Life in a Senior Residence Community is challenging and cherished.

Posts tagged ‘Friends House’

The Traffic was Terrific

Yesterday, Christmas afternoon, I left Los Altos at one o’clock to drive north to Santa Rosa which normally takes about 2 1/2 hours. I was sure the traffic would be light because people would be with their families. They’d be sitting in front of the fireplace, reading their new books, putting together a new puzzle, figuring out how to insert batteries into new toys. I would arrive well before dark.

Lesson: never assume anything. Nineteenth Avenue was fine, but the minute I entered Golden Gate Park, traffic slowed to a crawl. We inched along all the way out Park Presidio, over the bridge, through the tunnel, and up to the Sausalito exit. When the road cleared, everyone drove at least 70 mph. I arrived back at Friends House in Santa Rosa at dusk. The trip had taken four hours.

Second lesson: be grateful. I believe that an attitude of gratitude begets optimism and I have read that such a mind-set lowers blood pressure and the risk of heart attack. I was grateful that I was safe, that I have a car that, although no longer new, still is reliable. I hadn’t had the problem such as the man, creeping along in the next lane. He lowered his window and with desperation in his voice, called out, “Could I please cut in front of you? I’ve been stuck in this mess for two hours and I really have to go to the bathroom!”

During those hours en route, I sang along with endless versions of Christmas songs and remembered dozens of moments with Family. At a Christmas Eve luncheon in San Francisco, granddaughter Katie had asked what we would like more of and of what would we like less. Of the 14 present, four said they’d like more simplicity and fewer material possessions. “Less stuff.” Others nodded and said, “Me, too.” One family of five told of giving and receiving Experiences: Jenny gave her sisters an evening of printing patterns onto scarves. John took a musical daughter to a jazz club. The mother and a daughter made decorated Christmas cookies and gave them away. Others gave simple gifts and upped their charitable contributions. One granddaughter spoke of the value of compassionate listening, of giving her attention, her time. I recalled hearing that a person with a compassionate heart develops an improved attention span; that caring and decreasing conflicts lead to becoming in tune with one’s inner self.

While stuck in traffic, I thought about the relationship between Faith and Fear. I think they are inversely proportional to each other. More faith leads to less anxiety. Less anxiety lessens depression and leads to better sleep.

Now that I mull over these thoughts, I think that the clogged traffic was better than frankincense and myrrh: it gave time in which to appreciate the many gifts of this Christmas.

Gently Go the Days

About 80 of us live in this senior residence. I, at 87, am a bit older than some, our ages ranging from mid-sixties to ninety-nine. Most of us are women, with several couples living here as well as a few single men. I look to see what we have in common, why this  particular group shares this address. If a guest wanders along the path and stops to ask if I know her friend, she might say, “Her name is Mary and she has short grey hair.” As I write this, I can think of three Marys and they all have short grey hair. Actually, Mary or not, most of us have short grey hair. Surely there is something more we have in common.

Joanie is a peppy little lady of almost 89 who has lived at Friends house for over three years. Last week, her visiting daughter asked me if I like living here and I told her, “Yes, and even though I miss my friends in Santa Cruz County, I enjoy new friendships here. I’m still trying to figure out what makes this group unique.”

She had an immediate answer. “During my adult life, I have lived in a small town and have participated in civic groups, charity groups, PTAs, and church groups. I have noticed that when volunteers are needed, the same three people raise their hands. I think those people who raised their hands move to Friends House. No wonder you all get so much done!”

She may be right. Unlike other residences for the elderly, our management does not organize the musicians, speakers, and events. We residents do. One Sunday afternoon a month, bright-eyed Betsy introduces a concert in the library. On most Tuesday and Thursday evenings, speakers entertain and inform us. Mostly the speakers are from “outside,” but occasionally one of us  speaks. We tell of our lives. I have told of walking across the United States in 1986 and of publishing Walking for Our Lives.about the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament. 

