“Wolf Review Committee meeting tonight at 7 p.m. Pie, ice cream and coffee served. Seniors’ Centre. Everyone concerned about wolves in town come share your thoughts. Spread the word.”
I’d just finished reading Sedaris’ latest book Squirrel Seeking Chipmunk and though the book was a bit of a disappointment for a long-time Sedaris fan, I did love the idea of imagining what animals might think about human ideas and events, so…
Imagine the excitement of the wolves when the spreading word got to them; the town was concerned about them! There were residents who wanted to share their thoughts, which surely meant, at last, there was to be a dialogue between the two solitudes, an opportunity for both sides to express their wants and needs.
And there was pie and ice cream offered! That would be a treat indeed, but what really got them into their happy place was the promise of “seniors.” Everyone knows a wolf would rather have his food fresh, just as everyone knows the seniors in the herds are the easiest prey, being old and weak.
I got this message via email while I was out of town and felt cheated of a wonderful opportunity; I’ve not heard people “sharing thoughts” there, and who knows what the wolves would have said and done.
They would have been chagrined, however, to discover seniors in Watson Lake are not the easy pickings they’ve been led to expect by their experience with other herd animals.
The seniors are the most active and happening group in town, with their weekly lunches, their bingos and their parties on each and every occasion. We’re talking of real seniors here; the ones that are in their 70s and 80s, not the newly seniored 55 and ups.
One of the first events Cee took me to was a St. Patrick’s Day party at the seniors’ centre, which was housed in what used to be the hospital in Watson Lake and is shared by the daycare. I questioned her on our way as to why we were going to the golden oldies party when there was the promise of a livelier gathering in the local bar.
“Wait and see,” was all she would say, so that is what I did.
We walked into a scene of piano music, songs being sung, clover leaves and derby hats with wide green bands on every grey head, Irish stew, and a perfectly deadly green punch.
It was a really good time; so interesting and just plain fun that I enrolled Pete and me then and there, although we could only be ‘associate’ members. We enjoy going to a lunch once in awhile and I have even tried playing Bingo. The lunches are hearty and delicious, featuring comforting ‘mom’ foods, like macaroni and cheese and baked beans. The bingo games, however, are another story. It is not my game; I am too easily distracted, and the people are too engaging. They are able to chat, drink coffee, eat cookies and play a dozen cards all at the same time while I am able only to listen to their tales while my lone card gets daubed by helpful folks on either side of me.
The members are an interesting bunch; they are the real oldtimers, the ones who can tell the stories of the old days with authority, and often with a great sense of humour. They know what is going on in town and in the territory and they know all the players by their first names. They vote, and their vote is sought, as is evidenced by the generous funding for their centre and for whatever activities they wish to pursue.
The seniors’ residence, which is nearing completion, had input from the seniors from the beginning; it was, after all, being built to house them. They were vocal about what would make this building work for them and they are vocal about what happened instead: bathtubs that are difficult to get in and out of and an elevator that will not accommodate a stretcher. These are practical folks; they know they will sooner or later be needing a bath, and they also know sooner or later they will be needing a stretcher.
In a place where space is plentiful it puzzled me that the seniors housing would involve elevators and stairs; wouldn’t it make more sense for such a building to be all on one level? Ground-floor living is much easier on old legs, and would allow for a bit of garden for some outdoor exercise and pleasant times sitting in the sun.
Many of the old folks who attend events at the seniors’ hall still live independently, taking care of themselves and their homes as long as they are able. They are often avid gardeners, and active in other community groups. They can be counted on to donate baked goods for funerals, weddings, summer camp, and any fundraising event that takes place. Seniors have catered events outside their own club; their cooking and baking are much in demand.
Oddly, it is seniors who get called upon to fix things. One old fellow is still laying linoleum and setting tiles and another gets called upon to help with troublesome propane furnaces. These guys don’t say no; they have been known to go out on a cold winter night to help someone with frozen water or no heat.
I find it touching how the seniors here look after one another; they celebrate one another’s anniversaries and birthdays. They happily share news and photos of families and friends. They get together for almost every calendar holiday, and their Christmas dinner and party is terrific.
When someone is ill there is no shortage of visitors and no shortage of helping hands to take care of things at home.
A death is mourned by all, and the survivors comforted with sympathy and food.
It is an organization that does it all; all the things that would make one want to join them. They are bright and funny, they know how to have a good time and they are interested in and take care of their members.
However, even the Signpost Seniors have the same issue that many of the local clubs and organizations seem to have; a lack of new volunteers. The same people have been keeping things going for years, sometimes decades, and are often heard to voice the wish for the next generation to step up to the plate. Volunteering seems to be going the way of many community-building endeavours as the internet continues to take up our free time.
I wonder if there are any avatars who volunteer?
When I get home I will find out what this groundbreaking meeting has achieved. Maybe the wolves got a chance to share thoughts with concerned townspeople, and maybe they enjoyed their pie and ice cream, but I’ll bet they didn’t get any of our seniors.
Heather Bennett is a writer who lives in Watson Lake.