In International Dinner

One of our building’s residents, Peggy, plans a monthly meal for anyone to attend. She does it because she enjoys the planning and the socializing. After scouting out the latest door dash or grub hub choices, she puts up a flier and sets up the large dining room. A nominal fee is charged to cover the cost of food and supplies.

It’s our only chance to get together to enjoy food and company. In the summer, we had cook outs on the patio. Other times it’s been sub sandwiches, fried chicken dinner or Chinese food. We usually have around twenty-five people showing up each month. But then, Peggy had an idea.

She wanted to have an international dinner.  Our building is like a miniature United Nations. Due to its location so near Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College, we have a high number of renters who are medical students, physicians, researchers or of other academic affiliations. And most of them are from other countries including Mexico, China, Nepal, Vietnam, Libya, India, Turkey. And those are the ones I’ve been able to identify.

That night, which was actually an international potluck, not a dinner, we enjoyed an array of new foods and the company of residents we’d only seen passing in the hallways. We had nearly forty people, couples, singles and children in attendance. Many of the regulars sat at tables with the same people they usually sat with.

But I was fortunate to be at a table full of diversity: a Mexican man and his adult daughter; a very young married couple from China, doing post-doc research in the same lab at the Medical College; a young woman who had been adopted out of a Chinese orphanage at age five.

We had great fun talking and sampling the array of unusual foods. I tried two dishes brought by the young Chinese couple. One was a dish of hard-boiled eggs, cut in half with the white side discolored with spices. This led to an animated conversation about deviled eggs which some had never heard of.

The second dish is hard to describe. The plate was filled with round, purple colored, gelatinous spheres, the size of a half dollar. It was with trepidation that I tried these delicacies and was relieved they were both good. But the purple one was hard to cut. When I mentioned this, I was told that in her country they put the whole thing in their mouth at once. What a lesson!

But we also had a weightier conversation revolving around their immigration concerns. The young Chinese woman commented that she felt like a fake. She was clearly Chinese but had never learned the language due to her adoption at age five.

She expressed anxiety when people approach her and begin to speak this language she does not know. Even though she became an American citizen when she was adopted, she worries and says many of her friends do too. Will they be deported? The young couple was also unsure if they would or even could stay once their research project was done.

The Mexican man, a naturalized citizen, was a retired lawyer who had taught immigration law at the university level. Both he and I assured everyone this too shall pass, that America does not have a leader for life; immigration and the diversity it brings are good things.

It was a memorable evening. The chatter level was high and people stayed and visited long after the usual time. Peggy is planning the next international dinner in about six months.


Soccer Field of Dreams

It begins slowly. One car parks across the street. Then the ritual begins.  First, out comes the cooler. Then the lawn chairs. Often an umbrella. Followed by various and sundry balls, blankets, toys. Then slowly the parking places along one side of the street are filled as each family performs the same routine.


Out the window of my residence, I take in the activity across the street at the soccer field. It’s a grassy plain with trees along the edges in this Midwestern urban village that I call my home. The field is cared for by the city and I’ve become accustomed to a man coming early, riding a large and noisy machine to cut the grass and trim the edges of the field. Then a big, noisy truck arrives to maintain the porta-john. The field is set for another day.

Families pick their spots under the trees around the edges and sides of the field. I should say fields since there are four of them and sometimes, they’re all in use at the same time. Each day, I watch to see what will happen.

Weekends are filled with teams that filter in and out throughout the day. Some are kids and some are adults. I notice two tall and slender adults who try to get things organized and gain some control. The children know each other evidenced by the talking, laughing and constant movement. They’re like a cackle of birds in flight.

Other teams look like middle and high school kids. The coaches or referees are adults with loud voices. There’s a lot of cheering and yelling going on. Off to the side I might see a father hitting the ball with his son. Or a small group of children playing and running or sitting quietly on a blanket in the shade.

