Senior Mementos

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Jonathan Ferrini is a published author who resides in San Diego. He received his MFA in Motion Picture and Television Production from UCLA.

 

It was three in the morning when Ruthie awoke and walked from her spacious master bedroom out onto her expansive marble patio with a magnificent view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the exclusive San Francisco neighborhood of “Sea Cliff.” She was a tall, thin, beautiful woman of 72 with straight silver, shoulder length hair, angular face, and green eyes.

Ruthie sat at her custom-made wrought iron and glass patio table, transfixed by the early morning fog slowly revealing the car lights crossing the bridge. Ruthie reached for the cassette player, and selected a favorite song from her youth:

Strobe lights beam create dreams
Walls move minds do too
On a warm San Franciscan night

Despite wearing only her satin night gown, Ruthie was unaware of the chilly morning air. She focused upon a 50’ luxury sailboat moving under the bridge reminding her of the many worldwide trips she made with her deceased husband Albert, whose photos adorned her mansion but whose name she couldn’t recall despite being married for fifty years to the founder of the most successful scientific instrument companies in the world. Ruthie pounded the glass table in frustration, unable to remember the name of the man she fell in love with at Berkeley while earning a Master’s degree in literature, married, raising a son and daughter together, who grew to become an attorney and physician respectively.

Ruthie became tired and shivered. The expansive patio was dark and she was unable to remember how to return to her bedroom. She chose to lay on the cold marble patio in a fetal position listening to her song before falling into a deep sleep:

Old angels young angels feel alright
On a warm San Franciscan night

Ruthie was discovered by the housekeeper in the morning, and rushed to the hospital where she spent a week staving off pneumonia. Her physician daughter ordered a neurological and cognitive impairment work-up confirming “Stage 4 Moderate Decline Dementia.”

Across the Bay, about forty miles from Sea Cliff in the gorgeous wine country of Sonoma, Bobby sat at his antique walnut desk, his floor to ceiling windows showcasing his vineyards he fondly named “Raceway Winery” producing popular chardonnays and burgundies. A walnut display case was filled with Bobby’s many scale-model race cars he built from kits. Each was a testament to Bobby’s steady hand and craftsmanship. The table was scattered with dozens of model car kits in various stages of production, covered with dust and the craftsmanship declined with Bobby’s age of 75. Bobby was a stocky man with a rugged face, full head of silver wavy hair, and hands the size of bear paws which exemplified a life of a man who worked with his hands. Bobby wore magnification lenses as he attempted to assemble the model car. As his hands trembled, he mistakenly reached for a pen knife instead of a glue stick and cut his finger. The sight of blood dripping from his injured finger caused him to panic and he was frozen with indecision. Outside, the breeze was blowing through the vineyards which carried the sounds of roaring engines of the race cars at the Sonoma Raceway about ten miles away, which jarred Bobby from his stupor. He raced outside into his driveway looking for his luxurious, candy apple red, Ford F-150 “Platinum/King Ranch” pickup truck so he could drive to the raceway. Bobby couldn’t find his truck despite it being parked prominently in the driveway. Instead, he mounted his vintage 50’s green and yellow John Deere tractor and was determined to drive to the raceway. Bobby couldn’t remember how to exit the vineyard to the highway. He drove for an hour throughout the many dirt roads of the extensive vineyard, unaware of his bleeding finger. With each wrong turn, Bobby grew more frustrated, eventually choosing to cut a path directly through the precious ripening vines until members of his vineyard crew noticed the dust clouds, approached the racing tractor, mounting it and bringing it to a halt. They found Bobby incoherent and bleeding profusely. The paramedics were called and were met at the hospital by Bobby’s personal physician who had been monitoring his memory loss for some years. The doctor ordered neurological and cognitive impairment tests revealing “Moderately Severe Decline Stage 5 Dementia.”

Bobby was a “gear head,” not a book worm. He worked in the local gas station after school and weekends and became the shop repairman. An Army recruiter convinced him the Army would provide him with the training necessary to repair larger vehicles making him more employable upon discharge. The Army assigned him to the motor pool where he worked on tanks and every type of heavy vehicle imaginable. Bobby loved the Indy 500 and studied the pit crews carefully impressed with their efficient teamwork designed to get the race car back on the track quickly. He was transferred to Vietnam and incorporated the “pit crew” techniques he studied, increasing the productivity of the motor pool. After completing a three year tour of duty, Bobby returned to his former job at the gas station and was given the opportunity to purchase it from the owner who was retiring and offering to finance the purchase. Bobby became the proud owner of a gas station at age 21, and married his high school sweetheart, Mildred, who had completed community college courses in accounting, and was employed as a bookkeeper for an accounting firm.

