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Memoir 1997


MY FATHER

 

My father was a humble man

With simple tastes and loves.

I remember when he was handsome and strong,

Full of fun, working long.

 

Later he shuffled and walked with a limp,

But head erect you could still see the glint

Of the old sense of humor in his eye,

Enjoying memories of days gone by.

 

He made fun of himself, and enjoyed the laugh.

Loved dressing up, and did so with class.

He enjoyed life day by day,

Knew when to rest, knew when to play.

 

Painted and traveled, enjoyed family and friends,

Made the best of each day in order to win

This battle with life we all wage

Struggling, resisting, denying age.

 

My father was a humble man

Without guile or masks.

As a child I remember him gentle but firm,

Fair and giving, eager to learn.

 

After the stroke he still joked and laughed,

Complained the days went by too fast.

A powerful spirit simply shining through,

Affecting others and he hadn’t a clue

 

To his influence on the many lives he touched

With strength from his simple faith and trust

And unassuming manner, just taking what came,

Appreciating the clouds and sunshine and rain.

 

We scattered his ashes in the mountains of his beloved Colorado.

 

After Daddy died, Peggy asked, “Mom, what do you want us to do should you get to that stage? He hated that so much. This has been such an awful experience.”

“Put me in a nursing home and get on with your life.”

                                                                                                **** 

I worked at Alford Media for eight years. They were good, great, wonderful years, both personally and professionally. Six months before I was to retire at age sixty-five, Tom A called all personnel into the big dining hall and announced that he had sold the Sales Department. We were stunned. There had been no hint, no rumor. That room was dead quiet. No one spoke. We were one big family; how could we separate? Tom began to apologize.


“I couldn’t say anything until I was sure and then things moved so quickly - - - “ he moaned.


“Why Tom?” said his senior salesman.


“We,” his brother was half owner, “just can’t do it anymore. Both branches of Alford Media have grown so large and we have family issues and, well, we just can’t do it all anymore.”


“When does this take place?” someone asked.


“First of next month.” There was an audible gasp in the room.


Well of course I went to Tom that afternoon after the meeting and said, “Tom, I’m about to retire, don’t send me over there. Can’t I please just stay with Alford for the next six months?”


“The sale hinges on you Barb. The sale depends on your integrating our accounting practices with their accounting department. Their in-house CPA is kept so busy helping run the company that the accounting department needs direction. Your it.”


I of course was flattered but still saddened, I had worked for a lot of people in my working lifetime, but Tom Alford was the finest. After eight really great years, I moved out with my co-workers. At the new company, neither the CPA nor I was happy with the fact that my desk was added to his small, glassed-in office. I was cut off from daily interaction with my staff and things went downhill from there. Morale was low throughout the company. The merger did not go well and I counted the days. A week before I was to retire, the entire company of Alford Media marched into the building with a catering company, balloons and gifts and smiles and laughter to wish me bon-voyage. I was moved beyond measure.


1998

****

Was I really moving to Colorado, that place of beauty and cool air? As a teenager, the first time I drove into Colorado with my parents and my aunt and uncle, my eyes rose to the beauty of the tall, stately pine trees. I loved the air, I loved the smell and oh, I loved those mountains. Emotion swelled within me at the sight of them. I loved the rivers. The flowing, rushing rivers so unlike our dry creek beds in Texas. I blossomed at high altitude. I had always felt I had weights around my neck at sea level.


The many ski trips with Robert had simply deepened that love of the Rocky Mountains. We even drove to Winter Park one year to relish its summer charm. Through the years I had visited my children in Colorado so many, many times. I had camped and skied, and tubed and climbed and hiked and shopped and toured, expanding my love of that country with each visit. The outrageous Texas one hundred twenty degrees summers inside my car, each time I entered it, the humidity, the loss of my close women friendships were enough to move me to Colorado, but the final shove was losing Robert to Parkinson’s.


How do I talk about dating a man for more than twenty years? Is dating the right word? No, we shared a life, a love with no strings attached. The physical attraction, the passion held us together as we grew to respect and care about one another. We each had the freedom to be ourselves. We had very different views about religion, politics and life style, but came together in love for one another with no judgement. The medication the doctors put him on to help the palsy slowed him mentally. Those meds were soon not enough and stronger meds followed. Within five years he could no longer remember how to get to our favorite restaurant from my apartment. He would forget to bathe and wash his clothes and as it became more and more difficult to deal with his many properties and business interests, he began to sell them off. He got his will in shape for his son and daughter and grandson and most tragic of all he had to sell his plane.


MEMORIES

Robert is selling his plane!

Ohhhhh!

The memories of our flights together.

That first takeoff,

As exciting as first passion.

Ohhh!

