Seen in Whole Foods: a mom zipping up and down the aisles with her toddler in the shopping cart. Shopping cart filling up with produce, milk, eggs (brown), flour and sugar, boxed crackers and cereal and can of coffee. Suddenly the mom says, “Oh, no, no, don’t do that!” Too late – the toddler has reached around and grabbed the brown egg carton by the corner in such a way that the carton opened and the eggs all spilled into the midst of the other groceries in the cart. Eggs among the apples, greenery and staples…. Judging by the expression on the kid’s face it had been really fun to watch the eggs roll every which way!
Here where I live, every unit has a nice balcony, people put plants and chairs on the balcony, and in nice weather a lot of the neighbors sit out now and again or emerge to water the plants. It’s easy to greet each other from balcony to balcony. Where the courtyard is narrow you can have a meet and greet across the courtyard from different stories of the building. Or people can converse between a third-floor balcony and the swimming pool and then hail another neighbor who comes walking by. Yesterday when I went to get my mail I was introduced by a friend on her third story balcony to a mom and little daughter merrily floating in the pool.
I love that about this place. It feels like I imagine traditional, populous residential streets in Europe or on the East Coast must feel. People aren’t in each others’ pockets all the time – but neither is everyone cocooned in a big house with a mowed-yard buffer zone on an empty street where all that comes and goes is cars!
My collleague Tiffany enjoyed the TATTOO AND BODY ART EXPO over the weekend. It was at Reliant Stadium. I had no idea there could be a tattoo convention that big. The Reliant Web site billed it: “The Largest Tattoo and Body Art Expo in the World! This is a clean, safe, family oriented, tattoo convention and party.” Body art means tattooing, piercing, implanting crystals, and other sorts of corporeal decor.
Tiffany observed that unlike the tattooed or pierced folk you might see in public who have an offputting attitude or get bristled up if you stare at them, everyody with fancy body art at the Expo wanted people to look, see and ask questions. Just like science fiction conventions – everybody feels more at home in the midst of their tribe!
The first time my mother and I ever visited the Gardens at Calvary, we noticed a bluebird perched in one of the slender trees on the Moon Road side of the grounds.
Mom was not happy to make such a visit at all. She was very reluctant to consider leaving her home of many years to move to assisted living. But the little bird with its bright blue back and rusty breast seemed like a good sign to both of us. There ‘s an old figure of speech—celebrated in at least one big band song—about the bluebird of happiness.
The hope of happiness came true.
For Mom, happiness is having friends and companions and living a place where she doesn’t need to manage all of life’s details by herself. It makes me happy to know that she’s safe in the care of capable and compassionate staff, in a building that’s attractive, well-designed, graced with natural light, and located beside a stream with trees and wild creatures.
For both of us, it matters that an assisted living facility be faith-based. One inescapable truth is that people in assisted living are fragile in body, mind or both. They exist in a holy place, not very far from death, and therefore closer than most of the rest of us to the nearer presence of God. That truth needs to be honored. At the Gardens, it is. Vern Jordin is an able chaplain. I’ve attended his Sunday services with Mom. The flock is small and fragile; Chaplain Vern cares for each one of them tenderly. When Mom’s last living sibling died a couple of years ago, Chaplain Vern sought Mom out minutes after I spoke to the staff in the front office. He sat with us in the private dining room while the news sank in. Mom was able to begin to grieve for her brother there, in that sheltered place and time.
Last fall, I finally visited the Greenhouse—the special Alzheimer’s place up the road from the Gardens. Knowing that Mom may one day need to live in the Greenhouse, I had to see how it felt. It felt gentle and good. Now I know not to be afraid of Mom being there in her final days.
This is the third springtime since we first visited the Gardens. There are still bluebirds around. My mother and I are happy that she found an unexpected new home at the Gardens at Calvary, thanks be to God.