A Village of Angels

Sounds pretty nice, huh?  A village of angels.

Well, that just happens to be what I’ve landed in!

You know the expression, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Well, that works at the other extreme of our lives’ stories as well.  As we age, it often takes a village to love one another well, to get to really know and appreciate each other, offer support when needed and desired, and share with generous spirits when some of our lives veer off into sometimes cruel detours brought on by poor health or deep, aching loss.

I made it to the CARE Center (Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees) last week.  CARE is unique.  It is the only place in the country (maybe even the world) that offers assistance to RV’ers who need to stay in one place for a time for medical reasons.  It is actually open to non-RV’ers, as well, but the vast majority of residents have RV backgrounds of one variety or another.

Residents live in their own homes.  Their RVs–which have ramps built next to them for safe access–surround the main facility that houses the dining hall, multi-activities room, and nursing and administrative offices.  CARE also offers a daily care (ADC) program for people needing more concentrated assistance.  For more details, you can visit their website at www.escapeescare.org.

But CARE is much more than you will ever find on a website or in a brochure.  Most of the residents share a common love of travel, of RV’ing and camping–some for vacations or extended travel and many for full-time living.  This common element is a special glue that helps to bond the program’s participants–residents, ADC, staff, and volunteers–together.  Honestly, in my former work I encountered a great many people in a variety of retirement and assisted living communities, and I’ve never seen this kind of cohesiveness.  People here truly care for one another, watch out for each other, and give of themselves to the best of their ability.

The angel in this picture was made by a beautiful, extraordinary lady who attends the ADC program.  Her name is Frances.  She gave it to me as a thank you gift for helping her during the bingo game–I was her lucky sidekick who helped break her losing streak with a two-game win.

But what she gave me was worth more than she knows.  For Frances has some major physical challenges that severely impair her movement, hearing, and ability to communicate–things most of us totally take for granted.  I honestly did not know what Frances’ abilities were when I sat down to help her with her four bingo cards, and I was nervous about doing too much or too little or talking too loud and not being able to understand what she was trying to say.

By the time the 90 minute tournament was over, I had a real sense of the woman next to me.  Her strength, her intelligence, her abilities that went well beyond what you could see from the outside.  We were in sync.  Mostly without words.

The words came later.

Later, in the dining room, I was talking to Crystal, officially the CARE Volunteer Coordinator but in reality the beating heart of the place.  Crystal saw Frances looking at us, trying to get our attention.  She went over to her and I followed.  When I bent down, for the first time I could understand everything Frances said.  “Thank you for helping me.  I want to give you something.”

She struggled to stand.  Dawn, a beautiful caregiver, helped her with her walker.  Frances went over to a table with crafts material on it.  She picked up this delicate, lace angel.  She gave it to me.

A village.

Of angels.

Of love.

Of generosity.

And incredible strength.

I only hope and pray that I can return in some measure the priceless gifts I receive during my time in this very special place.

Restless

It has been a lovely Winter here in Florida, with gorgeous weather for the most part.  We had a couple of below-freezing nights this past week, though, causing those huge, funny elephant ears that grow on the edge of the swamp to shrivel up, resembling long forgotten greens in the produce section of a derelict grocery store.  Those are some saaaad elephant ears.

FullSizeRender-249Today it is back up to the 70’s under blue skies and a smiling sun.  Dawny is smiling, too.  She has discovered that not everyone on four legs is a threat and has actually made a few friends.  As for me, two and a half months in one spot has been long enough and I am getting restless.  Actually, I’m surprised it took this long.  It’s time for less “aging in place” and more “hell on wheels!”

Speaking of which, today as I was relaxing in the dog park while Dawny hunted lizards, I noticed an older couple come out of their rig, get into their truck, and drive off.  She walked very slowly and carefully with a cane, and her husband kindly and patiently assisted her entering the truck with a stepping stool.  It occurred to me that they (and many travelers like them) are “aging in place” just as much as anyone who wants to stay in their S&B (sticks and bricks home) as long as possible.  If they can still manage the steps to get in and out of their rig, not only can they enjoy their home on wheels, they can change the scenery outside of their windows whenever they get restless and wish to move–in effect, “aging anyplace.”

So, onward we go.  As I suspect many of my fellow full-timers, part-timers, and snowbirds are doing right about now, I am back to pouring over Rand McNally Atlas pages and Google Maps, looking for the best route for our departure from the sunshine state in a couple of weeks.  We will aim for Chicago first, to visit an old family friend and then skip over to Indiana, to have a couple of things checked by our rig’s manufacturer (Phoenix USA) before the warranty is up on the house part.

Hopefully brutal Father Winter, who has been beating up on everyone in the North and Northeast so relentlessly, will have exhausted himself and things will be gentle and tame by then.  Really gentle and tame, since I don’t want to dodge too many tornadoes as that season kicks off.  “Hell on wheels” sounds good, but I’d like to keep my six wheels on the ground!