My name is Ethel. I guess you could say that I've lived here pretty much all of my life. I'm currently in an independent living facility, and, let me tell you, it was tough leaving the house where I raised my kids. I tried to get my son's family to move in when I left, so it would stay in the family, but he wouldn't have any of that. He's happy out in Dexter. So I packed up my things and sold the house to a nice young couple. I think he's going back to school for his PhD and she's just become a lawyer. It was just one of those things that had to happen. After Frank passed away, the house was too much for me to keep up by myself, and I think my kids feel better knowing that I'm somewhere where help can get to me if I need it.

I've set things up here pretty nicely -- I mananged to get an apartment with a nice spot of grass and some trees, and I have two bird feeders out there. I've counted 26 types of birds outside just this week alone! I also was able to bring my figurine spoon collection over from the old house, and there's just enough room to display it.

I suppose you want to know where I go during the week. Well, my biggest standing commitment is that every Tuesday, I go play gin rummy with my friends. We rotate whose place it is at each week, and it's always a good time. It's a little sad, though, to think that our little group of card players gets smaller every year. When I go shopping, I sometimes take the bus that the community provides for getting to the big supermaket, even though that can be a hassle if I need to buy a lot. That happens when I have company coming, and then I usually take my car. It's a 1992 Ford Escort wagon, in a nice pink. They don't make cars that colour anymore. I also like to go to the little shops and just look, and since this place is so far from downtown, I end up driving. I'm glad we have the parking lots downtown -- parallel parking just causes me too much trouble. My church is also downtown, and I still go most weeks. I just park in one of the town's big lots.

One of my grandsons runs track and cross country out in Dexter, and sometimes my son, daughter-in-law, or other grandson comes to pick me up. I could just as easily drive, but I think they worry when I do that, so I let them pick me up.

I love to read, and I would go to the library more often, but for some reason it's all parallel parking over there. I've taken the bus a few times, but with all the young students, it's just so crazy. The city just started a book delivery service for seniors, and that's nice, but it only works if I know what I want to read. If I need to browse, I still have to get to the library.

I also go to visit my daughter's family in Chicago a few times year. I used to fly to do that, but airports have gotten to be such a hassle that now I just take the Amtrak. That's pretty nice and much calmer than flying. I wouldn't mind the drive, but even I will admit that downtown Chicago in rush hour is just to much for me, especially with all that construction they've been doing.


* For Ethel, independence is associated with dignity, and a car symbolizes that in some ways.
* She is on a fixed income, but money isn't really a problem.
* Ethel tries to keep her kids from worrying about her.
* Chaos, noise, and bustling people can be a lot for her to handle, so she tries to take a more relaxed option when possible.


Today is shopping day. When it comes time to go out, Ethel collects her cloth shopping bags from the closet and goes to the lobby where she waits with the other residents for the shopping bus. While waiting, they compare the latest news about their families, each boasting about their kids and grandkids in turn.

The bus comes and they leave the lobby, filing aboard the bus. The ride to the store is pretty quiet. Most riders just sit and review their shopping lists, though some talk to their seatmates. The bus pulls right up to the front of the store, which is marvelously convenient. They file out and the driver announces when he will pull back up front to leave. They all check their watches.

Ethel, having shopped at the same store for almost 20 years and also having fallen into a habit of buying mostly the same things every week, finishes her shopping quickly. She knows exactly how much she needs for a week and how much she can carry in her two bags without it being a burden. Since Ethel has twenty minutes before the bus comes back, she stops in the little coffee shop in the store -- a nice recent addition, she thinks -- and has a cup of tea while reading the book she keeps in her purse.

Five minutes before the bus is scheduled to leave, Ethel shuffles towards the front of the store. When the bus pulls up, she waits her turn and climbs aboard, setting the bags on the seat next to her. The bus never quite leaves on time; there are always a few stragglers and she is waits for them along with the driver and most of the other riders.

The bus drives back to the senior community, where Ethel gets off the bus and heads back to her apartment to put away the goods from shopping.