As the families with children are leaving, the men arrive. This group of men play the most loud and frantic games. They play on weekends and sometimes into the night. I can hear the shouts and cheers above the evening news. It’s nice to see so many families and groups enjoying time together.

One particular Saturday was a cloudy day and teams of adults were playing a game in the far field when the deluge began. Though it was pouring, they kept on. Their shouts were audible and clear. Aren’t they afraid of lightening, I had to wondered.

But one day I noticed something different. This was a Monday and it looked like a soccer camp was being held. The dozens of players were all dressed the same in their green or yellow tee shirts and shorts. Their nervousness was apparent as they clung together in small groups.

But what’s really different was that these were very tiny people. My guess was they were three-year-old’s, exuberant and excited as they lined up. The team leaders appeared to be high school age.

The kids took tentative turns at handling the ball. First, they each kicked the ball toward the goal post. Many shrieks when they were successful. Then they all needed to master the art of moving the ball down the field. Push. Nudge.

Suddenly the group ran off the field in the direction of their parents who were camped out under the trees. The coaches have sent them for a drink of water. They sat with mom for a moment, then returned to their post when the whistle was blown.

I opened the window as wide as I could and spent the entire afternoon watching and listening.  Not a sports person, I must wonder if a child that young can really play such a high energy game. Soccer is intense.

In the six years I’ve lived here, I’ve spent many days watching this marvelous parade of humanity outside my window or just listening as the sounds come in through the open air. As the day winds down and the sun passes behind the bank of trees on the west end of the field, families pack up to go home. There will be another day and another montage of competition and fun. I can’t wait!


Rent Strike

The 8 ½ x 12-inch yellow piece of paper was left outside everyone’s door late one  night. The next day there was a flurry of questions and wondering who had done it. The conjectures ran wild in the in-house grocery store where many people pass through and share news on a daily basis. The written piece was a page and half long with the final signature: Hawthorne Terrace Resident’s Committee, done in a large and unusual font. There has never been such a committee.

The professional presentation and the expansive vocabulary leaves no doubt it was written by someone with computer and language skills. The tip-off was the use of unusual words and phrases such as: management leaves clandestine notices……an integral part of the reason………the letter feigned concern…..trips have been truncated… has devolved into the current situation.

Main concern in the piece was the inexplicable horror that the emergency buzzers are being removed from all the apartments. The writer waxed poetic about the danger to residents and the blatant disregard this shows for their safety.  It closes stating the former landlord (still a minority owner) is being contacted to see if he can return sanity to this situation.

But the real kicker was this closing comment: there is talk of hiring lawyers and instituting a rent strike. First, I had a good, hearty laugh. Second, I began to analyze the situation. I’ve ruled out the 60 percent of residents who are younger, medical students and other academic professionals.

My main puzzle is how can someone so educated be so naïve about the business workings of a rental property. Residents in the building get a rent reduction for being on call and answering the emergency buzzers. It all comes down to money. Maybe one or more of them is unhappy with loss of this perk. We are no longer a senior living facility but an apartment building. We are renters with two choices, pay the rent or move.

This has only served to stir up more discontent. One resident wrote to management saying he had nothing to do with the letter. Another has called around to other residents to assure them she did not write the piece.

Change is so difficult for some people and I feel very sad for this. We have enough angst and worry going on without this contrived bit of drama. Friends in the building assure me it will all be forgotten in a few days. Judging by the eye rolling and snickers I see whenever there is any kind of discussion about the letter, I think they are right.



Corporate is Coming..Corporate is Coming

In April, 2019, the residents of Hawthorne Terrace were informed the building had been sold to a property management company based in Chicago. The current building manager who’d been here a long time was being transferred to other properties still owned by the landlord. Chaos ensued.

As I look back, I get it that the new owner wanted a fresh start. The long-time manager had been running the place as a senior living facility for the last six years even though it was now an apartment complex. Perhaps corporate didn’t want to deal with her resistance.

