The aging population there is quite diverse. There were many people using walkers to get around the beautiful grounds...others were being wheeled by assistants...some walked with assistance...and some got around on their own -- taking each unhurried step with great care.
As I looked into their timeworn eyes, I could see so much of the life that had been lived. I knew that each person had "their story" to tell to anyone who would listen. In fact, one day as Mom and I were having lunch in the dining hall, we smiled at a woman passing us by on her walker. She stopped to chat with us and, after introductions had been made, she began to tell us much of her life story that included past loves, illnesses, and, ultimately widowhood. A sadness came over me as I realized how important it was for her to be heard--even though we had just met her moments before.
As I gazed at the multitude of faces, I could see the little "child" that they had each been at one time long ago. I do this quite often when I am "people watching" as I find it pretty amazing that it is so easy to see the young person there on the aging and weathered faces.
Maybe it was just that this was South Florida, but one thing that really stood out to me was how everyone dressed. While the women seemed to get all "gussied" up for dinner and the men were quite dapper, I noticed a predominance of very bright colors. One evening I took note of a gentleman who was in a long-sleeved bright pink satin shirt, with white pants and matching pink socks. Another gentleman was on a scooter with American flags on the handlebars to match his bright red, white and blue outfit. One lovely lady always had her slightly bouffant hairdo fixed just so and proudly wore her glistening "grandma" pin on every outfit. Some of the outfits were definitely mismatched patterns and colors...but no one seemed to notice or care. It was actually pretty cool.
One thing that Mom will need to get used to will be the early meal times. Dinner starts at 4:30 (!) and we learned that if you get there too close to the end time (6 p.m.) some of the items on the menu may not be available anymore...and, there is a definite slowing down of service as the people on staff scurry around changing tablecloths and cleaning up. We also learned that it is important to ask questions or you might miss out on a special entree or dessert that the chef might have back in the kitchen and may not be listed on the menu. And, if you want a little more cushion for your dinner chair, you need to bring your own and store it in the dining room cabinets. These are all tricks of the trade that Mom will be learning little by little.
Talking about little...her condo is quite small... so my sisters and I spent a great deal of time helping her decide what was to stay and what was to go. After giving the facility an old (and large) tv for a guest room, a nice bookcase and pillows for the lobby, several books for the library there, and a couple of good knives for the kitchen...I told Mom that if she keeps giving them stuff like that they should name a wing of the complex after her! She smiled.
Leaving Mom there the day that I headed back to Birmingham was quite difficult.
While I know that she will be absolutely fine...and will learn all of the "ropes" in time...I still had a deep sadness watching her enter this new phase of her life. A phase that didn't include my Dad...and meant that she was really and truly on her own.
A new and exciting chapter for sure, but also a daunting one that could easily overwhelm even the most independent soul.
Through my deep emotions, I must say, that on an upbeat note, I have never felt as young as I did while I was there at "The Home" (as Mom has dubbed it) ! For an almost 60 year old grandma, that's saying quite a lot.
I plan to visit quite often...