Just People

The best part about living in this retirement community is the people. Early on I discovered that there are no old people here at Friendsview. There are just people. People with interesting—often surprising—backgrounds, a wealth of stories, and quirky senses of humor. I’ve taken on the role of community spy. This mostly takes the form of listening to conversations. My innocent face and quiet nature facilitate my vocation of espionage. (Some people may argue the innocent face bit.)

I also take every opportunity to talk with people, not as a spy but as a neighbor and potential friend. Opportunities include eating together in the dining hall walking the campus trail down by the creek, chugging away together in the exercise room, doing projects in the art room, and serving together on any of the many committees. So many chances to get to know people and form friendships.

Most of my encounters are informal. I gather with several groups just for conversation or to talk about books, with lots of unbookish rabbit trails. The 5th-floor Manor neighborhood where I live celebrates friendship, with special meals together, raucous birthday celebrations, funny meetings for business (that sometimes get heated, but we always make up), prayer times together, and lots of informal visiting. We even have a buddy system to keep tabs in case of illness or emergency.

All my old and new-found friends are interesting. Some have proven to be characters with a broadness and depth I keep discovering. I find many poems sticking out behind their ears. Following are a few vignettes of my fellow residents and one staff worker (some of the names changed for privacy’s sake):

Bonnie decided to try a new art form
so she downloaded some instructions
from the Web, bought the paper
and acrylics, and began pouring
paint on paper, tipping it,
letting the colors ribbon
and swirl. It turned out nice,
so now she’s giving classes every Friday
afternoon. “I’m not really an artist,”
she says. “Anyone can do this.”
I wonder about that. The results
of the class are now on display.
Something in the sense of movement
stirs me, and I can’t stop admiring.
“This isn’t ART,” Bonnie claims.
“It’s more like a hobby.”
I wonder about that, too.
Who’s to say? It just may be
the real thing after all.
Like Bonnie.

Ray won a prize in the First Annual
Friendsview Poetry Writing Contest.
He submitted an old poem,
one he had written years ago, a poem
to his wife. He was a soldier in Vietnam,
missing his bride. The poem rhymed
and every stanza ended with the line,
“I think of you.”
Sam’s wife died several years ago.
He says he still thinks about her
every day.

My friend Edith
tells me that her son
visited her soon after he died.
He came and sat on the edge
of her bed. He spoke no
words, but his presence
comforted. When Harriet reached
up and turned on the light,
no one was there.
But she knew what she knew.
“He was,” she says, “unacquainted
with the limits of death.”

The man who vacuums
the carpets in the hall
is really the Prince of Yap.
His late father was the King of Yap
and he was next in line
to succeed to the throne.
But he didn’t want to be king.
He envisioned another life,
dreamed of open borders,
less ocean, more scope.
So he migrated to America.
One of his relatives is now king.
He’s happy to be here,
vacuuming rugs, secretly knowing
he still is, will always be,
the Prince of Yap.

These poems feature just a few of my new friends here in Friendsview (appropriately named). They’re just people, but all of them unique in their own ways and with a wealth of stories to tell. And the stories aren’t finished yet. Because we’re friends, I get to be a part of the ongoing adventures. It’s what makes this place home.