And with that, a whole new vocabulary entered our world. It had to do with corporate, this faceless, mysterious entity that controls all from afar. I’ll have to check with corporate. I’m not sure what corporate will say about that. Instead of a solution in minutes, it now takes days. And sometimes, no answer.

My first problem occurred when I sent my rent check to the old landlord a week before the announcement of a change in ownership. So, I had to deal with not one, but two corporates. Corporate One wanted their rent money and said they’d need to charge me late fees if they didn’t get it soon. I called Corporate Two and sure enough they had the money and said they’d take care of it. When and how it got solved, I have no idea. But it did.

A new building manager came on board amidst this chaos. I liked her. She was a young and energetic woman. On her first day, the maintenance man declared he hated her. I asked how he could do that without giving her a chance. Perhaps it was her funky clothes, spike heels and extra-long eyelashes. Or how each of her thirteen wigs made her look different each day.

She held a resident meeting, attended by a core of about twenty senior residents. Only 40% of the residents were seniors; the rest were students and young families.  She stressed that she wanted to keep things the way they were. She planned to continue and expand the long-established activities.

She also hoped people would stop yelling at her. She was working really hard. And this we knew since she was in the office days, nights and weekends. When a resident asked if what she was planning was in agreement with corporate, she said no. She then restated her goal of satisfying the senior residents.

I immediately thought her days were numbered with that attitude. Then I heard her boss from corporate had been standing outside in the hallway listening throughout the meeting. Sure enough, three days later she was gone. Chaos elevated.

A resident decided she was a perfect fit to be the next building manager and intended to apply.  She worked hard to convince the bosses that she could do the job. Or some part of the job. She had money problems and this was her solution.

What she did was take it upon herself to clean public areas of the building. She threw away food and drink in the kitchen that belonged to a resident. She moved decorative brick from the entrance area to the garden at the back of the building.

In another of her self-appointed chores, she searched for a card table missing from the closet near the dining room; she got in a yelling, name-calling, finger-pointing altercation with another resident who felt they were being accused of stealing the card table. You know how the biggest part of communication is the body language. Her’s is a bit aggressive so I can see how this misunderstanding could happen.

She’s doing all these things without the knowledge or approval of corporate. She says she’s trying to make an impression on them that she can handle the job. I watch with interest and just stay out of the way. By the way, a new manager has been hired.

I joked with my sit-in-the-library-wait-for-the -mail group that we should do a pool to see which services will end first. Just trying to inject some humor. It could be the bus that takes residents to local grocery stores and out to restaurants. The number going on these trips has dwindled.

Or the in-house grocery store. Or the free coffee in the computer room. Weekly Mass that has an attendance of less than twenty. The in-house beauty salon has already gone from two days to one day each week.

Just as I said that, we got a letter informing us the emergency buzzers in all apartments will be taken out next month. That wasn’t my pick but also no surprise.  What to do, some worry. I guess we have to call 911 ourselves. We are all reminded that If things change too much, everyone has the option of moving.

Change brings out the best and worst in people. I feel very bad for the resident who is so desperate to feel useful and earn some money. Even more so, I feel bad for all the other residents who are having difficulty adjusting. But adjust we must. None of this is a shock. And it’s only the beginning.





Getting to Know You

Hurray for a GPS. It helped me find my way in this complicated new town. After a week of unpacking and settling in I was ready to make sense of everything. Each day I went exploring, deciding where I wanted to go, putting in the address and following the directions. That’s how I found shops, coffee places, the library, grocery stores, banks and pharmacies. Everything I needed. So close.

Next, I wanted to get to know everything about this lovely building. From talking to people who’ve been here a long time and from the internet I learned that this building that was once a school has an interesting history.

Hawthorne Junior High School was built in 1931 (so says the cornerstone) and serviced seventh and eighth grade students until 1969 or so. Hawthorne and other junior high schools were becoming overcrowded so the city decided to build a second high school and a middle school. Once students enrolled in the new schools, Hawthorne closed.

