I hear my mother’s voice in my head: Adelaide, you have to join something. How do you expect to make friends in a new place? If she were alive, my mother would be one-hundred- and-three. Which means I must be, what, eighty-one? Eighty-two next month. She knew how to dig at my weak spots. Seems she still can, posthumously.
I have lived at Shady Hollow Residence for Senior Living for three months. My daughters, Helen and Esther, insisted I move out of the house I’d lived in for forty years, ever since they were in school. We had their weddings in the garden. I was there through Ben’s illness, with hospice care and a hospital bed in the family room. “Mom, it doesn’t make sense for you to live in a house this size, at your age,” Helen had said. She can be so insulting.
“I have no intention of moving,” I told them. “I’m doing just fine.” I thought about the lilacs in April and the June profusion of peonies. I didn’t mention how painful it was to kneel down, and get back up. So, with outward resignation and inward relief, I sold the house for a ridiculously high price to a young family. Of course I’m happy with the money. And relieved not to think about rotting gutters and roof repair.
The Shady Hollow atmosphere has grown on me, with its welcoming reception area reminiscent of a Williamsburg Marriott. Sofas and chairs, upholstered in Wedgewood blue, are arranged in casual groupings. The carpet is Wedgewood blue. In the center of the room is a round mahogany table displaying brochures about the facility. Also centered on the table is a stilted flower arrangement. Every Friday a new one from a florist is placed in the middle, while the old one is whisked away.
Typically it arrives with combinations of carnations, chrysanthemums, and a few sprays of greenery. Walking past it one day, I forget where I am, and take the arrangement out of the vase. Shaking out the stiffly grouped flowers, I reposition them into a more relaxed design, and plop them back in the water. The minor effort of shaking them loose is effective.
“Now doesn’t that look nice!” A woman named Bitsy Reynolds has been standing nearby, watching the process. Her presence startled me. “Looks like you have a knack with flowers,” she adds. “I envy you creative people. I’m hopeless at arranging flowers. All I do is make a mess.” She comes over to take a closer look.