Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow, senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Jean

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Farm Table Conversations and More

On an average day, when there are no lectures going on, there are around twenty-five out of the seventy-five people living in my Independent Living complex that I interact with. That includes brief "hellos" in the common areas and the most popularly asked and answered question: "Has Jesse (our mail carrier) been here yet?" Me, I'm more interested in if the Amazon driver has made one of its two stops a day but I rarely have to ask because I can see their truck coming and going from my window. Between them, UPS, Fed-x and USPS our mail room is always full of boxes and puffy bags in all sizes and shapes. We seniors have learned the fine art of online shopping. 

One of my six hall mates has appointed himself the package delivery person on my floor so I rarely have to retrieve an expected delivery. Another guy on the floor tried to give him a hundred dollars in a Christmas card for the mail-room-to-door service but he gave it back. By contrast I gave him a Valentine's Day card with a thank you message inside and a few pieces of Nutella. (The card idea pre-approved by his wife, of course.) Big tipper guy owns a company that makes high school and college class rings and he has two houses and one of biggest apartments in the building. Even though he lives across from me the only time I see him is in the parking garage where our cars are parked side by side. He's always coming or going from the airport and when he's gone lots of packages and the Wall Street Journal build up at his door. Except for his name, you now know as much about him as I do and we've lived across from each other for over two years.

Mr. Big Tipper Guy has nothing to do with the topic I set out to write about so I'll get to that now: I always eat one meal a day in our facility and every chance I can I eat it at one of the common tables. The common tables are where I do most of my interacting with fellow residents. At night it's a table known as the Farm Table, at noon it's just several big tables pushed together to fit fourteen of us. I especially love the Farm Table. Someone asked us the other day what's so special about eating there and several replied that we hate the required system of having to call around to find other people to make reservations with to fill a four or six topper table in the main dining room. We can't just show up and expect to be served in the dining room. We can do that at lunch, but not for dinner. Another reason we like the Farm Table is we like not knowing who we'll dine with on any given night. We still need to make reservations to sit there but we can only make one for ourselves. For me, I like to sit close to the middle of the table and just listen to the conversations around me.  Sometimes there are three-four of them going on at once. It's an eavesdropper's paradise.  Other times we're all engaged in the same topic.

There's a lot of laughter at the Farm Table like the other night the special was an oriental dish with oyster sauce in it and several of us at the table are allergic to shell fish so we were asking Seri and Alexa what's in oyster sauce. (Yes, we are like a bunch of teenagers with our phones out fact checking each other.) I don't know what one of the guys put in the search engine of his I-Phone that it came up erroneously saying that oyster sauce was made from "nut seeds." But we all caught the silliness bug and went with that tidbit: "Who cuts the nuts off from the oysters?" "How do they extract those tiny swimmer seeds out of the nut sacks?" And "who would have ever guested that was a thing?" We were laughing so hard and one of the guys was turning beat red. Laughing over silly things doesn't happen every night but often enough that I'm addicted to eating at the Farm Table.

Living here isn't the first time I've experienced the Farm Table concept of dining. When we traveled we liked to stop at mama/papa style restaurants in small towns. One year on vacation out West we discovered that a lot of the places we stopped at had these long tables for people who wanted to interact with who ever came in for a meal or just coffee. My husband was a good conversationalist and no one was ever a stranger around him for very long. Those Farm Tables gave us a feel for the regions that you couldn't get in the chain restaurants along the main interstates. One time, though, we sat down at a Farm Table and you'd swear we accidentally went to a Klan meeting and for once my husband kept his mouth shut. His mama didn't raise any fools. 

At another Farm Table the locals told us the place was famous for their cinnamon rolls and we each had to order one with the coffee we stopped in for. They assured us they were worth every penny of the $3 they cost (in the '80s). When they arrived, each cinnamon roll covered an 8"x10" baking pan and, of course we ended up passing them around the table. Turned out to be a game they played on strangers like us to get us to treat the table. It's a fun travel memory and I often thought that cross-country Farm Table conversations would make a good book, sort of like John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley. I loved that memoir of him traveling with his poodle. We always traveled with a poodle, too, in what we called our Traveling Dog House aka RV.

