Page 1

The I N

F O C U S

Our 25th Year!

F O R

P E O P L E

OV E R

More than 200,000 readers throughout Greater Washington

VOL.25, NO.10

Staging matters of life and death

Telling her story It’s an unusual perspective on final plans, so intriguing that Schoettler has turned it into a stage presentation. My Forever Home is a one-person show that captivated intimate audience gatherings at the recent D.C. Fringe Festival. She describes it as a growing collection of deeply personal stories. “The story came from my sitting beside that grave, which I started doing last August the first. Jim had died in March. We had to wait five months for the burial. “I would come out here and sit with him, and then it became clear to me that that’s my grave. It was very sad to sit there, but then that awareness washed over me. I thought I’ve got to find out about this place if I’m going to be here,” she quietly explained. And so began a journey of discovery that continues. Schoettler has been researching

OCTOBER 2013

I N S I D E …

PHOTO BY MICHAEL TOSCANO

By Michael Toscano Her shock of white hair dazzles in the sunlight as she begins the familiar ritual. First, unpack the blue canvas folding chair from the back of the SUV. Carry it a dozen yards from the winding blacktop road to a spot next to a couple of towering trees, trees which “were just saplings the first time I was here.” There she will sit in quiet contemplation near the bottom of a hill in the gently rolling glade. The familiar, peaceful sounds of late summer welcome her this day — the soothing rustle of leaves in a light breeze, and the distant guttural whine of a lawnmower mingling with the songs of birds. Crepe myrtles burst with color. It’s a Wednesday afternoon. And this is what 77-year-old Ellouise Schoettler of Bethesda, Md., does every Wednesday: She sits in the middle of Arlington National Cemetery, Section 35, memory her only companion as she surveys row upon row of simple white headstones, gleaming in defined lines. Morbid? Not to Schoettler. Because she’s doing more than dwelling on the past, and the 3-year-old daughter long interred at Arlington, or her beloved Jim, husband of 56 years, laid to rest here at Roosevelt Drive a year ago. She’s planning to join them someday, and wants to get to know her “forever home” and her “neighbors.”

5 0

LEISURE & TRAVEL

Escape to nearby Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains; plus, Spain’s Adalusian fusion of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, airline passenger rights, and low-fare European airlines page 53

ARTS & STYLE

Ellouise Schoettler often visits the Arlington National Cemetery graves of her daughter, who died at age 3, and husband, who passed away last year. Schoettler, who will also be buried there, has parlayed her perspectives on life and death into a one-person stage presentation called My Forever Home, and is working on a new, lighter play as well.

A masterful Les Miserables at Toby’s Dinner Theater; plus, groundbreaking co-anchors Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff, and Bob Levey on how not to be a doormat for your grown kids page 61

the history of the site, exploring the grounds, observing the sacred rituals as a nation honors its soldiers and their families. She has learned the stories behind some of the names etched on the nearby marble slabs. Paying attention to what was happening around her, rather than concentrating on her feelings, turned out to be a healing process, she said, one she wants to share. As she describes it in the soft lilting tones of her native North Carolina, it’s not all about death. “It’s about hope, remembering. There’s an African folktale which says no one is truly dead as long as they are remembered. “I do storytelling because I keep people with me, and I pass them on to my chil-

dren or I share them with other people. So I don’t feel this is morbid at all. “And that’s not to say that I’m not sad. I miss [Jim] terribly. Maybe it’s the Thornton Wilder influence on me, where he asks in Our Town, is that death, or is it another life? “I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. For me, it’s somewhat comforting that I’m spending this time becoming familiar with where I’m going to have to go. That’s creating a kind of comfort level for me.” Everyone knows the old adage: Write what you know. And that’s what helps make Schoettler’s contemplations, memories and observations so sharp. The saying See PLAYWRIGHTS, page 66

FITNESS & HEALTH 6 k New variety of flu shot options k How to get your necessary Zzzzs SPOTLIGHT ON AGING k Newsletter for D.C. seniors

35

LAW & MONEY 39 k Take a bite out of restaurant tabs k European stocks on the rise CAREERS & VOLUNTEERS 49 k An aging advocate at 99 PLUS CROSSWORD, BEACON BITS, CLASSIFIEDS & MORE

October 2013 DC Beacon Edition  

October 2013 DC Beacon Edition