Bobby’s motor pool experience gave him the idea that providing quick oil changes while the customer waited offered faster turnover than traditional auto repair at greater profit margins. By adding a convenience store selling beverages, snacks, and auto accessories, he would supplement the low profit margins associated with solely selling gasoline. Bobby renamed the gas station, “Quik Stop-Pit Stop,” which was an instant success. Mildred didn’t want to interfere with her husband’s ambition by starting a family and being only in her twenties, knew she had time to have a baby once their business expansion was complete. In ten years, Bobby opened over 100 stores throughout the Midwest with plans to expand nationwide. Mildred’s bookkeeping and accounting experience was an asset to Bobby as he expanded his business, not only in opening and managing stores but keeping Bobby out of risky investments such as ownership of an Indy 500 racecar, whose eager sponsor, a major cigarette maker was likely to harm Bobby’s brand name as the Surgeon General was publishing the hazards of cigarette smoking. After a routine medical examination, Mildred was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and died without baring children at age 31. Bobby was heartbroken, lost his ambition, and sold the business to a major oil company. He purchased a winery in Sonoma he visited with Mildred on their honeymoon and learned the wine business. He moved Mildred’s grave to a beautiful location on the winery below a large oak tree Bobby could see from any point in his mansion and blow a kiss to his beloved wife.

Ruthie and Bobby were both wealthy and philanthropic, making generous contributions to the two prestigious medical schools in the Bay Area, affording them access to the best medical specialists money could buy, including the world’s leaders in Alzheimer’s and Dementia research who were consulted by Ruthie’s children and Bobby’s personal physician. The medical experts suggested medications may slow the progression of their memory loss permitting them to live at home with care givers but recommended they attend an innovative adult day care center named, “Memory Redux,” which was an actual small town built to resemble the neighborhoods of the 50’s and 60’s conveniently located in Marin County, about half way from Ruthie and Bobby’s homes.

The medical experts explained the mental stimulation of daily attendance in a town resembling fond moments from their youth may slow the progression of dementia while improving both long and short term memory. It was decided by Ruthie’s children and Bobby’s physician to visit Memory Redux and meet its Medical Director and cognitive impairment care experts.

As they entered the discretely fenced town, Memory Redux resembled a small town of the 1950’s or 1960’s with vintage cars ranging from classic Thunderbirds, Cadillacs, Mustangs, station wagons and trucks parked alongside period coin parking meters. They visited a vintage barber shop including magazines and newspapers of the period, an authentic period beauty salon with old style hair dryers, and a storefront grocery store including shelves of grocery items available during the 50’s and 60’s. In the center of town there was a vintage movie theatre with a box office and large marquis advertising, “The Graduate.”

The focal point of the town was a combination Beat Generation style coffee house and an authentic period soda fountain adjacent to but divided by a sliding glass door and sheer drape, providing easy access to both venues. Ruthie and Bobby’s physicians were aware they were consulting one of the world’s leaders in memory care, Dr. Ansh Khan. Although only forty, he was both a psychiatrist and held a doctorate in the field of neuropsychology. Dr. Khan was a notable researcher and clinical professor of geriatric psychiatry at both of the Bay area’s leading medical schools. Dr. Khan’s appearance was akin to that of a graduate student wearing faded jeans, sneakers without socks, and a T-shirt emblazoned with a peace symbol. He was dark- skinned, tall, thin, and wore his long jet black hair in a pony tail. Ruthie’s physician daughter wasn’t put off by Dr. Khan’s unconventional appearance and found him to be passionate, brilliant, and handsome. She learned Dr. Khan teamed up with Hollywood’s most talented set designers to insure Memory Redux replicated the towns of the 50’s and 60’s to the smallest detail.

Dr. Khan explained every staff member of the town was trained to observe cognitive and psychiatric behavior of its patients who were referred to as “citizens.” They earned or were completing degrees in psychology, geriatrics, neuroscience, social work, and trained in CPR with access to, and training with defibrillators. With each purchase by a citizen, the employees discretely entered behavioral observations into a computer system built into old style cash registers. Part time employees included Bay area acting students to fill the town with youth dressed in period attire. Memory Redux was expensive, but Dr. Khan said diversity was achieved by accepting minority citizens receiving tuition assistance from generous benefactors. A luxury bus was scheduled to pick up and return the citizen’s home, similar to a school schedule and adherence to a schedule was an essential element of memory care.

