I just spent a somewhat somber day helping a friend prepare her mother’s new room at an assisted care facility. It’s actually less of a facility and more like a local Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. A former posh estate, it reminds me of a grand dame with excellent bone structure in need of a facelift, but still bubbling with charm and sophistication.
As we hung artwork, put away her mother’s clothes and neatly arranged treasures and keepsakes, I couldn’t help but consider what the future might hold for me when I can no longer take care of myself. It’s a pretty sobering thought but one the majority of us keep tightly locked away. We all age and eventually die but we generally act like it’s the sort of unpleasant thing that happens to other people.
Afterwards, over Bloody Marys, we decided that my friend had found her mother a lovely place to die. That may sound morbid but at least we could be honest about it. And it is a lovely place to exit this world: she’ll have french doors looking out over a lawn edged in oak trees and a view of the old greenhouse. There’s even a black house cat that greets visitors. We decided it’s more like coming home than being put in one.
Sylvia had the good fortune to be able to die at home. She had the means to hire rounds of caregivers and had her butler Norbie to attend to her personal business as well her sister Vera to handle to her emotional needs. And I suppose being diagnosed with a fatal disease gives a person time to prepare for what’s ahead rather than aging and losing one’s wits and ability to make life (and death) decisions for oneself.
After the day spent with my girlfriend, it seemed appropriate that I chose this week’s photo of Silky with hers. The photo was taken at the home of playboy golfer Robert Sweeney during the Ascot races of 1948. The Duchess of Westminster is on the far left holding a cocktail and in the middle is Ann Woodward who in 1955 mistook her millionaire husband for a prowler at their Bahaman home and fatally shot him. Silky was between husbands–she’d divorced Lord Stanley of Alderley but not yet married Clark Gable.
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it: when the going gets tough, we have our girlfriends to lean on (and to fix us drinks). How very fortunate we are indeed.