Dust on the Rocking Chairs
Eleven years ago my sister, being much too young, and her husband, who did in fact qualify despite his youthful energy, bought a winter home in a retirement community in Arizona. It was the most impulsive thing she, the Certified Public Accountant, has ever done. I applauded the decision on that score alone. I knew, no matter how impetuous it seemed, she would have done all the calculations to make certain that it was a financially sound course of action. And it’s no trailer park, Sun City Grand.
They have a spacious stand-alone house, including a two-car garage / glass art studio (have you seen the work of David Lucas around my neck? Beautiful stuff). The yards are all carefully chosen palettes of stones, cacti, and citrus trees. Every morning and evening the quail scurry about, their dainty headdresses bobbing, and amuse the cats no end. Bunnies, too! Also the occasional coyote. I was in perpetual fear to witness Nature, red of tooth and claw, dart through the back yard with a screaming jack rabbit in its mouth. I was spared this CatTV reality show. My sister saw a coyote crossing the road, in the crosswalk, all about his coyote business. Must be evolution in action; crosswalks are safer than mid-block, particularly in neighborhoods of diminished perception and increased reaction time.
As with all the marvelous places I go, the wild- and not-so wildlife are every day’s highlight for me, but I was profoundly impressed with the facilities of the development. And beyond the mere existence of gyms, pools (indoor and outdoor), dog parks, art studios, computer labs, restaurants, full-service spa, churches, and the offering of classes in nearly all of these venues was the extent to which the seniors take advantage of them. A weekly calendar is published with all the activities on offer: classes, clubs, outings, meetings, et al. My brother-in-law is encouraged to make his choices and mark the calendar so he doesn’t miss out on any of the things he likes to do. It has nothing to do with my sister wanting peace and quiet to work on the many quilting projects she always has going. One club makes quilts for cancer patients, for example. I watched her build a big heart last week. There used to be a sign over the gym door, “People go to Florida to die. People go to Arizona to live.” It was probably politically incorrect and burned by the AARP, but it seems to be their true motto. Much of the day the machines in the gym, and they are legion, are in use. There is a sign-up board for them! One pool is full of people playing volleyball three times a week. I know this factoid because my brother-in-law is one of them. They sound like they are having a blast. Might be twentyfour people in a game, not many rules, but much laughter. Exercise classes are full throughout the day, too, as the big glass windows allow loafers like myself to peer in on the way to the spa. I did suffer through two of my sister’s classes with the Flex Bar ~sounded like a good time until I realized there was no tender, in any sense of the word. It was a workout. I hope my Torquemada back home doesn’t learn of these horrible devices. She works at Gym Tonic, too, so she might. She’s always turning up with new implements of torture. But I digress. The spa! I’d thought to take my sister away for a Girls’ Spa Weekend for her birthday, but I couldn’t find a better place than where she lives. Pretty awesome. I had her book us two massages each at Cimarron Spa, which were fabulous. With fruit from her own tree, I did a 2-week Grapefruit Diet (don’t panic, I wouldn’t miss out eating well on vacation; I just started every day with an enormous and delicious ruby red). We spent many afternoons lounging by the pool on big comfy chairs, gazing at palm trees and endless blue skies.
There are walkers and orthopaedic devices, stooped shoulders and big bellies, raspy voices discussing medical procedures, but beneath all that there are souls who aren’t done with living. I could almost imagine these folks fifty years ago, probably the Cool Kids. They’re Baby Boomers, after all, accustomed to the world revolving for them. And so they carry on, keeping busy, giving back, doing young even if they can’t truly be young anymore. It’s admirable, enviable. I don’t see following generations having the wherewithal the Boomers accumulated in order to pursue this lifestyle. But as wonderful as they have it, I’m not sure I’d want it for myself. It’s kind of like a big Greek Row in college. I pledged a sorority, but as it turned out, I’m just not that social. My sister loves seeing people, visiting through their classes and around the pool, “selling” her bumper crop of grapefruit. Just watching her was enough interaction for me. I’m a hermit (and a misanthrope, truth be told), so I will probably trade the outstanding facilities and wonderful classes for a hammock on the terrace and a pile of
cats books cats and books. Good on anyone who decides to do what they can do, be happy with what they can do, and just keep doing it. A dear friend always said, “Never fear slowing down. Just don’t stop altogether.” I like that. When she was promoted to glory, her friends knew because she missed her tee-time on the golf course that day.