Stockpile of Memories

In honor of the holiday season and to jump start the year 2013, we have started a new tradition at Hospitality Homes! As we reflect upon the mission of our program, in its simplest form, we provide a sense of community in an unfamiliar city. Community is what keeps things genuine and organic, as well as brings people together in times of need and in times of celebration. But how does community spread? There is no formula or rule, it just happens through good deeds, helping hands and sharing stories.

Our guests are an important part of the Hospitality Homes community and sharing their stories will help broaden this community as well as keep us connected. Our hope is that by taking a glimpse into the lives of our guests, we can establish lasting connections and inspire others to reach out to Hospitality Homes. Help us celebrate our new tradition by passing this story on to others!

Al and Katy Hayes are amazing individuals. Every day our hosts open their homes to strangers, yet, stepping inside their apartment, it was as though I was their guest, rather than the other way around. This type of genuine hospitality is practically a foreign language these days, but at Hospitality Homes it has become our native tongue. They graciously welcomed me into their space, offered me their newly discovered homemade ice tea, and opened up to me. They shared stories of their pasts, trips they have taken, jobs they once had. They shared their thoughts, their feelings, their beliefs, their politics and their music. They were not afraid to be real with me, and were not afraid to just be, while I was present. This it seems, is what holds them together even in the most difficult times. Katy is here in Boston awaiting medical treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, nearly 1,900 miles away from their home town of Kingwood, Texas. When planning to interview them, I expected to be at their Wingate Healthcare apartment for roughly two hours. I ended up staying with them for over six.

Al and Katy don’t sugar coat things, but they also manage to always find the silver lining. At one point during my time with them, Katy remarked how she struggles with her new lifestyle; Although still in the post-massage half-asleep fog, resting on the couch watching TV, sounds like a dream to anyone, she explains that it’s not who she is. Before losing all four limbs to an invasive infection, Katy was constantly busy maintaining her house, watching her kids, and working from home as a massage therapist. She never had time for naps or watching TV. Now she needs help with everything, a job her husband has taken on nobly. Never mind the everyday tasks of reading a book, sending an email or brushing one’s teeth, Al assists her with eating, drinking and using the bathroom as well as everything else in between. Yet, what I love most about their outlook on their situation is that she doesn’t allow the now to taint their memories and experiences of before. Katy says “I’m so glad I have done so many of the things I wanted to do, took the adventures I wanted to take, because now I have a stockpile of memories to replay in my head while I wait for that phone call.” Awaiting the call from Brigham and Women’s for the first ever double limb transplant surgery, Katy says “as soon as I get these arms, my life will take off!”

As Al shuffles around the living room, moving large cases containing music equipment and Marshall amps, and fiddling with his new Les Paul guitar, he explains that he never would be able to handle what Katy has been through if it had been him. “Nope,” he says, “you would have had to kill me.” Al is the kind of guy who could never sit still long enough during high school English to preserve a good-student reputation, but would ace every test. Similar to Katy, he too has had many adventures and has tried on many careers and hobbies. Al has attended classes at Columbia College in Chicago in concert promotion and music contracts, worked as a semi-professional wrestler for ten years, and now is a music teacher in his home town in Texas. When he got wind of the fact that I am a novice guitar player who can play all of four chords, he immediately offered up some pointers. While here in Boston, Al has also been giving guitar lessons to a few locals! While it is one way to help make ends meet, it is also a way he is able to get out of the apartment and continue teaching.

Between the two of them, they seem like modern day super heroes. They’ve moved eight times in ten years, have had a pet snake, iguana, parrot, cat and dogs, have lived out of an RV, endured Al’s job as a wrestler without one hospital visit, and have two healthy children who are just as adventurous as they are. They joke saying they’ve faced nearly every martial issue that typically ends in divorce, so what’s one more challenge? 

After inviting me to stay for dinner and more iced tea, Al and Katy convince me to join them at a local barbeque restaurant that has great live music. I hop in the back of their van and we wind through narrow streets until we reach Smokin’ Joes. Without realizing it, I have stepped into the role of Al’s roadie, carrying his guitar while he wheels Katy into the chaotic and energized restaurant. It’s clear they are regulars here; there is a table waiting for them and they are greeted by all walks of life that also frequent here on Tuesday nights. Here they are truly in their element.

As Katy explained, her stockpile of memories has helped her cope with the uncertainly of their time in Boston. Yet, I think their story demonstrates what powerful resource our families, our hobbies and our connections to others can truly be. Our goal at Hospitality Homes is to help provide the setting where these memories and connections can be made.

Al and Katy's apartment is generously made possible by: