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60 to 60: Travel Stories/Good People

I am going to a yoga retreat in a little town called Chacala in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico. A woman I'd known from Colorado had recently moved to the Puerto Vallarta area, where I'd be flying into. Julianna had found some land up in the hills and built a house, because that's how she rolls. (This, after building a home in Belize and living there for many years.) I reached out to see if I could visit for a night. Yes, she said, come and bring some Trader Joe's Everything spice. I'd be her first houseguest.

She invites friends over for dinner. You know when you meet people and within 15 minutes you all kind of fall in love and you decide you simply have to spend the next five hours with each other? That's how it is with Luke and Claude. You must climb in the back of their orange safari and go up the dirty dirt road and down the cobblestone street and up around another steep curve in what is essentially jungly mountain land to show you their house which is only partially finished so that their kitchen is open to the garden, the birds, the metal sculptures. When they were building the house, for months, Luke slept in a tent on the land. He wanted to be part of every decision, every brick, know every inch of the land they'd purchased when they moved down here from northern Ontario.

I ask Claude about his career. He was an emergency department nurse and he loved his job. In fact, Claude loved his job so much that for 20 years he went into the hospital two hours early, without pay. He wanted to start his shift knowing who was in each room, what was going on and how he could best serve. Astonishing! I'm someone who barely made it to work even a few minutes early, ever...never mind TWO hours for 20 years.

Luke tells me that five years ago he was diagnosed with Alzheimers. Even as the hours go on, I find this difficult to comprehend. He's one of the most present, engaging, intelligent men I've come across. I've never met anyone like him, who can so eloquently explain his disease. A former child psychologist, he is quick with a story and has a terrific laugh, one that goes up and down and all-around. But, it's the truth. He has Alzheimers, and he's young. It's the reality they live with.

He and Claude can plan for the future. He is surrounded by Love. He will be cared for. But in the meantime these two guys, so wonderful and kind, are living life fully. Bouncing along these cobblestone streets on the Pacific coast of Mexico, they wave hello to everyone, living in this day.


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