I felt like I was in some kind of alternate universe.
My boyfriend and I were in a seminar about a new construction townhouse development that is being built not too far from where I live.
In September, both of my daughters will be out of the house for the most part; one is beginning her junior year in college in Manhattan and recently moved into an apartment, and the other will be starting her freshman year at school in Nashville.
The house that my husband and I bought 20 years ago for our family of four will now be too big for just me. After he passed away in 2011, I was fortunate enough to be able to stay in our home and continue to raise our daughters where they were most comfortable.
I am now heading toward a time of change.
With both girls away, my boyfriend of four years and I are thinking about getting a place together, with enough room for my daughters to live in part-time. It will be a very big move for me, which is both scary and exciting at the same time.
We had heard from a friend about the seminar for the new complex, so we attended to hear what it was all about. This was an “over 55” community. Since my boyfriend is already of that certain age and I am approaching it (but not quite yet), we figured it might be a good fit for us.
The seminar was held in a conference room of a hotel at 9:30 am on a Saturday. This is a bit early for me, but I got my act together in time for us to attend.
We arrived at 9:20 am and the parking lot was full. We signed in and walked into a packed room. Somehow we managed to squeeze into two seats. He excused himself to the men’s room as I sat down.
“Did you get your number?” the woman next to me asked. I noticed she was much older than me.
“Um, what number?” I replied.
“The number to make your appointment. The lower your number is, the better chance you have to get into Phase One. I got here at 7:45 and I am number 36. I was hoping to be in the top 10. I heard that people slept here last night to be one of the first,” she explained.
Even though it was early and my head wasn’t completely clear, I thought “is she serious”? We were here for information purposes only. I didn’t know if we even had a number, and this woman seemed obsessed with it. When my boyfriend returned, he told her that we were number 171. She looked as if she felt sorry for us. We would not be getting into Phase One.
As the seminar began, I looked around the room. Over 55? This was more like over 75. I was the youngest one in the room by at least 15 years.
Did “Over 55” mean Senior Living?
We listened to the speakers rave about the community, the “active lifestyle” and the social life. Um, I was just looking for a smaller house and new construction.
Then Marilyn got up to speak. Marilyn was a woman who lived in one of their other communities a few towns away and was going to share with the room why she loved it. It turned out that Marilyn had moved into one of the smaller units in by herself years earlier, but was lucky enough to meet her husband at the clubhouse gym. When they got married, they sold their respective homes and bought a bigger one in the community together. Good for Marilyn – that was a nice story.
But then Marilyn began to speak about life in the development.
“The activity sheet will be your bible,” she began as she held up the piece of paper to show the room. She went on to explain that she is fully scheduled all day long – zumba classes, pickleball, mahjong, women’s group meetings…the list went on.
Organized activities all day long? Was this summer camp? Didn’t anyone work or do anything outside the gates of this place?
Then Marilyn unknowingly put the nail in the coffin, “And you must learn the wave,” she explained. There was a “community wave” that everyone needed to be aware of; a special short wave for when you were close to a neighbor and a “long wave” for when you saw someone at a distance.
Wait, what? We have to wave a certain way? This was an alternate universe.
I knew that this was not the place for me but I was worried. What if my boyfriend loved all of this? If he did, we may not be compatible to live together.
I did not need to worry. As soon as the seminar was over, he said to me, “This place feels like some kind of cult and I do not want to drink the Kool-Aid.” I felt a sense of relief as we walked out giggling together about Marilyn and the wave.
As we made our way through the swarm of people to leave, we saw security walking towards the registry table – it seemed as if a crowd was gathering and they were not listening to the rules about the numbers.
“Let’s get out of here,” my boyfriend said as he grabbed my hand and we practically ran to the car.
We are definitely not ready for senior living.
Stacy was a stay-at-home mom/part-time preschool teacher whose life was turned upside down in 2011 when her husband passed away suddenly of a heart attack. She is raising her two fabulous daughters, now ages 18 and 20, who are turning into wonderful young women. In 2016, she started a blog about her experience as a young widow, The Widow Wears Pink. This led her to write for other publications including Huffington Post, Today.com, Scary Mommy, Grown & Flown, Kveller, Modern Loss, Thought Catalog, and many more. In 2018 she started Living the Second Act with fellow writer Mimi Golub. Today, Stacy and her daughters are happily living their “new normal” while always keeping her husband’s spirit alive.