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Thirty-Five Years and Counting

Reflections of Two Owners

written by: Martha Clinckscales
Forty years ago, when I graduated from high school, my aunt and uncle gave me a beautiful volume of Archibald MacLeish’s writings. I gravitated toward his poem, L’An Trentiesme De Mon Eage, “The year of my thirtieth.”

While I was far from 30 then—light years when one is 18, what drew me to this poem and still does, is the beginning and ending verses of the stanzas of the poem:

And I have come upon this place
By words, by voices, a lost way-
By lost ways, by a nod, by words
And here above the chimney stack
By faces, by an old man’s face
The unknown constellations sway-
At Morlaix lifted to the birds,
And by what way shall I go back?

Published in 1927, while MacLeish was living the expatriate life of an American writer in Paris, in the company of Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds and other literary superstars, MacLeish, already in his 30s, was an established, published poet. With a Yale undergraduate and Harvard law degree, he bridged the traditions of an Ivy League family and education with the avante garde thinking of a left-leaning American writers’ circle.

MacLeish’s writing, And by what way shall I go back? compel me today as they did forty years ago. I came upon my work at Personal Care by lost ways, by a nod, a word. Before she was my employer, my business partner, and dear friend, Libba Fairleigh was my liaison to the Committee on Ministry of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. We knew of each other through a mutual friend and it was through our care of him as he journeyed through cancer, that our friendship was forged.

After seminary I completed a year of chaplaincy training through a Clinical Pastoral Education program. As this program was drawing to a close and I became ordained, Libba invited me to work with her at Personal Care, providing pastoral care to the clients and employees. I committed to two years, thinking the experience would be invaluable for work as a hospital chaplain.

The work that has been an unsought and unexpected blessing. Two days are never the same! Personal Care has served thousands of older adults, provided employment for thousands of caregivers in our 35 years and we have been blessed abundantly as we have sought to be a blessing to others.

Libba retired several years ago. Danielle Grabol, who worked with her mother Donnell at Personal Care from 2001 to 2007, returned two years ago, and now leads operations. Linda Gleason, who worked with us over 15 years, retired last year, and we have survived that! Office personnel Debbie Hughes, Jill Knestaut, Cindy Lord, and Mahilda Pulliam have worked a combined 24 years. Our RN supervisors, Karen Watson, Ann Pope and Faye Fretz, have been in nursing a
combined 90+ years. Last year, Weyman Perry, who had a brief tour with us in the mid 1990s, and who for 20 years guided Visiting Nurse Health System, became the President of Personal Care. I have had the good fortune of working with two of my children, my nephew, and this summer one of my godchildren, at Personal Care.

As I write this reflection, our daughter, Eugenie, is graduating from high school. I hope to pass along to her the sentiment of MacLeish as it has unfolded in my own life. Know that the signs will appear, and your life’s work will call and compel you. Pay attention to the words, the nods, the faces, the voices.

As for me, forty years from MacLeish, thirty years from the beginning of this journey, as I sit in my attic office at home, I ponder,
By words, by voices, a lost way-
And here above the chimney stack
The unknown constellations sway-
And by what way shall I go back?

Nearly thirty years later, I reflect on the nod, the work, the faces, that have propelled an unexpected and amazing journey in working with aging and with all the people whose mission it is to support, stand under, and celebrate, both the gifts and the challenges that aging brings to all of us.