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Nov 29

Chronicle from the Old Folks’ Home—Part 3

In Brief—Thoughts about daily encounters and experiences in the Old Folks’ Home.

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Wrinkles, Walkers and Wheel Chairs—

Aside from the laser treatments every second day, the routine is much the same. I rise at 06:00 or earlier depending on what kind of night I’ve had. Because of the colostomy and the gastric PEG, I sleep on my right side, occasionally experiencing a sore or numb arm from sleeping on it. Not pleasant, but it’s reality.

I stagger to the bathroom and go through the usual routine of practicing swallowing, shaving and getting dressed. Simply putting on my socks is an effort. It’s not easy and I often wonder if this is the future. Some days, nothingness feels like a blessing. Generally, I’m doing fine and always look forward to the treatments and pleasant conversation with N. who is ebullient, creative and very smart.

Sign (head-on)Thank goodness for the computer and the Internet. I recognize that it’s just another toy, but for me it’s a connection with the world. I browse the news with my usual skepticism, occasionally submitting a comment to something that moves me. Because I am an information junkie and have opinions about lots of stuff, I respond to the messages from American friends who send me their thoughts and experiences. Oh, yeah, and I check out Pinterest before the first feeding of the day.

Being fed is pretty much the same every time except for the person whose job it is to hook me up. Most are female, but there are a couple of men. Some are lively, some funny, some provide me with the weather or their candid views. Unfortunately, a few have to be watched like a hawk to make sure everything is done right. I’m exacting and know how it should be done. Regardless, the feeding hour gives me a chance to review what needs to be accomplished during the day. If I’ve slept poorly, I doze.

At the moment, I am moved to grumble that I suspect that the early days of a bland liquid diet after years of dietary roughage led to my colostomy. No roughage. Just a suspicion, mind you. In any case, it’s too late now even though I have insisted the dietitian provide me liquid with fiber.

At midday, I struggle to swallow a tiny prostate pill before my outdoor exercise. I struggle into my warm jacket and shoes and set out behind my walker for a few circuits around the yard. I wonder what it will be like after the snow comes. On inclement days I get my exercise by wheeling through our department into the next. Different wrinkled, grey-haired old folks who look at me as if I had two heads and don’t say a word in response to my “Hi.”

These are residents in a different department. Some sit in wheel chairs, unsmiling, waiting for the midday meal to be served. One old guy sleeps on the couch. He looks like he’s dead, mouth open and immobile. Warehousing is the only way to describe us. Old folks just waiting for tomorrow. A few of us are lucky enough to have visitors like my wife who brings the family dog. Many seem to be alone…just waiting.

Afternoons are much the same. After being fed, I sit at the computer, often working on blog pieces that have come to me during my feedings. That’s what I’m doing now. Composing. Polishing. This happens to be a fruitful period that followed a dry spell when I felt my creative juices were drying up. No doubt that will happen again and I’ll be convinced senility is setting in. Some day, I’ll be right. Right now, it’s flowing.

Late in the afternoon—assuming treatment is over—I’ll read. Reading is one of my great pleasures. An addiction that’s fed by a good friend who knows my varied interests and sends me books that keep me entranced until it’s time for the evening meal. Beats opiates. [BTW, the shingles is retreating.]

After the evening feed, it’s a rush of eye drops for glaucoma and cataracts, hurried exchanges of messages from friends and relatives and preparations for bed. Then it’s bedtime. And always spitting into my bucket to keep from choking on my own saliva…even at night. Always spitting.

A typical day at the Old Folks’ Home.

14 comments

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  1. Dave Meyers

    Hang in there my friend, the world needs good guys and skeptics.

    1. Don Bay

      I’m doing my best, but that doesn’t keep me from thinking. This blog keeps me engaged. And I’m curious if the laser therapy will reduce my assorted afflictions. At least it seems to have whipped the shingles. Stay tuned.

      1. Dave Meyers

        I know what you mean. We all hope for improvement in the near future, but some days make us wonder if our hope is for nowt. The fact that we don’t know for sure is reason enough to hang in.
        I love you my friend…….hope is the driver we need.

        1. Don Bay

          I’m keepin’ on keepin’ on. Some days are on the low side, others higher. So what’s new? Comes with being human. Friends like you make it all worthwhile.

  2. Susan Harris

    Hej Don,

    So good to hear you are getting good books to read!
    What about good documentaries to watch?
    Is there a DVD player in the joint?
    Being a one time employee of Fox are you still able to see current films of the Academy?
    When I was working for Hospice and at old peeps homes, I would connect by having the clients put on headphones and
    Listen to music. That would always bring on smiles. Don’t be too surprised if we can get a flight for New Years. We’ll see how much and might come so soon. But at this point it’s just thought rolling round.
    Glad to read the laser is getting shingles out of your bod😜 Lots of Love from Mart
    and I😘
    Susan

    1. Don Bay

      Most of the books I read are right down my alley. Some inspire me (like “West With the Night”) while others wind up being abandoned. Anne has hit the target more often than not.

