Senior Reflections

Spending Their Best Years on the Bay

May is Older Americans Month so we have dedicated this week’s feature space to a group of senior writers, students in Susan Moger’s non-credit writing course at Anne Arundel Community College.

Moger, an author and a former editor, is a senior herself. Since 2008 she has taught writing classes at senior centers in Anne Arundel County (they have been online via Zoom since 2020). The class came to our attention when a student in one of Moger’s spring classes contacted us about publishing the work of senior writers. We thought it was a wonderful opportunity to hear from the Bay’s older population. We asked them, ages 60 to 88, to write about why they have chosen to spend their post-retirement years in Chesapeake Country.

— Kathy Knotts,CBM Bay Weekly editor

After 27 years of wandering—as a hidden child in World War II Czechoslovakia, as a refugee from Communism in Germany, as a new American in New Jersey, as a college student in Oklahoma, and as an engineer in California—I found my home on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.

My wife and I came to Annapolis in 1963, fell in love with our beautiful town on the Severn River, and stayed. Sue taught at the Naval Academy Primary School for 30 years, while I transitioned from USNA professor to entrepreneur, starting two high-tech companies headquartered here.

The Chesapeake Bay became our “second home,” as we raced our sailboats on its waters and spent countless hours anchored in its fabulous creeks and gunkholes. Our son, David, is a native Annapolitan, born at the old hospital on Franklin Street. I’ve belonged to the Annapolis Yacht Club and the Rotary Club of Annapolis for nearly 50 years.

Today, while living in Heritage Harbour, Sue is happily retired and I spend my time writing books and serving on boards of directors when not enjoying the beautiful green fairways of the Naval Academy golf course. We have truly found our home here in Chesapeake Country and are grateful for its many bounties.

Charles Ota Heller, Annapolis

At the turn of the century, home became the shore of the mid-Chesapeake Bay, 200-plus miles south-southwest of my origins. The grandchildren visited in two- and three-week shifts. They learned to sail at a nearby camp and were puzzled by the peculiar vocabulary: port/starboard not left or right. They learned to avoid shallow water and the hidden strengths and weaknesses of tidal shifts and variable wind. They discovered that to approach a point directly up wind they must navigate a zig/zag pattern called tacking, another odd word and concept.

Our small wooden dock became the center of their world. Fishing rods were rigged and baited; crab traps were stuffed with chicken necks; minnow traps provided bait. They learned the knots that held these contraptions together. Lotions prevented early-summer sunburn. Sharp barnacles on swim ladders were to be avoided: wear swim slippers. Old dock planking was full of hidden splinters: wear swim slippers or dock shoes.

They learned how to safely handle blue claw crabs the same way that I had learned 65 years earlier—painful nips focus one’s attention. Pinch the rear swim legs together tightly, otherwise their claws can find your hand.

They reveled in their new understanding of migratory species: ospreys, Canada geese, colorful mergansers, diving buffleheads, rockfish, menhaden. Catch and release (after a photo) was preferable. Besides they liked hamburgers better.

Tom Lyons, Edgewater

“What is that?” I said to the person sitting next to me on the couch. 

“That’s a shark’s tooth,” he said. “We found it on the shore in the sand. It’s thousands of years old and was in the cliffs above us for many centuries, just recently washed down here for me to find.”

This dramatic introduction to the wonders of Chesapeake Country happened near the Calvert Cliffs area when I was about 9 or 10. Years later, I got a sailboat and drove down from D.C. to where I had it moored. 

Then it occurred to me that living here is what I really wanted. I have been here for over 40 years and intend to be here the rest of my life. I live in a community on the South River with access to the Bay. I have sailed, kayaked, and canoed all around this area. I love the smell and the slightly salty breeze coming off the water. I love seeing, catching, and eating the crabs. And I can tolerate the sea nettles that get into everything, including my boat.

I have wonderful memories of events on the water and at my house that I can only ascribe to living in Chesapeake Country.

Liz Vanden Heuvel, Annapolis

Chesapeake Country is where I found a home, and a new cuisine.  I arrived in Maryland in 1983 as a new hire for the government. A few weeks later I went on a date and he suggested we “go get crabs.” Coming from Michigan, I had no idea what that meant. I was unsure if it even sounded like a good idea; however, who could turn down a good-looking man in a uniform?  

We arrived at a decent looking restaurant, so my concerns diminished, until we entered. All the tables were covered with brown paper and had wooden mallets on them. My doubts resurfaced and I found the entire experience of attacking a dead crab (thank goodness it was dead) to be completely new.

Carol Orme, Glen Burnie

There is no doubt that aging my way must be in partnership with aging His way. I want to mature in faith, love, compassion, integrity, wisdom and purpose.

            Four of the greatest gifts I’ve been given are my two daughters and two grandchildren. Time spent with them is my uppermost pleasure. With fun, also comes a sense of responsibility and balance. My interactions consist of impartations of wisdom, love and compassion sprinkled with doses of guidance and knowledge. All of it tempered with a sense of legacy!

            Another blessing has been the space and opportunity to rekindle old friendships and to build new relationships. What stories, testimonies, tears, laughter and enlightenment!

            Thankfully, I live in Chesapeake Country, an area with many outlets to serve and connect with faith-based, community and nonprofit groups. The pandemic limited in-person contact, but I found more creative ways to be supportive and compassionate. Technology and sufficient funds were in my favor.

            Another lifeline is the ability to continue to learn and connect with enrichment and intellectual opportunities. The availability of in-person and virtual classes and interest groups even in the midst of a pandemic enhances life here in AA County.

            Socializing with friends is a special part of my life. The capacity and means to travel, attend cultural events, and engage in varied social events with friends and acquaintances is another blessing in my life.  I do not take any of this for granted. 