It sat empty until 1987 when it was purchased by Reilly Joseph who owned and managed several senior living facilities. They reconfigured the building to hold 40 apartments with 23 different floor plans. A few years later, the owners decided to expand.

The school’s indoor swimming pool west of the building (the only public swimming pool in Wauwatosa) was demolished and replaced by a new addition that added apartments and an underground parking garage. The building now has one hundred apartments and twenty -seven different floor plans. The architect of the expansion project, Jack Shepherd, lived in the apartment next to mine.

In summer 2013, due to the many vacancies, the owners decided the building needed to become an inter-generational apartment building. This was about the time I moved in. Here’s where it gets interesting and where the residents of the building become part of the story.

The woman who was the building manager had been working there a long time. I heard many stories of how wonderful this place had been in its heyday. The dinners and cocktail hours were a great memory. The manger’s husband, a retired restaurant and bar owner, did the cooking. Yikes! The health department would have lots to say about that.

I’d met some residents who had never lived anywhere else but in their home, while married and raising children and then in this place mostly as widows. I met two who had been life-long friends since grade school. Another resident discovered a new man who’d moved in had been the best man in her wedding some fifty years ago.  It was a small world.

The building manager and her husband had for many years lived in the building. They thought of the residents as family and accommodated them in this way. So, any change would have been hard for them. For me, a newcomer, I thought it was nice that now families and children were being welcomed in.

Others thought it was terrible. The first year, we had four medical students move in. To me, they were the perfect neighbors. They were never around and when they were, they were studying. Management changed the long unused craft room to a study room to accommodate them.

This caused quite a fury and residents voiced concern that more drastic changes were coming. One resident feared this meant she could no longer walk the hallways as part of her exercise regime. So, she’s worried a medical student will assault her!  I also heard rumors that some residents had been unkind toward them. Hmm. I wonder if that has to do with the fact they were mostly Middle Eastern.

At first, I felt out of my element since I don’t’ have much in common with most who live here. When they hear of my divorced, childless by choice and non-religious attitude, there is stone cold silence. That’s okay because I’ve got plenty of friends who live nearby. In fact, I’ve reconnected with all the friends I’d left behind when I moved up north.

For me, I love this place. It has a quiet almost small-town feel with everything so close. I have the privacy I want but if I’m lonely I just walk down the hall to the library or the lobby. There’s always someone to chat with. I love sitting in my window to watch the soccer games in the park across the street.  I do a lot of reading while sitting on the patio. This has quickly become my home.


Turning For Home

Summer 2013. I’d come to town to search for my next home. A google search done while still living in Eagle River had helped me compile a list of eight promising possibilities. I was staying for three days at my friend Betty’s place in Waukesha while I conducted my search.

I headed out the first day for a 9:00 appointment to see the first on my list. Getting off the freeway, I made my way to Hawthorne Terrace on Portland Avenue in Wauwatosa.  I could see the flag on my GPS so knew I was close. Turning onto Portland Avenue, I found a lovely residential street with a grade school on the corner.

As I rounded that last curve, I was taken by the many trees all swaying in the summer breeze. An unexpected Northwoods canopy.  Hard to believe this was an urban area. I crossed Honey Creek Parkway and on the right was a city or county park. It was clear there would be no new construction going on in this fully developed neighborhood. That was a plus.

The building, formerly a school, was almost regal with its big windows and high tower. I drove around to the parking lot in back, parked and looked around. Everything was well-kept and neat. Flowers in pots and landscaping done to a T. I fell in love before I’d even stepped inside.

The building manager showed me around. A beautiful lobby, complete with fireplace. Meeting and dining rooms, a store, library, exercise room and hair salon.  But what most impressed me was that there were people everywhere. That squelched my fear that apartment living would be insolating.

The manager further explained that the property had recently been re-designated inter-generational. Due to the large number of vacancies, the owners had asked the city to change their license to an apartment building instead of a fifty-five plus facility.  I liked that. As a result, the building now had four medical students from the medical school that was about eight blocks away. She further explained the activities in the building such as a book group and bingo.