Our Farm Table seats twelve uncomfortably and ten perfectly. It was made out of the biggest tree that had to be cut down when the facility was built. It was a custom-made gift given to us by the construction company and it sits off to the side of our lobby which leads to another reason why it's fun to sit there. We can see and interact with everyone coming and going into the main restaurant and into the lobby---whose kids are visiting, whose getting a Door-Dash dinner delivered, whose getting a take-out dinner from the dining room, whose dog is getting walked. It took over a year to get the dining manager to allow us to have a Farm Table in the evening and she kept pulling our noon-time tables apart. She insisted it was too hard on the waitstaff. But it took going above her to finally get our way and the waitstaff is doing just fine waiting on the flow of people coming and going from the noon table. At night we have to be there at 5:00 which was our compromise.

So there you have it, another borderline boring chapter in the life of a senior citizen living in an a continuum care complex. 

Until next Wednesday. ©

 

The Farm Table set up potluck style for one of our resident-driven parties. The management occasionally serves buffet style meals on the Farm Table, too, usually around holidays when they'd normally be short-staffed.

 
This photo shows the Farm Table on the near right and at far end of the photo is our fireplace gathering place. The people standing on the left (middle of the photo) are behind the concierge's desk, directly across from the entry door.

27 comments:

  1. I can understand the allure of the farm table and I am glad you all enjoy it! I do not have pleasant memories of mandatory dinners at the family dinner table growing up and, although I have a lovely dining room, I fed my family on tv trays. Once my children grew up I commissioned a giant dining table with three leaves and eight chairs (it fits more) from an Amish woodworker and it sits in my dining room. I put piles of things on it. My own children, deprived as children of a communal dining experience growing up, all have large tables and dine with their families. I guess what goes around, comes around.

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    1. How interesting that you and your kids both didn't follow childhood patterns of dinning. I also have a Amish, custom made table. They sure build great furniture!.

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  2. I can see why you like that table!
    ---Cheerful Monk

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    1. I'm glad I was able to write about it well enough to get the allure across.

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  3. I love the idea of the farm table. I've had communal experiences like that when traveling (no cinnamon rolls, though!) and it's always interesting. I still think you should submit your blog posts together as a book of essays for publication. They provide a wonderful picture for those considering your living situation and if you're worried about ID, could probably even disguise the "characters" more if need be. But I think you do a pretty good job of it. My book club would buy it!

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    1. If this place were bigger I could get away with it but it would be too easy to match up the "characters" with their real names and that would get me in trouble, even if I tried to fictionalize it. But I love that you think my writing would have commercial value.

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  4. Sounds like fun to sit at the Farm Table. Laughter is so important!

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  5. How wonderful that table is! I'd be sitting there too. My first (and so far only) experience at a communal table was at a restaurant in St. John's, Newfoundland and my friend and I loved it. We met some locals and a pair of fellow travellers from the island I live on now. I would certainly opt for that experience if given the chance! More places should offer this experience!

    Deb

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    1. It' really great for people who a timid about eating alone in a restaurant. Your Experience was typical of what we found at them.

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  6. I think something special often happens when people gather around a big table.
    Ever since I started reading your blog, Jean, I've begun to learn a bit more about how a CCC works. The fact that you can stay in your own apartment, or get out and socialize, is so appealing. No matter how young or old we are, most of us really appreciate having choices.

    I honestly think you could write a book about your life.

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    1. Every so often we get reminded by the kitchen manager that we are living in a independent living complex therefore they do not have to serve us vegetables In the quantity that we would like. We don't have to eat a single meal here If we don't want to. But many of us do because we get a $325 Credit to the restaurant to spend anyway we want. And that goes away at the end of every month.

      Glad you enjoy my writing. I have thought about reading a book But I decided I'm just gonna hope the internet will be around 100 years and somebody will find my blog And it would be like 'little house on the prairie' only for old people In their past. šŸ˜

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  7. Our family was close enough to Iowa's Amana colonies that we'd go over from time to time for their family-style meals; the tables weren't so large, but they served the same purpose. There's an old hotel down the coast that does the same thing. When you show up, you sit wherever you please at large tables that seat from six to twelve. It's a set menu, with different specials every day, served buffet style. It's wonderful fun, and it's also possible to stay at the old hotel. One of these days I'm going to write about the place, but I want to find the time to stay there first.

