Lou Powsner used to spend the mean winters of Brooklyn away from home, soaking up the sun in Puerto Rico.
That very first week there, when my beautiful wife Irene got that idea for one blissful week at the El San Juan Hotel, we saw many sights. But the best experience of all was the time we spent with another visitor to the hotel, the one and only Muhammad Ali.
Whether in the gym or in the nearby ocean and beach, a mob always followed him, or his blond opponent, a Belgian European heavyweight champ with the pinkest skin that would soon be belted black and blue.
There was so much more that we found inviting in the many corners of this island paradise. Every year thereafter we made time to go to Puerto Rico and stayed at the Sands hotel and other modern condos that we would rent.
After my Irene lost the fight of her life, I returned alone for a few years, some times joined by cousins Len and Joyce Lang, and always by my loyal granddaughter Naomi Snow, who’d come to set up all my clothes and food items for our breakfasts and lunches. We always had dinners out in one of the many accessible spots.
It has been four years now since we last saw Puerto Rico. We sure do miss the Mercado brothers, whom we always rented from.
Several years ago, after a long time suffering from a foot injury, we had surgery to repair a bad ankle right at Mt. Sinai Hospital. While in Puerto Rico, after a midnight slip in the bathroom, the newly repaired ankle needed to be healed again, and, unfortunately, a three-night stay in the hospital there was not enough to mend the joint.
After that, daughter Bonnie insisted, “No more Puerto Rico. No more blackjack tables. No more Amaretto.” From then, it was Florida only. Oh, well, that’s life. Sooner or later, your kids take over!
My son and daughter looked for a quiet place, and they found it. We kid them, when we say“This place is so quiet, we can hear the temperature drop.” The place is far from an ocean, but it boasts about the incessant water spout outside the screened-in terrace of my apartment — and we got to listen to the noon echoes of the distant church bells each day that lilted over the air and over Helen Twelvetrees, (Twelvetrees was the name of a great actress back in the 1930s and the private name that I donated to a tabled area where I sat and read or wrote).
The Willow Wood was the “nice quite place” that hosted me each of the last three wintry January to March. Quiet it was, but its entertainment, managed by a compact staff, provided activities, some great visiting entertainers and the wildest holiday celebrations of Valentines’ and St. Patrick days.
Three meals a day were readily available and well staffed while some took their own meals in their own apartments. There were also regular doctor appointments in the many areas of Willow Wood’s spacious accommodations and scheduled trips to nearby banks, markets and shops.
On occasions there were even trips to theaters or casinos or outside dining. All day there were residents hobbling with their canes or scooting by in tall soft-motored vehicles. The best driver of all was a 103 year old racer that was always on the go.
For three years now we left with the same mixed emotions. A) glad to be going home; B) sorry to say good by to friendships and C) if we return next year, will our friends still be here and be well?
You won’t see many prettier landscapes for seniors to end their later years with skilled nurses than Willow Wood. May the good Lord bring continued health and happiness to all; and to the directors, continued success.