My mother lives in a retirement complex — about 100 apartments — just two miles from the house she sold in 2005. She had lived in the house for 54 years. I wasn't born there, but we moved in when I was not quite two years old.
My first memory is a mental image of the day we moved into that house. I was seated at the kitchen table and my mother brought me a plate of what we called pork'n'beans for my lunch. At least I think I remember that. My mother lived in her house for more than 50 years, and I lived there until I was 18 and went off to college.
I was a little worried, of course, when MA — that's what I call her because those are the initials of her first and middle names — sold her house and moved into an apartment, that she would be unhappy and regret the decision to sell the house. A year or so after the big move, I asked her how she felt about it. She told me she missed having the yard and outdoor space, but overall she was happy because she didn't have to worry about house maintenance any more.
I left home when I was 18 and never really came back. Oh, I visit every year, and always have. But I've seldom stayed more than a couple of weeks since I graduated from college in 1971 and moved off to Illinois for graduate school. In other words, MA could never count on me to help her around the house and yard.
Anyway, this apartment complex seems like a good place to live. To move in here, you have to be at least 62 years old, so all the residents are senior citizens. Many have their own cars and still drive, but many don't. MA chauffeurs other residents to their doctor's appointments, takes them to buy their groceries, and of course socializes with them. There are organized meals for birthdays, groups play bingo or dominoes or cards on a regular basis, and the staff of the complex organizes outings and day trips for the residents a few times a year.
MA also volunteers at a local food mission where people in need can go and get free groceries. She's been working there for years, and seems to be one of the pillars of the organization. Yesterday, for example, she hosted a luncheon for the 60 or so volunteers she works with at the food mission. She organized the whole event, ordering food from a caterer and overseeing the setting up of the banquet room where the lunch was held.
The banquet room she found to use was the main event room in the community center at MA's retirement complex. The management of the complex lets charity groups use their facilities without charge. Included are a full kitchen and a little library. The maintenance man sets up the tables and chairs, the activities coordinator makes tablecloths and a podium for the featured speaker available, and so on.
MA's event was a success. She ordered in 20 pounds of Eastern N.C. pulled-pork barbecue (like what I make in France), fried chicken, coleslaw, and potato salad from a restaurant over in Beaufort. I made a couple of gallons of iced tea as my own contribution. I didn't attend the lunch however, since I'm not a volunteer at the mission.
Today is catch-up day for MA. She's pretty worn out, and is finally able to take a day of rest after all the stress and running around required of the organizer of such an event. Remember, I'm 62 so that makes her... a mature woman. Both her parents died around the age of 40, many many years ago. She always used to say she didn't think she would live to a ripe old age. Little did she know...