Insights of Retirement Living

He held her hand and smiled. She looked a little confused but smiled back at him with the smile that still made his heart skip a beat. To him she was still the beautiful woman he had fallen in love with some forty years ago. How time flies he thought to himself. Has it really been this long? Where did the time go? He looked at her again, and for a moment he was transported back in time to the first time he laid eyes on her across the crowded room. Friends had encouraged him to go on a cruise to try to find his way after losing his wife to cancer and try to raise his two sons alone. He had kept to himself for most of the cruise just enjoying the peace and quiet of being alone. But this night he had decided to go to the top deck where in a ballroom under the starry sky people could be heard laughing and enjoying music and dancing. It was difficult at first, because dancing was something he and his wife had enjoyed. Then he saw her. She, like he, was alone and looking rather out of place in the romantic swirling throng of couples. She had on a simple blue gown, somewhat old fashioned, that flowed around her tiny body reminding him of a movie star from the fifties. She had blonde hair that curled around her face and there was a blush of sun on her cheeks and innocence in her eyes that made her look younger than her years. She sat with her hands folded properly in her lap and was also watching couples move around the dance floor with a wistful look on her



“I wonder what she is thinking, remembering, longing for” he thought. Then, without realizing it, he found himself standing to his feet and moving through the crowd towards her, as if some irresistible force were drawing them together. She smiled shyly as he approached and extended her small hand. He swallowed hard. . .”May I have this dance?” he asked. She nodded slowly barely looking him in the eyes. This seemed to tell him she too had suffered some hurt or disappointment. He took her in his arms and they began to dance and as if on cue the band began to play “Strangers in the Night”.

How sweet the memory was. . . washing over him like a balm. Now here they were again sitting together in a crowded room but this one was in an Alzheimer’s unit in a small nursing home. His beloved wife now had very little memory of her past or even where she was. The anchor that held her in all of the confusion was his love. When he arrived each morning after breakfast she would smile as he approached her and say, “I know you.”

He would smile and say, “Who am I?”

She would reply with a shy smile, “Someone I love.” His name now escaped her, but her heart would never forget.

He would smile back at her and say, “That’s right, my darling, I am the one you love.” There they would sit for hours holding hands — very few words spoken, just being together.

Sometimes he would begin, without thinking, to hum the melody of their song, “Strangers in the Night,” and she would join him softly singing the familiar words. Then, there would be that moment, that ethereal moment when time and space were no longer relevant and the two of them would be locked in the memory of that first embrace, first dance, first moment when they knew they were lovers at first sight, in love forever.

It did turn out so right for Strangers in the Night. 

-Karen Moore

Living the first ten years of my life on a farm at the edge of a small town in Ohio, gave the best of two worlds, neighbors just across the street, next door, down the street, etc., school to where I could walk with the other neighborhood kids, roller skate in nice weather, plus living on a farm with chickens, pigs, and a dairy. There was a big lawn with lots of gardens and fruit trees.

Some of the best memories are those of the senior citizens who were a part of my life at an early age. (My extended family of relatives all lived in Pennsylvania.) Mrs. Schoffter* lived outside of town but just a short distance down the gravel road, easily walked. Her son was an engineer of a train that regularly puffed through the edge of our town. Evidently Mrs. Schoffter knew his schedule. If I was there at the right time, we would go outside and wave. Her son would wave and blow the whistle.

Mrs. Keiffer* lived across the street, catty-cornered. The earliest memory of being in her home was when my brother was born. I was taken there to stay overnight for that process. I remember lying on a cot upstairs, sobbing, not a happy time for either of us. There were other times. Memories include Mrs. Keiffer telling me of the son who died young after having some surgery. He was ready to die, planning the songs he wished used for his funeral. I would go over there just to amuse myself. I remember playing paper dolls on the floor in her home. She was a seamstress and every fall and spring she would make a dress for me for the season and church dresses. At that time patterns were shown in the newspapers. I would choose one, take the picture to Mrs. Keiffer; she would make the dress just by looking at the picture.

After we moved to a farm in the country, our family went back to visit Mrs. Keiffer. One time I went alone, just me. The neighbor boy, Edgar, and I had fun sitting in the empty fish pool, burning holes in a piece of paper with a magnifying glass. Mrs. Keiffer must have had to keep us busy doing something.

Mrs. Sowner* lived next door. She did not sew; she played the piano and taught me how to play the piano. Mrs. Sowner was diabetic. I watched her give herself shots of insulin in her hip. Later she died. That might have been the first time I had the experience of seeing someone in a casket. The casket was in their living room with a lacy net over the open casket. I can see it yet in my mind. The Sowner’s had an open lot/lawn on the other side of the house surrounded by maple trees. That was a great place to play with the leaves on the ground in the fall.

