The Relative's illness brought out the worst in people. There was mean-spiritedness, greed, and would have been fighting if people had been on speaking terms. She has recovered and is out of the hospital. The next question was, What was to be her fate? Home with multiple services (my idea, because many agencies provide, in addition to visiting nurses, services such as grocery-shopping, cooking a meal, driving, etc.) or committed to an Old People's Home? Well, she's in the OPH.
This week I camped in her nearly empty house. I brought a reading lamp, plugged in my clock radio, and huddled in the back bedroom. There was no phone, no internet access. The TV worked for one day and then the cable was cut. It will be the electricity next, I thought. I anxiously watched the snow fall. I had not brought boots, only a bicycle, so I tried on all the boots I found in the closet. Nothing fit. (I felt like the Ugly Stepsister in Gregory Maguire's terrific book.) I read Jean Auel's The Clan of the Cave Bear on my Nook, a novel I could dive into at the end of the day, regardless of the distractions. My pop fiction vacation. And when I needed a break from that, I turned to John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman.
I bicycled to the new old age facility. Dog walkers tried to keep me off a bicycle path. Wow. They told me it was a nature path and that I was not allowed. Big dogs, too. BLOCKING the trail. This would never happen in my city, where walkers and bicyclists roam the trails. But I was able to use the damn trail later in the day, and thank goodness there are many bicyclists in this town. I was not the only bicyclist out there in the 30-degree weather.
The OPH is on the edge of town. Why, I wonder? So they can have the true suburban experience? The Relative claims that no one will visit her because it's so far out of town. It's only three miles, but it's true that most of her friends can no longer drive. I urged her to invite a few friends to a bridge party--we could easily set up a card table in her apartment--and my husband could pick them up. But she doesn't like the idea. She thinks this is like a hospital setting, and people should drop in. She thinks she's going home, but the OPH "broker"-relative has talked of selling her house. The tape measure is on the counter. All I can do is be slightly subversive on the side.
These McDonald's-style places for the aged, in demand and big business, have a pretty facade to relieve our minds. Actually they're more like McRed Lobster crossed with Panera. Solid, new, and unobtrusive. A white winding stairway that no one uses since many are on canes or walkers. The place has a beautiful lounge, with a fireplace, and many comfortable chairs and couches. It is like a coffeehouse without coffee. There's music sometimes at night. There is a dining room, where in theory people go to eat, though in reality some skip meals. There is a room where people play cards, a computer room/library (I wildly hoped there would be a computer so I could check email, but no chance of that), a gym, a beauty salon, and a chapel. It's very showy in the front lounges, less so in the dining room and apartments, and of course they have the services like garbage pick-up, laundry, etc. So people feel comfortable about parking their relatives.
There are glitches. She isn't getting her newspaper. She didn't know there was a bus service. She didn't know when her doctors' appointments were, though she gets free rides to the doctor apparently. She had no stationery, envelopes, or stamps. She did not know where the office was or have a phone number to contact them in case she needed anything. She is receiving bills that worry her. She does wear a button around her neck so she can contact someone in an emergency. She's only been there a few weeks and doesn't really care for playing cards every afternoon. "Sometimes they need an extra for rummy," as she says, but bridge is her game.
She needs more orientation. Nobody lives in her town, not her "broker," as I call him, nor any of her relatives. And I'm not sure she shouldn't have been moved to one of OUR towns. If she can't be at home, does the city matter?
Well, I'm back home and am glad to be. I do what I can, but I CAN'T move there. I don't want to stay in a hotel, but that's obviously next. The isolation is terrible in her house. I'm used to having a computer, phone, and other accoutrements. I've never had a reason for a cell phone, but I couldn't even call my husband in the evening. Cell phone service is expensive, I don't need the fun features, but I now see why people have all that crap on their phones. I couldn't check the internet. I couldn't even find out about buses the night of the snow because I didn't have internet access. And I have the lowest-end Nook, the one that doesn't give you internet access except at home, because why pay $30 or $40 extra? Fortunately I was able to get around as usual. Walk, bicycle: you'll get there.
By the way, James Franco was a guest star on General Hospital, the best of the Relative's shows. We kept trying to spot him, but I confess we haven't seen 127 Hours and didn't know his work. We knew he was one of the handsome dark-haired men. Which one? Dante the policeman? The ponytailed boyfriend of a young woman? (He quoted "In Memoriam.") Then at the very end, "Franco," an artist and mobster, appeared. It was he! It had to be. The relative and I were thrilled. He is very, very wicked, though.
The plot is convoluted. A bride was blown up with a car bomb. We couldn't believe it.
"I'm wondering if she's really dead," the relative said.
"Is Sonny responsible?" I wondered. "But they seemed so in love."
We were expecting the worst because it's a soap.
No, it was Franco! He was scary.
Did you know James Franco has written a book?