©2008 Celeste Billhartz
I toured a retirement living center, recently. I agreed to go as a courtesy to my younger friend who thinks it is the ideal place for me. It is very near a large shopping center and has all the comforts and amenities anyone might want.
In our conversation about the pros and cons of such a big move, from a three-bedroom house with a full basement to a one-room studio apartment, I mentioned my anxiety about snowy driveways, falls, etc. and told her I now wear YakTrax over my boots/shoes when I must walk on a snowy driveway. She grinned and said, “Well, we know how you handle anxiety.” And she mentioned my not buying another glass product after cutting myself, badly, on a broken coffee pot, a few years ago.
I saw the shift from a glass coffee pot to a metal carafe as good and sensible. She saw it as over the top, excessive. She, I see, interprets my wariness about ice and glass as wimpy. I, who fell hard and had a purple leg for a month … and who had to get a neighbor to take me to the hospital at 6am because I couldn’t stop the bleeding … see my decisions as wise and sensible.
Living alone and aging alone – falling alone/getting a terrible cut, alone – does something to one’s sense of stability, I think. I am very careful, now, on ice and handling routine kitchen duties. I look closely at motions and distances from foot to step, that sort of thing. I don’t bounce down the basement steps, anymore. Handrails – like stainless steel carafes and YakTrax -- are my friends.
Still, after a good sleep and a day of lists marked “Sell” and “Pitch” and “Keep”, I called my friend and told her this: I am not ready for “Shady Acres” … or any other retirement center with three meals a day and housekeeping services, laundry services, beauty salon, etc.
I consider the visit to have been a good wake-up call! Indeed, I guess I am about 10 years from taking a studio apartment there. In the meantime, I will downsize my household, do some repairs necessary for selling my home, and make my next move to a one-bedroom apartment in the city, very near my friend’s home.
I was shaken by the reality of my vulnerability, but now I embrace it, smile at its predictability, and welcome the inevitable surprises … with as much humor as I can muster, or pretend.