      I listen to “Fresh Air” thanks to Ewa. TV may be out now (hearing, you know), but the computer is my savior. Amen. Music is largely a thing of the past. Sigh. My iPod has a ton of great music just sitting there now. Great pleasure at one time. Eclectic stuff.

      The cold laser is working so far. Onward and upward for this guinea pig. As for the travel, the Old Folks’ Home is my abode now, so don’t expect me to dance on a table top. Shuffling, sleep and an occasional walk is my speed. Thank goodness I have memories and rich experiences to draw on and friends like you to keep me tuned up. Stay healthy!

  3. Kit Moorhouse

    Don, your courage in facing the twists and turns life has served up for you is an inspiration. Not a one of us can predict how our lives will play, no matter how diligent we might be in planing for our futures.

    I’ve written and deleted my response to you a number of times within the last hour, I’m at a loss for words in trying to match your eloquence. I want to say simply that the way you have tackled these challenges, and life changing health issues with such an amazing attitude, instilled with that wry sense of humor along with such grace…….you’ve trumped us all. Please keep those blogs coming, even though I don’t always respond, it’s such a treat to find you in my mailbox. You’ve got so much to share, and your insights give me a lot to think about, which I need to do!

    Love,

    Kit

    1. Don Bay

      Thanks for the kind words. This blog is both my salvation and a chance to say what’s on my mind. I work at saying it in a way that is literate and will be understood. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail, but I aim at planting a seed that may one day bear fruit. Johnny Appleseed…sort of. I genuinely appreciate your reading my thoughts.

  4. Shelley Stockwell

    Sounds like you have become a spiritual monk in a profound meditation at a weird ashram. My love goes to you dear Guru/Monk.
    Miss you much,
    Shelley

    1. Don Bay

      The spiritual part would be disputed by many, and the guru part is beyond my ken. I simply plug along day by day doing my “thing” and observing what’s going on around me. This ashram is the future. I’m not sure it’s to the good, but it seems inevitable that the elderly will no longer be a part of the family but will be segregated into a ghetto separate and apart from the rest of society. At least that’s the opinion of this Guru/Monk. In any case, thanks for being you and for adding to my life. I miss you, too.

  5. Jim Newton

    Courage is the only word that comes to mind. You’ve been dealt a very tough hand and you’re meeting it with courage and determination. I think of you again and again, and admire the way you keep on keeping on, reading, writing, thinking and facing each day. Could I do it? Maybe I’ll find out when my time comes, if it does. Hang in brother, I walk with you in spirit.

    1. Don Bay

      None of us knows what’s waiting around the corner, good or not so good. If we did—fortunately we don’t—I’m not sure how we would react. We take it as it comes.

      Courage and determination have nothing to do with my situation. There have been times—indeed, there ARE times—when I wish it would end, but I’ve been too much of a coward to take matters into my own hands. Given that state of affairs, I read, write and think. I don’t even want to think about tomorrow, that I might wind up like those folks down the corridor. I do what seems right for now. Tomorrow will get here eventually. It’s a corner I can’t peek around.

      Good friends like you make each day a whole lot easier, so I cross my fingers and hope that all of you will live forever in good health. The good you have done is a monument to be proud of. Keep on keepin’ on. And thanks for being my friend for so many years.

  6. Linda

    Reading about your life is inspiring. While you openly speak to the struggles you have daily, they do not overshadow how you continue to enhance your own life and the lives of those around you. When I read how you say “hi” to folks you know will not respond, triggered a warm memory of you at Fox.

    Most mornings, you would walk around and stick your head into offices and cubicles, greeting your staff with a smile and “good morning.” It was a spark of sunshine to start the day. That small gesture, made a big difference then and I imagine it makes a big difference now, even without a return greeting. I bet many wait for your greeting at your new home in spite of the odd expressions they may have when they see you.

    It is interesting to me that you say the old folks are just waiting, waiting for tomorrow as I often characterize my 97 year old mother as in a constant state of waiting — waiting for the next moment. Your life touches me…. you move me even while you are so far away.

    1. Don Bay

      Thanks for the kind words. Life isn’t always what you thought it would be, but even the down-side has its rewards. Chicken one day, feathers the next. At least, I have this blog to keep me out of trouble and comments from readers and friends to make me think. Thinking is always good. Thanks.

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