He could have been 75. Or he could have been 95. He wore a blindingly white shirt, tucked into Levis that were creased, both ironed by his wife, or maybe his daughter, I thought. He made a slow beeline for us, pad and pencil in hand.
“Welcome, folks, welcome. We will give you the best breakfast you’ve ever had. I promise. You’ll see.” He chuckled and smiled. He was typical of certain older Hispanic men in northern New Mexico, living treasures, who have deep roots in the land and the culture, who can tell endless stories, and whose hardworking ethic isn’t diminished by the aging process.
We were in Las Vegas, New Mexico, for the weekend. It’s a wonderful town, an hour east of Santa Fe, that offers a great escape from the pressures of work and the routine of home. I’m not complaining about Santa Fe – we are incredibly lucky to be here – but Las Vegas offers a more down home, relaxed, humble experience. At the Plaza Hotel on the town plaza they serve special cocktails with cute names. The Santa Fe is described as “slightly pretentious,” which really made me laugh. Las Vegas is far from pretentious, although it has the same complex history, rich cultural mix and great shopping as its famous neighbor just down the road.
A few years ago my friend Pat made a visit to the University of New Mexico Medical Center. She wanted to donate herself to any clinical trials for treating and studying dementia, which she suspected was on her horizon. She was inspired to do this because her father, a doctor in Clovis, NM, had volunteered to be part of a clinical trial for leukemia which had not saved him unfortunately, but had been an important step in the development of what has become an almost miracle cure for certain childhood leukemia. Pat was very proud of – and inspired by – her father and wanted to carry on the tradition. The first step was to confirm a diagnosis and after a very comprehensive battery of tests, including MRIs and scans of all kinds, it was confirmed. She had early signs of age-related dementia. There were no trials but they would stay in touch. Pat took the diagnosis with surprising calm and with hopes that she might some day contribute to medical understanding.
Pat and I have been friends for decades, and for the past few years we have been in a writing group with two other companions. We are close-knit and have had many laughs and tears over the years as we share our creative juices.
This year has been challenging. We have each had our own struggles as we navigate the constraints and anxieties ever-present in our lives. And for our little foursome, there is no more getting together for snacks and chuckles and hugs at Pat’s house. COVID has driven us to zoom for our gatherings. Recently we received an email from Pat. It was part of a thread about finding a date to zoom.