Aunt Hilda walked me around her community – a large but cozy place with ponds, flowers, and gardens. Hilda grows juicy yellow tomatoes, romas, and plants in front of her apartment. She’s in good enough shape to walk half a mile with a little rest. There’s construction at one end – the place is growing, especially the high end houses and duplexes. Lots of big, intricate buildings offering various degrees of care are scattered about. A bus carts folks to and fro.
The senior center has a dining room, piano, music room, service desk, and bank. A few people called Hilda by name even though the Greencroft houses over a thousand people. There’s a little reading area too where we take a break. People ask about me, I answer lots of questions. Hilda inquires about giving us places for lunch, all booked up.
We walk back home and start whipping up a stir fry. I like working with her in her little kitchen. It’s almost ready when we didn’t call – they have spots for us for lunch back at the senior center. The bus driver offers to come get us.
We rush through the cafeteria-style cook line for our tray of Turkey, corn bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, and bun. Just like grade school lunches. They make sure to give me extra big helpings because Hilda had to pay five dollars for me instead of the usual two dollars for seniors. We sit at a round table with five other spry old folks Hilda doesn’t know. The questions begin. “How come you look like a racoon?”, “No wonder yer so skinny!”, “You just sleep under a bush or something?”. To men don’t talk at all after introductions. The stern-faced lady across the table is interested but doesn’t want to let it show. The smiley lady next to me asks one question after another, she seems to irritate some of the others with her cheerfulness. When the subject turns to recent operations and tales of passing out at church, I get a chance to eat most of my food. Then the bus driver announces he’s leaving. I ask if there is another load later. No. He tells us he’ll wait for us to eat our pumpkin pie. I start in, as does Hilda. The smiley lady starts asking questions again. I tell her I can’t stay as long as I’d like-winter coming and all. “And you can’t talk and eat,” Hilda announces. The smiley lady shuts up and I scarf my pie.
The bus makes a stop Hilda isn’t used to. Her friend explains there’s a stop at the farmer’s market every Wednesday. We take advantage and buy squash, green beans, and corn. All for $1.25. The rest of the bus ride Hilda tells me how funny it can be here. People ask for bus stops that don’t exist, Or run off without their walkers. People wander into the wrong apartments and squabble over whose bed is whose. She giggles at some of the talk on bus.
Back home we take a little nap. A have no problem sleeping, all the frantic bustle of lunch made me tired. When we get up Hilda’s friend Erma drives us around Goshen. They both tell me about all the buildings we pass. Hilda shows me around her beautiful church on Goshen College campus. Then we drive by a house where she once lived with my Uncle Jake.
Home again we finish making our stirfry and have dinner. Hilda’s appetite almost matches my own! More of her fantastic blueberry pie. She makes ’em nice and big .
After dinner we finally get the opportunity to talk about family. Much of it I get on tape, including Hilda playing a lovely Bach prelude on her piano. What I didn’t record was the real heart breaker: how her marriage with Jake ended. As part of his teaching he made yearly trips to Germany in the summer. For several years he met with a student there where they carried on an affair. Finally he left his church and family to move there and marry her. Shortly after he died, and Hilda and David were unable to recover his body. The cemetery plot next to Hilda’s will go unoccupied.