Memories

 

As Roberts Parkinson’s continued to worsen through the years I wanted to help, help in some way. Nope, he would have none of it. He still lived alone but was spending more and more time at the coast in his house there where his daughter lived close by. I began mentioning to him that I thought I might retire to Colorado and he enthusiastically said I should go.


****

When I notified vendors I had worked with for years that I was retiring and moving to Colorado, two Colorado firms asked me to come for interviews. I was delighted. I knew I would need to work at least another two years for financial reasons and flew to Denver to interview even before I left Alford’s. I chose one and was scheduled to go to work in a couple of months.


I sold my little blue hatchback (So hard to watch a stranger drive it away but that was true of every car I ever parted with.) and bought a new 1997 rust colored Mazda. One weekend, I picked-up my twin grandsons, twelve at the time, to spend the weekend with me. We went to the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth, a favorite of theirs, played in the park and shopped for school clothes. Sunday morning, I woke feeling terrible. Flu? Didn’t know what it was but told the boys to dress. I needed to take them home early.


As I left them with their mother, I backed out of the wide communal drive between their apartment and the one next door right into a big black pick-up truck. I took the back quarter panel off my brand-new car. The truck had a small scratch on its bumper and the owner said “No problem. Don’t worry about it.”

After fighting the flu and taking my car back to the dealer to put it back together, I bought winter clothes and hiking boots, sold and gave away stuff that did not need to go to Colorado and packed.

Mike and Randy drove down to Texas with Mike’s big truck and a flatbed trailer to move me to Colorado. Anna came up from Dublin, Texas where she and family lived in 1998. Robert came to supervise. He hung around all day and harassed Mike and Randy, that Texas guy stuff. Mike could throw it right back. The two of them loved one another, had a great deal of respect for one another. When Anna and I weren’t clinging to one another crying, we packed and cleaned and hauled boxes while Mike and Randy sweated furniture onto the flatbed trailer. We took a lunch break and Randy said, “So proud of you making this big change here at middle age Mom.”


“Middle age?” says I. “How many people do you know that are 130 years old? You guys are middle age.”


Stunned silence. They had just never thought of themselves as middle age.


The last half hour, with everything done, Anna and I sat on the floor of the empty apartment and hugged and cried and cried and hugged until we could part. I walked Robert to his truck to say good bye. We stood looking into one another’s eyes then held each other tight. Robert never, never, never allowed any emotion to show, but at that moment, his chest heaved and his sigh rushed past my ear as he turned and got into his truck and drove away. I sobbed as my legs buckled and I leaned against the blistering skin of my Mazda, burning hot in the Texas sun.   

  

                                                                                                ****

I settled into Randy’s and Robert’s lovely basement suite in Arvada, Colorado. He had bought into Robert Thomas’ house shortly after they met and with his usual skills they had turned the place into a showstopper. Roberts gardens were stunning each summer. My apartment consisted of a large den with plush sofas, huge flat screen and surround sound. Two bedrooms and an elegant, large tiled bath completed the basement. Randy, like his father and brother, could build and repair and did beautiful, creative work.


I had some time before I had to report to my new job at Burst and they suggested that we and Robert’s mother Ida take a little trip before I had to go to work. The four of us had spent time together before and made a great foursome.  We rented a southwestern style stucco house in Santa Fe and had great fun for four days together. We walked the streets and toured the galleries and museums and tested some of the restaurants. We spent lovely evenings shopping for just the right food for Robert and his mother to prepare their amazing, fantastic Mexican food. We enjoyed one another’s company and became fast friends.


During the following years, the four of us took several weekend trips together or Ida would come to Denver for a weekend and Randy, Robert and I spent time at Ida’s beautiful home just out of Phoenix. One special trip took us to Sedona and we drove the winding road up and through Jerome.


At Randy’s and Robert’s home I had a private entrance and an invitation to have dinner with them many nights. A lovely situation except that their house was on the opposite side of the metroplex from my job. I moved there in October so was soon driving the hour and a half to two-hour drive in snow. Randy put a heavy cement slab in the trunk of my Mazda to keep me from fishtailing all over the icy road and not until mid-summer did I remember to take it out. My gas millage immediately improved.


A new job with unfamiliar software and computers. New employees who had been devoted to the woman fired in the position I was hired to fill! New bosses. An unfamiliar building and town and highways and address and - - - - - where is the closest cleaners, grocery store, shopping center, restaurant? Where is Macy’s? Anna had to send care packages. Stores didn’t have my brands of hair spray, q-tips, ice cream, peas. In Texas, dart out in front of a car and you are a goner, cars rule. In Colorado, people rule. I got waved at a lot as long as I had those Texas license plates on my car.

I got it all done, I got it all figured out but it was more stressful than I thought it would be. It was more stressful than it would have been 15 years earlier. Bummer. Getting older is no problem but becoming less is. I don’t like it and must constantly remind myself, “You could have skied those moguls in the past but not today.”


