Love Story – An Ending for a Love Story

In his last years, Mr. Leedom broke his hip, but also danced at a holiday party in the building. He was matter of fact about some of his infirmities, like needing help cleaning himself, but frustrated by declines in his hearing and vision. He rejected hearing aids because they squealed with feedback, then complained that he could not follow movies or plays, or make new friends.

“If you asked him, he had no infirmity,” said Craig Weltha, 49, who visited regularly and helped manage Mr. Leedom’s care. “The problem was always outside of him. He didn’t have a hearing problem — the problem was that people were speaking gibberish.”

One aide called him “My Kenneth, my lovely,” and he liked that.

He was firmly decisive. After Mr. Cott’s death, Mr. Weltha said, Mr. Leedom threw away papers, photograph albums, all of Mr. Cott’s clothes. “He survived by just willing the wound to close,” Mr. Weltha said. As Mr. Leedom’s energy and mobility fell sharply last fall, he gave tickets from his subscriptions to the ballet and the symphony to Mr. Weltha, with one condition. “He said, ‘You have to invite me first, and I’m going to decline,’” Mr. Weltha said.

Mr. Leedom befriended a neighbor who had dementia, and they often ate together in the dining room — some in the building speculated that they might be a couple — but she suffered a stroke and died last year. “He didn’t say anything, but I think he missed her,” Mr. Sorenson said.

Photo

Mr. Leedom, left, and Mr. Cott, from earlier, wilder days.

Credit
Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Mr. Leedom, the son of an itinerant farmer, was an executive director of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and said he enjoyed the work, but he more readily told about a five-year stint as a traveling companion to Vladimir Horowitz, the celebrated pianist, with whom he became lovers. “He had an anger in him that was unbelievable,” Mr. Leedom said. “The number of meals I’ve had thrown on the floor or in my lap.”

“But then he was calm and sweet,” Mr. Leedom added. “And he really adored me.”

Mr. Leedom and Mr. Cott both said they were welcomed by each other’s families, though there was no discussion of their being gay. Mr. Sorenson, who is also gay, said his uncle used to chide him for being monogamous, which for the older couple did not preclude casual sex with others. “They were monogamous as a couple, but monogamy was foreign to him,” Mr. Sorenson said. “He found that strange.”

One day in December, Mr. Leedom told Mr. Weltha, “I have no joy, I have no pleasure, I’m alone, I want to die.”

He mentioned a pill used on the farms to kill cows when he was growing up, Mr. Weltha said. “He said, ‘Get me that,’” Mr. Weltha said. “And it was horrifying. He said, ‘I give you five minutes and I want to be out of here.’ I said, ‘We don’t do that, all we can do is keep you comfortable.’”

Toward the end of December, his 97-year-old sister, Shirley Seitz, called from Mountain Ranch, Calif., and urged him to stay alive for his birthday, Jan. 1. He said he would try.

It was the last thing he ever attempted, and he made it. He said he did not believe in an afterlife.

But if there is one, Ms. Abrahams said, “Peter probably said, ‘What the hell took you so long?’”

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