Some readers have expressed interest in where I went after the sale of the condo commemorated recently in a set of self-indulgent photos. (“As I Was Saying….,” July 18, 2017.) So this post, equally self-referential, is about where I live now. [Be advised there was no professional photographer at work here this time. Just me with an iPhone.]
When we first saw it together two years or so before he died, Bill thought it looked like a middle-class Miami hotel. No way was he going to move here. Ever. A year later, when our stairs had become too much of a daily challenge, he capitulated. We visited several “retirement” communities with apartments all on one floor. This seemed the best of them, for a variety of reasons I can go into another time.
And it does look better (although still somewhat institutional) when seen from the front door:
You could even imagine elderly people enjoying the sun, or shade, on one of the front benches near the fountain when they’re not quite mobile enough to get away:
However, it was at least in part the presence of all those not quite “able-bodied” elderly people — with their walkers, or in their wheelchairs pushed by aides — that put us off. (As if we weren’t getting “elderly” ourselves.) But eventually the condo stairs — and Bill’s fifty-foot oxygen cannula — got the better of us. And where would we go if we sold the condo? The reason most persuasive for coming here was the apartments. Many of them had interesting layouts, quite unlike the rectangular, unimaginative arrangement of rooms in the two other places we’d checked out. Bottom line: We’d just have to learn to live with all the other aspects of a “retirement” community we weren’t ready for.
Then Bill got too sick to think about moving anywhere. Until very near the end, just before they put him under with morphine so he could be intubated, when he wrote in a little notebook: “Get Windrows apartment.” He wanted me not to be so alone after he was gone. I can’t say I moved here because he said I should. It’s that I finally decided he was right. Even if I didn’t look and sound as old as I really was (nearly eighty-five when he died), sooner or later I wouldn’t be able to drag the garbage and recycling out to the curb. Sooner or later, I wouldn’t be able to drive, for one reason or another. Sooner or later, I might fall. And then who would I call?
Apartments of the size you want become available at infrequent intervals at Windrows. (Yes, that’s the name of the place.) You have to wait for someone to move nearer their children, or else to die. But the two guys in the Marketing Department worked with me. And I was lucky. I managed to snag a one bedroom with den on the second floor that even Bill would have approved. Affordable. (Just.) Spacious. Sunny in the afternoons. A porch off the living room. I also had enough money left over from the sale of the condo to replace the carpeted and tiled apartment floors with wood floors, have everything but the kitchen repainted white, install pleated pull-up window shades plus many more ceiling lights, and switch the cable and television lines from one wall to another, in order to accommodate better placement for the computer in the office, the television set in the living-room wall unit. So now it’s begun to look like home to me, especially as I was able to find room in it for the “modern” furniture — actually mid-twentieth century furniture — Bill and I bought after we began living together. (Perhaps you’ll recognize some of the pieces and pictures from the condo shown in the previous post.) The two cats and I moved in last September 23.
I try not to think of it as the last place I’ll ever live. Unlike apartments in most retirement communities, residents here aren’t locked into any kind of continuing-care scheme. These apartments are bought and sold at market rates. So I can always decide this is not for me, sell, and move away. Where, I have no idea just yet. But the possibility is there. It consoles me, gives me a sense I can still go on inventing my life. Anyway, the apartment is certainly a good place to which I can withdraw whenever community living gets too much for me.
