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HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES
23 May 2013
We were invited to have lunch today with some of the nicest people I know. I met her many years ago, nearly 40, I think. I had been involved with the PTA and everybody I worked with asked if I knew her. They told me that she lived close to our house and I really should know her because she and I would work well together.
One day there was a knock on my door and I opened it. This tall, slender woman with a shock of white hair across her otherwise black hair stood there. I knew within the first two minutes why everyone had been saying we needed to meet.
We never became the kind of friends who saw each other all the time, or did a lot of stuff together, or shared our deep dark secrets with one another, but I always felt I had a very good friend whenever I was with her. She was kind of a hero to me during that time. She was the most selfless, generous, giving person I knew. If she heard that someone was in trouble, she was there, without making a big deal out of it. She just helped them solve their problems.
She worked with just about every charitable organization in town. With my friend Joan and others, she founded "Citizens Who Care," a group which helps the frail elderly and their caregivers -- and a group for which Walt now serves on the board. I always felt like a real slacker when I thought about the difference in the lives of so many that she touched.
She made a definite difference in a couple of lives close to us. When Eduardo, our first foreign student, was living with us, she decided to help him earn money by letting him paint their house. He didn't know anything about painting, but she taught him and he painted her farmhouse and the out buildings. He did such a good job he got another job as a house painter while he was here.
And for us, she brought us Marie. Marie was a high school girl in Mexico, whose minister felt she had great promise if she could come and study in the U.S. My friend knew that I worked with placing foreign students in homestays and asked if I could find someone to take Marie. We hadn't had a girl staying with us in so long that I said we would take her. Marie moved into our living room and lived with us for a year, during which time she learned English, got a job waiting tables, and did well in school. (Marie had dual citizenship, since her father had been American.)
Marie was a real success story which I told many years ago here. She and her husband opened a Mexican/Italian restaurant many years ago (more than 10 now, I think) and for awhile ran a second restaurant in downtown Sacramento as well. Todo un Poco has won lots of local awards and always appears on the "favorites" list in the Sacramento Bee.
The six of us used to get together regularly once or twice a year, Walt and I, Marie and her husband, and the couple who brought her to us. But the restaurant business keeps her busy and my friend and her husband have both had health problems, so we have not seen each other in about three years. In the meantime, my friends have moved to a senior residence about 20 miles from Davis. It was a difficult decision for them, but she had developed several medical problems and he was diagnosed with a nervous affliction and they decided they were looking ahead to the future and wanted to move now while they could get the most out of their lives before they were going to need more assistance. (How I wish my mother had done that!)
A month ago, I got a message inviting us to all come for lunch at the new place and get a tour. Miraculously, we were all free on the same day and today we all met for lunch. We first stopped at the house. This place has a building for people in assisted living, and I think some apartments for people in independent living. But there are also private homes for people who are able to live independently.
This isn't like the place where my mother is moving. This is for folks who can lay out a large amount of money to live on a golf course and have incredibly beautiful surroundings, along with gourmet meals that put any "senior living" meals I've ever had to shame. They also have benefitted from moving early, when participation in many of the programs for older people has helped them physically.
Our friends' place is gorgeous. (The first thing we saw when we pulled up to the house was a wild turkey strolling across the grass.) Walt commented that you could fit our entire downstairs in their living room (I wonder if they'd like a solid oak table that cost my mother's husband $500...they have room for it!)
I loved this statue they had. So cute.
Apparently the artist found the dog in a store somewhere and created the cat, modeled on her own cat, to put on top of him.
We had a tour of the house and and heard about all the wildlife that they enjoy watching, like the wild turkeys and the quail families that run across their back lawn.
I learned something very interesting. Apparently the complex brings in goats to keep the vegetation down. They eat the poison oak that grows in abundance and, because goats have four stomachs, by the time the plants are eliminated, the poison oak seeds have been neutralized. In the past four years of goat grazing, they have managed to reduce the amount of poison oak growing on the land and they hope that by continuing to have the goats grazing on the land they can eventually eliminate it (pun intended) entirely.
We walked along the grounds (seeing the wild turkeys sleeping) to the main building, where we got another tour. The story behind this place is that a group of visionary friends decided they all wanted to retire together and so they bought 60 acres in the hills and built their first building. Now it's this magnificent complex and some of the original group of 8 still live there--in fact, one of them was having a 95th birthday today. Makes me think that the Pinata Group missed out on some golden opportunities...if only we had been rich!
Lunch was amazing. I had a spinach and strawberry salad, home made muffins (made by one of the founders of the settlement, who serves it to you herself) and then, for an entree, a crab risotto which was incredibly delicious. Walt had the risotto too. Someone else had a lamb chop which was cooked perfectly and made me almost disappointed I hadn't ordered it (it was my second choice). Lunch was topped off with a cherry crisp which was fabulous.
My friend couldn't stay for the entire lunch as she is head of a group that votes to give scholarships to the deserving members of the staff, and she had to go to a meeting. But we were about finished anyway.
It was just a wonderful day of visiting good friends, reminiscing over old times and getting a taste of how the other half lives. I use "other half" in the most loving of terms since these are wonderful people who deserve everything that they have.
We stopped at Costco on the way home and bought a wall mount for my
mother's TV and a bottle of her favorite vodka and a huge container of cashews, which she
loves. We dropped them off at the apartment on the way home. Tomorrow I'm
buying her a shower curtain and toilet paper (discovered the uncomfortable way that there
was none already in place!!!)
PHOTO OF THE DAY
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