Harriet and her library committee manage the books that are contributed. Phyllis, who moved in last spring, gave 27 boxes of books. Some were added to the library, some contributed to Friends of the (downtown) Library, and some sold on Amazon. Two years ago, the funds from Amazon sales purchased a 12-passenger bus.

Nancy, an artist, moved in about the same time as Joanie. Nancy is responsible for the art exhibits along the one long hallway at Friends House. She and I go to visit local artists and ask if they would hang about 20 of their pieces for two months. We explain that their work probably will not sell because we residents have very limited wall-space in our units, but their paintings will be much admired and appreciated. Every artist we have asked has said yes.

These activities require many meetings and I generally avoid meetings. If I miss something important, someone will tell me, or I can read the minutes posted in the library. Lately I’ve attended meetings to learn how and what people here think.

One of my favorite committees, the ripe-fruit-picking committee, doesn’t have any meetings. I was asked to join because I am tall and can reach up without falling over. As the fruit ripens on our 100 trees, Ruth comes by with a couple of buckets and some clippers. “Want to pick fruit with me?” I most often do. Plums, peaches, pears, apples, pomegranates, persimmons, guavas and more are arranged on outdoor tables scattered about the property and anyone who wishes may take what they need. Joanie has baked apple cake from our apples and offered it to residents at breakfast.

Joanie’s daughter is right, we raise our hands when asked. We are busy. Busy, but not harried. We have time to attend exercise and Chi Gong and Memory Enhancement. We take naps and sit on benches in the sunshine. We have time to care about each other. Our days are gentle and sweet.

A Boy and a Truck

When I was about twelve, impressionable, and religious, I heard the phrase, “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” I remembered that phrase last Spring as son Sam and his wife Sandra stacked the collected empty boxes into the off-site storage unit in Capitola. Boxes that would contain my stuff for the move to a senior residence in Santa Rosa. My treasures, whether functional,  decorative, or purely sentimental, were reminders, outward and visible signs, of friendships, loves, and experiences important to me.

Over the next few weeks, I packed. Family and friends came and packed. I sorted my possessions. One stack: take. Second stack: hmmm. maybe. Third stack was out the door and onto the curb where a FREE sign dangled from the picket fence. The curb stuff disappeared by sundown day after day. People called to me through the open front door, “Do you have a bike?” and “What about a waffle iron?”

I gave the hmmm, maybe things to those who came by to help. “Help yourself.”  They were happy. I was happy.

Son Matt called, “Do you need any help?”  As a boy in grade school, Matt, now 60, loved to pack the car the day before I drove the boys each summer from the San Francisco Peninsula to Oregon to visit relatives. Now I asked him if he’d be responsible for hiring a moving van. He would. He came over, walked through the house, measuring with his eyes. He called Penske and reserved a truck. On Saturday, April 26, 2014, he, with coffee in hand, arrived at 8:30, and drove himself and me over to the truck rental place. By the time we returned to the house, four members of our family and two  strong college boys were carrying furniture and box after box out to the front yard. Matt surveyed and said, “First these and then these and then those.” The truck filled up. Matt pulled down the rear door with a solid thud, climbed in, waved, and drove off toward Santa Rosa.

A boy and his truck.

Meanwhile, son John looked around and exclaimed, “I want a truck, too!”  He phoned U-Haul and called out, “Come on, Mom.” Daughters-in-law Joan and Holly, comfortably seated  in two upholstered living room chairs in the sunshine, said, “We’ll get pizza while you get the truck.”

John and the college boys loaded the second truck, John climbed in, lay his pizza on the seat, and drove north. Joan, Holly, granddaughter Jamie, and I thanked the strong young helpers and said goodbye to the house. Jamie had spent her 18 Christmas holidays in that beach house. Our families had celebrated dozens of events.

After a group hug, we piled into our three cars. A  parade of Love Family Women headed toward the horizon.

Are these outward and visible signs of inward grace? I think so. Surrounded by the grace of caring family and friends, a few tears, some pizza crumbs, and laughter, I moved, probably for the last time, to the Quaker-based senior living community of Friends House. in Santa Rosa, an hour north of San Francisco.

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