            My intent is to try to live each day under His guidance with the goal to be a blessing in someone else’s life.

Doris Durrett, Odenton

Three words evoke the feelings of shared happiness and togetherness in my 52 years of marriage: Chesapeake Country and sailing.

We took lessons, but did not learn much; bought our first boat in Alexandria, sailed on the Potomac River, but yearned for the Bay. That fall, Misty-Marq moved to Deale. On the return from an overnight, we went aground—again—halfway into our slip. The next day we drove to St. Leonard and bought a slip at Flag Harbor in Long Beach. A year later, a bigger boat.

Retirement looming for my husband, and me being fired from my Bethesda job, we decided to take Peregrine and retire to Calvert County. Our Long Beach house had a Bay view. We made friends of all ages immediately, both at the marina and neighborhood. It was a real community. My husband could relax.  No one locked their doors.

Today I could still give my favorite tour of Calvert County, including views from the high Patuxent River bridge and the small one which defines Solomons’ Island, walking in the silence of Cypress Swamp, watching planes do roaring touchdowns at the Naval Station, going up the steep steps of the Calvert Marine Museum lighthouse, night sailing to Solomons for dinner, chancing a meal at Vera’s, searching for shark’s teeth at Flag Ponds and experiencing Annmarie Gardens.

I cried when we left Calvert County in 1997 for family reasons. We moved to Edgewater. Peregrine is berthed nearby at Selby Bay Yacht Club on the South River.  I can now give Edgewater tours, still in Chesapeake Country.                

Barbara Cantor, Annapolis

I moved to Chesapeake Country to be closer to my two horses, and here I have experienced journeys worthy of dreams. I have traveled on horseback from farm to farm in Edgewater to visit friends, as people did in days of yore. In Southern Maryland, we galloped along rolling hills that overlooked cow pastures, and we crossed bubbling Bay tributaries that soaked our boots and our horses’ bellies. We played follow-the-leader along paths next to cornfields and reservoirs.

Horses are creatures of flight, and occasionally dreams turned into nightmares. No rider forgets the watershed’s angry turkey buzzards and flapping beavers that have spooked our horses, leading to involuntary dismounts. Each fall earmarked a teachable moment.

In the show rings, I chased blue ribbons. Many ribbons were won at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center, near the Western Branch Patuxent River. A few were earned by trotting alongside a rambunctious yearling in breed classes. For others, I danced on horseback performing dressage freestyles.

Some folks are blessed to ride into their 90s. For now, at 60, I take one mount at a time. I savor whinnies and nuzzles on misty Maryland morns, grateful to move forward with these beautiful creatures that have captured my heart.

Eleanor Jones, Crofton

The last two years have changed many lives. Leaving homes, leaving jobs, much uncertainty.

            However, the pace of Chesapeake Country has made me feel safe and determined to stay. Sandwiched between the north and the south, our weather is ideal. Low rise towns and villages. Rolling farms and horse rearing stables. Never far from water access and ocean waves. Birds, raptors and waterfowl always in sight. Plentiful seafood to catch or to dine on.  Meet the people—they are a grand, mixed lot, eager to befriend. 

My place is here, but quietly. I don’t want to attract too many more people.  I hate traffic!

Christine Hickey, Deale

I moved to Maryland from Pennsylvania to be closer to my children and grandchildren.  Once I neared my 70s, I decided to halt the high-speed travel before my reflexes dictated a change. I left behind my world as I knew it and waved goodbye to friends, Philly Pretzels, hoagies, and my favorite, cheesesteaks.

Once settled in Chesapeake Country, in my condo, with a cherished elevator outside of my door, I decorated vacation-style to create my new world.  Since I was a member of three organizations, new friends were waiting for me.  Joining a church and taking classes at a local Anne Arundel County Senior Citizen Center was a blessing.  At both of them, I could take classes, go on trips, view entertainment, and party with the best. With water activities just a short drive away, I began to have fun.

Annapolis, Baltimore, and D.C. provided culture, historic tours, dining experiences, and a TV show “If You Live There,” that introduced a variety of neighboring communities. I began to feel like a resident tourist. It was just what I needed.

Although the eateries are vast and very good, the cheesesteaks and hoagies here can’t compare to Philadelphia cuisine, but the crabs, whether in cakes or eaten alone, have triggered my salivary soul. What a treasure. I really like it here!

Sandra Wilson, Gambrills

Since 1998, I have lived in Chesapeake Country near the South River, not far from the Bay. The river’s water in all weathers and seasons are a source of visual and spiritual solace. My grandsons and I delight in shoveling sand next to the river and wading and launching toy boats in it. In my kayak I am buoyed and balanced as I watch the world from the water. After hurricanes, we marvel at the river’s power to surge over docks and parking lot, even the tennis court.

On 9/11, after hours of watching the news on TV, my son and I were drawn to the river whose rhythm revived our spirits and freed us from fear.

About 20 years ago, I made a discovery that changed how I, a New Yorker until 1995, forever after experienced the Chesapeake Bay. My stepmother and I were waiting for a table at a restaurant in Chestertown, and I idly checked out the poster-size map of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. And there was the Susquehanna River, familiar to me from many trips to Binghamton, N.Y., and environs. Delighted, I traced the Susquehanna’s progress from New York through Pennsylvania and Maryland all the way to the Chesapeake Bay.

Like the Susquehanna River, I, too, originated in New York and moved to Maryland while remaining connected to New York.

Recently, confined by COVID-19 to Maryland, I felt that connection keenly, knowing that every time I look at the Bay, New York waves to me.

Susan Moger, Edgewater