( Once upon a time. Me and Ed)
Yesterday a half inch of newly fallen snow covered the winding ramp leading into Heritage Manor nursing home. Ahead of me a nurse in light cotton scrubs pushed my friend Dorothy in a wheel chair at a pace I had difficulty keeping up with. Earlier I had stopped at Dorothy's house, a three story painted pink old Victorian with a wrap around porch and a dozen icy steps, to pick her up and take her to visit her husband Ed at the nursing home.
The warm moist air licked my face as we entered the halls of Heritage Manor. A ride on the elevator to the second floor warmed my nose while melting the snow and clumps of mud off the wheels on the wheelchair. In the short wait while nurses scrambled to find lift equipment to get Ed from the bed to a wheel chair, my mind transferred to a time about fifteen or twenty years ago when Dorothy, Ed, myself and a company of friends waited in a hallway at the Mable Tainter Theatre in Menomonie, WI dressed in Victorian finery minutes before a performance.
My costume was a true Civil War gown complete with bustle and corset laced tight to reduce my waste to an unthinkable tiny measure! My wide brimmed hat was graced with plumes of feathers. Elbow length kid leather gloves completed an elegant look. Handsome as all get-out, Ed was outfitted in the finest wool Civil war Navy officer's uniform complete with spats and a long sword in sheath attached to his side. The performance was written and choreographed by Dorothy. Our little band of costumed thespians were known as Dorothy and Company. We had traveled around the state performing at numerous affairs for business groups, schools and local festivities. Dorothy's massive collection of vintage clothes and hats and genuine artifacts dating from the Civil War to recent vintage of the 1970's enabled us to dress in genuine clothing, not reproductions. A typical performance would begin with the Civil War outfits. While Dorothy spun tales and kept the audience on the edge of their seats, our little company of friends backstage would transform ourselves into flappers and gangsters from the 1920's. On down through the eras we would explode onto the stage dressed in period costume with no detail overlooked. Part of the act would be to parade through the audience letting them touch the costumes and see the actual workmanship in each outfit. Music that Dorothy had recorded blared from a boom box along with each act and enhanced the audience's appreciation for each time period. Many times our act would close with me entering the stage in a long flowered hippie dress with flowers in my hair. The handsome devilish Ed would bring the house down following behind me in a long haired wig with leather fringed knee high moccasins and tie dyed t shirt. His floppy brimmed leather hat......
"Ed's in his chair now. You can come in." The nurses voice jarred me into the present. It's been over a year since Ed had a pretty bad stroke. Dorothy is recovering from stomach cancer and walks with a walker. She still lives at home and is a strong willed, colorful, wonderful charismatic woman. I am blessed to have them both in my life. As time marches on we keep making memories. Ed has decided he wants to wear the warm wool mittens that Dorothy was wearing today. They struggle and carry on while trying to get them over Ed's fingers left lifeless from the stroke. I see his eyes light up and a tiny smile emerge as Dorothy readies him for yet another performance.