I’ve been away. Not “away” like far, far away. Not stuck in writer’s block. I’ve not been sick, nor has my wife. We’re not entirely well but not sick either. No, we’ve been busy. Busy moving into this retirement community, this senior high-rise. Call it what you will—we simply call our new home, “The Home.”
Our plan had been to move when we turned 75 and were sick of painting the house and shoveling snow. Moving now, at 68, acknowledges our uncertain medical prognoses and our likely need for a hand sooner than later. Seems we’ve picked the right place. In our new home, the average age of residents is 83. Most need extra help. The elevator capacity is measured, not in pounds, but in walkers, wheelchairs and, in my case, a Seeing Eye dog or, taking up even less space, my white cane.
Friends and family call ours a proactive move. Just in case. On the safe side. Prepared for the future. We concur. But moving, the act itself, has been more stressful than we’d imagined. My wife and I concluded that ours had been such a happy marriage simply because we hadn’t moved. We swear never to do it again.
So, it looks like we’re in for the long haul. That is, after we unpack. As my wife wanders room to room and says, “I can’t find anything,” I meander among boxes, saying, “I can’t see anything.” Organization is our daily duty; an occasional “I’ll get it! I know where it is!” becomes celebratory.
We’ve been told that help is just a phone call away, even to change a light bulb. That’s a bit extreme, but when I asked the housekeeper to show me the trash chute, she grabbed the bag and shouted, “That’s my job.” I wonder if she’d unpack for us, too.
All this old people stuff begs the question, “Have we become our parents?” Nope. My dad called retirement homes either “God’s waiting room” or “Death’s waiting room,” depending on how bleak he felt. That’s sad, because it shows he’d lost his love of people, lost his character as master of ceremonies. He died in his den, on hospice, without setting foot into the “waiting room.” My mother, characteristically in opposition to my father, immediately emptied the house—except for her clothes, a place to sit and a place to sleep—and moved to a retirement home, where she remains after a decade. She has friends. She sees life, death and drama. The turnover rate is high among her age group. She has learned to face change philosophically.
My wife and I are adjusting to the change in lifestyle and schedule. At dawn, we mix with the Prunes-for-Breakfast Club. At eight a.m., when the doors to the Fitness Center open, I’m there for my walk on the treadmill. The mail arrives at three. By six, my wife and I put our computers to sleep, feed the animals and dress for dinner. As we stand at the hostess station waiting to be seated, my wife whispers, “Looks like we’re not the only diners wearing pajamas under our evening clothes.” By nine, when I walk Randy the dog for the last time, we’re often the only footsteps echoing across the lobby.
Moving to “The Home” signals a new phase in life, a new story. This is Chapter One. More to come.