IRVINE, CA. “When you get old, all you have are memories.” said Beverly Carson, resident of the Irvine Meadows retirement community. Beverly is a senior citizen living out the twilight years of her life in memory. She grew up a poor kid in Pennsylvania and joined the U.S. Navy when she turned eighteen. She lived her life by her own set of rules and her health paid the price for the rules she abided by. Beverly’s body has become weak with age and the onset of health problems:
- Atrial fibrillation
- Cirrhosis of the liver, but alcohol was not a contributing factor
She is unable to take some types of medicine which could help with one ailment because it could complicate another ailment and become fatal. The prescriptions she takes must remain consistent as to not interfere with her quality of life. And there are a few more ailments to list, but it’s too depressing to list anymore.
The health problems have made her dependent on a scooter to retain her mobility, but a lot of her independence is waning. As a result, she must move out of her home at Irvine Meadows and move in with her daughter. It was either that or move into a nursing home; however, Beverly’s spirit and zest for life is still strong and she isn’t ready to surrender her life to the old folks’ home, yet.
You would think Beverly would have a lot of regrets. Maybe she does, probably does, but there are only two she mentioned. She wished she would have made better choices in her younger years which could have prevented some of the health problems she suffers today. She regrets never having seen Elvis in concert when he was alive. “Too poor.” she said.
Regrets, I’ve had a few; but then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption. My Way. Written by Paul Anka, 1969.
Despite the somber tone of this article, don’t count Beverly out. She ain’t dead, yet, and on the contrary still feels very much alive; ailments be damned! As I talked with her and listened to her stories it’s easy to see she wasn’t ready to give up on life and hope remained. She doled out a little wisdom to me and lovingly talked about her family. Friends stopped by the table to say a few words with pleasant smiles, hugs, and a few laughs. She still has a few stories to tell and more memories to make. As if to prove her point she told me a story about a very special gift.
Fifteen years had passed since the last time Beverly saw an ETA until James Kruk held a concert at the retirement community. Her friend, Theresa Staudinger, also a resident and president of the James Kruk Fan Club arranged the concert. Beverly loved James. It’s hard not to love James because he is such a wonderful entertainer.
Like a lot of Elvis fans she became a collector of all things Elvis, but because she is moving Beverly is selling her collectibles or simply giving them away to friends and family. One of her most cherished possessions is an Elvis Presley autograph given to her from a friend she made during a hospital stay 35 years ago.
Margaret was recovering in the bed next to Beverly shielded only by a vanity curtain. While Beverly was recovering she played Elvis music, and as it often happens, the two patients made an Elvis connection. Margaret was also an Elvis fan who met Elvis in Las Vegas.
It was 1969 and Margaret had the good fortune of a chance encounter with Elvis at the Tropicana where he was watching another entertainer’s show. It was the opportunity of a lifetime and Margaret asked for his autograph which Elvis signed on a piece of Tropicana parchment. Holding the parchment firmly so no harm would come to it she made a promise to herself to always treasure it and never sell it. Years later she was in the hospital fighting a losing battle to cancer. Margaret wanted to pass on the autograph to another Elvis fan before she died and it seemed providence roomed her with Beverly — another Elvis fan. She offered Beverly her most cherished possession with the promise she never sell it. Seven months later Margaret died.
Beverly kept her promise, and like Margaret, she wanted to pass the gift to another Elvis fan before she dies. She offered it to her son, but he was honest with her and said he would sell it. Then she offered it to Theresa who also refused because she has her own health issues and didn’t want the responsibility of finding another Elvis fan to pass it on. Theresa suggested she give it to James Kruk who she knew would cherish the gift and keep the promise to never sell it. Beverly agreed and passed the gift to James after the concert who graciously accepted the gift and gave his word.
It is one of those moments which words fail to make others understand and feel the experience. You really have to be an Elvis fan to get it and appreciate the moment. That’s all I have to say about that moment. It is now James’s story to share and his responsibility to keep the promise.