Dr. Khan invited the guests to the soda fountain where they enjoyed cheese burgers and milk shakes served up by an authentic “soda jerk” named Lori, who was completing her doctorate in the field of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Lori’s job was to encourage interaction among the citizens and assist them in creating friendships while preventing reclusiveness which was common. It was an uncanny recreation of a period soda fountain filled with young “jocks” wearing “letterman” jackets, “Bobby Soxers,” and “Fonzi” types interacting with the citizens. Ruthie’s daughter observed Lori had a kind heart, which was apparent as she served the patrons food and encouraged dialogue, but she was curious how the citizens paid for their food and merchandise. Dr. Khan explained how each citizen’s ability to handle money was assessed, and those able to handle money were encouraged to pay the period prices only requiring pocket change which was applied to the tuition. Citizens unable to handle money were told the charges would be placed “on their tab.” Ruthie’s children and Bobby’s physician were impressed, and convinced that days spent at Memory Redux would enhance the lives of Ruthie and Bobby. The admission documents were executed and the bus was scheduled to pick up Ruthie and Bobby at 8am the following Monday.

The first week was difficult for Ruthie and Bobby with each declining to board the luxury bus. Dr. Khan suggested having their care givers accompany them on the first few bus trips would eliminate the fear of boarding the bus. Each day of the first week, Bobby and Ruthie were each met by a staff member who spent the day introducing them to each of the shops, the staff, and other citizens. By the second week, Ruthie and Bobby were able to travel each morning unaccompanied and spent the day alone investigating the small town. Ruthie and Bobby eventually found their favorite spots. For Ruthie, it was the “Cool Cat’s Coffee Lounge” which was a Beat Generation style coffee house replete with period style furniture, extensive collection of books by Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Kerouac, and a small stage affording citizens, staff poets and musicians the opportunity to perform. Ruthie staked out a small table in the front, close to the stage, always ordering a vanilla latte. The darkness of the coffee house, the aroma of the coffee and the intellectual energy made Ruthie happy spending most of her time listening to poetry, music, and reading.

Bobby was attracted to the festive atmosphere of the authentic period soda fountain next store named “Flip Your Lid.” The lively atmosphere of the soda fountain and staff dressed as jocks, gear heads, or cheerleaders brought back happy memories for Bobby as patrons danced to Bobby’s favorite song from the 60’s:

When I take her to the track she really shines
(giddy up giddy up 409)
She always turns in the fastest times
(giddy up giddy up 409)
My four speed, dual quad, Posi-Traction 409
(409, 409, 409, 409)

Bobby chose a corner stool at the counter, and spent his days reading hot rod magazines from the 50’s and 60’s, and made friends with Rusty and Jack, who were student actors hired to play fellow gear heads who sat aside Bobby and talked cars all day over milk shakes, ice cream floats, or banana splits.

Although Lori wore a traditional soda fountain waitress uniform, took orders, and served food, she was highly trained in the techniques of creating stimulating friendships among the citizens. She saw how happy Bobby was making friends with Rusty and Jack. As Lori passed the sliding glass window and looked through the sheer drape into the beat coffee house, she observed Ruthie appeared stimulated but lonely. Lori decided to attempt an introduction between Bobby and Ruthie with the hopes of expanding their social circles and breaking their routines. Lori filled Bobby’s coffee cup teasing, “Bobby, check out Ruthie in the coffee house. I think she’s been staring at you.” Bobby had seen Ruthie next door before and rebuked Lori, “Ah, she’s an intellectual college girl out of my league!” Lori insisted, “Bobby, don’t sell yourself short. I’d bet she would enjoy meeting you.” Lori pretended to answer the rotary dial telephone, but was discretely communicating with the waitress at the coffee house who agreed the meeting was timely. Lori exclaimed to Bobby, “You’re in luck, Bobby. Ruthie would like to meet you!” She attempted to gently lead him off the stool but he was reluctant until his two buddies Rusty and Jack insisted, “Go on Bobby, don’t chicken out!” which was enough incentive to get Bobby to follow Lori. As the sliding door opened and Bobby entered the coffee house, the smell of freshly brewed coffee, incense and a joint filled the room. Bobby felt out of his element among the intellectuals, hip period clothing, and incense. Ruthie was transfixed by the musician finishing a very good cover of “Blowin’ in the Wind”:

