Baby boomers becoming senior citizens in retirement communities.
|"The Valley of the Sun"
“When a Man Loves a Woman”
“Mike, it’s your dad,” Melinda said, holding the phone away from her ear for a second. Her long, full, curly black, ex-model’s eyelashes blinked back the tears from her icy blue eyes. “He says your mom has taken a turn for the worse. He says, “Come right away!”
Early Rock & Roll era,
(late ‘50’s, & early ‘60’s)
When Mike was a teen-ager he could hardly wait to get on his own, and get away from his parents. He wanted to “be free” and see the world. His parents were neither abusive, nor addicted to anything. He had a good relationship with them; they were kind, and loving, but they were a “tad” on the strict side. So, he wanted to “make his own rules“, “chart his own course“, “spread his wings and fly away” from his parents’ nest. Rock and roll was his whole life when he was a teen back in the early years of Rock & Roll. He was born in 1946, the start of the “Baby Boomer” years. The Baby Boomer’s were the generation of children whose parents’ fought WWII, and then began settling the brand new suburbs, raising legions of babies right after WWII was over. The “Baby Boomer” generation (to Sociologists) are those that were born between the years 1946 and 1964. (From the year after WWII ended, until the Beatles “invaded” America.) The year 1946 saw over one million MORE babies born in America than the previous year, 1945.
It was these legions of youth, marching to a different beat than their parents. Their parents “cut a rug“ with their “wild music”; the Lindy Hop, and Swing Jazz music. But the Baby Boomers gave birth to Rock and Roll. “Freedom, baby!”
Mike loved going down to the local “Five and Dime” store in his west Philly neighborhood to get the latest pressing of top 45 RPM records he heard on the radio. He never forgot how he felt when he first heard Elvis Presley’s first hits back in 1956. Mike was only 10 years old back when he was at the local hamburger joint that he and his friends always went to “hang out” with friends, when suddenly “Hound Dog” started playing on the Juke Box. The table full of boys looked up and listened intently. That voice! That sound! It seemed to be raw sexualism oozing out of the music. “You ain’t nothing’ but a Hound Dog….”
When he was old enough, he left home, and headed west for California, hitchhiking. He wanted to be a rock and roll star. The only thing keeping him from his goal was… he couldn’t play any instruments, and he was a lousy singer. Oh well. Maybe he could work BEHIND the scenes in the music world, and get to know his idols in person? So he eventually became a “Roadie”, taking care of the logistics, helping to move all of the band’s equipment for a gig from point A to point B. After a few years of being just the muscle, he eventually became the manager of the roadies. After a number of years, he gained a reputation among the bands and their managers that he was one of the most dependable “Roadie” managers in the business. Eventually every major band wanted him to take care of their tours.
By the early 1970’s he was cruising’ along thru life, happy, but mostly alone. Sure he found many “one night stands” in the legions of “Groupies” (girls following their favorite bands), but he actually hadn’t had one single “serious” relationship with a girl since before he left home. He was too busy working, and partying after the gigs were over. But the groupies were ga-ga over their rock idols, they couldn’t care less for a nameless Roadie. They didn’t really want him, for himself, just for who they could get close to. Just a stepping stone.
One night in 1974 he was at a party given by some “one hit wonder” group, trying to be show-off’s by inviting all the biggest recording rock and roll stars to their Malibu beach party. They had blown the full wad of the money they got from their “one hit wonder”… sure that they had that elusive “formula” for their NEXT big hit, (whatever “the formula for a hit” may be)… so they were SURE that they could make more millions of cash.
Mike went out on the patio toward the beach, with a long neck bottle of beer in his hand, trying to get a little bit of fresh air from the hot, steamy crowd inside the beach house, when suddenly he saw… her! The woman of his dreams! She was gorgeous, a natural beauty. She turned in the moonlight toward some of her friends, and he saw her face light up in the moonlight. She had the biggest eyes, and long, curly black eyelashes he had ever seen. Her cheeks were plump, rosy apples, with the sweetest comma of a dimple in the middle of each one. Her eyes were the iciest blue he had ever seen. Her hair, was long, straight, and dark black. Her skin was like china porcelain. She was one of the early “Super Models” long before the term was coined. Too bad her name never got national and international recognition the way later models would receive. She had graced the front of every important fashion magazine for years, only Mike was too busy touring with the bands to notice such things. This was the first time he had laid eyes on her.
Melinda had entered modeling as a fluke. Melinda grew up in the San Fernando Valley of California. Her best friend from High School had gotten a few small modeling jobs. But one had made her a little bit uneasy. It was supposed to be only 3 young models and this “up and coming” photographer going to a secluded beach somewhere south of Tijuana, Mexico for a swimsuit photo shoot. She was a little bit nervous, since it was her first swimsuit shoot, and the suits were SO skimpy! And it WAS across a country border! What 18 year old girl WOULDN’T be nervous? Who knows if this photographer is trustworthy? Maybe he’s some kind of sicko? So, Melinda went along to be moral support for her friend. “Mel- if all else fails, you can run for help!” her friend said. But while in Mexico, her friend got sick … “Tourista” and couldn’t stop running to the bathroom to throw up and poop.
So the other two girls and the photographer kept saying, “Come on, Melinda! Try it! It’ll be okay!” Melinda was only 17, and skinny. She was always tall, and thin, and self-conscious that she was “homely”. She was the ONLY person to not see that she was actually a natural beauty. Long and lean, the camera loved her. And so did everybody that saw her photos. When the top New York agents saw her photos, they signed her up on the spot, in her parents’ living room.
