This Small Window

conversations with well-aged people

Melody Goetz, our former chief cultural officer, wrote a great book of stories about our residents, called “this small window: true stories from well-aged people”.

It’s a great book.  If you'd like a copy, you can pick it up at either of our retirement home locations.


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A sneak peek at one of the stories:

“Quite the view, isn’t it?” asked Marion, as she came to stand beside me.  “I have this small window,” she said. “It’s like a window in time.  Early the other morning, I saw two fellows go by on bicycles that were all hung over with bags.  It took me right back to the Depression.  So many men were on the move then; there was no work, there was nothing for them.”  She was quiet for a moment, remembering.  “Still, any time is a good time to be alive, even the Depression.”  


We stood together, looking across the billows of dark green trees to the small waterway, alive with ducks and geese. 


For over a decade now, I have been working amidst the residents of two Hallmark retirement communities.  During this time, I’ve often toyed with the idea of writing down some of the stories that have come my way.   I am a writer, why not pass them on?


As I began my research, going back over a decade’s worth of notes and journal entries, the faces and stories of Hallmark’s many residents came flooding back.  


I remembered conversations in people’s suites, and in my office, and now wondered:  how could I ask a woman who had suffered both the sudden loss of her spouse and her hearing to turn down the volume of her radio?  Where had I found the audacity to enter the suite of a concentration camp survivor who’d just been told by another resident that the Holocaust had been “blown out of proportion”, or to ask a dame associated with royalty to tone down the strength of her perfume?  


Thankfully, the demands of my early years as Executive Director had kept me mostly oblivious to the absurdity of my ‘leading’ these people.  I began as a ‘halfling’ after all, with most of them double my years. 


And so, with quaking knees and pleas for wisdom, I’ve done all these things and more.  Not because I’ve always known what I was doing, but because I’ve been tasked to do the best I can to foster healthy, life-giving community.  


I’ve found these well-aged people to be gracious and forthright, patient and not-so-patient, and we’ve carried on as best we can. Years later, I am in awe: I’ve been allowed into the lives and stories of so many.   And so, small as I am, I want to collect these words that have been given to me, to lift them to the light and remember the life that has been given and lived.


Who am I to try to articulate these stories?  Fortunate, I guess; some would say blessed.  So many stories go unspoken.  I write these stories then, if for no other reason, than to listen, for every one of them has written itself upon me.


I have this small window.  Into the lives of these elders I have come to love.  Into this life I’ve been given.  Into this astonishing place, this beautiful earth.