidays in the US; I wanted to support her in her newly-widowed phase of life. In the interim, the following situation developed:

Rex had a close friend, Jerry, with whom he had a golf and lunch schedule every Tuesday. Jerry was good to check-in on Janet after Rex died even though he was single-handedly caring for his wife, who had been suffering from poor health for two years. She died last April. I'll let Janet's own words explain: 

"Shortly after, [Jerry and I] started having lunch on Tuesdays, as had been the pattern when he and Rex played golf and had lunch.  Then it became Tuesdays and Fridays.  And then, as (sister) Donna so nicely put it, Tuesday into Wednesday.  I am still chuckling over that comment!"

Fast-forward to my arrival in Denver last January, and Janet was soon to return to Phoenix - where Jerry spends winter. She already spent time there in early December to assist him after shoulder surgery. Coincidentally, her daughter lives in the same suburb of Phoenix! Janet is now planning to move out of her "new" condominium in May and share Jerry's Denver home, his mountain cabin and his Phoenix home. Marriage is planned for this summer!!

Janet & Jerry
Janet went from saying she was never getting involved again after burying two husbands and a lover, to saying: "I feel like I am about 19 and having a wonderful time!"

I couldn't be happier for her.

Janet's big, comfortable condo makes a lovely home and a convenient one: it is in the middle of a shopping center. She was very helpful driving me around for my end-of-US-trip errands, though many items were solved by simply walking out the door to Home Depot, to Chico's fashions, etc.. Not to mention the great bar and restaurant selection steps away, as well as a movie multiplex where we caught the disastrous "Sisters." (We expect more of you, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.) 

One of my favorite features of Janet's condo life is the open invitation from a local restaurant owner for residents of the condo to show up on Tuesday evenings for Happy Hour. He offers gratis whatever hors d'oeuvres he conjures from experiments and leftover delicacies in the kitchen. I enjoyed the event very much, rarely having the opportunity to sit around gabbing with Americans or people over 60! We tried the clams - too chewy, but the caesar salad and caprese were delicious. What a deal!

I was disappointed that Janet's granddaughter, Lainey, could not join us for dinner while I was there because she had a cold. She is a hair stylist/colorist extraordinaire, and responsible for Janet's jaunty purple streak! 

I was lucky to see Janet's devoted grandson Derek, a cadet in his third year at the US Air Force Academy, who was en route back to school from the holidays. Derek is a long-distance bicycling devotee and a member of the Air Force team. He is interested in many topics and made an excellent lunch conversationalist! So nice for me to have another of my rare encounters with my grandnephew.


Air Force Team
Newton returned to Brazil to have extra time with his family in São Paulo during these days. Unfortunately, the new iMac computer he had to buy to replace the previous corroded one in Natal had to be special-ordered and could only be shipped to Janet's address to guarantee timely delivery. It had to be without a base to fit into a order to be spirited past Customs agents in Brazil. I brought the carry-on we purchased for the previous iMac smuggle and was tasked with rolling the thing to São Paulo myself. 

This meant that when Janet and I rode the light rail to Union Station in downtown Denver to have lunch with my best friend, Lenna, we schlepped my big suitcase, the rolling iMac and my huge, packed purse all the way there. I would be taking the bus to Boulder with Lenna for my last night before going home.

The Union Station was recently restored, and the project was a great success.

There are many interesting bars and restaurants inside. 

Lenna, Janet and I had an unforgettable lunch at the Kitchen Next Door Community Pub. The topic was death, and it was inspiring, sometimes emotional, and absolutely fascinating. Janet is a Hospice volunteer, which renders her extra knowledgeable about end-of-life issues, as is Lenna, who served on the board of her mother's retirement community for some time. Besides, we have all suffered loss.

By mid-afternoon I was settled in "my" bedroom at Lenna and Jon's beautiful, peaceful Boulder home, complete with picture window looking out on the snow-covered Rockies. My timing was perfect for Lenna and Jon's weekly 'date night,' so I had the always gratifying privilege of dining with just about the best company to be had in this world! I've been best friends with Lenna since 1962; I met Jon in 1967; they are two remarkable, brilliant human beings and a celebrated couple. The evening included a private performance of their piano recital duet, an engaging arrangement of "Silent Night" on Lenna's mother's restored and immaculately refinished 1927 Steinway.

