I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues—Duke Ellington
Today’s guest columnist is a former client. A few years back, due to necessity and more than a few nudges from her children, she left her long-time Bowie home and moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota—a long way from Bowie but nearer to her family.
A few months later, she wrote an account of her adventures and her attempts to find happiness in the new situation. I have changed a few items to make it more anonymous, but the story is unchanged. Here it is:
“A few summers back, an annoying case of shingles upset my peaceful life. It was extremely painful and no medication helped. For a month, I spent many daylight hours in bed. Fortunately for me, my daughters and their families were able to come to Bowie and help me.
After that experience, they plotted. One of them lived two blocks away from a Continuing Care Community where there were independent living apartments with medical services available. They convinced me it was a move I should make. And, though seriously hesitant, I did.
First of all, I selected my new apartment and made plans. Making plans was a horrible experience and emotionally draining. I had to select and discard items, decide who might want something, and what I would keep and what to do with the rest. I’m almost convinced that the relocation companies have a valuable service to offer, even though their rates seemed so high to me. They will clean out your old home, help you make the tough decisions, decorate your new home, buy new furniture for you if you wish, and move you comfortably into your new residence.
When I arrived and looked around the new apartment, it was empty. My first thought was “I didn’t bring enough stuff.” Then when the stuff was brought in, I thought “What am I going to do with all of this stuff?”
After several weeks of inertia, I finally opened most of the cartons, found a place for the contents and discarded most of the boxes and bags. Initially, in spite of all the counsel and good wishes, I felt for sure I had made a mistake. “Make the decision while you’re still able to make it for yourself” was the advice given to me. Feeling very homesick, I kept thinking that I wished I had waited until later to decide. Finally, I would remember again that in Bowie, there was no longer any immediate family to assist me in case of illness or emergency. So, I slowly tried to come to terms with my new life.
It was disconcerting to me that other residents were old. Where were all the glamorous teen-agers with gray hair who populated the advertisements for the over 55 residences?
I went to dinner. The room looked like any well-appointed restaurant, white linens and crystal, waitresses floating between the tables, people dressed as if for a special occasion. The menu appeared appetizing. Seating was random. The hostess assigned me to a table. I introduced myself and heard my table mates’ names, which I promptly forgot. We indulged in a little polite conversation. I don’t hear well and I struggled to hear their low voices.
Dinner completed, the waitresses arrived with two wheel chairs which had been secreted in a small deli shop that closed at 4 PM. Two of my companions got into them and left. The third one walked away.
When I went to my apartment and later prepared for bed, I was very discouraged. “Why am I here?” I continued in this mood for several days, feeling I had made the wrong decision. I have a third floor apartment and meet people in the elevator. I went to dinner a few more times, and discovered that people actually do talk freely, sometimes starting the meal with political overtones.
I came to remember that I also had many lonely afternoons and evenings after dinner in my own home in Bowie. I wasted so much time and energy cooking for one person. Amazingly, I did not feel as anxious to leave as I had at the beginning. I began to enjoy dinner and discussion groups. I enjoyed my morning coffee and my writing group.
I began to see people who resembled friends in Bowie. I hadn’t noticed aging changes then, because we had all grown older and changed together. People here reminded me of Bowie friends – and I would name each of the new ones after someone very like them in Bowie. I found a small bridge group. After two sessions, I decided not to play, because I wanted to do something else. One of them actually came to the dinner table to get me. I’m committed, I guess.
I joined a book discussion group. I joined the fitness group and went on a walk around the lake near us one day and another day around the Mall, which is a duplicate of Annapolis Mall. In many ways, everything changes and in many ways, everything remains the same.
There are still times of frustration, and longing for Bowie and old friends. But I’m here – for better or worse, in good health and bad.”