We finished the tour, I updated the GPS and soon arrived at the next place. It was also nice but I began to pick apart the small things. Too much traffic. So quiet. I was captivated by that first place.

From there, I went back to Betty’s house and excitedly told her I needed her to see what I’d found. The manager gave us another tour and Betty asked a few questions I’d overlooked in my excitement. We left with a next day appointment to see an apartment that would be available in a few months. Next day, I signed a lease and got an October move in date.

That seemed so easy. Too easy. Then doubts set in. I worried that I might have been too hasty. Perhaps I should have at least looked at the others. Canceling those other six appointments had felt right at the time but what if I’m making a mistake.

Next day, I drove back to Eagle River and had this great feeling as I drove through town to my apartment. It was a sense of relief. It was settled. I no longer belonged here, maybe never did. I made a list of what I had to do and a timeline with the end being the day I would move.

And that happened in October. After the moving van, loaded up in one hour, left my driveway, I locked up and for the last time drove through Eagle River with the same exhilaration. Good bye to the old and in with the new. Next day, the moving van arrived and the one-hour unloading began. I felt at home right away.

But there will be adjustments. Community living presents unique situations and issues. I’m looking forward to new lessons and a rehash of old ones.


Third Grade Wisdom

The building where I live has arranged a reading program where third graders from two local schools visit us each month throughout the school year. We grandparent-types are assigned children who read to us; once we get started the room is abuzz as we work hard for nearly an hour.

This gives the kids an opportunity to read out loud and us a chance for some quality time with someone outside of our usual social circle. My job, other than being an alert and supportive listener, is to help with word pronunciation and meaning. Each year, I’ve met some delightful children and marvel at their demeanor and quickly developing personalities. I’m often surprised at how much they already know.

Sam loves maps. Instead of showing up with the usual third grade story books, he brought an atlas. It’s a kid-sized atlas given to him by his father. When I asked him where he’d most like to visit, without hesitation, he said Madagascar, then quickly flipped the pages to show me where that was. I could see right away this was a very unique child.

He was puzzled that Scotland wasn’t in the atlas. Ah, a teaching moment, I thought. I asked if the United Kingdom was on the list of maps at the front of the book. He knew right where it was and pointed.  I then said that Scotland was part of the United Kingdom, so it wasn’t an independent country and therefore not listed as such. It made my day to see this piece of news registering in his alert little mind.

At Christmas, Sam’s mother dropped off a plant for me. The card thanked me for spending time with her son. She also wrote that whenever Sam talked about me, he smiled. So, who’s getting the most out of this?

First time, each child brings a personalized letter they’ve written to introduce themselves. Sam’s letter told me he liked to play twenty questions and assured me we’re going to have “a really good time.” Samantha’s letter focused on reading and asked what my favorite genre was when I was her age. The fact that “genre” was even in an eight-year old’s vocabulary was surprising. But she had no idea what my childhood favorites, Nancy Drew Mysteries were.

Samantha was most excited about the reading program because she’d heard that on the last day, we’d have a party. I recalled how, the year before, Jada had made a very big deal about waiting on me. I had too many cookies and glasses of punch that day. I didn’t have the heart to say no to her diligent efforts. Her determination confirmed my assumption that she was a child lost in the rush of a large, blended family.

When fewer and fewer volunteers were signing up for the program, we had to double up. So, with two children, issues of fairness and splitting the time evenly had to be addressed. Though Teddy and Mick were friends, they couldn’t have been more different. Teddy was clearly from a family of means and talked, quite matter-of-factly about his many vacations in far off places.

Mick was his own person, informing me that his name was Michaël but he insisted on being called Mick. For all their differences, they worked out their own method of sharing time and helping each other with problem words. My job was easy.

