Friends Through the Years
When Joan Frankle first began to visit Phyllis Steckler in 2008, Phyllis, a retired schoolteacher, was 96. Socially active and intellectually curious, she had been living quite independently in an assisted–living residence, but needed help with reading and writing because her vision was deteriorating. “Phyllis was always ready for me with her mail and her note cards,” Joan says. “Our routine was to get the ‘business’ out of the way, and then we would read. We would chat about the lectures, concerts, and current events of the day, and when it was time for me to leave, Phyllis made sure I put my next visit on her calendar.”
Their visits still end this way, but their routine has been modified to accommodate the changes in Phyllis’s health. Now 102, she has had some medical setbacks, her vision is worse, and, as Joan says, “Phyllis has let go of some of the things that she used be very much on top of.”
They still work on thank you and birthday notes for dozens of relatives, each one thoughtfully composed by Phyllis. “When Phyllis likes what she’s written, she has me read it back to her over and over,” Joan says. “We don’t do as much reading anymore, but we sure can sing. It is a very happy part of our visits.”
Phyllis is deeply grateful for Joan’s help and interest in her life. “Joan has been fantastic. She is loyal and I always look forward to [seeing] her,“ Phyllis says. “She is very well organized and a treat of a person—always kind and good.“
Their visits are shorter these days, but “in spite of her age, her eyesight and other health problems, Phyllis doesn’t want to miss anything,” Joan says. When Joan persisted in asking what Phyllis wanted for her 102nd birthday, she requested a kosher hot dog. Joan added a knish and a pickle, aiming to bring back happy memories. “It’s wonderful when I get to experience Phyllis’s smile,” she says.