Yes, ‘n’ how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

The musician finished the song, thanked his guests for their applause, and exclaimed, “I want to introduce a cool cat named Bobby. Let’s give him a warm welcome.” The musician reached for his discretely hidden smart phone playlist linked to the coffee house speakers, and a tune familiar to Bobby and the guests played:

Walk right in, sit right down, baby let your hair hang down
Everybody’s talking ’bout a new way of walking
Do you want to lose your mind?
Walk right in, sit right down, baby let your hair hang down

The audience began snapping their fingers, which was a customary symbol of applause during the Beatnik period. The musician asked Ruthie if Bobby may sit with her to which she nodded affirmatively. Ruthie welcomed Bobby with a handshake. Bobby was approached by a cute waitress in a leather miniskirt, black and white sweater, knee high boots, and a beret who brought him coffee. The musician spied Lori watching with interest through the window and began reading from a book into the microphone,

“Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Bobby muttered to himself, “He’s reciting Alfred Lord Tennyson.” Ruthie lit up remarking, “You’re a fan of Tennyson?” Bobby humbly replied, “I wasn’t a bookworm, Ruthie. I learned the line the hard way.” Ruthie was curious and asked, “What do you mean the hard way?” Bobby placed both hands around the rotund coffee mug and stared into the rich dark roast sighing, “My wife died from cancer not soon after we were married and we never had children. The poem was read at her funeral.” Ruthie teared up and reached for Bobby’s hand and in a soothing voice asked, “what kind of work did you do?” Bobby looked up from his mug gripping Ruthie’s hand tightly proudly answering, “I owned a chain of “Quik Stop-Pit Stop” stations which I sold because my heart was broken and I wasn’t interested in the business anymore. I own a winery in Sonoma, now named “Raceway Winery.” Ruthie knew Bobby’s pain and remembered the heartache of losing her beloved Albert. Ruthie had beautiful memories of wine tastings with Albert in Sonoma. She studied Bobby’s rugged hands reminding her of Albert, who was a welder nights and weekends putting himself through Berkeley. Although the retired Chairman Emeritus of a multibillion dollar company, Albert showed up to his work bench at corporate headquarters every day wearing the same tattered lab worn since founding the business. Ruthie was intrigued with Bobby and a bond between them was born.

It was a rainy day in Marin County, and the luxury bus returning the citizens home became stuck in the mud as it maneuvered through the narrow rain soaked streets. The driver kept placing the transmission into drive and back to reverse repeating the process and digging the tires deeper into the mud. Bobby leapt to his feet and said, “You’re destroying the transmission. Let me take over!” Bobby sat in the driver’s seat and placed the gear shift in low gear. He pressed the accelerator slowly; allowing the spinning wheels to move the vehicle forward a bit then released the gas and let the vehicle roll backward. He pressed the accelerator again, slowly permitting the bus to roll forward and continued the procedure to build enough momentum to rock the bus out of the mud. Bobby received a thunderous applause and a grateful “thank you” from the driver who didn’t have to call for a tow truck. Bobby returned to his seat next to Ruthie, who was proud of her hero and gave him a hug and kiss. Ruthie fell in love with Bobby that rainy day in Marin County.

Ruthie and Bobby were spending more time together. One day in the soda fountain, Bobby felt a tap on his shoulder, turned his head to find Ruthie dressed as a “Bobby Soxer.” She was beautiful. Ruthie gushed, “May I join you gentlemen?” Rusty and Jack both moved over one stool allowing Bobby and Ruthie to sit together. Rusty remarked, “why have you been hiding your beautiful lady friend?” Bobby apologetically answered, “I’m sorry, please meet Ruthie fellas. Ruthie, meet my buddies Rusty and Jack.” Each shook hands. Lori made eye contact with Rusty and Jack who instinctively headed over to the jukebox and dropped in a coin selecting Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ the Night Away”:

They’re twistin’, twistin’
Man, everybody’s feelin’ great
They’re twistin’, twistin’
They’re twistin’ the night

The soda fountain erupted into dance and was “flipping its lid.” Ruthie grabbed Bobby by the hand and led him to the center of the dance floor twisting like a high school girl. Bobby did his best moving up and down and twisting. As the song ended, they embraced and held hands, returning to the counter to find freshly prepared root beer floats, and Lori wiped a tear from her eye.

