It was serendipity. I was in the cavernous lobby of my friend’s condo where we were seated six feet apart with our masks on and beginning to chat, when another resident, a charming man, passed by and then stopped to chat with us. Amazingly, it turned out that Bill (that was his name) grew up in Pasadena where my husband once attended Caltech. My husband and I grew up in LA. Talking with Bill, it turned out he had worked 5 blocks away from where I grew up. And another coincidence was that both Bill and I had attended both UCLA and Northwestern University. And then Bill told me a bit about how he was managing these strange days of COVID – 19. His story of the trio he has become a part of was so fascinating that I wanted to learn more.
Bill and his friend, (Thaddeus “Jude”) or as Bill calls him, Jude, agreed to answer some questions and, doing so, revealed an unexpected and heartwarming COVID -19 story.
When and how did the three of them first meet?
At the beginning of the Pandemic, when isolation and social distancing were first introduced, a 54-year-old dad and his 7-year-old son were trying to fly a kite on the Lake Michigan beach in front of their condo. On his condo terrace next door, a 91-year-old grandfather leaned over a wrought-iron railing to offer advice on kite flying, which didn’t seem to help. But it did lead to the beginning of conversations that fostered an unlikely friendship and bonding between three generations that continues to this day.
What was it that tied them together?
Despite the difference in ages, the similarities in their backgrounds and the challenges they faced fomented a dialogue. The 54-year-old dad (Jude Tazioli) and 91-year-old grandfather (Bill Holland — “Guppy” to his grandchildren) both suffered life-threatening illnesses in their twenties. Seven-year-old Teddy suffered a life-threatening premature birth. No one succumbed and all survived but in very different ways. Both Jude and Guppy recently lost their spouses and Teddy is dealing with a family change. The trio rides bikes, plays together, takes trips, has fun and treasures the times when Jude and Teddy’s front and back yards become the playground for the neighborhood. Each faces challenges and they support each other in wonderful ways.
Is there an activity that they most enjoy?
Strange as this may seem, the one thing this unlikely trio most enjoys is simply being together. They laugh and connect and confide in each other. They help each other in so many ways. And, weather permitting, there are the weekly bike rides. Early in their friendship, they rode their bikes on a nearby village bike trail with a slight hill. Guppy was able to pedal his bike halfway up and slipped to the ground when he could go no further. He was not hurt, but the next day Jude called to say they would not be riding together again unless Guppy traded in his two-wheeler for a three-wheeler for more stability. So, from that day on, the three of them ride safely and often. One of Guppy’s favorite trails is through a lake-side cemetery with flat, winding paths which gave Jude the opportunity to chide him by suggesting that this is a convenient place for him because if he has an accident he’s right where he needs to be.
What do they do together?
In many ways, Guppy and Jude are like the kids that play with Teddy in his yard. Guppy sits on a wicker chair at the chess set in the front yard watching Jude mix it up with the kids. Weather permitting, it’s a balancing act on Jude’s slackline, slapping a puck into the hockey net, hitting a home run on the front lawn, building a fort or putting a golf ball. In the winter it’s sledding down Jude’s toboggan slope, hand-made with fresh snow on the backyard deck stairway. Always there are the bike rides through the neighborhood and along a winding bike trail. On Saturdays, the trio bikes to a local restaurant for breakfast. In January they were together on the Island of Maui where Guppy has a condo. Never did he imagine that Jude and Teddy could do so much in a short three weeks. They both took surfboard lessons and became pretty adept in the time they had. Teddy took skateboard lessons and is ready to roll with his buddies at home. They traveled the road to Hana, one of the most remote villages in the world at the southern tip of Maui. On a rainy day in January when the waterfalls in the rainforest were overflowing with cascades of water, they saw the forest at its shiniest in unspeakable beauty. They hiked the trail around the magnificent “Seven Sacred Pools”, supporting Guppy over the rocks and boulders. They traveled a different road on their return, with a completely different topography than the rainforest. The road was equally challenging and the change in scenery was startling. It was desert-like with cactus and yucca for the first leg, turning to red and purple canyons followed by meadows and hills all along the coastal roadway with deep cliffs to the ocean.
How has the Pandemic changed their lives?
The most dramatic change is Teddy’s schooling. The grammar schools in his Village have instituted a combination of in-class and remote learning where children spend 2.5 hours with laptop learning at home and three hours in class. Teddy has a tutor who monitors his remote learning and even accompanied him to Hawaii where remote learning continued on schedule. Jude resigned from the Vice Presidency of a major food chain to pursue a business that he had pursued as a part-time hobby trading equities. He is finding great satisfaction and success as he works from home during the Pandemic. He intends to continue to use his home office even when the Pandemic is over. Guppy has curtailed his travel but will fly to California for a grandson’s wedding in the summer and is planning a trip to Tokyo for the July Olympics when his youngest grandson is expected to be on the U. S. Water Polo team. Perhaps the biggest impact on the lives of Guppy, Jude and Teddy was their meeting and friendship which, without the restrictions of the Pandemic, may not have occurred.
Photo credit: Jude Tazioli