Monday, October 25, 2010

Older Animals Can be Active Too!

Remember Cheeta, co-star of those old Tarzan movies? Perhaps you've wondered whatever happeneed to him.

Thanks to a fellow Clare resident who has a second home in Palm Springs, CA, I have found out the answer to a question I didn't even know I had. Cheeta is alive and well, doing abstract paintings in Palm Springs.

Last August, the Clare book club held a Tarzan day. The club discussed Cheeta, a best-selling Hollywood expose purportedly written by the chimpanzee who starred in the Tarzan movies, based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' 25 Tarzan Adventures. After discussing the book, the group had a luncheon of Cheeta favorites, includng Bananas Foster, served by The Clare's Dining Room Manager. While the more "snooty" among you, and among Clare residents as well, may dismess all this as silly, when I found out about it (after the fact), I thought is was a refreshing story. We "art lovers" sometimes forget that art can be fun, too.

Cheeta, perhaps the oldest living primate in captivity, now lives near downtown Palm Springs, cared for by retired singer/dancer Dan Westfall, who inherited Cheeta from his uncle. Cheeta has hius own walk of fame star, enjoys three regular meals a day, and receives two insulin injections daily for his diabetes. Doesn't this remind you of the state of some older human beings as well?

Like us humans, Cheeta is keeping busy in old age. His abstract paintings have sold for as much as $10,000 each (for charity). Great art? Who cares? I think it's an interesting story, further evidence of Jane Goodall's contention that chimpanzees are closely related to us.

The photo above shows Cheeta with his two pantings purchased for The Clare (at much less than $10,000). They may eventually be displayed in a public area, or in the apartment of an animal lover who fell in love with them. To those who scoff, I say, "Loosen up!"

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Rictameter: Time Flies

Time flies:
An old cliche,
Yet oh so true these days
With meetings, puzzles, TV shows
All designed to keep us busy, content.
In youth, time seemed to crawl along:
Plans were made, lessons learned.
Now, not enough.
Time flies.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Admirable or Foolhardy: What Would You Do?

One of the advantages of living in a large continuous care senior residence is the chance to meet fellow seniors of all types. One of the most memorable people I've met here at The Clare is Anne (not her real name). When I first saw her, I assumed that she was near death: shaved head, halting gait, negative attitude. She continued to come to eat breakfast with the Independent Residents, of whom I am one, even though she lived on one of the Assisted Living floors.

When I first met Anne, she was complaining about the trouble of selling her downtown condo, where she had previously lived. This was or had been a problem for many of us during these uncertain economic times. The next thing I heard from her was that she was trying to cancel her contract with a real estate agent and keep the condo; in fact, she planned many improvements and changes to the place, which she obviously loved. I admired her for her forward-looking plans, since she had told me she had terminal bone cancer. She takes an array of serious medications, some of them experimental. She complained often of pain, sleeping problems, night sweats, and other alarming symptoms. One experimental treatment laid her low, so she was forced to discontinue it.

Anne is very intelligent, but like many of us, having trouble dealing with the problems of aging and illness. I started to think about what I would do in her situation (she is the same age as I am, 78). Would I have the courage to make such grandiose (and expensive) plans to move out of a care facility while facing an uncertain and likely brief future? My answer would be no, but I can't fault Anne for her decision. I have never met a cancer sufferer more optimistic and forward-looking, not to mention one having so much energy despite her fragile appearance.

On one hand, I admire Anne for her tenacity. She is very determined (and overly critical of everything, from the food to the service to the staff to other aspects of this relatively comfortable place). Few approve her attituude or understand her desire to move out of this beautiful place. Is she being admiraable or foolhardy? She seemed to enjoy telling me about her struggles with her remodeling contractor to get everything in her condo just right. Yesterday, she finally moved out. However, she confided in me that she knew things would not be the same as they were before.

Even so, all the planning and fretting seemed to keep Anne alive. One of the drawbacks of senior living, especially for those of us with no local family, is the feeling that this is the end, the final move. Of course many healthy seniors here are on the go every moment, but some of us are contented to just relax and enjoy easy living. I do that too much. So I guess I admire Anne more than I condemn her. I wish her the very best, which would include a cure for her cancer. Will it happen? Somehow I doubt it, but Anne is certainly a profile of courage and an example of having plans for the future, even a very uncertain one.

Photo: The Clare, from the Chicago Tribune.