We were married Friday, July 14, 1961, in the Loyola University Church in New Orleans, LA., at 4:00 in the afternoon. I am Catholic; Pete, my husband, is not. So, at that time, we could only be married in a small ceremony at a side altar…and no mass.
Pete and I were graduate students at Tulane University…right next door to Loyola University. We chose the wedding date to be between summer school semesters. We were both teaching summer school. And there began a pattern of our lives being quite similar. We each received a Ph.D. in mathematics…Pete. in 1966, and me, in 1969. We had two children during that time.
I remember one of the first anniversaries: we laid cement for a sidewalk beside the garage. We probably went out to dinner most anniversaries…we certainly did in these last 10 – 15 years when we spent summers in Wisconsin. Pete had his stroke/fall in March of 2017. So, last year, our 56th anniversary, Pete was in an assisted living community in Hammond, LA. And, I was in our Louisiana home. We were not together. I had tried to take care of Pete at home and soon realized I could not…even with Ruby helping. Around August or September (of 2017), I made the decision to move Pete and me to an assisted living community in Denver. Our son is in Denver, and it became clear to me that I needed help with all the decisions that were to be made with regard to Pete’s health. And, I wanted a place that would let us be in the same apartment.
And we are. The Assisted Living staff here is providing the medical and physical support for Pete so that we can be together in our apartment. I tried to tell him just a few hours ago that Saturday was our 57th wedding anniversary. He made a circle with his wheelchair; looked at me; and said “57th ?” Nowhere along the way had I ever thought we would be in an Assisted Living Community in Denver for our 57th anniversary…and many more anniversaries to come, I am sure.
We have been in this assisted living community 6 months. My mind goes between what we might have been doing in our past lives…and what I am doing now. I don’t compare…I just think about the difference.
I have a pot with a few succulents in it. A small pot, and it sits on the windowsill in my “bedroom” here in our assisted living community apartment. I really like the pot and the arrangement of the plants. The pot was a gift from my cousin which was sent after we arrived in Denver. I had a beautiful arrangement of cacti back in Louisiana..on a deck. Ruby, who helped me with so many things in Louisiana… always reminded me that I needed to be careful and not water the cacti too much. She told me a trick she used. Regularly water your succulents with “just so many” ice cubes. I put two ice cubes in my pot here every Tuesday morning. And — every Tuesday morning watering my pot is close to my first thought as I walk into my “bedroom.” “Ruby, the succulents, and two ice cubes.” But, this past Tuesday, I went the entire day in the moment…in the assisted living community. I played cards with friends here; I napped; I did lunch and dinner with my husband; I watched the Rockies lose a baseball game. And I did not think of my plants.
Wednesday morning…first thing when I walked into my bedroom: “I forgot the ice cubes.” I put two ice cubes in the pot and wondered how I could have ever forgotten to water my beautiful pot!! It is the one thing that takes me back to Louisiana and our home there.
“Old Fashion” I have always considered myself more forward thinking than most people my age…at whatever age. But as I look back, I really think I set my life to follow common norms. My values, my actions would probably be considered “Old Fashion” by most…certainly these days!
“With a Twist” I was never going to retire. I retired. My husband and I are in an Assisted Living Community…he, because of something similar to a stroke; me, because I could not let him be alone through this time. Our Lake Home in Wisconsin …where we spent so many summers…and where I thought we would continue to spend time…has been sold. Our home in Louisiana is on the market. We have a two-bedroom apartment in Lakewood, Colorado, in an assisted living community. Even the words “with a twist” do not seem strong enough to describe this change in life style for either my husband or me!
Audience: Mary has been here just over a week. Her family thought she would be better in Denver than in Houston. At the dinner table, I heard her saying that she just could not explain to her son what she was experiencing in this Assisted Living Community.
And, there is Jim. His wife passed away about a month ago. He moved into this Assisted Living Community, and he is very lonely. He just had not expected to be here.
Probably the one commonality all of us in this Assisted Living Community share is that “we did not expect to be here !!” To a great extent, I am writing this BLOG to put some words with my thoughts about being here. I am also hoping that others in Assisted Living communities…or similar communities…will share thoughts and questions. I would be so pleased if my words provided the start of conversations with others … others with whom life has provided “a twist.”