Louise had hoped such a day would never come, but after she had taken one fall too many, her children had insisted it was time for her to either move in with one of them—a fate she saw as worse than death—or move to that upscale new “independent living facility” in town. They could call it whatever they liked, but “old folks’ home” was what it was.
How did I get to be eighty-seven so quickly? I don’t feel eighty-seven on the inside. And I’m a very young and healthy eighty-seven, nothing like all those old people who live at Sunrise Senior Living. Louise shook her head. It seemed like only yesterday that she was growing up on a farm out in the country, then going to primary school, junior high, and high school. After secretarial school, she met the man she would marry, the love of her life, Ronald Fairchild. Together, they’d had a wonderful life. Ronald was president of the local bank, and when their two daughters and a son came along, Louise stayed home to raise the children.
Ronald had tragically been killed by a drunk driver back in 1977, and Louise had thought her life was over. To her surprise, the grief subsided—although she still missed Ronald, every day—and she created a new life for herself, one built around her church, her friends, her clubs, and of course, her family.
But today, she would start packing away a lifetime’s worth of memories and downsize to that small, pricy new apartment at Sunrise Senior Living. It was a lovely place, one she’d visited many times since so many of her friends had lived there over the years. They were dropping like flies, though. Just the other day, she’d told a young friend, who was in her sixties, “I’ve got more friends in Heaven now than I do down here.”
How many more days did she have on earth herself? Only Heaven knew. She was in good health, her bursitis notwithstanding, and unlike some of her friends who liked to moan about their aches and pains, Louise simply pretended hers didn’t exist. It didn’t make them any less real, but it helped her not to focus on them. Besides, who wanted to hear about someone else’s aches and pains anyway?
She massaged her shoulder and went back to sorting through some of the paperwork she’d accumulated over the years. As she flipped past another yellowed newspaper clipping, she paused to study a new age spot on her wrinkled hands. Too bad the cosmetics companies could never come up with a good solution for age spots. Or wrinkles, for that matter.
She had kept her Christmas card lists for the past fifty years, and she enjoyed reading over the names. Then she smiled as she came across an invitation to the 1964 Women’s Civic League Ball. She could still remember Ronald in his handsome new tuxedo and how it complemented her black-and-white-striped gown from Lord and Taylor. Those were happy times indeed.
Then, Louise came across a stapled stack of papers titled simply “Bridge Club.” She got a faraway look in her eyes. After Ron Jr., Carol, and Lillian were in school, Louise got more involved in the community. She sat on boards and volunteered for various causes, and then she was invited to join her mother-in-law’s bridge club. Louise hadn’t known whether to be thrilled or offended. The most well-connected women in town were in that bridge club, but they were also the oldest women in town. Most of them, including her mother-in-law, had long since passed.
Louise shrugged. She refused to spend too much time mourning those who’d “crossed over,” as she liked to say. Instead, her mind’s eye went to the little Craftsman-style cottage at 17 Burton St. where her mother-in-law had hosted countless bridge parties.
She rose from her living room chair and walked over to her china cabinet. She looked in the back right corner on the second shelf. Yes, there it was, that Dainty Pink sugar bowl and creamer by Shelley.
That was the set her mother-in-law had used at bridge club for nearly thirty years, and when she got to where she couldn’t play bridge anymore, she had passed it on to Louise. The Shelley set was so lovely. Louise reached in and removed the cream pitcher. Eggshell thin but surprisingly strong, it had served beautifully at all of Mother Fairchild’s bridge parties and then, later, those hosted by Louise herself.
“Mother, why don’t you get rid of those old knickknacks?” Lillian had asked one day.
“Yes, Mom. Sunrise has nice dinnerware for you to use if you decide to host a party there. You won’t need those knickknacks there.” Carol had agreed.
“Knickknacks,” they called them.
I may be eighty-seven, but I’m not dead yet, and I fully intend to live with the things I love until my last dying breath, Louise thought.
She knew they were only “things,” but that Dainty Pink sugar and creamer were her last visible ties to some of the people she’d loved most. Get rid of her knickknacks? Not hardly.
A knock sounded at the door, and Louise went to open it. “Hi there, sweetheart,” she said, giving Ron Jr. a kiss on the cheek. Ron, a banker like his dad, had told her he’d come over on his lunch hour to take her to sign the papers that would make her the newest resident of Sunrise Senior Living.
“Are you ready, Mom?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” she said.
In one more week, she would have to pack up all those memories and oversee their transport to the new place. It would be tiring, but she knew she could do it. And like that Dainty Pink sugar and creamer, she was much stronger than she looked.