Mr. and Mrs. Lissey* lived next to the Sowner’s. Mr. Lissey had a large garden that extended to our pasture that was behind the houses on our side of the street. He grew little yellow pear tomatoes. As a child, I thought they were the best things. I think I spent a good bit of time there, also. I was a gadabout as a child to the exasperation of my mother. Mrs. Lissey gave me scraps of fabric to make clothes for my doll. I enjoyed that, my introduction to sewing.

Beside the older residents of the town, there were other children. Donna and Mary Ellen and I sometimes got together for dress up. Donna had an older sister who had wonderful grown up dresses, high heeled shoes, plus make-up. Playing dress-up with my mom’s clothes was definitely dull compared to the times we had dressing up at Donna’s house. The down side was getting rid of the make-up before I went home.

Edgar had a wonderful electric train that was set up every Christmas. It was a treat to spend time at his house to see that. Edgar also had two marvelous story books. I coveted those books. When I had children I bought those books and enjoyed reading the wonderful stories to them.

There were several other boys close by. We played soft ball in an open lot across the street from our house. Seems there was always something going on in a small town. If I managed to get a penny in some way, I could walk uptown to the grocery store for a small bag of assorted candies. What fun that was. Those were the days.

– Ruth Martin

Captain William (Bill) Phillips, USAR-Armor, served a combined nine years active duty and reserves — from 1958-1967. He and his wife, Nancy moved from Waynesboro into one of the villas in December.

Bill states that he is a veteran of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall Crisis, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. His service included six months active duty and seven and one-half years in the reserves. Most of his reserve time was with the 80th Division in Richmond. Bill is a graduate of the ROTC program at Richmond University.

A Dickens of a Tale

February 10th, 2014 | Posted by David Brenneman in All Posts | Just for Fun - (0 Comments)

It was 170 years ago this month that Ebenezer Scrooge and “Bah! Humbug!” became part of our holiday fabric. Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol in 1843, and even though it has been around for ages and adapted to film well over a 100 times, there still may be some things you don’t know about the classic novel.

For instance, Dickens wrote the novella, had an illustrator create drawings, published the book and had it in bookstores in six weeks. He began working on it in October and it went on sale on December 17, 1843, just in time for the holidays.

Dickens’ regular publishers did not care much for his short holiday tale, so Dickens did it all himself including editing and printing, binding and advertising. He kept the price low so the masses could afford it. He hoped to make 1,000 British pounds from the printing, but because of the low price he insisted on charging he ended up losing 137 British pounds; an estimated loss of $667 in U.S. dollars at the time.

Though he is a central character, Tiny Tim’s exact illness is never revealed. Literary scholars speculated that he had rickets, but others suggested he may have had a kidney ailment.

Nevertheless, the scene in which Tiny Tim dies during the visit of the Ghost of Christmas Future was perceived as so sad to 19th century Londoners that a critic at a public reading of the story in 1868 said the handkerchiefs that came out following Tiny Tim’s demise looked like a snowstorm inside the meeting hall.

And perhaps the most amazing fact about A Christmas Carol is that ever since Dickens scraped together enough of his own money to share his morality tale with the world, it has never been out of print. That is a 170-year publishing streak.

But it’s no wonder that Dickens’ story has become such an important part of many folks’ holiday traditions, whether through an annual reading or screening of any of the multitude of film versions. My favorite is the original 1951 British film Scrooge starring Alastair Sim, released that same year in the United States as A Christmas Carol.

My first recollection of the film was in the early 60’s, watching with my parents, brother, and sister. Today, though I can almost repeat each scene verbatim, I am still moved by the film’s message of hope and forever reminded of the true meaning and spirit of the holiday season.

God bless us everyone!

-Kathy Moran


February 10th, 2014 | Posted by David Brenneman in All Posts | Just for Fun - (0 Comments)

Honesty was instilled in my sisters and me at an early age. We were taught the Ten Commandments in Sunday school and we were expected to obey them. The example of Abraham Lincoln walking many miles to return money that was not his, made an impression on me as a child. I would like to relate the following instances of lessons learned.

