It had been about a year since I visited The Home for Wayward Seniors where my mother lived so happily the last two years of her life. I wanted to go so many times, but I just couldn’t until now- the tears were always too close to the surface when I thought of walking through those doors and seeing the seniors who had been so kind to Mom. A lot has happened in the past year, and I feel strong. I miss my mother every day, but I feel her with me, her lessons still guiding me through life. I knew that I needed to go back to visit my friends- to honor my mother’s memory, and also because I never want them to doubt how much I appreciate the way they embraced Mom and took her into their community.
The dreary, rainy morning was perfect for my first task- making a big batch of cookies. I knew my seniors would be expecting sweet treats from me, especially here at the holidays. I have stayed in touch with Mom’s best buddy at Princeton Towers, Linda- she and I text regularly (she was thrilled to show me that she learned how to type smiley faces). She is a dear lady, and loved Mom a lot. She had been very understanding about my not visiting before now, sending me messages from The Rev and relaying my messages to him. Rev spoke so beautifully at Mom’s memorial service, and checked on her every single day in his motorized scooter.
As people recognized who I was, their faces lit up in recognition (some of them already eyeing the big sack of cookies…as Mom would have said, “Ain’t no flies on them!”). I heard someone say, “Oh, Lord- look who’s here- Mizz Dot’s girl!” I began hugging folks, handing them a treat, and wishing them a Merry Christmas. When I saw The Rev across the room talking to people, I about levitated in excitement and ran to him. His face burst into a huge grin, and he insisted on a big hug. Rev, a former pastor, had polio in his youth and is confined to his scooter. He earns part of his rent by working at the front desk and checking on every resident in the morning. If they haven’t turned over the “I’m okay!” card on their door, he knocks until he gets an answer. He is truly one of the sweetest men I have ever known- and he has a wicked funny sense of humor, too. No one is safe from his teasing and razor wit.
After I had hugged and chatted with everyone, Linda and I found a place to sit and visit for a while. I showed her photos of our Christmas decorations, telling her that I would bring her over next week to see everything in person. I am grateful that she has a wonderful son and his family who look after her, but I assured her that she could always call on me if she needed help. I can never repay her for the kindness and friendship she shared with Mom.
It is difficult to put into words what today’s visit meant to me. It was a closing of the circle of grief, recognizing that I have made good progress on my dance with grief and loss. My life has gone on, but my mother’s memory will always be a cherished part of who I am. Being able to return to Princeton Towers has opened a new chapter for me- I want to be able to visit them and give back to the people and the place that meant so much to Mom…and to me. I knew she was safe there, that she had her much-needed independence, that she had a community of friends- people who understood and shared her struggles with aging, but who all stayed positive and looked out for each other.
What a gift it was for Mom and for me for Mom to have been placed in this special community, just an eight-minute drive from our home. So many blessings came from her two years there….and I have no doubt that the blessings will continue to flow. The Christmas spirit is alive and well at The Home for Wayward Seniors- I felt it today. And I’ll be going back….I ran out of cookies and promised them I’d return with more soon. Hopefully I brought them some joy today- but the real gift was mine, and I am so grateful. I’m pretty sure that Heavy D’s giggle is still bouncing around those halls, and maybe even the ghost of her walker horn honking…and that makes my heart so happy.