If you had asked me a week and a half ago whether I knew I would be going on a forced vacation, I would have called you crazy. Of course, at that time, Hurricane Florence was just a possible threat and I was still hoping she would turn out to sea and not pay us a visit here in the Carolinas. As we now know, that was not to be, and we got a visit from blowsy cousin Florence and her waterworks.
We had weathered storms before and were quite surprised to see the mandatory evacuation order. Immediately and frantically, we tried to figure out where we could go. A hotel was out of the question, and a few friends offered shelter in their homes. One friend, mentioned in last week’s column, had not seen me for 30 years, and after one reunion, offered her home to my family.
At what seemed like the last minute, my in-laws offered for us to come stay with them in their apartment in a senior-living facility. I am not quite a senior citizen, and I first thought this was ridiculous, albeit very generous. My wife tried explaining it to me:
“It’s away from the bull’s eye of the storm. It’s a senior facility, so they have to have generators, so we will have power. There is also a gym, an indoor pool, library, and decent cafe.”
My wife had a pretty convincing argument.
I know what a lot of you are thinking, and before you get there, let me tell you that I am quite fond of my in-laws. They are good people and fair to middling as far as in-laws go. I am not an expert on in-laws, as these folks are the only set I have ever had, but they have been pretty neato for the last 20 years, so I guess they are all right.
We lived with them for a short while when we first moved to North Carolina. What would a few more days hurt?
We loaded up three cars and made the trip to Greenville, to Cypress Glen, a nice complex of apartments and cottages for seniors. The campus is neat and clean and tucked away in a residential area of Greenville, not far from the campus of East Carolina University.
I did not fancy being so close to rowdy college students, but shelter is shelter. Little did I know what I was in for.
We, as younger and middle-aged folks, seem to forget that our seniors are adults as well. You see it all the time, as seniors often are treated like children. We seem to forget that they are no longer children but have been teenagers, young adults, adults and so on well before the internet, so their wild and reckless days are not recorded for future generations to analyze. What I did not know, that first afternoon in Greenville, was that I would witness this firsthand.
This will not be a lurid expose of “The Seniors of Greenville.”
It will be more like the log of a weeklong jaunt on The Cruise Ship to Nowhere. I credit my dear friend Karen for the moniker, as she once referred to the complex in which her parents lived as that.
In the week and change we have been with my in-laws, we have met so many people we are thankful they have to wear identification badges in the hallway because we could not possibly remember their names. People seem to know us, though, as my in-laws have shared pictures and stories.
I cannot walk a hundred feet in this complex without someone approaching me and asking whether I am the guy who writes the columns.
It’s weird being a kind of celebrity. The upside is, here, I can run away from my groupies. I wouldn’t dare, though, because the folks here have been the friendliest and most cordial bunch of people we have ever met.
We have been invited to play cards with folks, which my wife cheerfully accepts. We have been invited to meals and to have drinks. We have socialized with other adults for the first time in a few weeks.
I have learned some things during the week here:
Seniors drink as much as college students, but they don’t embarrass themselves.
Ninety-six-year-old women are incredibly charming and carry wine in small bottles in their purses to dinner.
Seniors cheat at cards and do so often, as my wife found out playing canasta with her parents.
Everything here moves at a decent pace, though some residents may not. Everything is orderly and efficient. Every day brings different activities, from movies to games, to our trying to figure out which of my wife’s parents’ friends we just talked to in the library.
This evening, we are packing up to go home in a day or so, and it’s kinda like the last day at summer camp. We’ll miss our new friends, and we hope to see them on our next visit.
I suggested we walk around the place as we did on the last day of school when we were kids, with a little autograph book and get all of our new friends to sign and say things like, “Keep in touch” and “Miss you lots.”
My wife said I was an idiot, and we’d probably see most of the folks next week when we are in Greenville doing some shopping.
Baltimore native Joe Weaver is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life. You may email him at [email protected]