When I first planned this trip and then decided as I had resigned that I could stay on longer, my first thought was to go and see my old friends Ira and Sam. I have known them since the mid 80’s when they came to England to help manage a printing franchise. Barry Cooper was the man in my life at the time and he reported into Ira. Ira turned up in his cowboy boots and Stetson, I seem to remember he had a few issues getting into the country, probably sparked by the way he was dressed! Ira and Barry hit it off immediately and the four of us travelled quite a lot for business, it’s probably hard to imagine but in those days I was playing the role of a corporate wife as well as working in my first IT job for the London Borough of Hackney. We had a lot of fun together, and because Barry was the sort of person who liked to travel, go places, do things and was extremely well travelled there was always something on the agenda for us. I remember the four of us being in Edinburg together hosting a business dinner and Ira making a speech and being completely unable to pronounce Edinburgh, everyone was laughing at his attempts, yes there was more than one. We also went to France and stayed in a Gite together, and to Portugal and Venice. I have very fond memories of those times. I have visited Ira and Sam three times since then, once in San Fransisco, twice in Los Angeles, and the last time I took Ásgeir who was only three months old at the time.
So when I decided I must seem them, after all it’s been 26 years, I sent Ira a message and and email but heard nothing back which was unusual. Eventually I decided to use snail mail, and included in the letter my email address and telephone number. I got an email reply shortly after that saying that they had moved from Boulder but that the new occupant of their old house wasn’t sure where to. On the very same day I saw a posting on Facebook by their daughter in law, Lily, with pictures of both Sam and Ira, so I quickly friend requested her and sent her a message saying I was trying to get in touch. She responded immediately and then put me in touch with Sam, and to cut a long story short, well not that long really, Sam invited me to stay. Sam told me then that Ira had been unwell over the past few years. Once I had arrived on their doorstep it became clear how unwell Ira was, but he was so pleased to see me and asked immediately after Ásgeir. It transpired that Ira had had a major a heart bypass in 2008, I think. But he has since suffered multiple small strokes, and one significant stroke, He is also suffering from a form of dementia. I asked Sam prior to writing this is it was ok to talk about Ira’s health and she was more than happy for me to do so, she said it wasn’t widely known and let’s face it it’s never an easy conversation to have.
One of their daughters, Kelly, lives nearby with her husband Rick, and on the Sunday we were out walking, she asked me if I was shocked to see how he was, and I said I was, but there was something in the photographs I saw on Facebook which told me he wasn’t the old Ira. Kelly said she felt it was serendipity that brought me there at that time, and I truly believe it was.
Sam and I were immediately on the same page, like the last 26 years simply hadn’t happened, it was so good, there was a huge amount of catching up to do, and even in a week we could not cover it all. I had my own quarters in the basement, and the use of a car if I wanted to go off exploring, but to be honest once I had arrived I just wanted to spend as much time as possible with the two of them.
The days were easy, we went for a walk in the morning and early lunch, which Ira got up for and early dinner which Ira got up for. Conversation was limited with him, and he generally went back to bed after food, but occasionally got confused especially when we had something on the agenda. We went out for a walk one morning and Sam rang him to check he was ok, and he said he was up and ready to go out, we thought that meant he wanted to go on his motorised scooter for a walk with us, so we rushed back. But we couldn’t find him in the house anywhere, I looked in the garage to see if his scooter was there, and it was. Then Sam rang him, he was sitting in the car, in the garage, and I hadn’t seen him, ready to go to Kelly and Rick’s for dinner. So we had to get him out and explain that we weren’t going until 5 pm. After that little episode I made sure they were both set up with Find Friends in their phones. Having seen my father suffer with Alzheimer’s and my sister Laura lose her life to a brain tumour, I have experienced these things before, but it doesn’t stop you feeling an overwhelming sorrow at the loss of someone who is still alive, but no longer the person you knew. Having said that we did still manage to have a bit of a laugh together, there were occasional glimpses of the old Ira, giving me the eye when I said something to him that was a bit cheeky, or when I was telling him off.
One of the things they remember about our time together in the UK was that Barry always used to say to me “Is that right Di?” I have absolutely no recollection of this, but they both said it happened all the time. But it has become a well know phrase or saying in their household and even their children know what it means. I thought that was so funny, that it had stayed with them all these years.
Sam was an artist long before I knew her and when they moved from California to Colorado her dry period ended and she started painting again, the house is full of her beautiful paintings, she told me there was one of me in Ira’s office, and my goodness I recognised it immediately, I have the photograph, a back view of the three of us walking in Venice. There is a photograph of it below together with another which was inspired by a bridge in France, near where we stayed, and my favourite piece of hers, which hung over the mantlepiece.
The estate they live on is specifically for Seniors, in English speak that’s old age pensioners. I do prefer the Senior badge I have to say. There are no children living there and there are miles and miles of walks and a fantastic club house with an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, gym, meeting rooms and planned activities throughout the day. There is no reason to be lonely or inactive in this place and the landscaping is wonderful, all with the backdrop of the Rockies, which were of course covered in snow. One of the things I noticed in Denver was also apparent here, lots and lots of butterflies. There is also a lot of water there in the form of man made lakes and so not too surprisingly there is a flock of geese and of course lots of ducks. There is also a nearby airstrip and small planes were flying past the window of the house going in to the strip to practice landing and take offs all the time. I didn’t manage to snap one to show how close to the house they seemed but did try and capture some of them when we were out walking. Apparently lots of hot air balloons fly over there too. But I wasn’t fortunate enough to see one. We put that down to the fact that there was a hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque, a fact that was confirmed later in the week by a woman I met who was from Albuquerque!