                                                                                                ****

I began my search for a place to rent. Randy and Robert encouraged me to stay with them but we had always been close, good friends, I wanted to keep it that way. I found a Condo in Aurora on the east side of the Denver area closer to work. My son almost had a stroke when I announced my find. The old part of Aurora along Colfax had a bad reputation and he had no idea that other, very nice neighborhoods had built up in Aurora through the years. While driving to the condo to check out the “for rent” ad, I fell in love with it even before I got there. The view to the west from the highway was stunning. One could see all the way to the mountains on the far horizon. The condo itself was on the second floor and yes, there was that view. The condo was large, as condos go, two bedrooms, two baths and had a wood burning fireplace, something I loved. So not Texas. I tried to seem undecided about the rent, but would probably have paid anything they asked to get me into what I already knew was my home. I had lived there one year when the owners decided to sell. I bought it.


I joined the Colorado Mountain Club. Their catalog listed advanced hikes, hikes for beginners and all in between. I hiked with groups on weekends and visited beautiful places I never would have found on my own. Granted, I struggled with a few trails early on. It really hurt in the beginning when I, not yet seventy, could not keep up with the ninety-two-year-old guy. I had always taken care of myself with diet and exercise but sitting at a desk for twenty years had not prepared me for steep climbs at high altitude. I gradually improved my stamina and lung capacity, made friends and really enjoyed hiking those mountains.


The job itself was challenging and it made my situation even more difficult that all employees had been close friends with the woman just fired, even interacting socially outside office hours. They did not care that she had not done her job, that she had not been able to provide financial statements for months, she was their friend. To make matters even worse, the owners had hired this woman from Texas for god’s sake. Texas, from which blustering dummies continued to invade their beloved Colorado. I had a lot to overcome.


I listened and learned and eventually made my suggestions for change, got approval, put the changes in place, hired and fired and trained. I asked the two middle age owners that had hired me why we did not do drug testing. They both looked at me wide eyed and one said, “None of us would be working here woman. You are in Denver now.” This was of course long before pot became legal in Colorado. I not only had a lot to overcome I had a lot to learn. Thank god I did not have a Texas accent. I had noticed at an early age that my parents did not speak like the man on the radio or even my classmates at school and made the decision and effort to speak differently. I worked diligently at that company for two years but was glad to walk away.


During those years, I flew to Texas often to see family and Robert. My two daughters and their grown children, and my adorable great grandchildren were scattered about. I would rent a car and drive up and down Texas I-35 to visit the multiple families. I had many delightful, fun experiences during those years. On one of my trips, my grandson Chuck, a six-foot red head, and I dashed off to the grocery store one evening while his wife Giger prepared dinner. She needed one more ingredient, so Chuck, in a Scottish kilt, charged up and down the aisles of the store with his little five-foot two grandmother trailing behind. We got a lot of attention which of course was his intent all along.


Peggy drove us down for one of those Texas visits. Grand times with family for a whirlwind long weekend. Driving home I was not feeling well. Peggy was comfortable driving and I did not offer to relieve her. I did mention that I was a little “under the weather.” I feared I had a minor stroke that day. Doctors said no, but I was decidedly diminished from that day forward. For days, I could hardly look at a sentence or set of numbers and remember it past a few seconds. I had to concentrate with everything I had to keep my work straight and moving along. I eventually felt better, but I never regained the clarity of thinking I had before that drive to Texas.


As the years passed and family spread out more and more and I aged, I would settle into a central location on my visits to Texas, let them know where I was, offer to pay for dinner if they would come. They always did, we had as many as ten or twelve at times. We reminisced, praised, cried and laughed and expressed our love for one another.


 Back in Colorado I retired again after two years at Burst. Word spread in our industry and a competitor, a smaller company, asked me to evaluate their company.  After assessing the books, inventory and how they were doing business, I told Ray, the owner, I thought it was too late to save his operation.


“No, no we just need a few changes and we will be back on our feet in no time. Tell me what changes to make,” Ray pleaded.


I wrote up a plan and agreed to put it into place. Everyone pitched in, eager to save the small company. The office personnel, the three salesmen, and the installation and repair crew all enthusiastically worked the plan. Little did I know that Ray was bipolar. About the time we began making progress he bought an enormous amount of inventory and filled up the warehouse. He bought the equipment on credit. Not enough? He and the secretary were having an affair and as that came out, bitter divorce angst for both entered into the mix.


The creditors were nice at first when I explained our new plan, but as time went on and more debt was constantly added they became worried. I had worked with most of those suppliers for years before I left Texas, so they tried to work with me, but Ray continually spent more money than we could bring in. One day he drove up in a brand-new BMW SUV, another company debt. Eighteen months into the struggle he just stopped coming in for weeks at a time.


Eventually, Ray came into my office one morning to say he had a buyer. Shocked, I think I just stared at him. In about an hour this big wide six foot seven, ex-football player, an old school chum of Ray’s, walked in.


