Their positive energy at the Starbucks was undeniable. These fellows, sitting in their scooters and power wheelchairs, have an atmosphere of camaraderie around them. These fellows enjoy their daily coffee visit. The customer regulars coming in and out during my visit with them greeted them with respect and admiration. They were kind to introduce me to their friends.
Here’s the start of my story:
Rich, sitting tall in his power wheelchair, not a scooter like the other two "guys". I could tell by his frame that his challenge is back related. It seemed he might be wearing a brace because he sat so tall in the wheelchair. I noticed he had a slight tremor in his hand. He said he was born in Colorado in 1941 and would be 73 in three months. He said he was a retired auto mechanic from Dublin Ford. He had a union pension to live on. He has been married three times and divorced three times. His most recent wife he was with for 23 years. His son and daughter both live in Texas. He is seriously contemplating a move there to be near them. His son is aged 50 and his daughter is 48. He has three grandchildren. He is giving up liquor for lent. He is a member of St. John’s Lutheran church. There is a military background, which I will get from him on his individual interview. He has a disease similar to ALS, but it’s called primary muscular atrophy. Most of the body part that he is affected by seemed to be in his upper torso. I sensed a seriousness of his illness. Something he may very well want to not dwell on.
Don, is 88 years old. He will be 89 this year. So he was born in 1924 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He loves it here in California because of the weather. This makes him the same age as my father-in-law. He is a widower. His wife died about 1 ½ years ago of Alzheimer’s. They were married for 63 years. He has lived at the Dallas Ranch Commons for 7 years. He loves living there. He has three kids, 7 grandchildren, and 12 great grandchildren.
Don is from the generation of my parents. They are survivors of the depression, World War II, and the Korean war. He and his wife lived a life in the former "christian" tradition.. Don said, "I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren who have parents who have never married". This statement alone, puts him into the arena that I call a life of propriety. He is trying to understand, even at this late stage of the game, why people have sex, have children, and live their lives without the benefit of marriage. If there is a benefit of marriage, other than the sake of approval of those who confine themselves to such religious traditions. This is something I will need to ask him. Is there a benefit of living a life of propriety?
Don also worked over 40 years with the Southern Pacific railroad. He mentioned Union Pacific Railroad, and we talked about the tracks going up the California coast. He has the benefit of a his railroad pension and social security to live on. He is also giving up liquor for lent and attends the same Lutheran church as Rich.
Larry Lucas, the third scooter boy, he is a different character. He is the catalyst to this other two getting out of the retirement complex for the coffee. His character seems to be the energy that binds them all together. He handed me a magazine article from Christian Living in the Mature Years from 2007. In is was an article written by Edith Lanstrom who talks about Larry and gives him great kudos for his volunteerism in helping children learn to read. Larry, was born in 1938, so that makes him about 75 or 76. He was born and raised in Orinda, California, a true Californian native. At the age of six he was struck with a fierce attack of polio. He was hospitalized for over two years, recuperating from the paralysis that beset his body and made it impossible for him to walk for years.
Eventually, as a young adult, with the aid of back and leg braces and half crutches, he become mobile and fit into the normal family life. Larry attributes his ability to be self-sufficient to the determination from his father that he learned to “pick himself up” whenever he fell. He had a great family environment. Larry worked as a automobile salesman for over forty-tree years. He likes to say that his low-key way of selling successfully put him in as a top salesman which won him many trips to travel all over the world.
Larry has had two wives in his lifetime, and has been divorced twice. He has four children from those marriages, two daughters and two sons. He also has 11 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. Larry is not giving anything up for lent, “because life is too short to stop something you really, really like.” I like Larry’s attitude, he seems to have a more positive spin.
I pointed out to all these three jubilant fellows my observations. I explained them that it seems a more positive attitude can keep a person alive a long time. I explained the story of my Uncle Bill, who died on his 97th birthday. It seemed he lived life with balances and and attitude of "you win some, you lose some, so don't focus on the loss, focus on the fun". I also told them, that he, too, had been married three times, the last one was a union of 53 years. They had no children, but they truly lived a life of harmony and respect, regardless of their views on religion. When you look at the cup as half-full, there is more meaning in your life. Larry smiled at me with a twinkle and replied with the cliche "when your are handed lemons, you need to make the lemonade".
I took their phone numbers and explained to them that maybe it would be more appropriate to talk to them individually in a quieter environment. I told them that I was going to the Lodi Wine and Chocolate festival, all of them sighed. I asked them, "so, do you all drink wine?" Larry piped up "of course!". I suggested that maybe I would bring them some wine as enticement, and Don said, "well, now that I've given up alcohol and chocolate for lent, that will have to wait, darn!" Rich conferred that he, too, had given up alcohol for lent. Larry smiled at me and repeated, "Not me, life is too short to give up anything!".
So I bid them adieu and said I would be contacting them. All this for a cup of coffee!