My husband Larry Conroy is now a resident at the New Jewish Nursing Home in New York City. He is 88 and suffers from Parkinson's/Dementia.
We met 30 years ago. I was 36 and he 57. We were both working actors. I enrolled in a class for acting in television commercials and Larry was my teacher. He had made about 300 commercials and knew his stuff. Since I was a child, I had watched him on many television sets, selling me all kinds of products.
Two years after we met, we married. Over the next 25 years, Larry became a major media coach, training CEOs, Olympic athletes, politicians, newscasters, comedians, doctors, and super models to appear on television and before live audiences. He still loved coaching actors and did so at hugely reduced rates.
About 10 years ago, he started slipping into dementia. The PR companies that hired him, adored him, but had to stop sending clients. He was already in his 70s, had generous pensions from two unions and I assured him he no longer needed to make money. He accepted this but hated being idle. He once said, "I'm not doing anyone any good." I needed to find him something for him to do.
As a Creative Arts Therapist, I was used to thinking out-of-the-box. I hired talented young actors to pretend to take acting classes. Best was lovely Dori Levitt. Larry never enjoyed beginners, so I told the actors to do their best work. They brought in monologues and scenes they were actually working on for auditions. For the first 15-20 minutes, they got top notch, very tough coaching. After that, Larry would lose his words and concentration. The actors would watch him carefully and start to improvise. I often stood in the back, chuckling as these very clever artists guessed what he might want to tell them and finish the coaching sessions.
These pretend classes went on for months. Eventually, they became less about acting and more about just keeping Larry entertained. Dori was best at finding engaging projects they did together. She still visits Larry at the nursing home. He can no longer follow conversations or speak intelligibly. He recognizes few people, but is always happy to see Dori