They decided to attend a matinee showing of “The Graduate,” cheering Benjamin and Elaine’s escape from the marriage ceremony to an unknown future. They walked out of the movie theatre and Bobby spotted a 1969 green GTO parked out front. Bobby beamed at the car remarking, “I always wanted one of these. It’s got a 350-horse, 400-cube Quadra-jet V-8 engine! Let’s get in and check it out!” The car was unlocked and they sat in the completely restored muscle car with black leather seats. Bobby began to fiddle with some wiring under the dash, and in moments, the engine roared, surprising Ruthie. Bobby reached for the stick shift declaring, “let’s take it for a run!” He “peeled out” from the curb, racing around and around the city square attracting attention from citizens and staff alike, as he shifted through the gears before coming to a slow stop, placing the car in reverse, and expertly parking the car where he found it. He patted the warm hood as if saying “thank you,” reached into his pocket, retrieved a coin and placed it in the parking meter. Ruthie and Bobby made a quick exit.

Bobby invited Ruthie to his impressive winery reminding Ruthie of a Monet painting, which included a beautiful ranch home with masculine furnishings including leather sofas, couches, and woven rugs from the southwest. The walls were adorned with oil paintings of Sonoma spanning hundreds of years. A single framed photograph of Mildred was placed upon the massive fireplace mantle portraying a sweet, attractive, Midwest girl in her twenties whose eyes revealed kindness and sincerity. The absence of family photos was apparent to Ruthie and she felt sorrow for Bobby never realizing the joy of raising children. When she entered Bobby’s study, Ruthie was impressed by his collection of scale model cars. Bobby’s work table resembled Albert’s lab table, and her memory was refreshed with Albert’s early days in his lab growing his business. Photos hung on the walls spanning Bobby’s career in the auto repair and winery businesses depicting a man who was an innovator and “hands on” employer, also reminding Ruthie of Albert. Ruthie was enthralled by the beautiful vista provided by the floor to ceiling windows and massive Oak tree shading a grave stone. She instinctively knew it was Mildred and envied their love.

They enjoyed a casual lunch on the redwood deck affording a beautiful view of the vineyard. The menu consisted of arugula and endive salad, hearty turkey chili, and warm sourdough bread with butter. The meal was paired with a bottle of Raceway Winery Burgundy emblazoned with the checkered flag label.

After lunch, they mounted Bobby’s vintage John Deere tractor which had only one seat, but Ruthie sat on Bobby’s lap, and he gave Ruthie the responsibility of steering the slow moving tractor. They toured the impressive state-of-the art wine production facilities and Ruthie observed how happy each of the workers appeared, each greeting Bobby with admiration and respect. Just before sunset, he drove into the vineyard.

He stopped to show Ruthie the ripening grapes, and Bobby’s tender embrace of the vine resembled holding a child’s hand, which caused Ruthie’s heart to skip a beat. He reached down into the rich soil taking a palm full of earth saying, “wine is her gift to us from Mother Earth, Ruthie.” Ruthie was impressed that a man who spent his life repairing cars covered in grease and oil would also have a poetic appreciation for nature. Her love for Bobby grew stronger.

Ruthie reciprocated with a dinner invitation to her beautiful Sea Cliff estate. Bobby was impressed with the expansive view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Bobby found Ruthie’s home to be open and airy, exquisitely decorated with an eclectic mixture of tasteful and expensive furniture including Chippendale, Victorian, Art Deco, Modern, and rare, one of a kinds from Herman Miller and Edward Wormley. The walls were hung with an impressive collection of artwork including Impressionism, Contemporary, and native paintings reflecting her extensive world travel. Bobby was impressed with the many mementos she collected from throughout the world which were placed throughout the mansion, and reminded Bobby how little travel he had completed in his lifetime. On every table, Bobby found framed photos of Ruthie’s life as a wife and mother. Bobby imagined young Albert as a nerdy scientist, but he actually resembled his buddies in high school auto-shop class. Bobby was touched by the photos of the family together, and his heart ached never knowing the joys of having children

Ruthie was an expert hostess. The custom built glass patio table was set with a white linen table cloth, candles, sterling silver flatware, and Versace five-piece dinnerware set. They enjoyed an elegant dinner of pear, gorgonzola and walnut salad, followed by grilled salmon with asparagus. Bobby reached for the bottle of “Raceway Winery Chardonnay,” which had been placed on the table, and poured Ruthie a glass commenting, “an excellent choice of wine, Ruthie. I know this winery well.” Ruthie giggled, murmuring, “I thought you’d appreciate a great chardonnay pairing with the salmon.” Dessert was “Nectarine Pavlovas” inspired by a Modigliani portrait, and delicious coffee made from expensive Vietnamese ground “Kopi Luwak” coffee beans.

