Nearly one year later to the day, my father, Lloyd C Newsom, seems to have returned from, well, another plane of existence. Thanks in no small part to the steady encouragement and presence of my sister (along with frequent visits by my brother Jeffrey and I), the tireless work of doctors, occupational and physical therapists and my father's own steel-will to survive, he's now walking, talking and functioning more or less on his own. He turns 87 this year.
The one thing he's no longer doing is playing tennis, his life-long love. Down at Sea Oaks, the tennis community he's wintered in for 18 years, he used to be a game organizer, avid singles and doubles player, and general cheerleader for the courts. Now, after a brief, nearly deadly attempt to return to form a few months ago, my dad's put his raquets in the closet. This time of year, the courts, as well as most of the community, are silent. The snow-birds have flown back to New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or wherever and the Sea Oaks feels like an abandoned film set...
Sadly, his common-law wife of 15 years, Jean, has been all but lost to him. Jean was moved back to her home in New Jersey while dad was hospitalized for the second time last year. Between Jean's Alzheimer's and dad's collapse, my sister and I found ourselves thoroughly out-gunned at the time, and had to make a tough decision. Friends in New Jersey oversaw Jean's return and subsequent treatment for Alzheimer's, but the truth is they, as well as Jean, have also had a terrible time of it.
When I first visited, about 9 years back, dad and Jean liked to show off the pool. They'd return from the court, don their bathing suits, stroll in the balm under the canopy of sea oaks to the that glittering gem - immaculate, unattended - and read magazines.
Now, of course, Jean is elsewhere. Dad misses her every day. He remembers little of last year. To him, he awoke and she was gone. Today, it's all about the daily routines of meals, pills, exercise, reading and, of course, doctors...
My dad was a salesman his whole adult life. After returning from the war and settling into his troubled marriage with my mom, he landed a job hawking lightbulbs for General Electric. Then he sold "Keyhoe Plans", then tax shelters and finally, later in life, stocks and bonds. He was always on the phone, always making the call, always hammering away at the next sale, making the next contact. To this day, he keeps virtually the same old, stained and dog-eared set of contact cards- from his now defunct Rolodex - on his desk.