More images of Jacques

My earlier posting — “Images of Jacques”, from 12/11/20 — showed four facets of my guy: as my loving partner (photo #1); as a loving and joyful parent (#2); as a linguistics teacher (#3); and as a handsome hunk (in #3, in a head shot in #4, and in a full male nude in #5). (A gay saying I quote every so often: you might be a wonderful human being, but you’re also a piece of meat. In J’s case, a piece of French movie-star meat. Charmingly, J seemed to have no sense whatsoever that he was really hot; I never saw him preening or cruising aggressively with his body. Instead he used his wonderful inviting smile.)

Now, thanks mostly to his son Kit, I have more photos in most of these categories; also I have, in my own collection, a few photos of J the athlete (spanning most of J’s life).

J the handsome hunk. From my posting of 11/24/19, “Him, 55 years ago”:

(#1) J’s 1964 Haverford yearbook photo (from Virginia Transue, J’s sister-in-law); J entered with the class of 1963 but graduated with the class of 1964

Virginia described [this] as “one of the dreamboatiest photos” she’d ever seen, a judgment I’m inclined to agree with (but then I’m wildly prejudiced).

It is the product of a commercial photographer working in a particular genre, which smoothes and genericizes the subject’s faces. The interesting angular planes of J’s face are gone, as are the crinkles that accompanied his talking and smiling. The somewhat Mediterranean tint of his skin has turned to generic American cream, and since this is a b&w photo, we don’t see the attractive gray-green of his eyes. But the guy in the photo has gorgeous eyes, and a long lean face of masculine beauty. A dreamboat, as Virginia says.

Yearbook photographers are inclined to push their male subjects to present themselves with serious expressions, rather than smiling. A great shame in this case, because J had a truly wonderful smile. Here (from my collection) he is as a young man, with a squirrel he had more or less tamed:

(#2) J and a wild friend

Then, from Kit, just the smile:


Also, from Kit, J smiling broadly while reciting the mantra Om mani padme hum next to a pile of freshly cut wood (no, I have no idea why):


This one also gives us, for more hunkiness, a view of J’s muscled and startlingly lean torso.

Then, also from Kit, J focused on physical work, without the smile but with a more extensive view of his torso:


J immensely enjoyed the satisfactions of physical labor and was always up for hard work. In Columbus, he enthusiastically raked and bagged our leaves and shoveled snow from our sidewalks, and then usually went on to do the same for a variety of neighbors, especially the older ones and the ones with young children. And of course he and I did all sorts of garden work together — including building some stone walls together, which we found surprisingly rewarding (well, you pick stones out of a big pile and fit them together, without mortar, to create a solid and attractive structure, which is really cool).

When he began to decline seriously, I was much concerned about his devotion to climbing up on ladders to clean the gutters and repair the roof and prune trees. Fortunately, a self-protective mechanism kicked in: at this point he regularly formed the intention to do the job, but somehow there was always a reason he had to put it off (so Arnold the acrophobe gritted his teeth and did the task, or, most often, hired someone to do it).

Unfortunately, he had no self-protective mechanism governing how far he’d be able to walk in one go, so he would conceive a desire for something from a local shop — usually a hamburger, he loved hamburgers — and then his legs would give out on him partway through and he’d end up helplessly, miserably, on the ground. Fortunately, we lived in a genuine neighborhood, where everyone knew who he was, and someone would take care of him — either get him inside and give him something warm and nutritious to drink until he recovered his facilities and could walk home on his own, or else bring him back to my house so that I could take care of him. (The idea was not to constrain him unnecessarily, but to let him have a sense of agency and control for as long as possible — but clearly I sometimes miscalculated.)