“Hi everybody. I’m your new boss.” He shook hands all around and went into Ray’s office. They laughed and chatted for a while and left for lunch. The new “boss” did not ask to see financial reports, he did not ask about the business nor did he interview anyone. He was a big happy guy whose friends, more giant ex-football players, would drop in often. Ray disappeared quickly in the days to follow and I continued to meet payroll and pay vendors as I could.


By the time the football player sauntered into my office at the end of the month and asked for a check, the company was not going to be able to meet payroll.


“What?” the football player says.


“We can’t meet payroll this month.”


“Are you people just not working receivables?”


“Most receivables are current. There are only a few past dues that we contact regularly.”


“I don’t know what you are telling me. Ray said this company is strong, making money.”


“Would you like to see our financial reports?”


“Yeah.”


He waited in my office, standing at my desk while I printed complete reports and handed them to him. It took only minutes for him to scan totals and he fell back against the wall; his knees had buckled. The color left his face and his jaw sagged. I had no idea what financial deal he and Ray had made, no money from a “sale” of the business had come into our bank account.


Boss staggered over to the chair in front of my desk and said, “Tell me this isn’t true. Would Ray lie like this to me? What are we going to do?”


“You’re the boss. You tell me.”


“I’m open to suggestions.”


“I suggest we level with our vendors; they have a pretty good idea how bad it is anyway, and encourage them to pick-up any inventory for which we owe them. Let employees know the situation and see how many stay.”


One salesman, Ray’s friend who had been with him from the beginning, and I stayed. We worked the receivables daily to get in as much money as we could. The supervisor of the installation crew, Lou, was the only one who continued to call daily hoping for his back pay. Everyone else accepted their loss and went out to find new jobs. The vendors took back what we had in inventory and began to write off their losses. I notified federal and state offices of the company’s situation.


Boss had never even had signature cards changed at the bank. He could not write a check on the company account. Only Ray or I could do that and Ray was nowhere to be found. Boss instructed me not to write any checks.


“No payments to anyone.”


At the end of two weeks, he told me to write a check to him for the full amount in the bank, five thousand dollars. He took the check and the BMW SUV and drove to Mexico. “Don’t call me, I’ll call you,” he said as he drove away.


The car dealer called weekly for payment and threatened repossession until he realized he would have to go to Mexico to do that. The feds and state officials called or came by periodically to see if I had heard from Boss. “Do you know where he is?”


“Nope, still don’t, he calls asking for money but I do not know where he is.”  

      

I refused to send Boss money. I continued to collect receivables to pay Lou’s back pay and my salary. When the landlord gave me thirty days to vacate the property for lack of payment of the lease, I had office furniture moved to a storage unit and gathered up all office supplies, moved them to my apartment and continued to collect receivables to pay the storage fees and my salary for a final month. Federal and state officials continued to check with me periodically for about a year before they gave up.


2002

****

Retirement, again. After rising to an alarm each week day morning for thirty-two years, I did not have to jump out of bed and rush to the office. I had coffee on the deck in the cool, morning, Colorado air. I painted and made handmade paper and rearranged the closet and took long early evening walks. When I first began painting in Texas I would paint late into the night after work, with the TV on of course, and one night I saw a documentary on making paper and was enchanted. I began to gather supplies and bought how-to books. I made paper and made paper. I began to show some of my pieces made from homemade paper at Alford’s and created a demand. I continued to make paper at the condo in Colorado and literally turned my little kitchen and dining room into a chaotic studio full of paints and paper.


Inder, the CPA we used at Advanced Presentation Systems called. He asked if I would be willing to work for his company during tax season. “Sure, why not?” I thought. So much for retirement. I rejected his suggestion that I stay full time but I did help through tax season the following two years.


Then I found OLLI, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute for adults fifty and older affiliated with the University of Denver. I was enthusiastic about the classes offered. Professors, teachers, scientists, engineers and other professionals, some retired, led the classes in history, art, political science, music, philosophy, writing, literature, science, religion and on and on.


I loved, loved, loved those classes. I took a couple of classes each semester, met interesting people and made a few close women friends. We would meet for lunch and gathered for pot luck dinners.

One night after one of those dinners I began to feel ill and rushed to the bathroom, nauseous. One of the ladies offered to drive me home but I lived across town and insisted I could drive myself. I barely made it. I called the doctor and was told to get to an emergency room. By then it was close to midnight. I called Randy waking him from sound sleep. “What? What?” he kept asking. I was weak and throwing up but he finally understood and though he and Robert were a half hour away they picked me up and rushed me to the hospital. I had kidney stones. Eleven kidney stones. It took a couple of procedures over the following weeks to rid me of them.


