A Lament


July 29, 1992|By FRANCES SILL

You never know what to expect when a new day dawns in the retirement home where I live. Extensive construction work started here some months ago. We've had ceilings ripped out, new pipes installed, rooms torn apart to make a nursing station.

The saddest blow fell when workmen cut down lovely flowering trees that had taken years to grow. They pulled up azalea bushes, dug up the grass and in their place, installed ugly pipes for new bathrooms, splendid ones I'm told, with showers and abundant space.

When I came here a year and a half ago, the well tended grounds were beautiful. There are 16 acres in all. Years ago, on the outskirts of Baltimore, this place had been part of someone's farm. There was a long curving walk bordered on one side by tall, graceful maple trees. Then there were two fragrant pines, old and sedate. This walk led to a little gazebo where I sat with friends, often alone.

In early May, after a rain, you'd get whiffs of the scent of lilacs planted behind the gazebo, their fragrance mingling with lilies of the valley. Beyond could be seen, at the farthest end of our property, small white farm houses and their barns. I walked in one field where an ancient apple tree blossomed. Later on I picked two apples, reaching up to a low branch, feeling pleased with myself.

Save for the pines, all this has vanished. Great piles of earth, dug by giant shovels, are there. It's not eye-appealing. But I have seen architects' drawings displayed in the building where 150 residents dwell. The drawings are attractive. On our grounds they are also building apartments, some with studios, many larger ones with balconies. After completion, the grounds will be green with grass again, and trees will be planted.

This will not be for at least another year. We are experiencing great turmoil, bothered by noise, dust, discomfort, moved to other rooms to allow workmen to reconstruct existing ones. Perhaps this is awakening us to new experiences, but old people want to be left alone.

Perhaps this is me, my way of thinking. I did not bargain for this in my old age. Most of us here have lives stretching a long way back. A few escaped with not much to shatter them. But there are some who would rather forget the past. We do, a little, busying ourselves with many activities offered here.

Walking on the northeast side of our red brick building, I reveled this spring in the flowering dogwood trees. A huge sprawling gingko tree shades the entrance hall, where sofas and easy chairs abound. This, too, will change. A new entrance hall will be built. There is much to be done.

Walking yesterday, I went as far as I could to the high fence cutting off our old path to the demolished gazebo. Peering through to the left, I thought with longing of the narrow stream I walked beside last year where daisies and clover bloomed.

Frances Sill writes from Towson.

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