Montreal·Indelible Ink

Awakening at sunset

Up until now, I was facing fears of the future alone. This is no longer true. New friends have drawn me into their circle of communal living.

This may be my last stop, but here I find community

Sharen McDonald's view at dawn from the seniors' residence where she lives in Montreal's West Island. (Submitted by Sharen McDonald)

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Awakening at sunrise, I stretch luxuriously and open my eyes to see pale pink angel hair clouds drifting across the sky. I have just moved into a seniors' retirement home, and I feel both relaxed and happy.

Why happy? Let's face it, moving to a seniors' residence is often seen as cause for depression. The dreaded Shady Pines that struck terror in the heart of Sophia in The Golden Girls is the last stop before the terminus. That fellow wearing the long, dark hoodie is skulking about, slipping behind the potted palms, giving us pause for thought.

Therefore, looking around this new home, cozily surrounded by a lifetime of favourite books and music, I cannot help but wonder why I am feeling wholeheartedly content. My intuition tells me I am in the right spot at the right time in my life. Up until now, I was facing fears of the future alone. This is no longer true. New friends have drawn me into their circle of communal living.

Since March 2020, restrictions and lockdowns have made life lonely. This is true for all ages, of course, but for seniors separated from the outside world this has caused immeasurable harm. It stole our daily routines and the joys that make life worth living: family gatherings, friendly encounters, community activities, visits to coffee shops, grocery stores, restaurants, libraries, art galleries, concerts and more. When we face the world alone, fear shuts out hope like a heavy velvet blackout curtain.

In contrast, this morning I awakened to a new world within the world. This is a happy place. And now, it is my happy place. Laughter is in the air. People smile, greet you by name and lightly pat your shoulder. There is a warm sense of community.

'I used to be tall,' quips vivacious Priscilla, centre, who celebrates her 100th birthday this year. She's seen with Brenda, left, and Franki, right. (Submitted by Sharen McDonald)

But what do I mean by community? Here is what I see.

Caring. After a loudspeaker announces a boil water advisory from the City of Montreal, an enterprising resident prints and delivers the message to every apartment, so those with hearing difficulties can read the instructions.

Camaraderie. Lively chit-chat between residents and cheerful staff is the lifeline that sparks our joie de vivre each day.

Kindness. Searching for a coffee, I meet the chef setting out muffins. "Wait," she nods and disappears into the kitchen. To my surprise, she returns with a freshly boiled egg that she gently places in the palm of my hand. "For your breakfast," she grins. Her charming gesture moves me; the feeling of the egg nestled in my palm, its warmth and smoothness, is a moment that lingers.

Lightheartedness. "According to the menu, this is chocolate marble cake," a nonagenarian dryly remarks with eyebrows raised, holding a slice of white cake topped with maple frosting. "They think we can't tell the difference."

Playfulness. During a Scattergories game, we're challenged to name a profession beginning with the letter F. Someone mischievously offers fan dancer. Everyone chuckles, but one grandmother whispers "that was my profession," with the look of a cat that got the cream. Is she serious? Hard to tell, judging by her wistful smile.

What lies outside, according to the news? Corruption, contagion and a conspicuous lack of peace and goodwill toward all. Inside our world within the world, we find caring and laughter.

Beats sitting alone watching television? Absolutely.

Awakening at sunset, the future is glowing.

The sunset casts the sky aglow. (Submitted by Sharen McDonald)

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Sharen McDonald's life has always been linked to education and a love of words. She is a teacher, librarian and public-speaking and debating coach. Her writing ranges from non-fiction to poetry. Over seven decades, she has found laughter and kindness to be the best travel companions on the journey of a lifetime.


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