"Living with ALS" 

By Mike Rayl

  How I met your mother...

In March 1982 having just finished what came to be my 8th and final season living and working in Mammoth Lakes, I was hired as a cook at a restaurant in Toms Place, a fishing resort, just down highway 395 from Mammoth Lakes. I describe Toms Place as a one horse town without a horse. Actually its not even a town, just a lodge, bar, restaurant, general store with a US post office and a gas station. As far as I know it’s still there, and has not changed. Little did I know I would soon fall in love with its only single girl, a widow, Kathleen Jenny Johns Hanlon, with an only son, Kenny, soon to be 10 years old. 

I met Kathy when I first applied for the job, out in front of the general store, she said hi. When I first saw Kathy, she looked so familiar to me, not realizing till much later, she looked like a younger version of my grandma Naomi, who passed at age 60 in 1972, who was so close to me. From the very first moment we met, I felt so comfortable around her, like we had been friends forever. As we talked and got to know each other, I started to fall in love, it just felt so right, I had never connected with a woman like this before, so spontaneous, sincere and lovingly genuine, it was refreshing to be around her. From the very beginning we talked about living together, Kathy would entice me with, "wouldn't it be nice to have me to cook, clean and do your laundry". I had never even thought about that before, having done for myself, almost all my life, and didn't mind. It didn't even matter to us that she was 7 years older than me, I was 28 and she was a young 35, age was never a factor.

Kathy and Kenny had been through a lot, Kathy lost her husband long before he lost his life, to alcoholism and Kenny lost his dad. Kenny's dad Ken had worked for a toy company, bringing home all sorts of toys for Kenny, now they were on welfare, living with grandma. Kenny was a great kid, considering all he had been through. I never tried to replace his dad, just tried to be supportive and nurturing.

On May 15th, 1982 Kenny's 10th birthday, I was fired for stepping out of the
 kitchen to attend his birthday party, across the street in his grandma Betty's trailer, where Kathy and Kenny were living.

Room and board was included as part of my pay and when I got fired; I had to move out of my cabin right away. Kathy and Betty offered me to stay with them for a couple days. Kathy, Kenny and I had already planned to move to San Jose together as soon as Kenny finished the
 school year in Mammoth and she started getting Social Security, so I could be close to the Rosicrucian Order, based there.

My memories of the details are sketchy, but within a couple months it all came together, and we were living in a nice 2 bedroom apartment in San Jose. I am pretty sure after a week or so of staying in the trailer, I went to stay with my sister Marla's and waited till Kathy and Kenny could join me. Betty was so nice about the whole thing; I didn't want to overstay my welcome. Betty worked for the owners of Tom's place, who fired me, so it was an awkward situation...