HAPPY VALLEY HOME Retirement living up close (Part One)

“Dupa ploie, vine sore (After rain, comes sunshine.)” -Romanian proverb-
“I retired early for health reasons; my company was sick of me and I was sick of them.”
-Author unknown-

Finding decent senior housing is a roll of the dice; some buildings are comfortable homes others hell holes. Life after retirement can be blessing or bust depending upon two variables. Point—when I taught school the kids would ask me what was my recipe for success. I told them “don’t get sick and don’t go broke.” I wasn’t referring to some minor illness like catching a cold or living on a tight budget but debilitating or terminal illnesses and financial ruin. Same for retirement; good health and financial stability are the essentials for successful retirement. I’m blessed with both though my knees hurt like hell. When it’s cold and rainy they hurt worse. I pinch nickels. I panic if my retirement check’s a day late. Happy Valley Home rental units are open to qualified retirees and or the physically challenged. Retirees must meet the minimum age requirement of 55 to be eligible; I’m 68 ½ my wife 69 ½. We’ve lived here five years.
When I was a boy I enjoyed listening to ‘old folks.’ The usher at my church fought in the Spanish-American War. The old cashier who worked with me at a service station fought in World War I. When I asked him what he did in the war he would only talk about the ladies he rendezvoused with in France. When I went for my physical for the Peace Corps at Glenview’s Naval Base the examining physician fought Moro tribesmen during the Philippine-American War. Listening to the old guys talk provided me with knowledge about the ‘Gilded Age’ that aren’t recorded in history books. Sad to say many if not most Americans could care less about history and its lessons; worse still they’re proud of their ignorance. Clicking their lives away on smart phones, I-Pods and other electronic toys has killed meaningful conversation in this country. Pope Francis wrote about ‘techno junkies’ though he didn’t use my term.
It was one of those perfect Chicago weather days and I was on my way to the gym for my regular work out when I spotted two of my friends Susan and Thomas sitting in our breezeway enjoying the sunshine. I didn’t have to be at the gym for an hour; I joined them. I sat in front. I asked if I could interview them for this article. I changed their names and residence for obvious reasons.
“Thomas what made you move to Happy Valley?”
“The rent’s affordable.”
“Do you like it here?”
“Yes but management is out of touch with the residents,” he replied.
“And how’s that?” I asked.
“Compared to the previous owners the Fifth Street Church management couldn’t care less about us. To them our home is just another business.” Thomas rambled on about building management being out of touch with residents and that the previous owners cared more for residents as people contrary to the current management whom he accused of treating residents as nameless automatons with one foot in their graves.
“Management policies aren’t perfect; what are some of the pluses of living here?”
“The rent’s low and we’re Downtown.”
Retired attorney William Stein is 96 creeps along on his walker. He goes Downtown to meet with long time friends almost daily. His only observable fault is he too friendly with some of the young women he rides the bus with. Apparently it hasn’t sunk in that touching young women inappropriately is illegal and can result in heavy fines, a beating or imprisonment. Two years ago we had a beautiful receptionist who was stalked by a resident. She had the old guy arrested and taken out in handcuffs. She resigned then sued the building; she won.
Joe and I are avid baseball fans. When he describes those turn of the century games it’s like being there! The man knows how to spin a good yarn. He’s seen Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg and Babe Ruth play the White Sox at old Comiskey Park (U.S. Cellular Field). Oddly he never talks with me those early days.
John is one of my best buddies. When he’s not talking about how his family are trying to steal his money he’s a pleasant fellow. He left our building weeks ago. He is also in his 90’s, in top shape, walks faster than I do and I work out four times per week at an exclusive health club; his mind is going. After being warned to stop making ‘improvements’ on the plumbing and circuitry by the management my friend’s lease wasn’t renewed. John is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. In addition of making a nuisance of himself he committed America’s most mortal of sins; he ran out of money. On lucid days we would talk of his life as a bootlegger during the Prohibition era when the infamous Purple Gang terrorized his native Detroit. I would listen to him reminisce what it was like struggling to survive during the Great Depression, about the union he founded and his rare distinction of sailing around the world with him at the helm in a large sailboat! What an adventurer. I miss my friend already though he likes his new place.
“Are there anymore things you don’t like about our building?” Susan joined the group.
“People here are vicious gossips…last tenants meeting one lady broke down in tears after telling the assembly about her erstwhile good reputation having been tarnished by vicious scandal mongers.”
Susan and Thomas took turns citing complaints against the management. She opined that the physical plant needs more attention, the rugs smell, units should be repainted and that over the past 10 years we’ve had eight managers! Reader, reverberations from past years are still being felt strongly that the current building administration lock themselves in their offices with the lights off after they sign in! Thomas cited the need for extensive background checks.
Then there’s Olga the vivacious corpulent white haired lady from the old Soviet Union who’s husband was a World War II era Soviet submarine commander. Still spry for her age she remembers her girlhood growing up in Stalinist Russia, how the Nazis ravaged her homeland and how the Hitlerites murdered her cousin. Olga had the good sense to flee beyond the Urals when the Germans invaded her native Ukraine. Had she stayed being Jewish would have sealed her fate. Olga’s been sick lately. I always ask about her. She’s one of my best female friends.
Three doors down the hall resides Harold. He’s a Vietnam vet and a daily communicant. His specialty was assassinations. Most of his ‘assignments’ are still classified by the government so he can’t discuss them. Harold hates to talk and I don’t press him. He’s a nice guy but I wouldn’t rile him if I were you; it isn’t safe.

For those who are able to attend our building has lots’ of activities open to residents. There’s Bingo Night that meets every Tuesday evening at 7 PM sharp and usually hosts four to five tables filled with eager players. Monday afternoons there’s the Happy Valley Choir. They host concerts during the Holiday Season; more on Happy Valley’s activities and other people you should know next time.
To be continued.-