My most recent pair were Max and Emma. Again, different as can be. Emma is a quiet and thoughtful girl. She gets out a lot to movies and travel with her family. But I have to work to be sure she gets attention and doesn’t get lost in the bushes. When a character in the book she was reading had a tattoo, she told me her father has tattoos.  Curious and jumping to conclusions, I asked what they looked like. She said they were of her name. Admittedly, I was relieved.

Then there’s Max. A ball of energy and oh so smart.  This third grader can list all the US Presidents. In order and even giving their number. He also does a spot-on impersonation of Kevin Hart. He’s often stood up in the middle of reading to do some tai chi that he learned from a video. Oh, and no surprise, he’s an excellent reader.

I have no children. I decided quite young that being a mother was not very interesting. Being in a reading program with third graders is totally interesting. I get more out of this than they do, I’m sure. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that children are very smart and I’ll never underestimate what I can learn from them.

Mystery Tour

April 3-4, 2019 – Hart Park Senior Center Mystery Tour
Cuneo Mansion and Gardens, Loyola University, Vernon Hills, Ill.
Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, Skokie, Ill.
Holiday Inn Skokie, Dinner, Bingo, overnight
Halim Glass and Clock Museum, Evanston, Ill.
Lunch at Trattoria, Evanston, Ill.
Tea and scones at Curt’s Café, Evanston, Ill.
Bahai Temple, Wilmette, Ill.

I’ve officially joined the ranks of senior citizen bus trip mavens. I. along with twenty-one (including tour guide) women and our token man, set out for a two-day, one overnight, mystery tour to parts unknown. Barb, the tour guide, kept things a secret throughout. She’d announce where we were as the bus was being parked.  Then give us a time estimate when we’d reach our next destination but didn’t announce where we were going until we’d arrived.

Docent tours had been arranged for each stop which meant we learned a lot. At the Cuneo Mansion I wondered how a family could live comfortably in such opulence. The many shelves of shoes stored in the bathroom made me wonder if Imelda Marcos had given lesson to the mistress of the house.

The Holocaust museum was sobering. The Glass and Clock Museum broadened my knowledge about Tiffany who I’d thought only made lamp shades.  Silly me. And now I know, after seeing one thousand clocks from many time periods and countries, how important the pendulum was to modern day time keeping. We all felt wonderful to contribute our business to Curt’s Café that provides job training and jobs for unemployable youth. The scones were to die for. The Bahai Temple was a mystery or a well-kept secret.

Barb says she’s learned to always have shopping time in the schedule.  So, for our noon time in Evanston, the option was shop or lunch, or both; most of us didn’t shop. Instead we had lunch at a lovely Italian restaurant that included some day drinking. Why not because we had a designated driver.

I’d signed on alone and was fine with the quiet on the bus and had brought my Kindle to fill the down time. I don’t remember the names of my fellow travelers though a few were familiar from earlier trips. There was a lot of talking and laughing going on.

Most memorable was our lengthy breakfast discussion of Oscar movies with our declaration that Bohemian Rhapsody should have won it all. The bar at the hotel had bingo night and we won a few shots and scratch-off tickets. No one won the $1000 for a full card. But we tried.

All in all, it was a great trip. Not too long. Just long enough. And plenty to do but not be rushed. What can be better than the comfort of a bus and a driver who knows just where to go and gets you there. Another was having someone else driving through these enchanting north shore cities and being able to take in the architecture. I’m checking the schedule for future travel opportunities.









The Men in my Life

Two of my most wonderful friends, Carolyn and Julie, think I should find a man. A male companion, or boyfriend, perhaps a husband is what they have in mind. I say, what are you thinking? Two divorces aren’t enough! But that got me thinking.

Actually, I have lots of men in my life. All right in the building where I live. Some live there and a few work there. The library is our central meeting place where we chat while waiting for the mail. And then I run into others by chance throughout the day.

There’s Dave (oops he likes to be called David) who does maintenance. When I had to put new license plates on my car, I went to his office and asked David for a screwdriver. He gave me a puzzled look, then asked what it was for. When I explained, he said he thought he should do it. We then spent a half hour in the parking garage talking cars while he worked his magic. We both agreed that Buicks are the best.

