Dear Tracey, Evelyn, and the Entire Carlton Staff,
On behalf of the entire family, I wanted to send you a formal thank you to everyone at Carlton Downtown Pleasant Hill. I apologize that it has taken a long time for me to actually get around to finishing it. I don’t think that there are adequate words or gestures that can express our immense gratitude for everything that the Carlton Team did for my mom and dad. From September of 2016 to June of 2020, everyone at Carlton did everything to make sure that my parents had a safe and comfortable time during their final years
Arnie and Jo were just shy of their 97th and 96th birthdays when they moved in to Carlton. We were very fortunate that they were able to live in their own home for so many years. The transition was difficult, and despite that fact, they both did their best and did not complain to my brothers and I about the drastic change in their lives. One thing that they did not change was their wake up time. Breakfast at noon was their norm, and the Carlton staff did their best to accommodate the unconventional newcomers. I regret that neither one of my parents participated very much in all the social activities that Carlton had to offer. But, to each his own. Throughout their lives, my mom and dad were two of the most social people that one could know. They never met a party that they did not like and want to attend. They hosted some legendary New Years Eve parties in their Walnut Creek home for a number of years that were enjoyed by their many friends. By their mid 90’s they started to slow down a bit, and they were totally content to spend most of their time at home. When they got to Carlton, I was happy for them to do as they pleased. The bottom line for me was safety. For the first time in years, I knew that caring and helpful people were available 24 hours a day to assist them should the need arise. And you did.
Losing my dad in 2018 was quite difficult for my mom, but she did her best to move ahead. I had lots of opportunities to spend quality time with her during her final years. The call I received the morning of June 6th from Evelyn was definitely unexpected at that time. I knew that phone call would come eventually. But, after my mom reached 99 1/2 years, I no longer made any predictions about what the future would bring. Or when. I had just seen my mother in person on June 4th when I drove her home from the hospital. Busting out of the hospital was a relief, and she was in good spirits (despite a broken wrist) as we headed back to Carlton. One of the first things she asked me was, “What day is it today?” I said, “It is Thursday, June 4th.” She told me that the nurses kept asking her that question “over and over.” “I guess they thought I was nuts.” Then she said, “And the year is 2020, correct?” I confirmed it. She said, “Good. I got that right.” Because she nailed the correct year, I pronounced her officially “Not Nuts,” and I believe she was pleased.
Although we all were saddened with the loss of my parents, I know that I have no right to complain. My dad lived to age 98, and my mom lived to age 99 1/2. Their marriage lasted 71 1/2 years, and their lives were filled with many adventures, a huge number of friends, and an appreciative and loving family. I do know that the past 2 1/2 years, without my dad’s presence, there were a lot of lonely moments for my mom. I knew it, and I always liked to get her out of Carlton and have her over to our house for dinner. She loved Debbie’s cooking, and she enjoyed the socializing. She even got to know the little neighborhood cat that comes by our place on a frequent basis. Summer evenings on our patio were very enjoyable for her, and I was looking forward to more of those outdoor evenings with her as summer approached. When I think about my mom and how I would define her life, I always think about the Fidels. The Fidels were 14 young ladies in High School (Oakland, CA) who were devoted friends to each other, and they formed their own Fidelis Club in 1936. It was not an official High School club, but just a group organized by them in celebration of their friendship “Fidelis” is the Latin word for “faithful.” These ladies remained faithful to each other throughout their lives.
Even as they all got busy with life after High School, they stayed in touch and socialized. The husbands of the Fidels all became unofficial members of the group (a Fidel husband), and it seemed like everyone enjoyed each others company. They shared many good times throughout the years. One tradition that they kept alive for many years was the annual Christmas party. One Fidel would host the party (they took turns) in early December, and all the Fidels and husbands would try to make it to the party. Turnout was usually very good. When my parents lived in Missouri and then in Georgia, the one thing my mother missed at Christmas was not being able to attend her Fidel Christmas party. She would usually attend by phone and chat with everyone there. I do recall that when my parents lived in Georgia, they did return to the Bay Area one December so they could attend the party in person. When they moved back to California in 1977, attendance at the Christmas party was at the top of the To Do list for December. My mom even got to host a couple parties in her Escondido home. I know that I told a number of people at Carlton that Doris Miller was one of the Fidel girls. My mom and Doris had a friendship that started in High School. In one picture that I included (Fidel Party-1980’s), Doris is in the top row, 4th lady from the left. My brothers and I all really enjoyed the opportunity to visit with Doris during our visits to Carlton. It was a pleasure to get to know Doris’ family as well.
Friendship was the key. Family and friendship were the priorities for both of my parents. Through the years, we have collected lots of great memories and photos that capture many of the special moments in their lives with their family and friends. I am the keeper of most of the photos, and I will stay busy for many years organizing and enjoying them. In closing, I will say again that our family remains very thankful that my parents were in such great hands while they lived at Carlton. It was a short but special chapter in their lives. We continue to think of you, and we wish all the best for everyone. Stay well, stay safe, and keep up the excellent work.
Love and happiness to all,
Ralph, Gary, Paul, & Debbie, The Banta Family