As If Looking Into a Distant Mirror

As If Looking Into a Distant Mirror

When I recently visited my uncle and stayed in a suite at The Dahlia Retirement Home, it was as if I was looking into a distant mirror and I did not hate it. I did not like it, but have, since my visit and stay at the retirement home, come to realize that it is a good fate and not some horror story.  I went to visit my Uncle Morris at his retirement home called The Dahlia, which looks like a Las Vegas Hotel Lobby and Casino.  When you ascend to the floors and the hallways are dotted on each side with doors to the individual or shared suites.  I was offered one of the suites that are set aside for out of town visitors.  I was nervous, not terribly, but worried about staying in a place like this hopefully way before my time.

I was given a key to what was going to be my personal suite for the next few days and directions how to get there.  I wheeled my bag down the maze of hallways and into elevators, finally arriving at # 221, put my key in the door and let myself into the home away from home for the next several days. I sat down and realized that once you close your doors, here or anywhere, you do not know the outer surroundings. You are just in there and you are just alone.

Dining every night is a glamorous affair. It reminded me of shipboard dining. We were scheduled for the early seating. The early seating starts at 4:30 P.M. and my uncle expected me to be there and be on time! I was still chocking down lunch, but dinner was ready to be served.  You are handed a menu, you make choices, you can have half of this and half of that and extra this and less of that. You can pretty much have anything you want. The dining room is a den of gossip.  As people come in and they pass your table, the buzz begins. You hear all about them, what they were and what they are up to now.  When the food comes, the gossip dies down.  When dinner is over, and as people pass by to leave, the buzz starts again.  Oh my what they must have said about me being there is too much to bear and I am sure they are still talking about the niece that came to visit her uncle and stayed several nights. Believe me it is not that I am so interesting; it is just that not much else seems to turn up to talk about.

I meet several people in the elevators and thank goodness they asked if I were visiting a parent or family member.  Early the first morning I was coming out of the game room and a lady nearly ran me over with her scooter. She was driving way too fast for a place where people are so slow. I think she should have received a ticket. for speeding in a restricted environment.

There is gossip that goes on all day long, but this particular gossip is what I got walking down the hallway with my uncle. A new story is revealed every time you pass a door on your way to the elevator. “The guy inside this door,” he said was the former CEO of a prominent national bank, recently had a stroke, got carted away and has not returned. The door next to the CEO’s houses a woman who got herself into very bad shape, but has pulled herself back to life and only needs a walker now. People across the hall from each other are very much in love. It is the romance of the month. Sporting a new shirt and sweater as he bounds out of his door is Harvey. Harvey is rather young for The Dahlia, but needs to be there. He is a very wealthy young man who is unable for various reasons to take care of him self. There is Charlie who sits on the couch in the lobby in same spot at the same time every day all daylong. He sleeps there on and off, but never looks rested.  There are knee and hip replacements behind those doors.  There are heart attacks, curvatures of the spine, hairline fractures, kidney failure, and various forms of illnesses from time to time and some win and some loose.  The losers do not return. You never know what happened to them. Then, there is Fran a famous world-renowned dancer who has only been here for two months. She does not want to follow the rules and has been very outspoken about there being too many rules. There are rules for everything she says and it is driving her crazy.

On Tuesday morning there was a big buzz. They were going to change a 5-year tradition. They decided in the board meeting that they were not going to have Blintzes on Tuesday morning’s anymore. Everyone was quite disturbed about this development.  I told them to start a petition to keep Blintzes on the menu. They loved that idea, but I am sure it did not get past the table. I will have to call my uncle and see what replaced the Blintzes on Tuesday mornings at The Dahlia.

Not only do I realize, I am in a retirement home, albeit for only a few days, I realize that in my real life, I have never been alone. I have always been with someone, gone somewhere with someone, gone in a group or met someone. Nothing like being alone has graced my experience. This needs to be pondered under separate cover.

I realized that my suite is on the first floor. Even though I have the number 221, it is still on the first floor, but a floor over an underground parking structure. Thinking out loud, it comes to me that someone can climb up into the window. Now who would want to do that in a facility like this one I do not know, but still I went around locking all of the windows. It got hot in the suite, but I did not care. I just know now never to buy or rent a northwest facing living quarters and be up high enough to make it impossible for someone to climb into your window. I kept the windows locked and that was that.

I also now know why you lock yourself into and out of these suites. If not, the residents come in and whether you lock or don’t lock, the staff come in at will. I was sitting on the second hand couch just thinking about something and oops, a cleaning man came into the suite. Oh, was I miffed.  Then, he backed out apologetically and I realized that locking yourself in or out of a retirement home suite does not mean you are safe from someone coming in whenever they feel it necessary. So there goes your privacy. The first thing to go in a place like this, I soon realized.

Everything at The Dahlia is timed; everything is a rule. Everything is deliberate, calculated, measured and precise. Everything restricted and oriented to the easiest, fastest most expedient and cost effective way to operate. Forget about humanistic. Forget about dignity. Forget about privacy. Forget about for the betterment and for the good of the whole. It just isn’t like that.  Beyond the beautifully decorated lobby and dining area, what you have is you, yourself and your bits and pieces My dear Uncle Morris says, maybe the Good Lord will have mercy and take us sooner than later.

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