Sunshine and Rainbows
Sixty-some years ago September must have been the month for weddings! Five couples celebrated their wedding anniversary this month, fifty, sixty-one, sixty-two, another sixty-two, and sixty-five years. Family members came over for the celebrations, delicious cakes were shared, champagne flowed in stem glasses, one couple was honored with a concert in the Café, flowers and balloons were everywhere. Happy faces and smiles, hugs and pats on the shoulders made for many wonderful moments. All those people are in their eighties and early nineties, can you imagine?
A single red rose in a vase with baby’s breath stood on the front desk when we arrived for breakfast one morning. In front of it was a picture of Hilda. Small, framed pictures of residents are everywhere in the Club, usually celebrating an occasion, a visit with family or attending an event. Hilda had an aide by her side in the picture on the front desk. They were both smiling and she looked lovely. But why the rose? “Hilda has died.” Disbelief. Hilda had died? There was only one Hilda. She looked like there was nothing wrong with her. When we shared a table of seven for dinner occasionally, she would say the blessing before each meal; her husband was a minister and after he had passed away Hilda took over saying grace.
At the front desk they do not say anything when calamities happen, honoring the privacy of the residents. Only close friends or neighbors on the same floor who may have come to the rescue or may have talked to a relative will know more. At the breakfast table we heard that the previous night Hilda had gone to the hospital; that she probably had had a massive heart attack and died. It was so sudden. No time to say goodbye. But then, was this not the best thing for Hilda? No long, lingering illness, just a quick crossing over to the forever world. We will miss her, even though our lives had touched only for a few months.
Life goes on. Newcomers arrive, quite a few couples have joined our community. One couple, and one neighbor from one of the cottages across the street from us, have moved to Assisted Living. The Assisted Living community is in the same building, just on the other side of the doors next to the dining room. The interior decoration is similar to our side of the doors, so moving there does not feel like a big move. There is a similar dining room, similar one or two bedroom apartments and studios, a library smaller than ours, a movie theatre and more. Anyone from Independent Living can go and visit, but residents from Assisted Living need to be accompanied by an aide if they want to come over here or if they want to go for a walk outside; all for their own safety. It makes sense: being in Assisted Living means that you need more help, but you can go on living!
Many people, even here in Independent Living, wear a Medical Alert Device that can also be worn in the shower. When someone needs help and presses the button, help is on the way almost immediately. We each have one of those devices, but keep them in a drawer for the time being. It’s a great feeling that we don’t need them yet. Ha! That reminds me of my Mamma, who lived alone in her own home in the Netherlands. When she was 97, then 98, the doctor found it necessary to give her one of those Medical Alert Devices. She decided that she did not need to wear it all day, so she hung it on a hook in the kitchen. It was there all day and all night, and every day and every night. Until I came to visit, twice a year, and said, “Let’s test it Mamma, I want to know what happens when you press the button.”
Once in a while we notice an EMS car (Emergency Medical Services) stopping at the front door. Men come in with a gurney and take a right turn to the elevator. Twenty or so minutes later, they return with the empty gurney and leave again through the front door. It is very reassuring and makes us feel safe at all times. Because you never know what is going to happen, and you know that help is there when you need it.
We had another celebration: Jennifer, one of the ladies at our breakfast table, turned 99. Three balloons rose from her wheelchair when she came in that morning, and the Club had arranged for 99 balloons to decorate the Café for the celebration that afternoon and evening. Jennifer’s motto is: whatever I can do by myself I will do, as long as I can. And another one: I have always brushed my teeth after every meal, that’s why I still have them all! Something my own Mamma was very proud of, that she still had her own teeth. I wonder what happened to the 99 balloons. The next day they were gone. I am sure nobody popped all 99 of them, but where do you go with 99 balloons overnight? I would have let them loose in the tower over the center of the dining room, and then one by one, they would have come sailing down for the next few days.
Last night, Dina came in with sad news: “Henry has died.” Another totally unexpected death in our Waltonwood family. Henry was one of the first people we met when we came here. He used to sit in the library at a square table, working on a puzzle. The box with the picture against the wall across from him, he laid out the 1000 or more pieces in front of him on the table and one by one added the pieces until the whole picture was complete. It did not take him long, and a day or two after everyone had been able to take a look at his creation he started a new puzzle. The most beautiful pictures, the most difficult puzzles. Where he got that many puzzles I can no longer ask him now, but in the future, when I have a lot of time on my hands, I would love to sit at the puzzle table in the library and spend some time each day. We will miss Henry.
As we are getting to know more people we’re getting familiar with many of their ailments, because many of them like to share what’s wrong with them. And so, I am thankful for good ears and good eyes; for a straight spine and feet that can walk a few miles each day; for many new people we get to know and new friends we are making; for the opportunities to help others less fortunate in small ways; for each healthy and happy day and for the beauty that surrounds us in God’s world.
It’s a Wonderful Life!
Until next time,