Whatever I was going to blog about went the way of the dial phone when I found myself flying to Boston to visit my folks in their retirement village this week. Now I can’t even remember what my topic was going to be. I’m here to help out in any way I can. The last visit was to help with the house, this time the theme seems to be gardening. They see me as strong and quick and capable, exclaiming “why, you can do in two hours what would take us days….” But when my husband calls me from his office in Seattle and I mention that I’m ready for bed (9pm EST), he remarks, “I see you’ve fallen right into the culture….”
You’ve got to. This is their time. We do a lot of sitting around and it’s my time to listen. Oh sure, they want some stories of what’s going on out there, however they’ve got their own world here too. It’s a bit like seeing children off to boarding school, but the difference is that parents never have the opportunity to stay in the dormitory and see it all through their eyes. Here, you do. I’m living in their home among all their retired friends and neighbors, and for dinners we all have the option of going up to the dining hall together. The event is communal, the room is formal. Ladies dress and look lovely. Men wear jackets. And this, I’m afraid, is the end of an era. When Mom and Dad first moved here the dress code specified ties as well. Ties are gone, and you just know that jackets will be next. But for now the dining hall still has all the ambience of an elegant old cruise ship.
At sixty I feel young here. I also find remarkable role models for how to navigate gracefully through the seventies, eighties and nineties. There are always a handful of centenarians among them. Residents keep as busy, healthy, well-read, and well-traveled as possible. On campus, as on a ship, dinners are the main event. Cocktails and appetizers through specialty coffees and cordials. Starting at 5:45pm, such a meal can take hours and eat up the whole evening. Clubs schedule themselves to dine together, singles and couples make dates with each other, essentially everyone arrives knowing with whom they are dining each evening. At Mom and Dad’s table last night, a most interesting couple. He designed systems for air traffic control for major airports in his day, while she designed crossword puzzles for the New York Times, both Sunday and weekday, working with Will Shortz. Oh my. I don’t know why but I challenged her to a game of Scrabble. And the reason I’ve got to get to bed at 9pm: big match in the morning and she will be formidable.