“I resolve to not cut my hair all year.”
“I resolve to get at least three tattoos.”
“I resolve to refrain from waxing my eyebrows for at least three months.”
Those were stupid, Stacia decided. Superficial. Lame.
“I resolve to volunteer at the soup kitchen.”
That was better.
“I resolve to foster a special needs animal from the shelter.”
She was on a roll.
“I resolve to spend time at an old folks’ home.”
Ack. The wincing that one triggered convinced her that Saturdays at Silver Ridge was the way to go. After all, if it didn’t hurt, why do it?
Saturday dawned crystal clear, sun rising golden above purple mountains. “Above the fruited plain,” Stacia sung as she swung her truck into the Silver Ridge parking lot. “Amerrrricaaaa… Amerrrricaaaa….” She hoped they didn’t expect her to sing. As much as she enjoyed belting along with the radio or when inspired by a particular view, even the hard-of-hearing might wince at her tuneless efforts.
“Hello!” she called out, leaning against the reception desk. “Hello!”
A rustling sounded down the hall. Stacia glanced around at the empty lobby, all carefully stacked magazines and blue vinyl chairs arranged to have a view of the large screen TV dominating one side of the room. The other side featured windows and a sliding door leading into a bench-lined atrium where birds of paradise bloomed.
“Hello?” She hollered again. The rustling stopped, was replaced by the sound of striding steps moving toward her. A woman emerged, clipboard clenched to her chest. The look of annoyance crossing her face reminded Stacia of her mom.
“Hi!” Stacia said. “I’m here to volunteer.” She smiled her brightest smile at the… nurse? Receptionist? Stacia couldn’t tell.
The woman tilted her head, looking at Stacia over thick blue-framed glasses. “It’s 6:30 in the morning.”
“I know,” Stacia replied. “But… um… don’t old… I mean, senior… people get up early?”
“Yes,” said the woman. “Yes, they do. But we don’t take visitors until 9.”
“I’m not a visitor!” said Stacia. “I’m a volunteer!”
A sign emanated from the woman as she lowered her clipboard and dropped it on the desk. “You should come back later.”
“But I’m here now!” protested Stacia. “And I really want to help!”
Another sigh. The woman opened a drawer, pulled out some papers. “Fine,” she said. “Sit. Fill these out. Leave them on the desk and someone will call you.” She handed the sheets to Stacia, picked up her clipboard and disappeared down the hallway.
Stacia carried the forms to the couch. She sat down. She glanced over the paperwork. Lots of basic who-are-you information, a section on interests, another on experience. Boring! Stacia shoved the sheaf into her purse and traipsed down the hall. Miss Grumpypants was muttering over a computer in a side room and didn’t even notice Stacia slipping by.
The hall led to an open area where recliners and ottomans dominated the floorspace. Off to the right, a glassed-in room allowed Stacia her first look at the early morning risers of Silver Ridge. A yoga class. Perfect.
She stepped out of her shoes, grateful she’d worn her old Dansko clogs. Her tall zip boots had been her first choice, but she’d reconsidered, not wanting to show up looking too stylish in case the old… she meant senior… people envied her youth.
The instructor turned toward her as she stepped into the room. “Namaste!” Stacia called out, striking the pose of hands pressed together as she intimated a slight bow. She took a spot on the floor.
The four other faces twisted to look. “Hello?” said the instructor. “And you are…?”
“Stacia,” she answered. “New volunteer. So happy to be here!”
An expression of doubt flickered across the yoga teacher’s face, but was quickly replaced by resignation. “Wonderful,” she said. “Welcome.”
They moved through sun salutations, warrior pose and downward dog. Stacia snuck a glance around her as the blood flowed into her head. Three women, one man. He’s probably hoping to get lucky, she thought, giggling to herself. The yoga teacher looked at her. Stacia stifled her laughter, tensed her abdominal muscles.
“Very good, very good,” the instructor praised as the group stood in unison. “Last time I held that pose that long, I was in a shower and it was my honeymoon,” the woman to Stacia’s right quipped. The man and one other woman laughed. The instructor and the other woman pursed their lips. Stacia smiled at the saucy senior, gave her a thumbs up. This is the lady she should hang out with, Stacia thought.
After the class ended, she helped pass out towels and cups of water. “Hi, I’m Stacia,” she said, introducing herself to each resident. The woman who’d cracked a joke crooked her arm through Stacia’s. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she said, patting Stacia with her free hand. “We need some new blood in these parts.”
Stacia stretched her face into its biggest smile. The woman had been funny, sure, and Stacia wanted to be her volunteer friend, but the sensation of loose skin over bony arm pressing into her own firm, pliant body triggered a desire to pull away. She forced herself to hold steady. “Oh, good!” Stacia enthused. “I’m so happy to be here. What’s your name?” Her face remained bright.
The old… she meant senior… woman pulled her closer. “Lucy,” she said. “I’m Lucy. And look, honey, you have to help me. Promise you’ll help me?”
Incalculable wrinkles surrounded the sky-blue eyes gazing into Stacia’s own. “Of course,” she said, now patting Lucy’s arm, loose flesh and all. “Of course.”