A Ray of Sunshine

The Arbors at Dracut resident Ray makes friends wherever he goes
Posted by The Arbors

Three men sitting on a park bench enjoying each others company and putting their arms around the man sitting on the middle

Ray can make friends with anyone. Born and raised in Dracut, Massachusetts, he attended first grade with his cohort of 6-year-olds, but the next year, the school bumped him up to third grade. The following year, he was in fifth grade. By the time he should have been in third grade, Ray was already in sixth grade.

“They promoted me every year,” Ray recalls. “What that did for me was it taught me a lot about getting along with people.”

His education continued through four years of service in the U.S. Air Force and well into his 40-year career as a traveling electronics technician.

Of course, when he arrived at the Arbors at Dracut in May 2017, Ray had no problem making new friends.

“If you have a conversation with anyone here and you get bored, you’re the one with the problem,” Ray says. “The majority of people here have different backgrounds, so it makes for interesting conversation. Everybody here to me is a fountain of information.

“But my best friend is [Executive Director Jonathan Athanas],” Ray continues. “Whenever he needs a laugh, he knows to come to me for a smart-aleck answer. We get along very well.”

It Runs in the Family

Ray’s feistiness runs in the family.

Ray and his wife, Terri, had five children. After Ray retired and Terri passed away in 1987, Ray moved to Arizona, where he spent the next 20 years. He moved back to Massachusetts a few years ago to be closer to his kids.

“My daughter, who is a real go-getter, had fixed up a nice apartment for me in her house on the first floor and said, ‘Stay here,’” Ray says. “That’s what I did for a few years, but finally, I said, ‘I gotta get outta here. You have a life to live here. You don’t need me.’”

His daughter began the for senior living nearby and found the Arbors at Dracut.

“She explained to me it was an assisted living place,” Ray says. “I had friends who had been in places like this, so I said, OK, but I thought we still had two months to go. I came down for breakfast one morning, and she said: ‘You have to pack. You’re moving in tomorrow.’ That’s just the way she is. She gets things done, and I don’t stop her.”

Easy Like a Sunday Morning

Since Ray moved into assisted living at the Arbors at Dracut, life has gotten much easier.

“I have no worries living here,” he says. “I have no anxieties.”

He enjoys reading in his apartment, listening to music in the common areas — and occasionally giving Dining Services Director Bob Coffman a hard time.

“The food is really good, but I’m a big complainer, and I’m fussy about eating,” Ray admits. “I’ve eaten for 80 years the way I eat, and sometimes they don’t fix the plate exactly the way I like it. So I’ll tell the waitress, ‘Tell the cook I don’t want to eat that. He missed the boat.’ More often than not, he’ll come out and talk to me: ‘OK, next time, I’ll change that and see if we can make it good for ya,’ he’ll say. And he takes care of it!”

That’s one thing Ray really appreciates about living at the Arbors at Dracut: the staff are always willing to help, even if they’re in the middle of something, and if they don’t know the answer, they find someone who does.

“We all know there are times where personalities interfere with the response you get,” Ray says. “If it’s a person who doesn’t like the way I comb my hair and they get irritated easily, they might not be so quick to walk me around the community to show me how to get where I’m going. That could be expected. You wouldn't even be surprised if it happened once in a while. But here, it’s never happened to me. I can’t complain about anything.”

Fifty New Friends

One of Ray’s favorite activities to participate in is the men’s lunch.

“A majority of the men are ex-service people,” he says. “When you get service people together, our mouths are always moving. We all have stories and tales. It’s great fodder for our conversations.”

When Ray isn’t busy with the Arbors at Dracut’s activity programs, he’s probably thinking of the next book he’s going to write. He’s written a book about living as a Roman Catholic and another about seven human beings who live on a spaceship for 20 years called The Gods of Venus X. The book he’s most proud of, though, is called Nobody Told Me.

“When my wife died, nobody told me I’d end up doing strange things to deal with my grief,” he says. “People just told me I’d be OK, but I wasn’t OK. For two years, I was really sad. I used to hurry home from work, and when I’d get in the house, nobody was there. So, I had to do something. I did a lot of strange things. All these things I wrote down. I’ve been giving that book away for probably 10 years now. Everybody I’ve given it to, they’ve always come back and said it was the thing that helped them through their grieving.”

Now he has 50 new friends to share it with.

“The residents that are here — I’ve met at least 50 of them — I have never found yet one person that’s a grouchy person. It’s easy to pick up a grouchy. They’ll let you know they’re grouchy, and they’ll expect you to agree with them. They’re looking for someone to listen to their woe. This place, I haven’t found that. They don’t complain much. I’m fortunate.”

Does your loved one spend most of their time at home alone? Would they benefit from anxiety-free living as Ray does? Schedule a tour today to see if the Arbors at Dracut is the right assisted living community for your loved one.

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