                                                                                                ****

I decided to spruce up the condo. While I was still working, my hot water heater had burst and flooded the condo below. I had the downstairs damage repaired at the time, with the help of insurance, but I needed additional repair and upgrades for my area. With Randy’s help, I installed a new dishwasher as well as new floors in the bathrooms and kitchen. He and Robert moved furniture for me so that carpet guys could install new carpet. I arose early each morning and barefoot and still in my t-shirt and underwear painted walls, padded a dining room wall, refinished furniture and painted the deck. My shoe size expanded a half size going barefoot for weeks.


I accomplished all of that as I continued visiting with family and friends, hiking weekly with the Colorado Mountain Club, and attending twice weekly OLLI classes. I made more handmade paper and returned to painting with acrylics. In addition, I worked out vigorously while watching TV each night and lost twelve pounds. Robert managed to drive up for a quick weekend twice, but I do not know how he did it. He was weak and tired. He called periodically.


I began volunteering for a non-profit organization set up to help the elderly and worked a couple of mornings a week taking and making phone calls. Karen Thorn, the manager, and I became friends and lunched outside the office occasionally. A man called Karen one morning at the office looking for an older adult who might be interested in part time work. He was a mortgage broker and his wife was an artist. Knowing that I painted, Karen asked if I would like to look into the job. I did and was hired.

Vern and I hit it off immediately. My height, with a full head of gray hair, he was a stout, upbeat, intelligent, interesting man. We were the same age and talked of politics, philosophy and music. I loved hearing about his Jewish heritage and we discussed the effects of religions on the world condition. We occasionally got around to doing some work, and having been a Realtor in Texas I started with some knowledge of his business. We worked well together in his small office off to the side of the spacious warehouse/studio where his wife worked and stored her art.  


Lee was a creative, assertive woman, obviously a beauty in her youth. She was caustic and quick and did not suffer fools. Her art had been hugely successful twenty years prior and had hung and sold in galleries the world over. Those works, huge works, had gone out of style. She was a little bitter about that and wanted her art returned that had not sold. I was to contact art dealers and galleries that still had her art and give them shipping instructions. Well, record keeping by Lee’s assistant during all those past years had been less than thorough and records at the galleries were even worse. The other directive for me was to get all art in the attached warehouse/art studio inventoried and computerized.

Lee slept late most mornings and Vern went home to have lunch with her. They were devoted to one another. She held adult sketching classes three evenings a week and invited me to attend one when I expressed an interest. She hired live models and we sketched. There were ladies with rolls of fat, there were skinny ladies and old men. The most interesting was the six-foot handsome young man with a perpetual erection.


During that time, I decided to take an OLLI class in creative writing. I had written poetry all my life as well as essays about my beliefs and desires and had begun writing memories. So many memories of raising children, relationships and travel. I was excited about the class. We were a group of three men and seven women including our facilitator, Mary. I of course checked out the men. Handsome? Tall? Short? Well dressed? One man never came back after the first class, the second lasted two, maybe three classes.


The tables were set up in a U shape so that we all faced one another and Richard Randall, the third and lasting man, sat across from me. I soon realized that Richard and I wrote about the same things, family, travel, hiking and camping. He wrote a lot about fishing, obviously a big part of his and his family’s life. It seemed he had lost his wife a few years back. One of the ladies had just recently lost her husband and was suffering so she could hardly communicate without tears. As she expressed her grief one day, she said she just could not write, had tried, but simply could not get her grief onto paper and said she would not be back to the class. As class ended, I saw Richard run after her. I was sure they had much to share about loss.


I assumed Richard was retired military. His hair, sprinkled with grey, was cut extremely short and his clothes were a little outdated. He was probably five foot ten or eleven and trim. He seemed in good physical shape with long legs and a good physic. He was tan with piercing blue eyes. He and I exchanged remarks during class as we all did when discussing one another’s compositions but nothing personal. After several weeks I tried to chat with Richard during one of the breaks but he moved along quickly.


Our exceptional group had several very talented people, some who had never written before but wrote well. Some wrote humor and meaningful essays. As in most classes, attrition took us down to the die-hards by the end of the semester and we die-hards were not ready to be done. We decided to meet on our own that spring and Mary was eager to continue to facilitate.


Through the following weeks we met for lunch at the restaurant over the beloved Tattered Cover book store in Cherry Creek before they moved. We met once a week and shared our pasts and ideas through the written word. We got to know one another well and laughed and cried and enjoyed our time together. I think Richard stayed with us women because we loved and appreciated what he wrote. He also knew wines and we always had him choose the wine to accompany our meal. As the weeks went by and I could see the man inside, I became quite interested. I wanted to know more.


He was not retired military. He had been Vice President, General Counsel of McDonald Douglas for twenty-five years, a fortune 500 firm headquartered in California. He and his wife had raised their three children in a lovely home in Newport Beach. He had traveled the world for the company and he and his family had traveled extensively and often.