I have to say I was extremely taken by the place and felt I could happily live there, but it’s a long way from my boys, although I am sure they would love to visit and go skiing. Broomfield is also very high up, a mile, so I was having more of an issue with the altitude than I did in Utah.
The best part of the week though was spending time with Sam, talking about life and all that good stuff, reminiscing, talking about the future, including me coming back to visit and her coming to England. We took a little trip to Boulder, where they used to live and I posted a parcel homemade containing walking shoes and some clothes I decided I didn’t need. It cost a fortune, but I needed to lighten the load. We also went for a pedicure, American style, a huge room with special pedicure and manicure stations. I went a bit mad and had paraffin wax on my feet and some salt stuff on my legs and chose a vibrant pink for my toe nails because I was moving to sunnier parts of the country and the world.
Some photographs from Boulder below, it is a beautiful place, a University town, lots of lovely shopping, but I have no room!
Sam told me a lot about Ira in his younger days too, I only ever knew him as a lawyer and business man. Apparently he was a playwright and had his plays produced for television. He also appeared in commercials advertising American Express or Diners club, can’t remember which, which is where Sam first saw him. He is a prolific author of books about business and the law, if you look him up on Google and there is huge list. He was being a little talkative one day and said he wanted to go and teach the law, but we reminded him he is retired now, I think if he wasn’t ill he would still be working in some way.
Amazingly they have been together for fifty years, yes 50, a complete lifetime. It’s food for thought though that sometimes we bump in to people in one element of their life and have no idea who they were, or where they have come from. It applies to us all in so many ways. Me I am the little girl who sat quietly at the back of the class, but I have been a corporate wife, I left school at 16, owned my own business for 9 years and built a successful career in IT even within the limitations of the world we live in, been a mother and a wife, a Chair of Governors at a local school and a Church Treasurer. I digress but it was great to have conversations about their earlier lives and life together, something I suppose I am more interested in and give more thought to today, than I did when I was in my thirties. Life moves on and we all grow and change.
We were invited to Kelly and Rick’s for dinner on Saturday, they live on a similar estate across the highway, get me with my American words, but that estate is for families with the same sort of facilities the seniors have, a big club house and lots of activities. Needless to say both houses were beautiful and spacious, unlike the boxes most of us have to live in in the UK.
When Kelly and I were talking about her job, she said that the company she works for had just been bought by and English company and the CEO and various Directors had just been to visit. She mentioned that the CEO was a member of the House of Lords, oh said I what is his name? Stephen Carter, was the reply, what a small world, when I was working on a contract to bring all the various telecommunications agencies together into the newly formed Ofcom, Office of Communications, he was the Chief Executive of Ofcom. He has of course gone on to bigger things since then, working at one point as a government advisor, which got him his new standing in the society in which we live. I looked him up just to check, and there he was, just looking a little older!
Some more photographs of the beautiful surroundings
I am not a political animal, but having spent a week with my friends, I did watch more of the news than I would normally and certainly more than I have since arriving here. Needless to say President Trump takes up a lot of airtime, yawn, it’s unbelievable in my view that he is still the President. When I was in St Louis my family were saying that he would be impeached soon, that was February. Sam told me that the Supreme Court needs to rule on some things, I should say I am eating lunch and am on my third glass of wine whilst writing this, so I can’t quite remember what they have to decide on, but I know that there is a question mark about many things including the way the Russians were able to influence the election. However there is a question mark about the judges impartiality since the election, that the cards may have been stacked in such a way to stop them making the right decision, the decision that people believe they should make, which I am told could throw the USA into an even worse state of chaos than it currently is.
Anyway the main reason I mention this is that the Weinstein scandal broke at the time I was there too and there seems to be the possibility of a shift in terms of women speaking out for themselves about the sexist society we live in. This is a subject which is close to my heart, and I will talk about it from my perspective later. There was a woman presenter talking about how widely known the Weinstein problem was, and how it was used in comedies and even mentioned in an Oscar presentation, she showed clips of both. She had two younger women on the show, not that age has anything to do with it, talking about how difficult it was in the USA to fight sexism and not just in the arts but in all walks of life. I couldn’t agree more. They were also taking about the President, and what hope is there when there are recordings of him talking about how he behaves towards women and that is just accepted as ok behaviour. From my perspective it was a real joy to hear this being discussed so comprehensively on National TV, but do I hold out hope things will change, I doubt it will happen in my lifetime, but anything I can do to make a difference for future generations of women I will.
Changing the subject we had snow one day, photographs below are of the evening prior and the day itself.
So I had a wonderful week all in all, tinged with a little sadness, but it just goes to show, that some friends are truly friends for life, thank you Sam and Ira, Kelly and Rick, for your hospitality and look forward to seeing you again next year.
A few final photographs including planes, snow and Ira and Sam. Love you both.
Off to the next part of the adventure. See you in Flagstaff if I survive the bus journey!