Don’t Call It An Old Folks Home

by Bob Sparrow

    Recently our mother moved into what was previously called an ‘old folks home’, but we have come to understand that that term is derogatory, insensitive and . . . well yes, politically incorrect.   So we have created an ever-growing number of euphemisms to cover this concept, but for simplicity reasons we’ll just call it a ‘senior facility’ – sometimes the word ‘living’ is put between ‘senior’ and ‘facility’ I suppose to differentiate it from those ‘non-living senior facilities’.  Our mom’s new facility is called Merrill Gardens and it’s located in the bucolic city of Sonoma – wine country, which often times comes in handy for those visiting our mother.

      It was her 93rd birthday and it was up to either one of my siblings or me to make the trip from Central California, Southern California or Scottsdale, Arizona to Sonoma to celebrate the occasion with her.  My brother had just had a hip replaced, I’m assuming with another hip, so he couldn’t make the trip; my sister’s pancreas was not doing whatever pancreases are supposed to do, so she was out, and thus the familial obligation fell upon me.  Road trip!  The visit would not only provide me an opportunity to see how mom got nearly 55 years of crap from the last house she lived in, into a one-bedroom apartment, but more importantly it would be an chance to meet the new male ‘friend’ in her life that she had been telling us all about for the last several months.  It was my job to ‘grill’ this guy and report back to my siblings regarding his intentions with our mother.  Yes, apparently love has no age limit; love does however have a good sense of irony – mom’s ‘boyfriend’, as she calls him, is named Jack, which, coincidently, was what our father and her husband for 63+ years was named.

      ‘New Jack’, as we have affectionately dubbed him, is 87, which I suppose makes my mother a ‘cougar’ of sorts, but to her credit I’ve not heard her refer to him once as ‘boy toy’.  We’re happy that mom has found someone; our father has been gone for over ten years now and mom was long-overdue as a hen in need of someone to peck.  Those who have a parent in a ‘senior facility’ know that men are at a premium there, so she feels very lucky – I’m not saying she’s getting lucky, I’m just saying she’s feeling lucky – to have latched on to one.

      I met ‘New Jack’ in the lobby of Merrill Gardens as preparations were being made for their big, annual Valentine’s Day concert which included the ceremonial coronation of the ‘Merrill Garden’s Valentines King and Queen’.  We arrived at the showroom (actually just some folding chairs set up in the lobby) early; as mom said it would get fairly crowded rather quickly.  It did indeed become ‘walker room only’ thirty minutes before show time.  Mom and I found three seats in the second to last row; we sat down and mom put her purse on the seat next to her, thus ‘saving’ the seat for ‘New Jack’ who had to go to the restroom . . . again. I suppose in some circumstances we still ‘save seats’, but I thought we stopped that practice after junior high, with the possible exception of calling ‘shotgun’ in high school, thus saving for oneself the most dangerous seat in the car.  After that we just seemed to accept whatever seat we had and whoever sat next to us.  But I’m here to tell you that we return to ‘seat saving’ in our golden years.  The seat next to ‘New Jack’s’ saved seat was also vacant and being saved by the person in the adjacent seat.  As the place was filling up, an elderly woman with a rather grumpy face, that we were to subsequently learn would match her personality, ambled down our row and tried to sit in ‘New Jack’s’ seat.  My mother looked at her purse on the seat and then back to the elderly woman as if to say, “Are you blind, can’t you see my purse on the seat means it’s saved?”  The fact that the elderly woman was indeed vision-impaired seemed not to matter, but watching this interaction, I learned something about getting older, and that is as we tend to rely more on communicating with a look rather than verbally, I assume this has something to do with the loss of hearing that typically accompanies old age.  I digress; the elderly woman looked at mom as if she was a leper and started to sit down in the next seat over, when the woman next to that seat told her it was also being saved.  The elderly ‘seat seeker’ then yelled for all to hear, “That’s ridiculous, they should outlaw seat saving!” and shuffled off in disgust.  Seat savers, don’t be alarmed; while our representatives in Congress have passed sillier legislation, I don’t think the seat saving initiative is getting much traction.

      As we sat waiting for the show to begin, my mother gave me a running commentary on several of the passers-by.  There was ‘Dog Lady’, thus labeled by my mother, not so much because she owned a dog, but because she looked like her dog, probably just in my mother’s eyes, as ‘Dog Lady’ had her eye on New Jack before “the new floozy (that’s mom) moved in’.  Then there’s the ‘Chicken Lady’; no, not because she has or looks like a chicken, but because the wing in which she lives overlooks a chicken farm.  Nothing too unusual there, except ‘Chicken Lady’ also had her eye on Jack (remember, I said men were a hot commodity in these facilities) and had a geographical advantage in that Jack lived in the same ‘chicken wing’.  And trust me on this, proximity to target becomes more and more critical the less ambulatory one gets.