Our writing group decided to break for the summer and our last meeting was great fun as the wine flowed. Richard had never shown any interest in me other than conversations during class the same as the conversations with the other women about our writing. “I wish Richard would ask me out,” I thought. He announced he had to leave a little early that last day and when he did, I excused myself also and rode down in the elevator with him. A last chance for him to ask me out or for my phone number or Something! Nope, adios, good-by as we reached the front entrance.


Knowing Richard loved to hike, while driving home I thought, “OK, I’ll just email him and invite him to take a hike someday with one of my Colorado Mountain Club groups. What have I got to lose?”


When I got home to my condo and slipped out of my shoes, I threw purse and folders down and went as usual to my computer to check e-mails. There was an e-mail from Richard Randall.


“I’m not sure this is appropriate but would you be interested in meeting for coffee some day?”


After I did a little jig around the room with a smile from ear to ear, I sedately replied, “I would love to have coffee. Where shall we meet?”


We made arrangements to meet at the restaurant, Perfect Landing, at the Centennial Airport near my condo in Aurora early one afternoon. We had coffee at the bar and talked and talked. We decided to have dinner and were ushered to a table next to the big windows overlooking the runways. We had a lovely dinner while watching the planes land and take off and talked and talked some more. Darkness moved in and the lights of the runways and planes twinkled on as we finished our bottle of wine.


Within days after our meeting at Perfect Landing, Richard e-mailed to suggest a hike and that summer we hiked one trail after another. Richard became Dick and we hiked a couple of times with the Colorado Mountain Club but mostly just the two of us. I showed him trails that were new to him and he showed me trails I had not been to. After we completed each trail exploration we went somewhere for lunch and talked some more. I enjoyed his company. As mentioned before, he had a great physique and seemed strong and healthy, never winded while climbing. He was obviously in great shape. We had both lived full lives and had a lot to talk about, but when we began repeating our stories over lunch, I hoped we could move on.


We talked about our marriages and our childhoods. In 1941 Dick and his parents had taken on the 247-acre family farm which straddled the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border. The farm was built in 1795 and some member of Dick’s family had owned it since 1897. It had remained fallow for many years when Dick’s father bought cows and turned it into a dairy as he revitalized the old buildings and equipment. Though they butchered their own meat and grew and canned food, they soon realized the family could not survive on the income from the dairy alone.  Dick’s father took work away from the farm leaving Dick at nine or ten (his little brother was much younger) to milk twenty-five cows before and after school, shovel manure, feed the 2,000 to 5,000 chickens, gather eggs and do the many other chores a big farm requires. He and his mother “candled” eggs at night and packaged them for sale. They gardened and canned and raised a pig or two. Dick didn’t see any of this as a hardship as a boy and enjoyed tromping through the woods with his dog to fish and swim in the ponds. He loved to camp in the woods with his dog Teddy occasionally. His father thought it strange that anyone would prefer a night on the ground rather than a nice soft bed.  The pleasure of getting electricity to the farm when Dick was 12 meant an improvement over reading and doing homework by kerosene lamp at night, but more importantly, they bought a milking machine.

Hiking weather was coming to a close as Dick and I continued to hike once or twice a week and I was not interested in repeating our stories to one another through the winter months. Dick’s stories were amazing. He had been thrown into prison in Africa, he took hundreds of thousands of hams in payment for airplanes from a country suddenly gone bankrupt and had dined with presidents and royalty, but I was not interested in hearing them for a third time. I was ready for either a closer relationship or see less of one another. “What the heck. I’ll make a move and he will either be interested in moving the friendship into a winter affair or I won’t hear from him again.”

“Gee Dick, is hiking all there is for us? No romantic dinner?” I e-mailed.

He invited me to meet for drinks (via e-mail, we never chatted on the phone ??) at The Cruise Room in the Oxford Hotel downtown Denver. We were dressed to impress. He was very handsome in tie and sport coat. Once seated, he took my hand across the table and said, “What did you have in mind?”

What kind of question is THAT???” I thought. “Well, a little hand holding, maybe a little kiss,” says I and withdrew my hand. I was embarrassed and felt I was truly imposing on the man. Unaccustomed to drinking alcohol, we had ordered martinis, I was feeling the effects of my strong drink on an empty stomach and focusing was becoming a little difficult. We chatted for a while, I have no idea what we talked about, he paid the bill and we headed for our cars. One last go, I took his hand, maybe as much to steady myself as to establish a connection. He put me in my car, no hug, no handshake and walked away. I watched him walk away through the rearview mirror and knew for sure I would never hear from that guy again.

