The Last Leg of Life
by John C. Westervelt
Each morning as I make my bed, I put my pillow on top of my six-drawer maple chest. I pause for a moment to look at three, eye-level, five-by-seven pictures.
The first picture is of my mother with my one-year-old sister, my three-year-old brother, and me at age two.
The middle picture is of my widowed mother, my brother Wallace in his World War II navy uniform, my sister Harriette, and me. At the end of that leg of life, I was fully-grown.
The third picture shows my wife Nelda in a white dress and white hat in our rose garden holding red roses in her right hand. I am standing on her left in a light-blue sport coat with navy slacks and tie. Each of us is holding a hand of our three-year-old grandson Brett, who is wearing a jacket that looks much like his Grandpa John’s.
I continue in contemplation. The first picture shows my beginning leg of life. In the second picture, I am fully-grown and ready for the next leg of life and independence. The third picture and the third leg of life covered marriage and my children, Paul and Mary Kim. At the end of that leg, I was fully mature.
Two years after the last picture, I became a widower and began the fourth leg of life. I worked at being strong for my daughter Mary Kim, who was single, and for Nelda’s widowed mother.
There is no fourth picture. If there were a fourth frame, it would hold a five-by-seven mirror, for the last leg of life is now.
In June 2012, I sold my house, left behind some memories, and moved to Crestwood at Oklahoma Methodist Manor. As I selected from OMM daily activities, I found myself in an exercise class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:30 to 9:00. At one o’clock on Monday and Wednesday, I attended a Brain class to stimulate the flow of juices required to remember. To keep my body’s balance system working well, I attended a three o’clock balance class on Monday and Wednesday.
I reserved Tuesday and Thursday for my volunteer job at Asbury preschool. As preschool began this year, I wrote my fellow teachers:
“First day of school on my last leg of life –
I find I have some usefulness remaining. I hope to use it up before I’m done.”
I spend Friday evenings with my brother Wallace and his wife Barbara at their patio home on the OMM campus. Once a month we choose pizza and movie night in OMM Fleming center. Heading home to my apartment in Crestwood after an evening with Wallace and Barbara, I stop by the second floor game room to see what might be causing so much conversation and laughter. I find a couple of game tables surrounded by folks playing games of their choice. I sense that it is more about fellowship than competition.
In the beginning days of Asbury’s Tidings, I wrote fourteen stories about my boyhood. These were published in 1998 in a six-inch by six-inch soft-covered book with a title “When Grandpa John Was a Kid.”
Charlene Fabian, Vice President for Development at Oklahoma Methodist Manor, used these same stories in the Manor Mirror, a monthly publication for those on the campus of OMM. As I walk across campus, men and women stop me to say, “The iceman delivered 50 pounds of ice to my house too.” or “We also used a hand-turned ringer between tubs of water on laundry day.”
Paula and Kristie, weekday preschool teachers at Asbury, showed up at my apartment in December with two poinsettias, a string of green garland, a box of tiny red balls, a door wreath, stick-on hooks, and lots of energy. They left me in a festive home for Christmas. My last leg of life is going well.
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