Lenna & Jon
I love these photos of Lenna and Jon watching their daughter getting married last September and enjoying their adorable grandson.
Lenna, Jon and grandson
Breakfast with Jon led to further discussion of death! As Lenna's replacement on the board of the retirement community, Jon recently attended a conference on death in Boston. Intriguing!

After Lenna joined us, the topic of their own eventual retirements came up. To stay and garden and tend their pea-patch?...or to relocate nearer their children and grandchild in Boston and Hartford, Connecticut? Or some of both? I loved having a conversation about retirement with people my own age!

This will be Lenna's last and 26th year as the illustrious CEO of a non-profit community transportation organization. Lamentably, recent months have been bedeviled by a disturbed woman who was declined service after making a scene and scaring fellow riders. The woman also happens to be unrelentingly astute at challenging this expulsion, so Lenna's days have been distracted by harassing emails and soul-numbing, bureaucratic legal inquiries. Damn. Let's hope this is soon over

Lenna performed her piano recital solo for me, a piece so ambitious that she continues to master it: Keith Jarrett's haunting arrangement of Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy." I am still haunted, recalling those heartrending chords on the Steinway.

Lenna and I wrestled my luggage into the car trunk and she drove me to the convenient airport bus station. In a move that felt absolutely familiar to me, Lenna repeated her steps from the previous day when she caught the bus from there to Union Station, except the airport bus leaves from the opposite side. We schlepped the luggage across the highway overpass unnecessarily, then realized the error and schlepped it back again, near where we parked. I was comforted to know I'm not the only person who would easily take this misstep. What was more unusual for me was that there was still plenty of time to retrace and catch the airport bus! 

Further schlepping ensued once all the bus passengers were dropped at the same airport terminal stop: downstairs outside the baggage carousels. Now I was on my own with my travel load, pulling the suitcase, the computer roller carry-on and the large bursting purse to the check-in area. It was up the escalator and about a city block further to the right...except I couldn't actually check-in there as an international traveler, I discovered after being rejected by both the kiosk and the agent. Back I went about half a city block to "Special Services" (who knew?), where I was serenely grateful to dump the big suitcase! I only had to maneuver the carry-on into the overhead bin on the two ensuing flights with the handle now refusing to retract. Thank heaven for strong young men!

About fifteen hours later I arrived in São Paulo, where Newton was deemed officially in charge of rolling the iMac after I (breezily) hauled it past customs! 
Mayra and Mariana

My one night in town was well-spent at the incredibly delicious and healthy dinner my nieces, Mariana - an enthusiastic gourmet cook, and Mayra - the accomplished gourmet assistant, made for us: whole baked fish with caper/cilantro sauce, greek yogurt with cucumber, this gorgeous salad and, ahem: Lindt dark chocolate mousse! After so much travel I may have been confused, but I thought I was in heaven! Thanks so much, minhas sobrinhas!

We were home at last the next day.

Janet on Broncos' play-off day
I must add these photos of Janet, celebrating the Denver Broncos' play-off victory by enjoying Rex's favorite beer, along with his granddaughter, at his gravesite (which he shares with his first wife) - the sort of ritual at which my sister excels; and of Lenna taking a rare selfie with the Denver Broncos' famous Peyton Manning in the background on Super Bowl Sunday ...because (1) I opened the dispatch with Rex in his Broncos shirt and, (2) despite not being a football fan, I do congratulate all my Colorado friends and relatives on the Super Bowl win!

Lenna on Super Bowl Sunday


1 comment:

  1. Such a nice way to finish such a long trip. So glad to hear Lenna is still working hard at Piano. Max so enjoyed sharing piano camp with her in Vermont and hopes she might be able to return sometime in the future. And wonderful news about your sister and her next life. We "elderly folks" can live too; we just have to realize we can and then do it. Interestingly, Max is going to start volunteering with a non-profit Hospice here in Cincinnati. Max worked for a Hospice as a nurse for a while, but now she will be volunteering as a non-medical person, just helping with everyday end of life activities. She does her training next Saturday and will start in March. I've enjoyed these dispatches, and am sure you are glad to be home.



Click on left arrows below for Archive Dispatch titles.

Blog Archive