Shirley delighting us with stories before her golf tournament
Gear at the ready, the videographer, cameraman, and I met on the CherryWood Village grounds on a bright morning, ready for our challenge. In one day we needed to capture, through resident and employee interviews, all the charm and beauty that is this vibrant community.
The Executive Director , Eyke, met us exact to our appointed time and escorted us to meet our first interviewee. And Shirley knocked our socks off. Shirley gaily chatted with the camera crew as they rigged up lighting and sound for a shot of her in front of her beautifully appointed kitchen, and once the film was rolling, she simply glowed. Speaking of the journey that brought her to this community, she captivated us with her drive to build her life on her terms and living it vibrantly. When she came to CherryWood Village she said yes to all social events, outings, and activities that caught her eye. “I need to start saying no – my days are so busy!” Our producer chuckled and noted that even at our wrap she was due on the putting green for a tournament. Holding her putter over her shoulder she smiled and replied, with a twinkle in her eye, that CherryWood resident golfers were going to beat the Station 7 firefighters this year. “Shirley,” our videographer said toward the end of the visit, “you’ve described all these things you love here, but why did you really choose CherryWood?” “You know it was on our tour,” she replied. She went on to describe the marketing associate showing her and her husband about and stopping frequently to call greetings to people by name, or inquiring if that dripping faucet had been resolved. “It made such an impression.”
Set two was chosen especially for the subject. Jim met us in the warm space of the Gabriel Chapel, where he subs in for the Chaplain as needed. Calm and collected and with easy humor, he answered our questions with remarkable thoughtfulness and described the brochure for CherryWood Village gathering dust on the shelf until he and his wife decided to stop by. “My wife and I came for a tour and wrote the check,” he said with a smile. Mentioning that Shirley recommended his bocce ball coaching skills, Jim, as he did throughout the interview, humbly clarified to be sure to not carry any undue credit, and stated that his role as a lineman was more to keep the game proceeding properly and according to procedure that it might be amicably enjoyed by all. And that thread carried into all his answers. While speaking of his involvement with various groups at CherryWood Village, including water volleyball and especially of that with veterans and of those of a spiritual nature, Jim’s words reflected a deep commitment to values, relationships, engagement, and community. “You will look long and hard to find anything like CherryWood Village,” he told us with conviction. I couldn’t help but think that men like Jim being a part of it were exactly why that was so true.
Marilyn met us at the CherryWood Village library. Visitor after visitor poked their heads in and we were forced to assure them that despite the disarray to which we had put the room to capture the right angle for filming, they would normally find it a serene retreat. We were delighted to close the door and begin. Marilyn was charm itself from the start. As the microphones were adjusted and a complicated debate about whether to move magazines in the background proceeded, we chatted about her previous film experience, which stemmed from having a talented videographer in her own family who had artistically put to screen moments of Marilyn’s own life. This, or perhaps just natural poise, friendliness, and eloquence, leant to Marilyn an ability to articulate the experience of she and her husband as they considered various choices in a move. ” I contacted seven places and toured three. Before going to the fourth one, CherryWood Village, I researched online and said, ‘We aren’t going there.’ I saw the virtual tour. It couldn’t be that nice.” Here she smiled beautifully, paused, and said, “It wasn’t. It was better.” In recounting, she noted a sentiment I had head spoken before about making the decision for yourself and not waiting for a time when independence of choice is compromised and you cannot enjoy the best a community has to offer. “How can your children make this choice for you? They do not know what we want – how can they? They are not us.” Her happiness as she describes what a great fit CherryWood Village and her cottage home here are for her and her husband radiates as she speaks of her involvement in a myriad of social activities, of the staff she holds in high regard, and of especially her daily participation at the Wellness Center Module Art Panels
. Our videographer, probably delighted with how perfectly easy Marilyn was making his job, asked if being a family owned company, in fact a family currently celebrating its 70th anniversary of service since the opening of the first senior living community 5 generations back, made a difference. Marilyn nodded as she responded that is readily apparent that the company was made of people who all had grandparents, who treated the individuals at CherryWood Village exactly as that – individuals and as their own family.