     Finally the show begins . . .

Continued next post


Some thoughts on Thanksgiving by Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I have spent much of my time the past few months writing the history of our family.  My research has taken me to places that I never expected to go. For example, the Napa State Hospital for the Insane where our great-grandfather was housed in 1900.  But that aside, most of our relatives were fine, upstanding people. In fact, a few weeks ago I discovered that we are related to 5 of the seventeen families that came over on the Mayflower. 

I’ve been reading a lot about our relatives, the Pilgrims, and have been reminded of facts I’m sure I learned in school but had long forgotten.  The journey was 66 days long and quite perilous during the latter half of it.  When they landed in Plymouth in November of 1620 there was no reprieve from the cramped confines of the ship.  Most of the passengers had to live on board while the first housing structures were built. The quarters were small to begin with and were not enhanced by two months at sea with no bathing or washing of clothes.  In fact, one of the first things the men did when they landed was to cut down juniper trees to bring on board in an attempt to improve the odor.  Those close quarters and the brutal New England winters caused much illness and disease.  Half of the original passengers died that first winter.  When spring arrived, the remaining crew members eagerly set sail and returned to England.  But the Pilgrims stayed on in Plymouth and continued to build their village.  By the next year, in November of 1621, they celebrated their first bountiful harvest with the native population and that meal has come to symbolize Thanksgiving.

So armed with all of this new knowledge I decided to really celebrate Thanksgiving this year.  My first stop was Target where I went in search of some kitschy decorations – a wreath, a turkey candle, maybe even a Pilgrim hat.  No such luck.  Thanksgiving was relegated to an end post on one aisle.  I was lucky to find an accordion turkey and a paper tablecloth.  Apparently that is the extent to which Target wishes to celebrate the day.  It was the same scenario in store after store.  Somehow we have turned into a society that goes directly from Halloween (a money-making holiday) to Christmas (another money-making holiday).

I think the people who struggled so greatly to establish the first colony in this country deserve a bit more respect.  Would it really be so bad if we focused a bit more on gratitude and a little less on greed?  We could start with Congress and then move on to the Target merchandising department.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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Headlines:  This gives him four more years to fit into the Superman suit.

The suspense is finally over, the guesswork is kaput,

The 2012 election won’t have Chris Christie underfoot.

He says it’s not his time, at least that’s what he swore,

But we think it’s more a matter of “always leave ‘em wanting more”.

Business:  Will the stadium seats be made of fine Corinthian leather?

The Superdome will now be named for Mercedes Benz,

Who join in the resurgence of naming-rights trends.

We hope this means good things and makes the locals smile,

And that next time there’s a hurricane, they can evacuate in style.

Sports:  Are you ready for some goofball?

It hardly seemed official, no Hank Williams on MNF,

But he was given a “time out” by ESPN’s refs.

It should come as no surprise, as his railings seem to mount,

Calling Obama and Biden the Three Stooges proves that he can’t even count.

Life:  Do they have to return the Bunny Tails? 

They learned how to do “the dip” and practiced coy flirtation,

But “The Playboy Club” is now this season’s first cancellation.

Hef’s had a bad year, lost his show and his “girl” took flight,

Maybe he should stick to “girls” his age and start dating Betty White.

Wouldn’t you love to make someone’s day just a bit brighter?

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Headlines:  Do we have ourselves a “Situation”? 

Chris Christie axed the tax credit for “The Jersey Shore”,

Saying taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for that drivel anymore.

While Christie may not run for prez, he sure is a smart cookie,

‘Cause he calls ‘em as he sees ‘em, even when it’s Snookie.

Money:  Is there a charge for walking in the door?

It seems that more and more we’re being squeezed for every buck,

Now banks will charge us more just when we’re all down on our luck.

Checking accounts will rarely be free, add that to our list of fines,

The banks are beginning to nickel and dime us just like the airlines.

Sports:  Is there a “no-tell” clause in that contract?

Tigers Woods signed a new caddie, Joe LaCava is his name,

He has hopes that this new “looper” will improve his mind and game.

Why Freddie’s former caddie would sign with Tiger has us vexed,

But we do know his main job will be keeping track of Tiger’s texts.

Life:  We’re a long way from Archie and Veronica

DC Comics has unleashed a new series of Teen Titans,

Super Boy will save the day and Thrice will scare and frighten.

A gay character that builds brick walls is a new invention,

We can hardly wait to see the next ComicCon convention.

Need to order an invitation to a holiday party?

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