Every week, Sufyan and I go to visit my Great Aunt Mil in her assisted living community.
Mil is the wife of my grandpa’s brother John, an only child, and the self appointed historian of my extended family. Mil is an amazing person, she defies my attempts to put her into words. But I’ll try. She is larger than life. At 83, she is stately, beautiful, fashionable, and gregarious. Most importantly, she is an artist who is constantly creating. She is a talker, and a great story teller. In her own words, “I don’t outright lie, I just exaggerate to make the story more interesting!” She has a memory like a steel trap, and occasionally a sharp tongue (an attribute that makes gossiping one of our favorite pastimes). I struggle to recall my life from 5 years ago, while she tells the story of her first apartment with John–in Hell’s Kitchen NYC in the late 20s/early 30s.
Here is Mil in a snapshot: She and John move into the Westminster Manor, a place known for it’s population of wealthy elderly notables (professors, politicians, scientists) and cruise ship lifestyle. It’s a place that has a clear pecking order. There is an “in” crowd: elderly ladies with their expensive day wear, hair, nails fresh from the salon (which is in the basement of the Manor), cleaning ladies, and drivers. And an “out” crowd: those who don’t care or don’t know or are not well enough to dress up and those who are so lonely as to be annoying. Social graces straight from the 50s reign. So Mil moves in to the Manor, and many aged eyes assess her style and jealously appraise her handsome husband. And wouldn’t you know it, within 2 months, Mil has moved she and John from the unremarkable basement apartment into which they were placed to the coveted penthouse suite on the roof of the Manor. By coveted, I mean a cue of ladies waiting for the occupant to “shuffle off this moral coil” and give up the premium real estate. A cue of ladies that didn’t see my great aunt coming. Mil knows how to play it.
The rules about children visiting the Manor amount to this: children are messy, loud, and uncouth. Keep them home. Or at least bring them well dressed.
(Sufyan is certainly a messy eater)
(but he is always well dressed…when he wears clothes. See the cool shades:)
Despite this atmosphere, the residents love to see Sufyan. He draws a crowd of smiling, touching, laughing, commenting elderly folks. I am so glad he is exposed to people of all ages.
Yesterday while we were in the dining hall waiting for the lunch to begin, Sufyan was playing on the floor with me while I talked to Mil. Not far off 5 residents were watching and admiring. Eventually, one gentleman came over and hovered quietly just about 3 feet away, grinning. We said hello, and it seemed like speech was hard for him. Just a few disconnected words came out. After about 2 minutes, as we smiled back, he pointed to Sufyan and said: “I know one thing. I know that’s wonderful.”
I almost teared up. How very sweet a moment that was.