Interview four was in several ways the most charming of all, but mostly because little went perfectly. With lights and camera at the ready we kicked our heels as we wondered if Benny, Maintenance Supervisor, had forgotten us. Suddenly he strode into his office and, as he caught his breath, apologized for our waiting while he was delayed assisting a resident. With an indulgent smile and much patience he allowed us to move around tools, motor parts, and signage from their homes as we tried to capture the maintenance world in the background shot. As the cameraman tacked a mic to his lapel, Benny glances at me, “What is this interview for again?” I tried to explain that we wanted a real feel for the employee and resident experience. He nodded thoughtfully, perfectly willing to assist us if that was what we wanted. So we turned the cameras on. Our videographer asked why Benny chose CherryWood Village, when he had wonderful skills he could take anywhere. “It’s all about the people,” he said, but trailed off as he looked into the camera and tried to consider what we might be wanting him to say. Our videographer tried again, asking about Benny’s experience. He gave a carefully considered but short answer and struggled to complete his thought under the bright lights and camera gaze. Ending the topic he smiled all the way to his eyes and said, ” I met my wife here and ten years later I’m eight years married and three years a father.” And then a resident walked in. Startled at seeing a whole crew in the office, she gave a kind of apology and backed up a step, but Benny waved her in. In respect we turned the camera off. What idiots we were. We missed the opportunity to truly capture what was so special about this man’s work. Benny turned completely toward her, eyes warm and relaxed, wearing a smile and head tipped forward to listen and focus, and the resident stepped forward toward him, obviously made completely at ease. She spoke of an awkward complication needing some finesse and when she finished Benny nodded once and said confidently, “I will take care of it.” As she left he jotted down a few notes. We turned the camera on again, asked more questions, and once again Benny made a brave effort to relax for the camera. “Benny” I interjected at last, “I have admired in you for ten+ years your ability to be completely present and in the moment with the residents, your ability to take things in stride, your willingness to do whatever it takes. Talk to us about that.” He smiled, almost embarrassed by the compliment and shrugged, not sure what to say. “The residents are why we are here.”
Interview five was delayed by the fact that the movie theater is quite tricky to light well enough for filming and by the fact that Bruce, Activities, despite coming in on his day off especially to speak with us, kept getting pulled away by residents that clearly adored him. We asked that he bring in a classic movie to play on the screen over his shoulder and he arrived with Auntie Mame. “A resident favorite and mine.” He explained further that his favorite line comes right out of the move’s dialogue. “Life is a buffet and some poor fools are starving,” he quoted with a broad smile. So we started the show, fired up the camera, and began. Bruce’s dedication and absolute joy in his work were articulated in every gesture and expression. As we were seated I considered this vibrant personality, meant to be with and best shown in the company of others. Perhaps it would have been better to have interviewed him in the noisy Village Square were we would have not had to ask any questions at all but just watch as he lit up at each interaction, making people’s day. His personal mission, to make a difference, would be so perfectly aligned in those moments. But in the dim theater alone, he still held his own, answering questions with a wisdom and sense of life’s greater purpose so unusual in one fairly young. “My friends ask me why I like working with the elderly. I tell them that all the things you like about today – well they made them happen. I love my job and don’t ever picture leaving it.” Our videographer laughed and said, “Okay, the entire cast of Auntie Mame was twirling martinis and cigarettes in the background – not exactly the CherryWood picture of wellness – could you say that again?”
Our final interview was against the colorful background of the art studio. We caught Sue at the tail end of a day that started with a golf tournament and ended with a heavily attended campus-wide entertainment and root beer float social and was packed to the gills in between. “I came here and I knew – CherryWood Village and I just fit,” Sue started with a lovely smile at the memory. She described how full the residents make your life, how interesting, and how at the end of a completely exhausting day that one smiling face and hug make it worth it. She described the family owners behind CherryWood Village and their obvious genuine concern for her wellbeing. The longer Sue spoke, the more I couldn’t keep tears off my cheeks. Her dedication and devotion to the community and all the people at CherryWood, filled each perfect sentence, touching sentiment, and keen life observation. Our videographer glanced at us at the end as she left, “it’ll be hard to decide what material not to use for this one.” I nodded, sniffling too much to otherwise agree.
The crew packed up, breaking down tripods and loading bag after bag into the van. We shook hands and parted, an oddly anticlimactic end to an emotional rollercoaster of a day.
I walked across the putting greens and over the bridge of the little pond, turning to admire the campus in the softening light. I felt puffed up with pride. I was moved to be connected with a community full of extraordinary people. I was inspired to see people thriving together and by a day spent seeing the CherryWood and Generations mission and vision in action.
What a moment. Thank you CherryWood Village for a day to remember.