After dinner, they watched the headlights cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Bobby held Ruthie tightly around the waist. Bobby turned Ruthie towards him looking her in the eye, whispering, “I love you Ruthie.” Ruthie gently placed her lips to Bobby’s, gushing, “I love you too Bobby.” It was a breakthrough moment as each had placed their lost loves in the past and relished their romantic moment together. Bobby was invited to spend the night.

Dr. Khan’s cognitive testing of Ruthie and Bobby revealed the progression of their dementia states had halted and there was conservative optimism their dementia states would remain at bay.

Ruthie arranged a trip to the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco to visit the City Lights book store followed by dinner. They walked North Beach holding hands enjoying the shops, sights, sounds, and crowds of happy people. Bobby didn’t have much of a fashion sense. His wardrobe consisted primarily of western wear appropriate for living and working on the vineyard, a pair of cowboy boots, and a collection of ball caps. As they passed a hip, fine men’s clothing store, Ruthie insisted, “we’re going in to get you looking sharp!” Bobby emerged from the men’s store wearing a camel color sport coat, black cashmere v-neck sweater, dressy jeans, and a pair of brown Gucci loafers. Ruthie had a beautiful wardrobe and fashion sense selecting a Saint-Laurent classic Bouche motorcycle jacket, Chloe patchwork straight jeans, and Christian Louboutin black suede ankle boots, all of which complimented her slim figure. Bobby and Ruthie made an attractive, fashionable, and hip senior couple.

Inside City Lights, Ruthie led Bobby up and down the staircases and through the narrow stacks, bringing back fond memories of her Berkeley days. Bobby spotted a shelf of Allen Ginsberg books, and secretly retrieved a copy of Ginsberg’s “Kaddish.” He approached the cashier while Ruthie was still browsing. Bobby reached into his pocket, found his wallet which had a single one hundred dollar bill placed within it for an emergency. The clerk rang up the purchase totaling $10.00. Bobby handed the clerk the $100 bill, and before he could receive his change, walked over to Ruthie handing her the book saying, “I found this on the shelf with your name on it, sweetie.” Ruthie was in awe of Ginsberg and gently thumbed through the book with the desire to devour each page. She clutched the book to her chest, and gave Bobby a tender kiss whispering, “You never cease to amaze me darling.” As they exited City Lights, the clerk shouted, “your change, Sir.” Bobby had long since forgotten the value of money and simply waived off the confused clerk as he held Ruthie’s hand and they proceeded to their restaurant reservation.

On their way to the restaurant, Ruthie and Bobby ran into “Annie” who was Ruthie’s classmate from Berkeley. Ruthie introduced Bobby to Annie who gave Ruthie a “he’s cute” wink. The ladies agreed to meet for afternoon tea at a later date.

Ruthie and Bobby dined at a well known restaurant enjoying innovative Italian cuisine. Ruthie was aware of the complimentary stares they were receiving while Bobby enjoyed his seafood pasta. After completing dinner, they approached the cross walk and the green signal invited them to cross the busy street. Bobby was tipsy from the wine, mesmerized to be in the company of beautiful Ruthie, and over-stimulated by the vibrant night life of North Beach. He didn’t notice the steepness of the curb, stepping off and tumbling into the crosswalk, striking his forehead which was bleeding. Good Samaritans carried him out of the crosswalk and sat him down on the curb. Ruthie was beside herself with fear and panic for the man she loved. A waitress from the Italian restaurant appeared with an ice bag which she placed on Bobby’s forehead. Bobby was dazed and incoherent. It took just moments for the paramedics to arrive, asking Bobby a series of questions to which he couldn’t answer, “what’s your name, sir? How many fingers am I holding up?” He was placed into the ambulance, and Ruthie demanded to ride with Bobby to the hospital.