                                                                                                ****

Vern and I became very busy. Interest rates had gone down and everyone wanted to refinance their mortgages. Vern would leave occasionally to take Lee to the doctor or shopping and I would contact galleries and dealers to get Lee’s art returned. They had had them too long. Some didn’t know where they were, couldn’t find them. They didn’t want to admit that because we would have billed them for the pieces so I just got excuses from my letters and phone calls. I never got a reply of any kind from some. Vern and Lee had done business with many of those people for years and they knew one another well so Vern would occasionally get on the phone and turn the air blue berating them but we had few paintings returned.

Vern and Lee had a daughter and granddaughter who lived in the area and a son with a loft in LoDo. They were very close to their son. He too was a mortgage broker, in fact, had been for years and helped his dad go into that business when Vern retired from his lifelong sales career. The son was exceptionally gifted. He lived almost as a hermit, seldom leaving his loft. He had a difficult time interacting with others. His mind worked so quickly - - - well, like his mother, he did not suffer fools. Anyone who could not think as quickly and masterfully as he was an irritant to him. I spoke to him on the phone occasionally and at one time went to his condo to do some work but he simply tolerated me.

2006

****

In 2006 I wrote: My son started his AIDS medication today. He is 55. He has been HIV positive for many years yet healthy, no AIDS symptoms and though his T-cell count is still good, his doctor has prescribed this precautionary measure. His companion of 14 years, Robert Thomas, has been on AIDS meds for years. The toxic medications of the past had made Robert so ill at times he periodically discontinued them saying “I’ll just have to die; I can’t take feeling like this another day.” Thankfully, those meds improved, they are much less toxic. Enormously expensive? Yes, but easier to take. Thank god for insurance.

Peggy remarried to our beloved John. Handsome, hardworking, generous, responsible, devoted John. He took Paula and Amy under his wing and has loved them as his own. He had grown children of his own, when they married.

Mike remarried to our beloved Maggie. Mike says she is the brains and he the brawn. They are self-employed, have a ranch in the mountains with horses. Mike had his own construction company before he met Maggie so knew what he was doing when he and Maggie designed and he built not only their home, but horse barn, riding arena and huge workshop where he has made beautiful, handmade, furniture and cabinetry.

Anna and David lived in one small Texas town after another through the years. They would like to have moved to Colorado but the Colorado Methodist Conference had no church openings and they finally settled in Killeen, Texas with their family.

For several years Cris lived with Jerry, a super nice guy. Unable to work because of her many health issues, he took good care of her.

****

I received an e-mail from Dick. “Would you like to have dinner at my place?” and gave date and time.

Hmmmmmm. Surprised, I wrote, “Sure.” I drove across town from my east side condo to his far west side apartment in Golden. He was living in a senior facility for independent seniors. I was surprised. It was an interesting dinner, certainly not Martha Stewart but several things he had noticed that I liked from our many lunches together. I could see a great deal of thought had gone into making the meal which he served with wine. We had to move stacks of things off the table to clear it and pile them onto other stacks of things on chairs and chests. After dinner and clearing away the food, we sat on his couch and looked at picture albums and talked about his life and some of his trips.

Dick had been married for forty-seven years when his wife died. Happy years. They met in college, married, and raised children while he worked and finished law school.  Tragically, their third child, weeks old, died of SIDS. Living with that terrible grief, they did eventually have a fourth child.

Dick had started first grade at age five and his mother insisted on private boarding school, Lawrence Academy, instead of public high school. Skipping a grade, he started college at Syracuse University at sixteen. Excelling, graduating top of his class, he took a year off before starting law school. His intelligence and education led him into one outstanding job opportunity after another. Each one that was offered through the years was better than the one before. Eventually hired by Douglas Aircraft Corporation as Chief Counsel, he moved his family to California. He took part in managing the merger of Douglas with McDonnell Aircraft Corporation and was steadily promoted to Senior Vice President as well as General Counsel. Dick loved his job and he and his family lived a wonderful life of privilege. They traveled extensively, entertained and he and his wife were tennis champions at the tennis club. They had many friends, entertained and rubbed elbows with John Wayne and tennis pros at the club. The children went off to college and Charlene could then go with Dick when he traveled the world for McDonnell Douglas. Dick flew into forty countries through the years trouble shooting and finalizing the sale of planes.

Then, Charlene was diagnosed with cancer. After almost twenty-five years with the company, Dick retired early to be with his wife. They sold their home, moved to Taos, New Mexico and built a handsome adobe home. Charlene went into remission. A talented artist, her art was very popular in Taos and Santa Fe where she had a gallery. She and Dick were active in community affairs and Dick was even commissioner of the water department at one time, the first gringo to every hold that office. The water was allocated on a schedule for irrigation and one day a complaint came to Dick from someone who was not getting their water on their day. Dry ditch, no water. Dick went to the site of the controls to find the problem and found two Indian men sitting with rifles across their laps.  

“Hello mister Randall, we have been expecting you. We need this water just a couple more days, then we will send it on.”

