(Photo taken August 16, 2006. Kayla is in the back, Bill, Elgin and sister-in-law Linda on the sofa, hubby Bob and brother-in-law Mort sitting in front. Yours Truly is never in the photos 'cause I'm always takin' 'em.)
Late summer 2006 my husband and his sister moved their parents here from Arizona so that my husband and I could take over their care. The past two years have been an incredible journey.
Bill and Elgin were born in 1917 and 1918 respectively. Bill was a lawyer and Elgin taught school. They met in college, had a three year long-distance relationship which involved ACTUAL LETTERS WITH STAMPS. They married and raised their family in Indianapolis. Upon retiring they moved to Sun City, Arizona. They were married 64 years.
Those are the details but the best part is who they were as people. I could not have hand-picked better in-laws. Bill was kind, gentle and funny as all get out. He was always smiling and laughing. He loved playing golf more than anything in this world, except Elgin. When he went to the grocery store to pick up donuts, his other passion, he always picked up flowers for her as well. He would take Kayla for rides around Sun City in his golf cart and would take her swimming in their pool. He would pick grapefruit and oranges every morning from their yard and make us fresh juices. He always made waffles Saturday mornings during our visits. Kayla could do no wrong and was always content when with Bill. He was her hero and she loved him fiercely. He was not judgemental at all and accepted everyone at face value.
Elgin was an amazing artist. She would make Bill pull over during trips so that she could pick wildflowers with which to make hand-made greeting cards. She was an accomplished watercolor painter and showed her work in galleries. Kayla loved to go to Elgin's studio, which was in actuality their garage, and see her paints, brushes and papers. Elgin was a member of an art guild and had many friends. She was collector of the family history and photographs, and could recite names and faces and the family genealogy. She was Danish. I loved talking with her because she was vastly interesting, having traveled the world with Bill and their family. Before dementia slowly took her memory, she could recite verbatim each trip, who went, what they saw, and tell all manner of fun stories about their journeys. She loved to take out family photo albums - she had a LOT of photo albums - and describe each person and place in each photo. She was incredibly proud of her family and loved every person tremendously. She was generous and kind and incredible.
Bill passed away 17 months ago, and Elgin passed away two days ago. Part of this incredible journey was watching the sheer love and devotion that my husband lavished upon them during their time here. He was remarkable. Bob gave Bill and Elgin his complete attention. He visited them almost daily. He went to battle with hospitals and Emergency Rooms and doctors offices and insurance companies. He transferred them from assisted living to nursing homes to rehab to memory care facilities to nursing homes back to hospitals to our house and back to the memory care facility. They died in the same room, in almost the same spot, although many months apart. The last word that Elgin said was "Bill."
Was it hard? Yes. But neither Bob nor I would exchange these last years, months, days and hours with them for anything in the world. They gave us so much love, so much laughter, so much of themselves. They were extraordinarily gentile people who were well loved. There's a tremendous hole in our lives now that cannot be filled. Cherish your families - patch up any misunderstandings quickly - see relatives often - always, always, always, always, always say I Love You.