Reflections from Boston: Wednesdays with Arthur #10

Letter from John Cutrone

It is Wednesday, and even though it is not with Arthur, the day opens with a note from John Cutrone (hand-written in the spirit of Real Mail Fridays) reminding me that last Tuesday was Arthur’s Birthday.  So now I can continue to think about connections with libraries, and the saga of Growing Old in Glorious Boston.  I am still wearing my puffy coat mid-May, so there’s that.

Cambridge Homes

I suppose it must occur to every aging person that this particular kind of good life cannot go on forever; perhaps it is best to make changes before the changes become impossible.  I have been thinking about the next step – Arthur retired into a handsome facility on the Inland Waterway in Delray Beach, but I really do want to be North rather than South.  Years ago (how many? Eighteen? Twenty?) I had a pleasant gig going, reading Shakespeare plays with residents in retirement homes in the Boston area.  The one I liked best was called “Cambridge Homes,” and when I heard an advertisement for it on the radio, I decided I needed to see if it was as pleasant as I remembered. 

A dear friend came with me, and we were both really charmed (Charmed!  Can you imagine!?) by the place.  In a beautiful Georgian brick building in Cambridge, it is relatively small, only forty apartments, wide, light hallways with curated art on the walls, a minimum of silly activities (I saw only one notice for Bingo) and several unconcered-looking residents reading newspapers in the small, neatly appointed parlors.  

I mean, what’s the point here?  To have all my meals and my bed made, and not to have to worry about things breaking and needing care and replacement (last week the plumber practically lived with me), and someone on notice should I be unable to get up off the floor? Am I ready to shrink my living space, give up my car, and eat every meal in public?  

We saw one apartment, wholly satisfactory, and, to the heart of this matter, two libraries, one for non-fiction and one for fiction, and books everywhere.  It’s really a very pretty place, and if the food is still as good as I remember its being when I was there, I would certainly consider it.  I’ll have to go back to talk finances; I’ll eat a meal and consider the options, and I’ll let you know.

So that was the first stop.  The second was at the other volunteer placement that I like almost as much as I like my various (undefined and constantly changing) tasks at the Jaffe center: being a ‘patient” for first year medical students at the Harvard Medical School.   A brilliant student practices on me in the company of a preceptor, an equally brilliant doctor, and we have a splendid two hours in which I get to tell them everything that’s bothering me, down to the arthritis in my toes, and they get to tell me how delighted they are to meet an active old lady.  The student is infinitely kind and asks me before each tap or tickle if it’s ok with me, and the preceptor reassures me that whatever I’m doing in the medical way sounds good to him.  Win-Win, if I may use a hackneyed expression for such an unusual escapade.

You think it’s easy being old?  If you’re lucky the screw-ups of your own addled making can be put to rights.   Here’s the most recent, and it’s how the day ended.  Four or five weeks ago, a friend who was about to leave for Amsterdam called and said that she had theater tickets for an evening right after she got back, and wouldn’t it be fun if I could get a ticket and meet her for dinner and hear all about her trip.  She gave me the date (today), the names of the theater (about two blocks from my house) and the restaurant, and we made plan A.

I bought a ticket at the box office, but perhaps because I was so shocked at the stiff price ($60!), I did not pay attention to what was playing.  My friend went off to Amsterdam, and I continued my lovely life.  A few days ago, a friend about to leave for New York called and asked me if I wanted two tickets to a play for Saturday night.  Of course I did.  I called yet another friend and made a plan with him to see the play on Saturday,

As I was about to leave for my rounds this morning, I checked the ticket that I had bought, and of course it was for the same play.  I felt foolish, but I shrugged, since there was nothing else I could do, and went off to do the stuff I told you about.

After the Home and the Hospital, I took a super nap, and went to meet returned-from-Amsterdam friend in the garden room at Frenchie’s, as we had planned.  I walked her over to the theater, stopping several passers-by to offer them a free ticket, with no takers.  When we got right up to the theater, there was a woman avidly reading the poster for the play (It is “School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play,” and has gotten good reviews).  I offered her the ticket, and she said sorrowfully she could not go this evening.  My clever friend said, when can you go, and she said Sunday, and I exchanged the ticket for Sunday and I am so delighted that I feel as though l have lost ten pounds and grown an inch and am a much better person than I was when I started writing this blog post.

PS: My neighbor gave me two tickets for the ballet tomorrow evening, and the preceptor doctor gave me tickets to hear the Bach B Minor Mass on Sunday.  

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