A Resident’s Perspective – Night Sounds

Written by Panorama resident, Sandy Bush. December 2015

Now that we have turned into real winter (by the calendar, at least), I’m offering a few thoughts on night sounds. What strikes me so very specially is what we hear at night when all the helpful folks are done keeping our environs so very pristine and making room for new residents.

Spring and fall bring us geese overhead. With our windows open and no heating or air conditioning running, it is easier to hear them. They are always special. They move from the retention ponds to Chambers Lake and back again, eventually either arriving from the north or leaving for the south. Yes, many are here year round, but the sky filled with honking has always been special to me. I watched two days ago at dusk as 16 of them flew in formation.

We hear the busy trains, AMTRAK and cargo-laden cars, most of the year whether the windows are open or not. The whistle for the crossing out Nisqually way can be haunting.  When the nights get quiet or foggy, it is easier for hearing-impaired to pick it up. I think many of us residents go way back with train sounds.

There seems to be no real season for the hootie owl/s that I hear, easier with windows open a bit. They can be heard with windows closed if your hearing is good. The perch must be close between our home and Chambers Lake. It sounds like a great horned owl from what I can find out.

However, now we are into our winter pattern of rain often with wind. Rain sheeting down the roof, and gurgling in the gutters of the eave system is easy to fall asleep to. We have also had two largely high wind quick storms that produce their own sound. Our cats are not so happy with wind sound which they interpret as dangerous. They can often be found under the sofa with big eyes.

And it just became obvious to me that the clunks on our roof, at Christmas, aren’t reindeer hooves, but fir cones!!!!!!!

In between the night sounds, if you walk about McGandy Park or your neighborhood, the sounds of silence are also there. These are also precious in our urban milieu.

Enjoy this season as some of our neighbors look forward to longer days. And I’m hoping your holiday, however you celebrated, was special to you and yours.

Sandy Bio

A Resident’s Perspective – Little Organ in Abilene: My True Story

Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. December 2015

Little did I know what I’d be getting into two days before Christmas in about 1963.

On answering the phone, I heard a quiet, slow, obviously elderly voice with a heavy hispanic accent, “Mary Jo, I am Angela from Our Lady of Guadalupe over far from where you live. Our very small church is one hundred years old on Christmas Day. We don’t have a choir. Most people don’t climb to the loft easy anymore. Six of us have been singing carols for weeks. Some, like Katrina and Elena warble. Well–me, too, sometimes. And when Clara sings high notes, she hardly makes it, but we’re excited and work hard.”

I listened and admired her efforts to express herself in English as she continued, “My great granddaughter, Linda, goes to piano lessons with you. She gave me your phone number last night when I told her we practice carols, even if we don’t have anybody to play for us. We’ll get to church very early on Christmas Eve to sit and rest in the loft before singing. We won’t be here many more years, and we want the old fashioned, holy Christmas, like many years ago. We helped each other climb up to the loft yesterday to look. The girls went back downstairs. I stayed up there to dust a little, and Mary Jo, I found an organ. It’s little, but it’s good. I tried it out! I played piano maybe seventy years ago. May we beg you to play the little organ for us? Please?”

“Oh, Angela, I play our Mass at Sacred Heart on Christmas Day,” I respond quickly with a sigh of relief.

Angela came back with a more excited, positive, quicker-paced response. “Gloria Dios! Oh, Mary Jo, that is w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l! We sing the Midnight Mass! We are ready to sing. You don’t practice with us. Just two days before Christmas. You know, we are too busy to practice more now. We bake pies, wrap hundreds tamales, make huge pots of refried beans and rice for a big after Mass. Then we shop, put up decorations. You know, very busy now.”

Listening to Angela’s joyful excitement and devotion in working to make the sacred celebration a success, I wondered whether I would be as committed at her age.

Angela continued. “We just finished practicing carols for the last time today. Now they’re all at church putting up the beautiful Christmas crèche with live trees and poinsettias in buckets and, at our ages, we just can’t move very fast as we used to, you know. Besides, we have to keep sitting down to rest. Big Bertha–her legs­–so swollen. We don’t know how she gets her tired feet into her slip-ons. She carries things across the wooden rough floors huffin’ and puffin’. She keeps dropping her cane, and someone picks it up for her. She laughs with us about it all. Everybody has a good time. It’s going to be such a blessed day. You on the organ and us girls singing out, I can’t wait to tell them the very good news.”

Getting over my selfish twenty-three-old self and feeling quite ashamed, “Oh, Angela, I’d be honored to play the carols for you.”

After asking needed information, I slowly, thoughtfully, hung up that receiver. Was there a floor under my feet? What on earth had I gotten myself into? I had just committed to play for some ladies who might collapse from heart failure. What would I do if one of them keeled over? Angela asked me to perform cold turkey, no rehearsal, no usual practice for hours. She just didn’t catch on that if I played her Midnight Mass, I’d be up all night. I couldn’t go home and sleep all day; I would have to play our early 9 o’clock morning Mass.

When the big night arrived, loving, unselfish, Diane, my elderly mentor, and I pulled out in the dark unknown.

