The don’t-cry birthday

SeasonsThe song leader stilled her guitar and studied the group scattered throughout the dining hall tables. Some of her crowd had fallen asleep and some were staring out the window but several were watching her intently, waiting for the next song.

“What birthdays do we have this week?”

There was a quiet as the gray-haired residents glanced around them.

“Nobody?” she asked.

Then one women brightened. “It’s my daughter’s birthday today.”

“Oh!” The song leader knew this woman and her daughter. “How old is Peggy anyway? Is she the same age as my son?”

“She turns 60 today,” Clara said.

The group, at least those who hadn’t fallen asleep or lost focus, nodded.  Surrounded by several elderly people in wheelchairs and more who shuffled along with the aid of a walker, Clara finished her comment with a roll of her eyes.

“And she’s crying about it.”

Leading the way

SeasonsElinore pushed her walker to the table and slowly settled into one of the chairs. “So, are we playing cards or dominos?”

Then she turned her attention to me. “Are you going to join us?”

“I’ll watch.”

Elinore nodded and picked up the cards. “I’ve been here for over a year now.”

Here was the long-term care facility where we sat and I was a visitor dragging my feet to walk through the doors.

“I put myself in,” Elinore said. “I had fallen again, in my apartment, and came in for a couple of months. For therapy. Then I went back to my apartment and I fell again. That was enough for me. I decided I’d rather live here.”

Rather? I leaned forward. “So you left your own apartment?”

“Oh, yeah,” she said, sliding the deck of cards against the card shuffler so she could pick them up. “I just couldn’t be falling all the time. They cook for me here. And they have a lot of things going on.”

I wasn’t sure I approved.

“Don!” She pointed the top of her head at an elderly man shuffling past the table. “Don, you should join us. You like cards, don’t you?”

Don ignored her but Elinore didn’t stop. “Oh, come on, Don. This would be good for you.”

He stopped, raised his eyes to meet hers, and then grunted. “Ok.”

“So, Don, did your daughter come today?” Elinore said.

Don shook his head.

“Well, that’s a shame. But you can have some fun with us.” She dropped the cards in the shuffler and pushed the button. “I can’t shuffle anymore.”

Shortly, she had invited Clara and Martha to join her, too.

They were still playing cards an hour later when I left. As I stood, the four wished me a good evening.

These residents found a way to care for one another and Elinore led the way.

Another idea passed

Story_squareThe secretary and I were the only two women working in this shop. There’s something about rubbing elbows with a bunch of guys that gives you willies at night.

Let me explain.

The secretary was deathly afraid of mice. This was not a good thing to reveal to a bunch of guys but there it was.

I wasn’t overly fond of them myself but determined not to admit to it. But the guys still tested me. I was in charge of checking in shipments – large and small – at our business and so one day found a small plastic bag on my desk. This wasn’t really unusual and I flipped the bag to check the shipping tag.

A dead mouse was stapled inside the bag.

I dropped the gift and looked up to see our service manager and parts manager peering around the corner. The service manager threw his hands in the air.

“It wasn’t my idea!”

And the parts manager put his hands up, too. “I didn’t put that bag on your desk.”

I decided to ignore Tweedledee and Tweedledum that day.

They didn’t harass me again – not enough hysteria to suit them, I’m sure –  but one day our secretary came back from lunch to find a brown lunch bag on her desk. Stapled shut and wiggling.

She ran screaming to the break room, sure they had trapped a live mouse for her.

She refused to enter her office. So the service manager retrieved the bag from her office and brought it out, where he sliced off the top and set the trapped frog free.

Tweedledee and Tweedledum spent the afternoon freshening up the secretary’s desk before she’d return to work. Boss’s orders.

Something good did come out of it, though. Whenever the two guys got the idea to go in search of mice, they remembered four hours of scrubbing a desk and sat down until that idea passed.

Mama advice

SeasonsFred knocked lightly on the door before leaning into the room. “Mama?”

Then he saw me sitting beside my mother’s bed. “Oh, excuse me. “

His mama and my mama were roommates at a long-term facility. His mother had the coveted half of the room near the window so he had to walk through our space to get to his mother.

“You’re fine,” I assured him. I was reading a book while Mom slept.

Fred was tall with more salt than pepper in his hair. About my age. I’d already noticed that most of the visitors were about my age.

For most of us, our mamas -and a few papas- lived here.  This is our time of life.

“She’s sleeping.” Fred could see his mother in her bed. “Maybe I’ll come back later.”

“Don’t worry about that.”  The voice was my mother’s. She looked at Fred. “We can sleep anytime. She can’t see you anytime.”

Fred still hesitated. Mamas train us well. Who wants to awaken a napper?  We learned that with younger siblings a millennium ago.

My mother glanced at me and then at Fred again. “She will be disappointed. I would be. She wants to see you, ” she said.

Even at our age, Mama still gives good advice. Fred nodded and then tiptoed into the room.

Maybe he tiptoed so that he didn’t wake his mother before he woke her.

“Mama?”

I could hear a slight rustle. And then “Ooooh. Fred. It is so good to see you. I am glad you came. How are you?”

“I’m good.” I could hear Fred drop into a chair.

Mamas still know best.