They are kids with wrinkled skin who wear plenty of attitude.
Shuttle vans park outside the main entrance to cart them to and fro, whether to doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping or to the movies. Panel doors slide open and wheel chair ramps pop out. After the cargos load, the vans are off and about.
Inside I walk by a greeter who sits across a gym. The gym is supervised by physical and occupational therapists, young 30-somethings coaching and pushing their clientele. Racks of two pound dumbbells line the walls. I observe old guys and gals stretching elastic bands, and the therapists stretching them.
I make my way upstairs to Dad’s room. His TV blares at 120 decibels, the same loudness of a thunderclap. His chair perches forward like a pilot’s ejection seat.
“Let’s go to happy hour,” he said.
“But it’s only 3 o’clock.”
“Three o’clock is when things get going around here.”
Dad has Parkinson’s disease among other ailments. A cancer survivor, Dad is a USAF veteran, Vietnam Vet, and veteran of multiple back and neurological surgeries. His mind is sharp albeit easily distracted. A former physician for the Air Force collegiate hockey team in the mid 1970s, Dad leans on an old hockey stick for a cane. He’s ambulatory but mostly via wheelchair.
I pushed him down the hallway towards the dining area. Dad navigated the route.
“Go straight, and then turn left. You’ll find everyone there.”
Around the table sat five white-haired ladies. Canes leaned on the wall behind them. One gal sat in a wheelchair. Two had margaritas with mini-umbrellas standing in their glasses.
I told them I heard they were once cheerleaders. I asked if they could show me the splits.
“You’re a smart-aleck,” Agnes said. “Just like your dad. That’s why we like ’em.”
They asked about me and I gave them the data dump. Then I asked about them. Midge originally hails from Massachusetts. Florence came from Louisiana. Their husbands had long ago passed away. Agnes grew up in Iowa.
“Oh, Iowa,” I replied, “Then… I’ll… speak… SLOWER… so… you… can…. understand.”
Agnes reached for her cane to wallop me. “No,” she said, “That would be Bob. He’s from Kansas.”
The ladies laughed then discussed their ailments ranging from sore knees to faulty hearing aids to having to eat kale. Agnes bragged that she had a dinner date that evening with Frank, a retired proctologist. “He’s good with his hands, dearie.”
Florence noticed that Bob was late for Happy Hour. “Where’s Bob?”
“Bob came thirty minutes early and left to use the bathroom. He misread his watch.”
Midge sipped her margarita, said she knew her booze. I asked if she heard the story about three gals who went into a bar. “Do tell,” she exclaimed.
“Three gals walk into a bar, a blond, brunette, and redhead.”
“I once was a redhead!” Florence interjected.
I continued. “The brunette asks for a BL. The bartender said he was unfamiliar with a BL. The brunette responded, “It’s a Bud Light, duh!”
The ladies laughed and leaned into the table, wanting more. “Then what?”
“The redhead tells the bartender she wants a CL. The bartender was confused, what’s a CL? The redhead scolded him, “A Coors Light, duh!”
By now my audience had bit the hook. “Tell us about the blond, what did the blond order?”
I smiled, realizing it was time to reel them in. “Ok…so now the blond orders a “15” from the bartender. Stumped, the bartender reviewed his notes. What’s a “15”?”
“It’s a 7 and 7, duh!”
The ladies howled. Agnes somersaulted backwards. Florence cartwheeled. Midge did handstands. “Bob will love this joke, we’ll tell him [if we can remember it].”
A server arrived with a plate of snacks. We then talked about their lives, their kids, their grandkids, their great-grandkids, places they’ve lived and people they’ve loved. All appeared flustered with their current physical condition but all appreciated the camaraderie and fellowship. They genuinely cared for one another.
Bob then arrived, bumping his walker into my leg. “Sorry about that,” he apologized.
“No worries, sir. I’m Doc’s son. What are you in for?”
He grinned like a convict masking the truth. “I’m doing time for a stroke, been here three years.”
I visited again the next day for a Hawaiian themed luncheon. I sat next to Bob and asked whether the ladies shared my joke.
“No,” he said wistfully. “They must have forgotten. Tell me.”
I repeated the story and Bob laughed. “We’re all in our twilight years here,” he said. “But we manage to have good attitudes. You should see us on Poker Night. If we all had twenty bucks we wouldn’t get out of a Chinese whorehouse.”
Bob’s timing and delivery knocked me out of my sandals.
I’m fortunate my parents are still alive. Mom is in better health and lives alone but isn’t lonesome. “Our friends keep us going. We have financial resources, call each other, and visit on Facebook.”
Retirement funds and good health aside, I observed one common theme. Attitude is priceless.
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