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    1. I love the idea of a Farm Table being served buffet style with different specials. We have nightly specials too we order off the menu. I look forward to your blog post on that old hotel.

      I've forgotten about the Iowa colonies family style meals. We stopped there every year on our way out West.

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  8. My ex-husband and I were in San Francisco visiting friends in 1969 and watched the first moon landing on a small black and white tv at a Basque restaurant. It was farm style seating around a big communal table and everyone had to eat what they were serving, which happened that day to be beef tongue. I had never had that before... or since. Creeped me out. Ironically, I later became a dental hygienist and saw plenty of tongues, although human ones.

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    1. Eating beef tongue doesn't remotely sound good to me but I suppose it's no different than eating pigs feet and my mom used to cook those a LOT.

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    2. As I remember it, it was very tender when I delicately tried it but I mainly ate the potatoes and other side dishes. Fortunately, there was the distraction of the moon landing.

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  9. Sitting at a farm table would not be my preference. I'd do just fine, but it would feel like work to me. I think after all those years of teaching--being the extrovert 8 hours a day--I'm enjoying more quiet and solitude. It's like I'm more in touch with my introvert side now.

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    1. It's definitely not for everyone. Some don't like the fact that they can't hear everyone, which to me, is no big deal. Some don't like the fishbowl aspect of the table location. Some don't like that table only takes reservations for 5:00 and they like eating later. The dining room usually has 35-40 reservations for small tables to our Farm Table reservations. It's my main social time of the day and I only a common table five days a week.

      Most of my work life was quite solitude so we're the opposite on that aspect.

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  10. I can't imagine living in such a place and I don't think I would like sitting at a farm table but if I was at one over time I would get use to it, I suspect.

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    1. I made up my mind I was going to do what it takes to thrive here. For me it was a matter of picking out my future no matter what happens to my health and not leaving it in the hands of social worker, since I don't have kids to make decisions for me and in case my nieces might not be in a place in their own lives where they'd be able support me like they did their parents.

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  11. Your CCC seems to do a good job for all the types of people living there. I'm still enjoying my introvert stage. If I were not enjoying the multigenerational living I have here at home, I'd go for the farm table, too. Growing up we all ate around the big kitchen table and chat and laugh! I agree we should convince you to write a book! Keep on blogging!

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    1. Growing up my dad worked nights and we never ate as a family so this is unique to me. And you are too kind to think I have a book's worth of stuff to share.

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  12. I think your life at the CCC sounds perfect and that you are making the most of the type of outings you enjoy. Many times, we will watch from the sidelines while thinking that looks like so much fun. You are doing great there and I'm so envious.

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    1. Thank you! I like that things are just a walk across a piazza away when I want to do something but I have plenty of privacy when I want it.

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  13. Goodness. For me, finding others to fill a table that seats 4-6 would be too much a chore. Sitting at the farm table certainly relieves that. Love that it creates such fodder for your writing! Everyone needs Choice, Context, Connection. Those are the three conditions required for our autonomous nervous systems to relax, according to Dr. Steven Porges, who detected the purposes of each different type of nerve systems we all have inside us. Your CCC provided for Steven Porges' CCCs , at least when you prevailed upon yours to provide this farm table dining option. This introvert might cloister herself at dinnertime, but something tells me that once I'd try it, I'd enjoy it. Right now I have too many awful memories of school cafeteria lunches where the 'innies' ostracized whomever they disliked, and as a result I unobtrusively sat at the far end of those long tables while they chatted away.

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    1. The reservation to fill a table of 4 or 6 gets really old really fast and many have resorted to eating with the same people on certain nights...like I do on Tuesdays. I'm glad I didn't have childhood cafeteria memories like you do---we didn't have one--- so I could go community tables without a preconceived bias. Sorry you do.

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