Monday, December 20, 2010

Time Machine

When I was a kid, we referred to "old folks,'" "nursing" or "rest" homes.  Now sixty-, seventy- and eighty-somethings often settle into "retirement communities." I kind of like the term "autumn" care.  Too soon my name will be eligible for waiting lists.  I find myself visiting these places more and more often.

Kendal at Lexington, with its very nice little concert hall, repeatedly invites the Arrowhead Trio to test our repertoire of music composed in the past 100 years.  My own mother, about a year ago, questioned whether "anyone really wants to hear that kind of music." They seem to enjoy our explanations of what we're about to play.  On the other hand, I must admit I've been known to smile and nod while struggling to hear someone in the middle of a crowd.

Speaking of Mother, she frightened her children -- we will always be her children -- two weeks ago when she entered St. Rita's after fracturing a few vertebrae.  While at the hospital, her heart rate slowed perilously and persuaded her to accept a doctor's recommendation that she abandon independent living, at least for a while.  After a few days in a skilled nursing facility (SNF), tomorrow she's scheduled to claim an assisted living unit.  So we children have been exploring retirement living with new interest.  Reality therapy, I guess.

As I walked with her through the floors of the SNF, I found myself stepping back in time.  Name plates on doors returned me to 4th grade and junior high math (Mrs. Steiner), City Savings and Loan (Mr. Bauman), typing class (not mine, Miss Duffield), music history and choir (Mr. Lehman), and other venues.  When I accompanied her to the home's beauty salon, my brain frantically searched and finally connected the wet head under a hair dryer to the mother of a childhood friend (Mrs. Vercler).  If all these good people have made this place home, it can't be too bad.

"It's hard getting old," says Virginia.

Several other people have recently told me that.  My mother, now approaching 89, said, "I guess this must be what it feels like to get old."

I couldn't say.  I don't know.  I imagine I may entertain that thought before I'm 88.

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