It was a beautiful early March morning when Mildred Heatherton, a woman in her mid-seventies (actually 78 years) set out for a one week winter’s holiday at Orchard Spring retirement community nestled in the hills about 60 kilometres from her home town. She was on her way to visit her longtime friend Dolores Arbuckle who had recently retired there.
Mildred (Millie) and Dolores were both widows. Dolores’s husband had passed away some five years ago after a prolonged illness. Millie’s husband had died three years ago after suffering a massive heart attack while holidaying at their favourite Caribbean resort.
It was Dolores’s Christmas letter this past year that had suddenly decided Millie to try a one week winter getaway within a couple of hours of her home. Dolores had written: I have decided to move into a retirement community as I no longer have an interest in booking a week in some tropical all-inclusive resort. As you know, the winters are long here and seem more so as I age; however, when I think of the hassle involved in heading south: passports, health and travel insurance, airports, weather delays…also, with the increasing cost of maintaining my home, well, I thought it was time to make a change. So why not ‘c’mon down’ for a visit?
Now, Millie wasn’t ready to give up her own home just yet, but she did agree with Dolores that she also was no longer interested in a winter getaway to some tropical locale. Millie had always enjoyed winter as had her husband and two sons. Why they’d even spent three years in Yukon or ‘North of 60’ as people there would say and even though that time occurred forty some years ago, those wonderful memories remain - especially those winter days they’d spent cross-country skiing along wooded trails and in the bowl of the surrounding mountains. Added to the adventure were the number of animal tracks they’d learned to identify and the lunchtime campfires where they’d roast wieners and sip hot chocolate. Then there were other winter days when they’d go skating on a nearby beaver pond.
It was Dolores’s pamphlet from Orchard Spring retirement community which prompted her to accept the invitation and perhaps get back to enjoying winter. The pamphlet stated that it would cost Millie $115 per day for a single room with en suite bathroom in the main, three storey building. Her stay also included all meals and access to facilities - including the salt water swimming pool and sauna. There was a library as well as a billiard room. Billiard room? Who’d have thought!
As Millie turned in at the stone gates of the retirement community, the first thing she noticed as she drove up the curved driveway was the variety of deciduous trees dotting the spacious lawn. It reminded her of an arboretum. The front snow-covered lawn sloped gently to a low stone wall which separated the property from what appeared to be an apple orchard. Millie pulled her car into a parking spot and taking her purse, plus a small wheeled suitcase from the trunk, headed to the front door of the stone-pillared entrance.
Entering the spacious foyer, she noticed a scattering of comfortable chairs and couches. Some of the chairs were occupied and several residents appeared to be enjoying a lively conversation.
As she proceeded to the front counter, she was greeted warmly by a receptionist who introduced herself as ‘Kate’.
“Oh, you must be Mildred Heatherton, Dolores’s friend. She’s in one of the bungalows. I’ll phone her and let her know you’ve arrived.”