Last week, Assisted Living resident Leslee stopped me in the lobby. She lay her hand on my arm and with an intensely worried look on her bright face, said, “Donna, the pictures in Assisted Living are terrible. Can you do anything about them?” I looked at this ever-so-slender almost 101-year-old fireball with her painted nails and bright orange hair, and thought how much I love her…how she knows the difference between aging and living a long time. She is our bridge teacher. She had been wanting to play bridge, but since no one here at Friends House played, she announced bridge lessons every Wednesday afternoon. Now we have two tables and the beginning of a third.
When I was in my 60s or 70s, I declared, “When I get old, I’m going to learn to play bridge!” Leslee and I are a good match.
Standing together there in the lobby, I reminded her that I am clerk (a Quaker term for chairman) of the Beauty and Decor Committee and that my main responsibility seems to be hanging pictures. I would figure it out.
The next day, Rosemary pushed her walker along the sidewalk and brightened when she saw me.
“Donna!” she called out. “I have something to ask you. The paintings in Assisted Living are so bad. They are dark, have heavy frames, and are quite depressing. I understand you can do something about them. Would you, please?”
I asked her if she’d been talking with Leslee and she shook her head no. I asked her if she and Leslee could meet me near the art storage closet the next day about mid-morning. Rosemary replied that she could meet at 10:30, but she gets on the bus at 11:30 to go stand with Women in Black down on the corner of College and Mendocino Avenues. Every Friday morning without fail, she joins Women in Black with their Peace placards. Rosemary is 93.
Exactly at 10:30 I came along the hallway, and there they were snug in green wing-back chairs, waiting. I brought out a couple of paintings. They approved of one, but rejected the other. I brought out two more. And two more. We collected the ones they liked.
After Leslee returned to her room and Rosemary went to the bus, a resident friend, Nancy, and I loaded the pictures into a laundry cart and wheeled them to Assisted Living. As we began to unload them, to set them on the floor, to lean them against the wall, the Director of Assisted Living hustled toward me, a concerned look on her face. “If you leave those there, someone will trip over them.”
“Oh. Where do you suggest?”
“Over there near the piano.”
“Okay. It’ll probably be a few days before I can be back to get them hung.”
“Well.” she admonished, “you’d better put in a work order.”
“I will,” I said and wondered to myself how many days would pass before someone would come to help with this project.
It was almost noon when I finished placing the work order and I was in my apartment, eating a salad and reading a book when the phone rang. It was the Director of Assisted Living and she said, “Miguel is over here ready to hang the pictures. What shall I tell him?”
“Tell him, please, that I am on my way!”
That’s the quickest reply to a work request I’ve seen in the 2 1/4 years I’ve lived here!
“Okay, Miguel, the first one goes right here.” While he marked, measured, and hammered, I decided on the placement of the next one, and the next one and the next one. We were ripping right along when Leslee showed up and I asked her what she thought about the pictures so far. She carefully looked around and said, “I think that one is too low.” and “I think that one would be better over here.” We made the adjustments and by three o’clock, Miguel had hung 18 pictures.
“You happy, Boss?” he asked.
“I’m happy, Miguel. What about you?” He nodded and grinned, gave a thumbs-up.
“Are you happy, Leslee?”
“I’m happy, too. Here comes Rosemary. Are you happy with the pictures, Rosemary?”
“Yes! This is so much better!”
Everybody happy. Life in the Old Folks’ Home. Happy.