Asheville under glass: From the lens of a senior

We honor one of our own

We all got in our cars, following our luncheon at Mt. Mitchell’s topmost restaurant. As seniors, we’re an army who travel on our bellies, frequenting restaurants in the region, making it our mission to find those that offer the best deals.

Some we flat-out nix in the process, swearing we’ll never go back; others we send to dizzying heights of glory (and financial nirvana) by relaying positive reviews to others.

There’s nothing quite so efficient as the Senior Chat Line.

We do other things, too … like support one another in life crises.

You see, on this day, we’re not there just for lunch. We’re circling the area, going down the many small road off-shoots, searching … searching … for familiar signs that tell us we’ve found our destination. Our line of five or six cars snakes along these roads, in serpentine fashion.

What’s our destination? The burial site for one of us. We’re there to pay our respects to the husband of one of the women of our complex. It’s the first year anniversary of the scattering of his ashes.

Only problem? We can’t find him.

So, we get out and look, hoping a tree, a rock promontory will kick on a memory. It’s all terribly quiet up there, as we effect a posture of solemnity. His widow feels this is the place but she’s unsure. After an uncomfortable silence, she shares that it’s probably all right to not know the exact spot, because, after all, she did cast Edward’s ashes to the four winds atop Mt. Mitchell in the first place. That said, he could be anywhere.

But she’s lost her point of reference. Why? DEM has moved the trashcan that signaled the spot. And since it’s been moved, she now lacks a marker.

She reasoned, as well, that there’d be no one more amused than her Edward, the subject of our hunt. He’d enjoy the sheer hilarity of watching a parade of elder folks endlessly circling a mountain top, to honor one of their own … searching, yet unable to find him.

Edward enjoyed flying under the radar.

We seniors are a motley group, for sure, at all points in the aging process. Our oldest, a 92-year-old man, continues to baffle us: He goes to our gym (in the clubhouse) daily, even if he performs his athletic routine “Mr. Magoo fashion,” at the slowest revolutions.

He’s the barometer that tells us all what we’ll all face — if we’re lucky.

As to our other members, well, each year brings fresh assaults that remind us to live fully each day. There was the nimble bicyclist who suffered a stroke on a 3-state marathon run. He was an athlete who prepped endlessly … no mere weekend warrior on the roadways. It didn’t matter; he succumbed, at 66, to a genetic fault he knew nothing about.

There are the crop of new widows who’ve seen husbands of many years cut down in this time. Now, they face a life journey alone, while some even take on part-time jobs to sustain themselves, emotionally or financially.

There are those newly diagnosed with life-altering illnesses.

Whatever. Their lives are inextricably altered.

There are no places quite so dramatic for life changes as a senior community. I wonder: Have you noted these changes in your own community?

Colleen Kelly Mellor came to Asheville seven years ago for a quieter lifestyle, but that didn’t happen. On a mountain road, three years ago, her husband was hit head-on by a 12-year-old girl in a truck. He “died” following surgery (staff shocked him back to life), and they’ve been crawling back ever since. In this column, Mellor opines on life in Western North Carolina as only the “born again” can do. Published in the Wall St. Journal, among others, Mellor adds her senior view of a region often touted as one of America’s “Best Retirement Towns.”


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