By G. E. Shuman
Last month, Lorna and I had the extreme pleasure of spending a week with my mom, at her north Florida home. Mom lives in a retirement community called the Advent Christian Village at Dowling Park. Being a very young 91 years old, it is quite appropriate that she does so. Mom is totally active, and she is just as happy as a bug in a rug there. Truthfully, I don’t blame her, and somewhat envy her. If you are anywhere near retirement age I would suggest that you check out the organization’s website. It is a truly wonderful place.
Mom still lives on her own, in her own home in the village; she still drives her car, and, in fact, has one car in Florida and another in Maine, for her jaunts up there in the summer to see the family. Her Maine car has roses painted on it, and is, appropriately, named ‘Rosie.’ (No one else but Mom could do that. Trust me, you need to meet her to understand.) Mom even has a golf cart parked just outside her Florida place, for those quick trips to the village’s beauty parlor, grocery store, post office, restaurant, or nursing home, (where she helps take care of the ‘old’ people.) Not to embarrass Mom, (Okay, so maybe I do want to embarrass her just a bit,) but one morning during our visit I came out of her guest room to see not one, but TWO elderly gentlemen standing in her kitchen, vying for her attention about some problem one of them was having. Wow.
My Aunt Jean also winters in the town Mom lives in, and we had a great time with her there, also. Jean and Mom make a wonderful, spicy, giggling pair, who spend most of their ‘together’ time chatting, eating, and doing more chatting, and more eating, and planning the very next time of chatting and eating. (It is true that during our several trips to town, with the bickering banter of these two ladies in the back seat of my car, I did feel a bit like Morgan Freeman in ‘Driving Miss Daisy’, (but times 2.) I loved it. Did you see the movie? The four ‘C’s of coffee, chocolate, cakes, and cookies are always on the next meal’s menu for these two ladies. Any thought of skipping one of those is quickly dismissed, I soon learned. It was also pointed out to me that there is a difference between chocolates, and ‘good’ chocolates. The idea that such foods might not be all that healthy for them is not a concern. Truthfully, while visiting with these elderly saints I enjoyed that attitude, a lot. There is much freedom in it.
I found it fascinating that Mom and Aunt Jean, both of whom I have obviously known my entire life, seem to be, in their advancing years, more concerned with living, than with such silly issues as what is appropriate to eat. I’m sure that they do not neglect their health, but they are also, very wisely, I think, not consumed by the subject. For them, life is about the enjoyment of it all. They love to go out to eat, but equally enjoy conversing over an uncomplicated meal of simple sandwiches and a salad, (With the cakes, cookies, etc.) Morning coffee is often taken out in the screened Florida room, so that the birds can more easily be heard, and the vibrant flowers more readily enjoyed. While we were there Aunt Jean reported being ‘entertained’ by two tiny ants, cavorting on her windowsill. How ultimately profound is that?
I have also learned something about Mom’s neighborhood and relatives. No one there seems to eat cereal and yogurt. Everyone there eats donuts and bagels. At one point I said to my mom that such things might be less than healthy. Her answer was: “So?” How can you argue with that kind of logic, especially with a 91-year-old who walks faster than you do? I should not have been surprised. Several weeks ago I called Mom, and mentioned that she was so spry that she had better be careful; that she would probably have to beat the old men off with a stick. Her answer to that one? “Why would I want to do that?”
I thought about all of this for hours during the long drive back to Vermont from Mom’s home in sunny Florida. I came to two conclusions. One is that the Advent Christian Village is a wonderful place for Christian people to enjoy their lives after retirement. Seriously, if you are a Christian, check it out. If you are not of the faith, you need to know that God allows U-turns, and that you should take one. (In MY old age, I don’t like mincing words.) My other conclusion is that my mom’s generation really is the greatest generation. Period. They are patient, and are living in the moment, even if their moments may be fewer than those of some others. They are also acutely aware of the beauty of their world. And, they may know little about Facebook, YouTube, WiFi, or cyberspace, but they know much about what makes a ‘good’ hotdog, (Don’t forget the fried onions.) which fast food place has the best fries, and how to keep a hydrangea in bloom. Those things are much more important.