“Of course,” replied Dick, “I know you will do the right thing.” Dick said he was not about to disagree with those two rifles. After all, it was their water before the gringo’s moved in.

He became involved with the Taos Land Trust and was very proud of the hundreds of acres of land they protected in northern New Mexico during his time with that organization. His wife complained that he was busier in retirement than when he was working. Then, once again, cancer raised its ugly head.  Seven years after leaving California, Charlene died. Grief stricken, Dick moved to a loft in LoDo to be near family and threw his self into community activities.

He soon met Ann and started a relationship that lasted four years. On a trip to Canada, Ann became seriously ill, so ill the Canadian doctors advised Dick to get her to and American hospital as soon as possible. Ann had a lengthy recovery and the affair ended against Dick’s wishes. Dick moved to the facility in Golden, near his son Dave’s, business

Dick had grieved so deeply after his wife’s death that he became deeply depressed and when the relationship with Ann ended, he was so very sad he felt that life was over. He felt old and alone and chose the retirement home in Golden to live out his days. Of course, all of the little old ladies were charmed by him. He was the youngest male in the building. He said often, “The place advertised for ‘active seniors,” but I was the only active senior there.”

Dick and I sauntered through Africa, New Zeeland and British Columbia via his picture albums after dinner. While sitting on his couch sharing the excitement of his trips, the evening passed into night. I finally said I should go. I had a long drive ahead of me across town. He put his hand on mine and said, “Don’t go,” and quickly pulled out another album. I stood and he followed. He put his arms around me and kissed me. I made the long drive the next morning after a lovely breakfast at The Bridgewater Grill across the street in the Golden Hotel.

I often spent the weekend with Dick. The senior center was all atwitter. Dick had always been the bartender for their Friday night cocktail hour and they would complain vigorously when he did not show after we began to date. He had taken a few of the more active ladies to a Rockies game and on some of his hikes before we began to date and they also complained vigorously when that stopped. The ladies were not happy when I entered the building with him but nodded politely should we get trapped in the elevator with one another.

Dick and I were getting to know one another, enjoying one another’s company. We were both high energy, wanting to know more about everything and see more and do more and, well we were having a great time.

Dick took me to his son David’s ranch to meet the family. Four-year-old Nevada met us at the bottom of the stairs to the front porch. He raced up to Dick to get a big hug. Dick introduced us and Nev reached up to give me a hug.

“Oh, I get a hug too?”

“Any time Barb, any time,” he says as his little short legs led us up the steep stairs.

His little brother Hunter was eighteen months old. I was delighted to have a baby to carry around.

We continued to enjoy hiking the trails of the foothills and parks. Dick had season tickets to the Denver Symphony and the Colorado Rockies and we enjoyed both. We attended Rockies games often as a crowd because his family members all had season tickets also. Karen, Dick’s daughter, and her two teenagers and Dave and his family went to games in searing heat and bundled up in layers of blankets in the cold.  We also skied with that crowd, all excellent skiers, but most often just the two of us. We had weekend lunches often with Dave and Patty, the two boys, two dogs, cats and horses at the ranch. After lunch, we usually hiked through the Pike National Forest which backed up to their property. We had dinner with my family members and when they heard the fantastic stories of Dick’s life, so varied, so amazing, they would ask, “Did he really do all of those things or does he make that stuff up?”

Dick’s daughter Karen lived in Conifer with her daughter Jesse and younger son Kacy. She and the children’s father had divorced years before when the children were small. Jesse was entering CU, with Dick’s help, and Kacy was a softball star at Conifer High. Dick provided their comfortable house and utilities. Karen worked in Denver and we saw all three of them often.

Jesse was an exceptionally beautiful girl, as lovely and charming as she was beautiful. She and her uncle Dave had inherited Dick’s intelligence. Those three had a connection of love and admiration. Their love for one another was a beautiful thing.

Dick’s oldest son Ken lived in California. Ken had rebelled against family, school, any and all kinds of restrictions at age fourteen. He chose the beach, girls and drugs. The battle with his father began. His mother disowned him. As a young man he enlisted in the navy, deserting a wife and two young daughters. Drugs contributed to an aimless life. Eventually, heavy smoking, drugs and alcohol destroyed his health. By the time Dick and I met he was so ill with COPD that he could not work. Dick brought him to Golden and put him in an apartment. As his illness progressed, he wanted to reconnect with the two daughters he had abandoned and his grandchildren. They were resentful and not interested.

Those two girls, Ken’s daughters, were to become two of my most favorite people. Ashley the oldest was married and attending Utah University for her Master’s.

Haley, her younger sister lived in Denver and we saw her occasionally.

Within six months, Dick was looking to buy a house. He began to say, when out hiking, “We could build a house right here. Look at that view.” He began to take me with him to look at houses and by the time ten months had passed said, “If I buy a house would you share it with me?”

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