My mother had a second act to her life. After raising five children she took art classes and became a painter--a pretty good one. She had shows and people bought her paintings.
She and my dad are now living at Summerhill. In the past couple of years they have suffered a series of blows: the death of a beloved sister-in-law, the sale of their longtime home, and most horribly, the death of their youngest daughter. Through it all the wonderful staff at Summerhill has comforted them, encouraged them to get out of bed and eat something, and been there for them in a hundred ways. All of her remaining children live far away, and we visit when we can. We used to worry constantly when they were getting older and living alone. Were they eating? Were they feeling OK? What would they do if one of them fell? Now we know they are surrounded by people who know them well, will notice if anything is wrong, and are cheerful, tender, and very personal with our parents.
When we sold the house and closed up the painting studio Mary Pat, Summerhill's director, and my mother's cousin, also a painter, had a wonderful idea. A selection of the best paintings have been brought to Summerhill and put on the walls for everyone to admire, and a show is planned. All of a sudden my mother has something exciting and positive in her life. Every time we call her these days we hear rapturous accounts of how exciting life is right now.
There is the added bonus for mother of the experience of looking, as she puts it, through other people's eyes at paintings she did years ago, and thinking she did a pretty good job. I can't think of anything better when you are very old than to be able to look back on part of your life's work and think it was pretty good, wasn't it?
We are grateful every day that we found Summerhill. We had been looking for several years and my mother had rejected each one. Too big! Too formal! Like a hospital! She loved Summerhill the moment she saw it. It looks like her own home. She and my father have been happy there and the whole family is heaving a sigh of relief.
Thank you, Summerhill!