Photo by Sven Mieke on Unsplash
A Reluctant Beginning
by Kelly F. Barr
Marion’s shoulders sagged and she sighed as she lowered herself onto the seat in her daughter’s car. She looked at her house and kept her gaze upon it until it slipped out of sight and a tear trickled down her cheek. She would miss that home and all the wonderful memories it held. She would no longer feel close to Harold, the husband she had shared forty years with in that house.
Marion turned her eyes to the road before them. Susan, her daughter, reached over and patted her arm. “You’ll be fine, Mom. You won’t be alone anymore and there are daily activities to keep your mind and body active. You’ll make friends quickly. You’ve always been good at that.”
Marion didn’t respond. She didn’t want to live in an old folks home. She didn’t want to have to make new friends and start a new life. She liked the life she had, and what about her children and grandchildren? Would they make time to visit her or would she be abandoned like so many others whose families placed them in a nursing facility, then went about their busy lives forgetting the aged family member?
Susan pulled to a stop in front of one of the new facilities forty-five minutes later. It was an attractive building on the outside. Susan disappeared through the entrance but returned just minutes later with a pretty raven-haired woman whose emerald eyes sparkled as she smiled and took Marion’s hand.
“Mrs. Randolph, it’s so nice to meet you and welcome you to your new home. My name is Rhonda, and I’m going to help you get settled in.”
Marion tried to smile, but just couldn’t get her mouth to cooperate. Settled in. She used to have a whole house that was hers. Now, she’d only have a room. She’d had to leave so many things behind. Her lips trembled as tears threatened, but she pulled her shoulders back and drew in a deep breath then released it slowly.
A young man had come out the door behind Rhonda pushing a cart and was now helping Susan with Marion’s bags and the few other things she was able to bring to her “new home”.
The quartet walked through the entryway into a large lobby with lots of plump-cushioned chairs, well-polished, dark wooden tables and large green plants. They entered a short hallway where they entered an elevator large enough for the four of them and the young man’s wheeled cart, as well as Marion’s large suitcase on wheels, which Susan pulled.
They rode the elevator to the third floor, entered a long hallway with doorways on either side. They walked about halfway down the corridor and Rhonda stopped to open a door on their right. There was already a small plaque outside the door that held the name “Marion Randolph”.
Marion stepped into the room and tears began to stream down her cheeks. The room was actually a small apartment. Upon entering, she stood in a sitting room—her favorite Oriental rug on the floor, her favorite rocking chair and wing-back chair on the far two corners, her lampstand between them. Her Longaberger Magazine Basket was next to her rocking chair and her oak table with the little drawer was between her two favorite chairs in front of the lampstand. There was also a sofa along the wall and her coffee table was a couple feet in front of it. Her favorite photo of Harold hung on the wall above the sofa, as did a new photo—one of all her children and grandchildren.
“Mom, what do you think?” Susan put an arm around Marion’s shoulders and gave her a gentle squeeze.
Marion sniffled, then offered her first smile that day. “Oh dear, I had no idea. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Then it wouldn’t have been surprise. Let me show you your bedroom with its beautiful view.”
Keeping her arm around Marion’s shoulders, Susan led her to the next room.
There stood her bed covered with her favorite quilt, her nightstand, and her small, tan, plush chair. Her nightstand held a phone and her favorite photo of her and Harold on their wedding day sixty-two years ago. The back wall held a large bay window with a wide windowsill where pots of her favorite plants sat, and before one end of the bay was her small desk and chair. Along the other wall were three bookcases holding her books.
As she stood before the window with Susan, the view that met her eyes was very inviting. Below was a large courtyard with a small vegetable garden, rose bushes, and a beautiful flower garden with a path and several benches. There were several trees offering shade from the sun during the hottest part of the day as well.
“You still haven’t told me what you think.”
Marion looked at Susan, then kissed her cheek. “It’s much better than I expected.”
“Good. I’m glad you like it, and I’m sure you’ll like it even more as you get to know the other residents. Stan and I will bring the kids to visit as much as we can. Now I’ll leave you to settle in and start exploring and meeting people. I love you, Mom.” Susan kissed her cheek and walked out the door.
Marion’s heart sank once again, wondering how long it would be before she saw Susan and her family again. They lived the closest and had always spent so much time with Marion since Harold had passed away three years ago.
“If you’re all right, I’ll let you rest as well. But if you need anything, just pick up the phone by your bed and punch the number five. Someone will answer and be able to help you with anything you need. Oh, and that little door off from your bedroom, is your private bathroom. There is a medicine cabinet in there with your personal care items. I’ll be back to take you down to the dining room on the main floor. You’ll be able to meet lots of other residents during dinner.” Rhonda smiled one last time, then pulled the door shut behind her.
* * * * *
At dinner that evening, Marion was introduced to Trudy Jamison, Carol Wright, Betty Stewart, Artie Martin, and Elmer Baker. They all sat at a large round table together. Elmer greeted Marion with a dimpled smile and sparkling blue eyes. He had a full head of snow white hair and was quite handsome.
“I hear you’ve got one of the apartments on the third floor with a view of the courtyard. You know those are the most sought after and expensive rooms in this place.” Trudy met Marion’s eyes with a challenging gaze.
“I had no idea. My daughter made all the arrangements. She even surprised me by having all of my most treasured possessions already moved in before I arrived.”
Trudy sniffed. “I see. I haven’t seen any of my children in eight months. They usually only visit once a year.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. That is one of my worries about being here—that I’ll be … forgotten.”
“I know it won’t be the same, but you’ll soon have plenty of friends and activities to keep you busy here, as long as you don’t allow yourself to become a recluse in your apartment.” Elmer winked at Marion.
As dinner ended, Elmer rose and moved around the table to help Marion from her chair. As she rose, he offered her his arm. “Would you care to visit the courtyard before it gets dark?”
Marion, surprised at the flutter in her stomach, placed her hand on it. That was something she hadn’t felt in quite some time. She placed her other hand in the crook of Elmer’s elbow and a jolt shot through her fingers as she felt the warmth of his arm through his shirt. “That would be lovely.”
As they stopped to admire one of the rose bushes, Elmer pulled a pocketknife from his pants pocket, opened it, and cut off a rose, then gently placed it in Marion’s hair. “You’re a beautiful woman, Marion.”
Heat crept into Marion’s cheeks and she hoped he didn’t notice her blush. “I haven’t been told that in years, and I haven’t given love or romance a thought in many years. My Harold’s only been gone three years.”
“I think that’s long enough to at least consider the possibility of love and romance.” Elmer grinned.
Marion’s heart skipped a beat as his dimples deepened.
Elmer escorted Marion back to her apartment. “I’m glad you’re here Marion. I hope to get to know you much better, and even if your family doesn’t visit often … I won’t let you be lonely.” He patted her hand.
She smiled and her eyes filled with tears. “Thank you, Elmer. You’re very kind.”
Marion slipped inside her apartment, shut the door, and looked at Harold’s photo on the wall. “What would you think of Elmer? I never gave thought of another love after you, but maybe it is time. I do miss having the love of a good man.”