Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Facing Fears...OK, maybe more like a NEUROSIS!

I belong to a women's group at church. St. Ann's Circle has been a part of our church since about 1923. My grandmother was a member, probably since the beginning and my mother has been a member for greater than fifty years. One of the things that I looked forward to in my retirement was to join St. Ann's, thereby continuing our family tradition. One of the "regular projects" that the club is involved in is a monthly bingo at various nursing homes in our community. Once a month, a different group of women from the club goes to one of the "retirement centers" and provides refreshments and monetary prize money to residents who win bingo games. (I should probably tell you that several years ago, I had a part-time job as a bingo-caller...funny how some things go full circle.) Anyway, the fear that I'm referring to in this post has nothing to do with BINGO, directly. It is rather about ending up in a "nursing home."

So, as I made my way up to the door of the building, I said a silent prayer that it would not have that "old-person-house-cooked-cabbage" smell that I remember from some of the visits we made as children to nursing homes, either in girl-scouts, or elementary school choir etc. Fortunately, the facility was odorless. One thing that remained the same, however was the pity I felt for so many of the residents. Wheelchairs outnumbered "walkers" and too many of the residents seemed to have been "placed" in areas with no active engagement to their surroundings nor to their plight. My heart ached to see some of the elderly women carrying and holding onto dolls and I wondered if these were their surrogate "children" from their youth.

Conversely, once we started with the bingo games, there are many residents who seem to be quite alert, and enjoyed our visit and enjoyed the camaraderie and change-of-pace our presence brought. I just keep thinking how horrible it must have been for them and for their family's to make the decision to move to this place. I actually pictured myself crying non-stop, curled in a fetal position in the corner of a room, so overcome with fright and loss that I just couldn't imagine the pain and strength and "no other choice" that the families must feel.

I know and understand that my own neurosis is probably a gross exaggeration of the realities of life in a nursing home but I guess that's what makes it a neurosis. I just hope that when and if I am no longer able to care for myself, that I will have the where-with-all to buy a one-way ticket to a stretch of beach in the Caribbean with instructions for a porter to take me to a beach chair, under an umbrella and surround me with cases of Gentleman Jack and let me spend my final days in a self-inflicted stupor. Is that selfish?



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