The emergency room physician diagnosed Bobby with a superficial head wound, no concussion but admitted Bobby for two days of observation while notifying his personal physician, who in turn notified Dr. Khan. Ruthie made arrangements to stay at a nearby hotel to spend every day with her love. In the hospital, Bobby was conscious, but not aware of his surroundings and didn’t recognize Ruthie, often referring to her as Mildred. He also didn’t remember his name or where he lived. Ruthie was patient with Bobby but feared the fall exacerbated his dementia and prayed it was only temporary. Dr. Khan visited Bobby in the hospital and completed a thorough neurological and cognitive impairment examination informing Ruthie that a traumatic injury could hasten the progression of Stage 5 dementia, and time would only tell.

Bobby was discharged, and returned home under the care of a full time nurse. Dr. Khan recommended that he continue to attend Memory Redux. Bobby was reluctant to leave home, but the nurse accompanied Bobby each day. Bobby walked the streets aimlessly looking into each store and asking, “where is the airport?” These notes were entered into his medical charts by the staff. He was no longer a visitor to the soda fountain and didn’t recognize Rusty or Jack when they approached him to say hello. Bobby became agitated saying, “I have to report to duty. When is the next bus to the airport coming?” He and Ruthie would spend the day sitting on the park bench holding hands and often saying nothing to each other. Ruthie knew Bobby didn’t recognize her but was determined to remain with her love. Ruthie would try and spark Bobby’s memory, but his reply only included two words, “Airport” or “Mildred.”

Dr. Khan determined Bobby was now in “Stage 7 Very Serious Decline Dementia” and recommended placement in a hospice specializing in soon-to-pass dementia patients. Bobby was scheduled to leave the following day by ambulance, and Ruthie made it a point to be with Bobby until her final moment with him. She held his hand on the park bench, thanked him for reviving her memories of Albert, reawakening her ability to love another man, and cried. She couldn’t reach Bobby because he imagined he was sitting in the airport terminal, dressed in his pressed army uniform with polished brass medals and colorful ribbons. His duffle bag was seated alongside him. He turned to Ruthie reassuring her, “Millie, I’ll be home soon. When I return, we’ll raise a family.” Ruthie chose to assume the role of Mildred comforting him, “I’ll be waiting for you my love, and I’ll write you every day.” Ruthie remembered lines from a favorite Peter, Paul and Mary ballad, whispering them to Bobby as she held his head to her heart:

Now the time has come to leave you
One more time
Let me kiss you…
So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you’ll wait for me
Hold me like you’ll never let me go…

The following day, Ruthie and Bobby were joined by Rusty, Jack, Lori, the beat poets, musicians, and Dr. Khan who had come together to say goodbye to their friend. Dr. Khan assembled a box of hot rod magazines to keep Bobby busy at the hospice. The ambulance arrived and Bobby was placed on a gurney, and strapped in. Ruthie managed one last goodbye kiss and whispered, “I love you Bobby. I’ll never forget you,” to which he reassured her, “I’ll be home soon Millie. I love you.” Bobby and Ruthie looked into each other’s eyes for the last time.

Dr. Khan was retained as Bobby’s physician assuring he would be comfortable until he passed away at the hospice. He advised Ruthie’s children that Ruthie’s demands to visit Bobby would not be constructive and recommended an earnest attempt by staff to help Ruthie make new acquaintances. Over the following six months, the spring in Ruthie’s step and happy glow in her eyes was gone. Ruthie spent all of her time in the beat coffee house, reclusive and resisting any efforts to make new friends, choosing instead to pour over old copies of the New York Times she requested concerning the end of the Vietnam War. One evening at closing time, the beat musician noticed Ruthie’s head was lying atop a newspaper. Believing she fell asleep, he gently nudged her, whispering, “it’s closing time, Ruthie. You’ll miss your bus home,” but she was still to his touch. He placed his fingers on her carotid artery, felt no pulse, and knew she passed away. Underneath her beautiful face was a tear stained copy of the New York Times front page reading,

January 28, 1973 – Vietnam Peace Pacts Signed; America’s Longest War Halts.

Out of respect for his favorite patron, the musician located Ruthie’s favorite Dylan song on his playlist, synched it to the speaker system, filling the Cool Cat’s Coffee Lounge with:

Take me for a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship
All my senses have been stripped
And my hands can’t feel to grip
And my toes too numb to step
Wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin’
I’m ready to go anywhere I’m ready for to fade
On to my own parade cast your dancin’ spell my way
I promise to go under it
Hey Mister Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there ain’t no place I’m goin’ to
Hey Mister Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning, I’ll come followin’ you

 

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