Wednesday evening I joined nine other residents of Friends House at a Home Concert in Vera’s apartment. Barbara and Vera take turns once a month hosting a musical evening. They leave a sign-up sheet in the lobby and because of space, limit the attendance to ten. Each person brings a snack: cheese and crackers, popcorn, Mrs See’s chocolate-covered raisins, salted nuts, apricot-chocolate-nut bread from Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola.
Vera started the CD, turned off the lights, and we sat quietly in the dark submersed in Beethoven’s Piano Quartet, Op 16 (Emanuel Ax, piano; Isaac Stern, violin; Jaime Laredo, viola; Yo-Yo Ma, cello). After a lilting Vivaldi, we enjoyed the intermission snacks and Vera’s warm apple cider. Then we settled down for Brahms’ Double Concerto with Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
I, satiated with chocolate, awash in symphonic music, and surrounded by friends, sat there in the dark and thought of some of the ways in which we here care for each other.
Last week Betsy stopped by to ask if I like parsley. She had a sprig of large flat-leaf parsley to show me. When I told her yes, she grinned and said, “I’ll pot up some for you and leave it outside your front door.” Next morning, there it was, with all its green vigor.
Charlotte called to me. I stopped pulling weeds and she came over, “I just want you to know I pruned your roses and left some plant food by your faucet. I’m hoping you can feed them.” We’ll have healthy roses this year, one the award-winning Peace Rose.
Marion phoned, “I remembered you said your goal is to walk all the creek paths in Santa Rosa so I called the Chamber of Commerce and asked for a map. They have sent a very good one and we can mark off the areas we want to walk next.” Marion, Nancy, Ruth, Elspeth, and I walk most Saturday mornings.
Ruth knocked and pushed open the door a crack. She called out a yoo-hoo, came in, and sat in the rocking chair. She waved two old-fashioned round cake pans. “I borrowed these from Joanie,” she said, “And I’m going to make a birthday cake like his grandmother used to make for John. Want to come to dinner tomorrow? Do you eat shrimp? We could have scampi.” You bet!
Joe is our computer shooter, a resident who is on call at all reasonable hours. Whenever I have trouble, I call Joe and he comes right over, fiddles around, mutters to himself, and then announces, “It’s okay now.” Sometimes I feel that I might be imposing and hesitate to call him, but his wife Joan says he likes helping people. “It’s part of his service,” she says.
I overheard Dorothy, who still drives, saying to Marie, who doesn’t, “I haven’t gone to the market yet today, but I will in a couple of hours so before I leave, I’ll come by to get your list.”
The other day Nancy told me, “I’ve renewed my driver’s license, but it won’t arrive for a few weeks so I can’t drive. Would you take me to the dentist’s office? I’ll walk home afterward.” Of course.
As I passed through the lobby to mail some letters, Sally called out from the wing chair where she waited for friends who were coming to lunch. When they arrived, she took a box from them, handed it to me, and asked, “Would you like to look through my father’s Beatrix Potter books? Mrs Tiggywinkle, Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin. They’re all here.” Little did she know that Beatrix Potter is one of my favorite people; a writer and sheep farmer whose life inspired my dreams of becoming a combination writer-farmer. I brought her father’s books back to my “Rabbit Hutch,” sat in the sunshine, and read and read those treasured little stories.
However, it’s not perfect here. We are bound to have concerns and differing points of view. The rents will increase three to five percent each year. We are worried that no care is available for those with severe memory loss. Maybe that will be included in the proposed expansion plans, which are, in themselves, causing concern. The grounds crews whack back the shrubs into concentric globes instead of encouraging them to grow naturally.
But multiply the random acts of kindness by 80 residents and we are what I was looking for. A community.