I’ve seen old churches in my life, but this little relic earned the antiquity-appearance award. The ladies greeted us as if we were two of the three kings (or at least two of the shepherds). They hugged us and exchanged exclamations in Spanish to each other. Each step “ouched” as we climbed so delicately and wound around a tight twist all the way to the loft. How did those ladies manage this flight up here?

Where was the organ?

That? Older looking than the church, it had been thoughtfully positioned in front of the six rickety, matchless, wooden chairs. The organ stood proudly 30 inches tall and 24 inches wide, wearing the nicks and stains of time.

My thoughts froze, Oh, dear, only three and a half octaves. I’ll have enough keys for the right hand, but my left hand’s going to run out of keys. Lots of adjusting on the spot. Where are the pedals? Uhhh. It’s a pump organ? I remembered pictures of these from music history class. 

Proudly, enthusiastically, Angela announced, “Mary Jo, Bertha told me her papa played it at home for her mother and their thirteen children to sing. He gave it to the church. Here, Mary Jo, this is Bertha. She speaks very little English, but listens and understands.”

Bertha’s big smile and energetic shaking of her head let me know she understood what Angela was relaying. We got a quick introduction to the other lovely, tired but-pumped-up-with-adrenalin senior ladies. Their body language expressed their enthusiasm and thankfulness.

I had to move on with what to do with this little vintage before Mass started in 30 minutes!

A quick prayer put me at ease. Okay, Lord, this one’s on You and for You, in honor of Your birthday. Be with me, as You have so often when I place situations in Your hand. I sat on that stool and held a C-chord. I kept my toes pushing down, then my heels going down, toes, heels, toes, heels. I had to keep air going into the bellows. Time was ticking away. I played a few chord progressions to get the feel. I was focusing.

I plugged through Silent Night with jerky rhythm as I tried to coordinate hands in various rhythms against the constant even wave of my feet. Eventually, I got the feel. I could see the ladies smiling and nodding with approval and joy of an organ.

When Father was in the middle aisle ready to proceed to the altar, I began playing Away in a Manger. The choir chimed in. Also, on cue the church went pitch black. Parishioners had flaming candles which were to be the only light for a few minutes and to be blown out when the priest reached the crèche to place the Infant Jesus figurine in the manger.

I couldn’t see the organ, much less the music book. I stopped playing. The choir continued singing with no direction. They didn’t need direction. They just kept belting out joyously–heartily. The warbling was noticeable, and Clara’s not-quite-high-enough notes, were not quite high enough. But they were singing with what talent was left in them for God’s glory on His Son’s beautiful birthday.

“Luminares! Luminares!” Clara was yelling over the balcony.

When the lights came on, I continued with the choir, but not for long. My hands were still playing, but the reach was much farther away. My pumping feet were pushing the organ forward. The remedy? Play a few seconds, pull the organ back, play, pull, play, pull and repeat the entire evening. Mass continued for an hour and a half. Tears of joy from the ladies spoke louder than words.

I give thanks to the little unassuming pump organ when I was twenty-three. I had been given a challenge; and with God’s help and the example set by a parish of dedicated and gracious, elderly people, we made a joyful noise for the Lord!

Mary Jo Bio

A Resident’s Perspective – The Silver Tsunami

Written by Panorama resident, Deb Ross. November 2015

We have been dubbed the “silver tsunami”: baby boomers entering our retirement years. And retirement communities are gearing up for the opportunities and challenges our generation represents. As the largest generation ever in the United States, we have been used to getting attention from marketers, the media, our parents, and politicians. And if there’s one word we don’t like, it’s the “O” word, as in old (remember “don’t trust anyone over 30”?) 

My husband and I are often asked, “Isn’t it hard to be around all those old people?” In the few months that we’ve been living at Panorama, my answer to that question has evolved. First, our community is getting younger. According to Panorama’s Marketing Department, the average age of move-in during the past year was 74. 26% were in their 60s, 45% were in their 70s, and 27% were in their 80s (1 person was 91). The average age of move in has changed over the past 15 years as follows: 2001 – 2005 = 77.1; 2006 – 2010 = 76.4; 2011 – 2015 (so far) = 74.9. Most of the newer residents we’ve met are boomers like us, or in their early 70s. 

Second, I’ve come to appreciate more and more the diversity of opportunities and activities available here for the three generations of Panorama residents. There is such an age range here that some residents could be my grandparents (I’m 63; the oldest resident here is well over 100). What unifies us, in our decision to make the move to Panorama, is our desire to make the most of life, to try new things, and to engage in community. Our new neighbors are truly role models and inspirations to us as we begin to explore this new phase in our lives. 

Third, I just don’t notice age differences any more. Do you recall meeting back up with someone you haven’t seen for a while, say at a high school reunion? Your first impression is “Wow! They look so old!” But after the first few minutes, they are just people, the friend you knew back then, or someone you would like to get reacquainted with. When you stop putting a person in a box, like “old,” you find you have a lot more in common with them than you initially thought.

Deb Bio