“Did you hear the fire alarm last night?”
“A fire alarm? No, we did not hear anything. What time was that?”
“Yes, it was at eleven.”
“What floor are you on that you did not hear anything?”
“We are in the cottage at the end of the street, and we slept soundly.”
“All the doors were closed, the elevators did not work anymore, and we had to take the stairs down. And I do not do stairs!”
“Oh, what did you do?”
“Well, I’m on the fourth floor. I saw Dorothy on the stairs at the third floor, and she can’t do stairs either.”
“So we had to go down to the main hall, and bright lights were flashing, and sirens were blasting.”
“Yes, even in the courtyard bright lights shone in our windows and firemen told us to get out, now!”
“You should have seen the dress everyone was in! Some wore pajamas, one a sweater, a night gown, one man was wrapped in only a towel; it was quite a sight, I tell you.”
“My goodness! Where was the fire?”
“There was no fire. In Assisted Living there was a water leak and that set off the alarms everywhere.”
“Wow, a water leak set off the fire alarms! That is pretty good security. I’m impressed. What did you do when you heard the alarm?”
“I didn’t hear it. I was fast asleep without my hearing aids and I stayed in bed, which is exactly what the booklet says we should do: stay in your room.”
“And I stayed in my room too, because I thought I can’t very well go down in my nightgown, and I can’t get down the stairs in my wheelchair.”
We were sitting at a table with five ladies while dinner was being served, and everyone was busy telling us about the alarm that we had not heard and the commotion that we had not been a part of. The fire that wasn’t provided lively conversations throughout the dining room.
We had just moved to this retirement community from Arizona. The beautifully landscaped campus consists of a main building with apartments for independent living and separate wings for Assisted Living and Memory Care, plus twelve cottages around a lovely pond with a 24/7 splashing fountain in the center.
Planning Our Future
Throughout our lives we have planned ahead for the future. We emigrated from the Netherlands to California to provide a better future for our children. We found a lovely home with a pool in Pasadena, and we thought we would live there forever. But after eighteen years, when the kids had left for college, we moved to Hawai’i for our early retirement. Onomea on the Big Island was truly paradise. Our home, surrounded by sugar cane fields with a view of Hilo Bay was lovely. We swam and snorkeled and danced hula, and we thought we would live there forever.
But after twelve years we decided we did not see enough of our children and the grandchildren who had come into being, and so, planning to be closer to the kids in our sixties and seventies, we moved to Arizona. We built a lovely home, and enjoyed, from our Hawaiian style deck, watching javelina, deer, bobcats and an occasional mountain lion in our back yard, as if we were on safari, and we thought we would live there forever.
But after fifteen years in Arizona, slowly growing older – very, very slowly – we decided that hm, all the children still lived far away, and, if we would want to enjoy some of the grandchildren while we could, we’d better move again. And so we moved to North Carolina, 15 minutes from our son, daughter-in-law and three grandsons.
We found a lovely cottage on the campus of a retirement community. It has two bedrooms and two baths, and everything is of a smaller scale, but it was not too difficult to adjust. As I wrote in Rising from the Shadow of the Sun, Pg. 276: “That is what life is about anyway, isn’t it? Adapt to your environment. Adjust, and be happy with the blessings you have.
Everyone in the cottages and apartments of this six-year old establishment has standard equipment in their home, part of which is a toilet that is 15” high. How is it possible for all those elderly people, many of whom are in their nineties, in wheelchairs, with walkers or canes, to sit down and get up from such a low toilet? I found a 4″ cement riser on Amazon to install underneath toilets, but that would make the top of the toilet tank hit the counter top above it. No good.
When we asked the handyman on campus he shook his head and agreed that the architect had not thought this through. But he had a solution: he could install a toilet of 17″ high. We agreed we would pay for the toilet as well as the installation (sadly, he gave no discount for the toilet he took out) and the next day he came and installed it. We absolutely love it. Not only is it 2″ higher, which does make a difference, it also has a sturdier seat and lid so we can sit on it to dry our feet on days that we can’t do that standing up. At 17″ the toilet tank cover touches the Kleenex container embedded in the counter top above it (like you see in the bathrooms of motel rooms). Any possible leaks inside the tank can be fixed by removing the Kleenex box and its container from the counter and reaching in with hands and tools through the opening. How clever!
No idea what they will do if the toilet fill valve, the ballcock and the flapper inside the tank have to be replaced. Perhaps they will take out the whole toilet – no big deal!
All of the staff and cleaning ladies and handymen and who knows who else have a key to our cottage. In that way we are not totally independent and we have to get used to that. Suppose the cleaning lady walks in when I’m in the shower? Or walking around in my nightgown? Or worse? What if the handyman comes in when I’m on the new toilet to see how it works? Not that I’m on the toilet to see how it works, mind you, but the handyman. And not for the handyman to sit on the toilet to see how it works, but to see if the installation works. Get it?
In this case, we wished he had come in, because after the installation, while we were out for dinner in the main building, which we affectionately call The Club, the new toilet leaked and the whole bathroom floor was flooded. We were thankful that we did not live in an apartment on the fourth floor, where the water could have leaked down to the third floor and set off a fire alarm!
It’s a wonderful life!
Until next time,