Eventually, someone had to be with him every minute and he became an increasingly difficult charge, so I could scarcely just ask friends to take him on: he became a full-time job for me (I took early retirement from Ohio State). At that point, our family doctors (one in Columbus, one in Palo Alto: we had two of everything) said that for his sake and mine he had to go into a dementia care facility. There was an excellent one not far from the Palo Alto house — so in 1998 I sold the Columbus house and moved full-time to Palo Alto (where I bought a second condo to house most of the belongings from Columbus, the Palo Alto condo being way too small and already fully furnished, since we’d been spending winter quarters there for over a decade.

Eventually, Elizabeth and I visited him for (roughly) an hour a day, every day, but at the beginning I had to spend a good bit of time at the facility, easing him into a new life. This involved things like giving him showers and personally overseeing his medications, until I could get him to accept others as performing these tasks. There was never really a stable routine, since fresh alarming medical conditions kept appearing all the time. Oh, my poor beautiful man, brought down so low. He died early in June 2003.

J the sweet daddy. Two photos from Kit. The first of which is with a tiny Kit — still with baby fat, before he became lean like his father:


The second with J taking a whole bunch of kids on a sled ride:


J the athlete. Spanning his life. From his family’s collection, J essaying waterskiing in 1965 and reveling in it:


And then, in what I think was his last athletic foray, walking the 7 miles across the San Francisco peninsula, from the bay to the ocean, with me in the 1991 Bay to Breakers. Here we are at the finish line (with a handsome stranger just behind and between us, to add to the visual interest of the photo). You might be able to see that J is absurdly pleased at his achievement. What you can’t see is that he’d been totally aphasic for much of the last mile: a transient ischemic attack, brought on by heat and dehydration, one of a number he suffered at this time.


The participants were shunted to a stadium in Golden Gate Park, where there was shade, and also people prepared to apply cold compresses and supply water to drink.

In a few minutes, J had recovered and could talk about how pleased he was that we’d gone on this adventure together and about the serious runners and the people in absurd costumes, those who did the race in wheelchairs, and the large number of hunky guys. Within 20 minutes, he’d become completely unaware of the aphasic episode — this is characteristic of TIAs, they vanish from memory — and when I was solicitous to him about his physical state, he accused me of having made the whole story up. But all in all, it was a grand morning out, and I was glad we’d done it.

Some backstory. J and I weren’t runners, individually or together, but we were fierce walkers, exploring all of Palo Alto on foot together, and fairly often making long jaunts, 5 miles out and 5 miles back. J had an eye for small details, like particular plants (we were both gardeners) and architectural points, so he was an excellent companion.

What J excelled at was racquet sports. His family all played tennis (they had their own courts in Maine), and he picked up other racquet sports as they came his way.

Meanwhile, I had never become even minimally competent at any sport or game; it would be impossible to exaggerate the depth of my athletic incompetence. With J’s encouragement, I did take up working out at the gym. And then J realized that the newly revised gym at Ohio State came with racquetball courts: another racquet sport for him, and one we might be able to enjoy together (wisely, he’d never tried to press tennis on me), if he approached matters in the right way, as a source of the kind of pleasure we got from working out together — feeing invigorated and feeling competent.

And so he gave me a very great gift. We learned to play racquetball together, as a collaborative rather than competitive enterprise. There was no concealing that he was competent at the game in no time at all, while he drew me along slowly. He did me the honor of never holding back: he would play full out, and he  won every game we played, usually by wide margins, until he disintegrated from dementia, but he emphasized small achievements and the physical joy of the game: when a game is going well, it feels like you’re flying. It’s exhilirating.

For us, the score was never important. Though in the end, J brought me along to a high level of competence, eventually encouraging me to play in tournaments, a number of which I won.

We played racquetball in clubs in Columbus and in Sunnyvale CA. Sometimes every day.

Eventually I too lost my physical abilities, through a series of afflictions, some godawful. Racquetball is far back in my past (and, alas, I have no photos at all). But it was a very good thing; as I said, J gave me a wonderful gift, out of love. I suppose I was the great work of his athletic career.

One Response to “More images of Jacques”

  1. thnidu Says:

    A good man, a great partner.

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