There are miles and miles of corridors. Four and a half floors of them, each of which takes about ten minutes to circle in its entirety by foot. When you first move in, you need breadcrumbs to find your way back to wherever you came from. Here’s a small part of the second floor near the north elevator:
But eventually you find the right door, and open it:
Front hall of apartment (with Sophie at right):
Better view of living room area:
View from sofa of piano, dining area and kitchen pass-through:
I also managed to find a wall for our expensive Italian folly, the wall unit which had to be taken apart for the move and then put back together:
There’s a mandatory eating plan: one chooses either four, fifteen or thirty meals a month. This is allegedly to forestall reclusive tendencies. True recluses, or those who prefer to eat at home, can circumvent Windrows’ paternalistic tendencies by ordering one of the prepaid plan meals by 3:30 in the afternoon (a menu is available online, on a special television channel, and printed out in the mail room), and then picking it up downstairs or — for $5 a pop — having it delivered. Be that as it may, every apartment has a fully equipped kitchen. I had mine painted the same color as the kitchen in our condo, to give me the feeling that at least some things have stayed the same:
The “den” has just about the same square footage as my office (aka the third bedroom) in the condo, although the windows are on a different wall and it has no closet. It therefore serves quite nicely as a more-or-less familiar place in which to work, with the added perk that I get a view of the porch and the tree beyond it when I sit at the computer. The double doors can be closed off from the view of guests. When there are guests.
The oblong red box on the floor was a Danish magazine holder that Bill acquired by mail, possibly even from Denmark! Alas, once it reached us it never did get to hold magazines, as it filled up too quickly beside his chair with Kleenex boxes, eyeglass cleaners, and various gadgets for now never-to-be-discovered uses. Emptied and transported to Windrows, it now serves as a place for Sophie to snooze when I’m online and she wants to be nearby:
Looking out at the porch from my desk chair:
Heading down the hall, past a second (guest) bathroom, towards the bedroom:
The guest bathroom is sort of a small shrine to Bill. His bigger Calder mobile sways over the toilet. (It used to be in his office, aka the condo second bedroom.) One one wall is a Hebrew rendering of the Physician’s Oath of Maimonides: “Inspire me with love for my art and for thy creatures. In the sufferer, let me see only the human being.” Behind the toilet is a numbered photograph of Balliol College, Oxford, which Bill liked very much. We had it in the bedroom, facing the bed. The two small framed photos taken at the base of the Acropolis are mine, from the year before we met. But we spent six happy summer vacations on a Greek island together. And Greece is Greece. So why not hang them here?
The bedroom, which is large, is not so different from the bedroom I shared with Bill in the Princeton condo. (Except, of course — a very big “except” — he’s never seen this bedroom, never been in it. I still keep strictly to my side of the bed, though. Habit? Hope?) That’s Sasha curled up in comfort on her two Shaker chairs by the window. She first began to do that, in the condo, when she was a kitten:
The lesser Calder is in the bathroom attached to the bedroom. You can tell which bathroom I use the most:
Sasha and Sophie use the same bathroom as I do. The two boxes are not “hers” and “hers.” They both use the one on the left more. I don’t know why. I can switch the boxes but they still favor the one on the left. The right box only gets the occasional dump. Even in the interests of full disclosure, do you really need to know that? Probably not.
I can see the porch from the side bedroom window too:
But it looks best when you step outside through the door from the living room:
The two potted boxwoods (one at each end of the railing) were a housewarming present from my older son:
And the tree conveniently planted outside my line of apartments shields most of the windows from views of the rear parking lot:
It wouldn’t be real life, though, if there weren’t another view from the right hand living room window. Fortunately, I can’t get too close to it. The sofa and cat tree are in the way. So this, less aesthetic, view is best seen by Sasha, from the top of her cat tree. She finds it interesting. I find it illustrative of the fact that nothing in life is perfect.
And there, dear readers, I shall leave you for the time being — your curiosity over-satisfied. What life is like at Windrows once I walk out the door of the apartment, down the carpeted corridors and into the north elevator I shall leave for what will likely be many other posts, although I hope not all of them.
Bear in mind that I am now a recently-turned-eighty-six-year-old malcontent who is not at all happy at having disbelievingly found herself over the border of that far country described by geriatricians as “old old age.” How could it have happened? I am going away to the Berkshires for four days tomorrow — plays, Yo-Yo Ma, museums — to forget about it for a short while. Will reply to comments, if any, when I get back.