Promises fell from their lips like sparkling water dancing in a waterfall. “Free trip to Paris, … walk down the runways there in the world’s top designer’s “Haute Couture” clothes!” Money for college! Her future set! Big success! The words were heady. The lifestyle they offered her, unimaginable. Ten years later, she met Mike on that patio. “The rest is history.” as they say. They were inseparable. They were soul mates. They had a whirlwind romance, followed by a “hip”, fashionable albeit intimate wedding on the beach at Malibu, followed by a honeymoon in Hawaii, a gift from the Rolling Stones.
Mike and Melinda walked into his mother’s hospital room at Boswell Hospital in Sun City, AZ. They had taken an airplane from LAX to Sky Harbor in Phoenix, AZ then rented a car to drive to Sun City, way over on the far west side of the Valley of the Sun.
Sun City was one of the first “Active Retirement Communities” of it’s kind in the country. It was a huge success ever since it was created. A whole city made up of retired Senior Citizens (“age 55 or older only, please! No children allowed”!) Special exercise classes, arts and crafts classes, hobby groups, gardening clubs, golfing, tennis, swimming, tap dance, … they had it all, and then some. Everything was specially designed for the “active retired” individual. In decades past, the old folks lived with their children and grandchildren, usually on farmland homesteaded by generations past, handed down four and five generations through the family. But in the 1960’s…. the “Space Age”, everybody was more mobile. People were becoming more cut-off from old friends, and old neighborhoods. This was the “new, modern” way of life.
The radio ads were all over the east coast. Spend 40 years working in a factory in the Industrialized northeast? Now, come! “Move to Arizona, and bring your sinuses. Your nose will thank you.” the radio ads trying to sell moving to the hot, arid southwest. Great for allergies! Great for tuberculosis! Great for rheumatism! Your aches and pains will disappear, basking in the sunny southwest! Phoenix was bursting at it’s seams back when Sun City was first built. Bustling with new activity, new neighborhoods chewing up the deserts lying on thedge of town. Wanna have a REAL Saguaro cactus in your yard? Plant some orange trees! You can squeeze your breakfast fresh every morning!
“What did the doctor say it was?” Mike asked his dad. “Was it her heart?”
His dad seemed a bit older than the last time he saw him. A little bit greyer, a little bit thinner, and a lot more tan than he had remembered from before. The crows feet around the old man's eyes looked worried for a change, instead of the jovial expression they usually held.
“Dad, what happened?” Mike stroked the hair from the side of his mother’s face as she lay in her hospital bed.
Carl answered, “She fell. I don’t know. I think she may have broken her hip. The doctor says she’ll go down for more x-rays in a little bit.” the old man said.
“What was she doing?” Mike asked.
“She was out in the garage, trying to look for something, I think. I was in the backyard when it happened. When I came in I heard her moaning.”
“Carl?” Mike’s mother asked. “Carl! Oh, help me, Carl!”
“I’m here, Mama.” Mike's dad, Carl answered. He looked worried. “Are you in pain, Mama?” He had been calling her that ever since Mike was an infant. Mike never thought it odd. After all, she wasn’t Carl’s mom, she was Mike’s mother. It’s funny he never noticed this before now.
Suddenly the doctor walked in with a collegue. “What happened doctor?” The doctor answered, looking at his charts, “She had a stroke. That’s what made her fall. But she also broke her hip during the fall. Her bones are very thin. She also broke her left wrist. We’ll take her in for more x-rays in a little while. She made need a hip replacement.”
“Surgery?” Melinda asked. She sighed heavily. She laced her long fingers in her mother-in-law’s un-bandaged right hand. “Everything’s gonna be alright,” she reassured her. Or was she trying to reassure herself and Mike and his dad? She wasn’t sure.
Mike, Carl, and Melinda were in the surgery waiting room when the doctor came in to tell them that the surgery was a success. They were able to replace her hip with minimal trouble. She’ll need a few weeks to recuperate.” the doctor said. Carl asked Mike and Melinda, how long can you stay?” The worried look in his ol’ man’s eyes broke his heart. Mike suddenly realized that his mother was going to need more care than Carl could give alone. Maybe it was time for a change. Maybe it was time for Mike to take care of his family. He talked it over with Melinda for a couple of seconds. She was all for his idea.
Mike said, “Dad, we’re gonna move here, so we can be closer to you and mom. Melinda will also be closer to her parents as well. We’ll stay for a couple of weeks, till mom is on her feet again, and then we’ll go back home to sell our house and make arrangements to move here. We’ll start looking for a place here as soon as possible.” The look of relief in the ol’ man’s greying eyes was worth Mike’s weight in gold!
Suddenly Mike realized that his dad had been trying to hold things together on his own for a long time, but realized that he was beginning to get too old to do it all alone anymore.
Mike and Melinda found a real estate agent, and they began looking for houses right away. “Only one member of the household needs to be at least 55 or older to buy in Sun City, ” Stacy said, leading them around town. “Do you have children?” she asked.
“Nope.” Mike answered. "Good." she replied. When he and Melinda moved into their home in the San Fernando Valley they thought they would never move away from there. It was small, but suited them fine, considering they didn’t have any children. They would have liked to have had some, but Melinda couldn’t have any. So they got used to being just the two of them together. It was nice to go off on a trip at a moment’s notice, or hit the road on yet another band trip. But it was always nice to come back home to their stuff. He had grown tired of motels, and she had too, always traveling to photo shoots. There was something very satisfying about owning your own home for a change. You could paint the walls any color you wanted. You could change the carpeting, hang a picture anywhere you want to, paint the outside whatever color you choose. Granted, there were a lot more responsibilities involving upkeep than renting apartments, but your investment would increase in value, and "rent" was just throwing money down a rat hole.