Tom lives in the building and also does housekeeping. At nine o-clock on Mondays I can hear the hum of his vacuum cleaner coming down the hall. He also manages the in-house grocery store and is open to suggestions on new items.  I think he knows everyone by name and offers a friendly greeting to everyone, all day.

John of John and Alice (I call him that to keep him separate from all the other John’s in the building) is part of our Rummikub game. John of John and Alice is meticulous, some would say obsessive, about how the tiles should be laid out on the table. John says he has nicknames for some of the more colorful characters in the building but only chuckles to himself, not telling me any of them. Or if he has a nickname for me.

Dave (he doesn’t mind being called Dave) is volunteer manager of the in-house library. I help him with the magazines. Dave does woodworking at one of the senior centers and just built a new bookcase for our library. He has a master plan for culling the old, tattered books that no one has read in years

Tom (a different Tom, this one wears a hat) never sits. He just hovers in the library doorway, drops a comment or two and then moves on. He always makes sure he gives me his latest copy of Harper’s and tells me what are the best articles. Some insist Tom with the hat is shy which he covers with a gruff exterior. I’m not so sure.

Sy who loves to tease and joke must have been feeling pensive one day when he joined me alone in the library. He’s eighty-six and seemed to be wondering how much time he has left. Quite different from his usual quick and pithy comments.

Dennis is quiet. We laugh that we can always tell when Dennis has been in the library because the daily newspapers are lined up in perfect order on the table. Dennis can tell which grandchild is calling for pick-up by their ring tone. And off he goes.

Jay works at the front desk. He helped me when the wi-fi connection in the coffee shop wasn’t working. He was pretty nervous, relating how some residents expect him to solve complicated software problems. He solved my very simple problem in a flash and I let him know how thankful I was.

I think I have the best situation with the company of some pretty nice guys. We laugh and joke. We talk about the latest news and generally philosophize about life and any other important issues. Then I go back to my apartment. I have men in my life but only as much as I want. This is the best place and best situation for me, for now.



Angie Makes Another One

Angie and Vern were a colorful couple in their nineties who I first got to know at the weekly dinner at Hawthorne.  I admired Vern and Angie. They were very active and I’d most often see them returning from their daily outing: lunch and shopping. That’s how I became accustomed to that friendly greeting.

“Well, we made another one,” Vern would say in a jovial, sing-song fashion as they ambled down the hallway holding plastic bags of groceries and restaurant left-overs. And then we’d laugh about the grim alternatives. Hardly a day would pass that we didn’t exchange this affable refrain.

But as time passed, attendance at the weekly dinner declined until the building administration canceled it. Our hallway encounters dwindled even more when I heard Vern had a car accident and gave up driving. Finally, Vern was hospitalized and died.

Angie grieved mightily and her own health declined.  It was sad to watch this vibrant woman fade. I lost track of Angie until one day I saw her at the mailboxes. She smiled and asked how I was. I wasn’t sure I should say it. What if this brings up sad memories or makes her feel bad. But I took the chance.

“Well, we made another one,“  I said in my best Vern-like style.  Angie’s silence was only for a few seconds. Then for a short moment I saw that old Angie spark as she repeated the refrain with a laugh and shake of the head.  Most things change but some things never do.

Then I heard Angie had fallen and had to go to rehab. I was sure I’d never see her again. But I was wrong. Such a surprise to see her at the in-house beauty salon where she still gets her hair done each week.  She’s dressed up as though her next stop is lunch or the theater. When Angie celebrated her ninety-ninth birthday, Hawthorne had a party and provided a cake ordered from Simma’s.

I still run into Angie near the mailboxes or when she shops in the in-house grocery store. Always smiling as she navigates her walker down the hallway.  And though she often doesn’t remember my name, now she’s the one who always greets me with Vern’s old salutation: “Well, we made another one. “



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