The first instance of being taught honesty was at the age of eight. My sisters and I were to be baptized in Christ Church located in Alexandria, Virginia, which was our home town. Mother made white dresses with ruffles to wear. After the baptism, I went out to play. Climbing a fence I tore my dress. I quietly went to my room and changed. Mother questioned me and I told her my dress was dirty. I had lied to her which was not acceptable in our home. I didn’t get much sleep that night, and when morning came, I was ready to confess. I did not get punished, but the look on Mother’s face was enough.

The next instance, I was ten years old. A friend invited me to go to the five and dime store to shop. She didn’t do much shopping, but spent much time at the candy counter. She told me that when the lady was busy, we could put our hands in a space at the end of the counter and take candy and not pay for it. What a temptation! I did not have money for candy. I knew it was wrong so I told my friend that this was stealing, and I was going home, which was quite a distance. She left me and I had to find my way alone.

The next two instances were recent. I had purchased a waffle iron and had to correct the cashier on the price. A week later I returned it and didn’t notice the amount credited. As I gathered my slips to file, I noticed the amount was ten dollars too much. I went back and reported the mistake, asking that the amount be charged to my credit card. A supervisor was called and she told me to keep the amount for being treated in a rude way by the cashier. I was not happy about this outcome. My daughter phoned and asked me to go with her to get a battery. I saw this as a chance to go to the bank and withdraw cash for Christmas. It was snowing and there were steep streets. We finally arrived at the bank, and I watched the cashier count the money. I didn’t recount the cash as I was in a hurry to go to the auto parts store to have a battery installed in my daughter’s car. As she was driving, I counted the cash, and found one hundred dollars too much. My daughter said we would go back, but I refused. The snow was getting heavy. There had to be a better solution. An idea came that I could call the bank and have them take another hundred out of my account. I called the teller and told her of the error, stating that because of the weather, I could not return. I told her of my idea and she approved it.

Standing for the principle of truth has cost me jobs and friends. I am grateful to Mother for her stand for truth and honesty.

– Betty L

This is somewhat of a parody about a true incident. The year was 1950. The place was a high school auditorium. The event was a biblical drama sponsored by a local civic organization. The event was supposed to be a serious drama. However, due to such factors as limited rehearsal time, poor volunteer amateur actors, limited stage props, etc., the event turned into a comedy.

The sponsoring group hired a director from outside the area. She was accustomed to working with trained actors. She knew nothing about the limitations of the volunteer cast. Those of us in the play did not have sufficient time to memorize our lines or to get accustomed to our costumes or some of the props which were issued the night before the play.

Following are some of the things that happened which turned the supposedly serious biblical drama into a comedy — actually a farce.

One actor was supposed to eat during a scene. That would have been fine except for one thing — he could not find his mouth through the hole in his mustache. Those of us on stage felt compelled to maintain our composure, but I could tell that all of us were ready to explode in laughter.

Forgetting lines, feeding off the wrong cue, listening to the frantic director standing backstage attempting to prompt the actors, etc. were hilarious.

One especially funny incident was the attempt of one of the actors to “break the ten commandments.” The simulated stone tablet just would not shatter as it was designed to do, regardless of how hard the actor banged it against his knee. Finally, in disgust he threw it onto the floor. It still did not break.

I had a the part of Joseph and had more lines than I could memorize in such a short time. I had the “brilliant” idea of palming my lines on note cards and changing them while someone else was speaking. It actually worked for a while. Then, it happened. As I stood up, there went my cards to the floor. I had to ad-lib and bluff my way through the rest of that scene.

It was in this play, just before I went off stage that I witnessed the funniest episode that I’ve ever seen on any stage. Several high school faculty members were in the cast. Our beloved principal (now deceased) had been caroled into taking a part in the play. His lines included the phrase, “Yea, Oh Lord” several times. He had quipped that if he forgot his lines, he could just say that phrase. Now, you can guess what happened. At one point he completely forgot his lines, as several of us had done previously. He looked up with a blank stare and said loudly, “Yea, Oh Lord.” I could tell that he had forgotten his lines, so I tried to prompt him. I could hear the director behind the curtain trying to prompt him. Our principal had obviously panicked . Again, he said, “Yea, Oh Lord.”

By this time the hysterical director was almost yelling the lines. Tears actually rolled down the actor’s cheeks as he said loudly for the third time, “Yea, Oh Lord.” Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, our friend caught the correct cue from the director.

When I left the stage with a fellow actor (thankfully for the last time in the play), my friend and I headed straight for the dressing room. We raised the window and leaned out as far as we could (so that we would not disturb others) and just roared in laughter.

During my seventeen years of teaching speech, I directed numerous plays. However, I never witnessed anything as funny as this supposedly serious biblical drama which turned into comedy.

-James Salter