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Aug 14

Chronicle from the Old Folks’ Home—Part 9

In Brief—Change comes to the warehouse where the author lives.


The One Unchanging Thing in the Universe is Change—

Sign (head-on)Bengt may never run away again. He looks shrunken. He sleeps a lot. The vigor and sense of humor seems to be gone. The man I saw as active and alert now sits sleeping while lunch is prepared. His children may have been right to put him in our warehouse. His plaintive “Is this where I’m expected to die?” echoes in my head.

This is a place of concern, of anxiety, these days. Another company will take control in October. Three experienced members from the next department will be leaving in July and nobody has come forward to replace them. Rumors abound. The pay is said to be lousy and people don’t want to work in elder care because of the responsibility and,,,well-l-l, old folks are hard to care for, particularly the demented.

After several days of weakness where nothingness beckoned, a bit of energy returned, so I took a walk through the next department. Once-friendly folks sat eating at new tables, none smiled and waved back, one even turned away from me. The only cheerful person—a short-timer, so to speak—was a staff member who happily reported she has only four weeks left before her departure. Change is in the wind.

As I write this, it’s a gloomy day promising rain. I look out the window past the verdant greenery of spring to see men working on a home renovation nearby. Children scamper about at the day care center across the street. What kind of world will they grow up in?

Turning my attention to the computer, I scan the fading New York Times past ubiquitous commercials of Russian women who want to meet eligible men…only to find chaos: Gays out for a night of fun are shot down in cold blood by a hater; decent cops are executed by another hater; without bothering to express condolences, an inexperienced billionaire liar takes credit for predicting the carnage; war and destruction in the Middle East; the depredation of climate change; the death of a great fighter; England on an anti-immigrant bender votes for withdrawing from a Europe that has its own problems. What kind of world are we bequeathing to the children across the street?

My wife returns from Wales after enhancing her knowledge of art. The family dog adjusts to the city after a month of living in the country free of her leash. Friends and family in the U.S. deal with sick dogs, questionable marriages, dying mothers and graduations. And here I am in the warehouse scribbling a blog and wondering if tomorrow is my last day or if my genes doom me to years more of this.

I spit in my ever-present bucket, my back hurts like hell, showering and getting dressed is more difficult, every day is much like the one before it and I sleep more than I used to. Along with this is my concern as to whether this will be my last episode of the Chronicle. Then comes the memory of my wife’s admonition, “If you can’t change the situation, change your attitude.”

Should I change my attitude while the world goes crazy?

Change is the one unchanging thing in the universe.

18 comments

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  1. Avery

    Dear Don,
    You’ve always been an inspiration to me, now more than ever. I’ve always admired your writing, your sense of humor, and your willingness to put yourself on the line for a noble cause. Can you not hire 24-hour home nurses in Sweden? Can you hire companions? I’m serious. Have you no choice of facilities? I wish you were here, where your friends, including me, could visit you often. You’re great with emails and I’m not. I hope you never stop posting your thoughts. All you hear about in the news is the world going crazy. It is. It always has. I think we stay sane in a crazy world by carving out an island of like-minded friends and make every effort to enjoy the things we love to do and see and taste while we can still enjoy them. So today I’m going to do a little consulting work on a Netflix cartoon, then I’m going to get together with my two sisters for lunch and a bit of shopping, come home and walk my dog, maybe watch the Olympics for a little while, and avoid any political news. Tomorrow is my daughter’s birthday and I’m going to take her and my 8-month-old grandson shopping for her present and have lunch with them. I watch movies on TV when there are good ones. I have every channel. I go out to movies. I see friends and meet people when I’m walking my dog. I wish you were able to be out there doing the simple things you enjoy. I know you love nature. You’re great at blogging, you’re a wonderful friend and I know you’re always interested in other people as much as you’re interested in politics and world events. The world may be insane, but you have some sane, intelligent friends who love you… me among them.

    1. Don Bay

      If I were a religious person, I would say I’m blessed to have all the wonderful friends I have.

      No, it’s not possible for me to have folks come in to take care of my needs. We did that for some time and my wife had to adapt herself to my needs. No sleeping in, schedules to keep. Tension. Stress. Finally, the answer was clear: Old Folks” Home here I come. It may be a warehouse for the old and demented, but it’s comfortable. Most of the people in the world don’t have the advantages I have, so I need to recognize that and adjust. My friends are the frosting on the cake. I am blessed.

  2. Jim Newton

    I hear you friend,and I’m concerned for you. Old age is hard enough for me, and I have my freedom. And thanks for telling us what it’s like for you there as time goes on. We need to know about your reality so our energy, however we think of it and however we manage to send it, can go there for you. Please know that you are loved and cherished, and let that knowledge help in whatever way it can.

    In South Africa we say sala kahle, stay well. It doesn’t mean just “stay well,” it also means I’m wishing you well and sending you strength so you can stay well. Sala kahle my friend.

    1. Don Bay

      I worry that one day my dear friends will no longer be able to comment and lift the concerns of the day from my shoulders. My old friend, Lionel, left this vale of tears much too early and, though I now have warm memories of times past, he will no longer be there to make me smile, exchange ideas, challenge my certainties. That’s reality.

      Stay as healthy as you can and contribute to bettering the world as you do. That’s my hope. This little blog will continue as long as I can write it. That’s my small contribution. Sala kahle, friend.

  3. Dave Meyers

    “Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.” — Benjamin Franklin

    1. Don Bay

      At the risk of sounding like Yoda, “Worry, I will.” The train has an end station for all of us. When it’s time for each of us to get off at our stop, sun or rain, we’ll get off. It will happen some day. I worry that as each of us gets off at our respective stops, there will be too few to keep this little blog going, but until then, I’ll keep cranking out pieces no matter how entertaining, boring or pedantic. That said, I get ya, Dave, and thanks.

  4. Roy Okutani

    I hear you. We have a lot of shit to deal with. I just want you to know that we really appreciate your friendship, humor, thoughts and wisdom. Love you!

    1. Don Bay

      It’s friends like you who help me to deal with the shit on my doorstep. Keep sending me stuff that makes me think, keep playing that trumpet, keep rolling that delicious sushi. Wisdom may be just beyond reach, but with friends like you, how can I go wrong. Aloha!!

  5. Arthur Ulene

    Don,

    You inspire me. That’s no surprise. You always did, and–as long as my memory lasts–you always will. Art

    1. Don Bay

      Talk about inspiration, you are one of my idols. Have been for as long as I’ve known you and will be for as long as I draw breath.

  6. Kitty Courcier

    Dear Don, I’ve always heard it said that growing old is the hardest challenge any of us will ever face. I appreciate the honesty you put in your writing. Changing one’s attitude is not always a simple task. A Buddhist quote comes to mind. Emptiness is form and form is emptiness. There are times that I begin to sense it’s meaning and then it’s lost on me. I think that there is a mental place that we can perceive that allows us to not be defined by attitude, belief, or ideas. I imagine that those who meditate faithfuliy are able to obtain that conscience or awareness. For the rest of us we just must take it a day at a time. Love and light coming your way from the west coast….Kitty

    1. Don Bay

      An old friend in her 90s once told me that getting old was “not for sissies.” They were just words then, but they mean something now that it’s my turn. Your joy of life and your service to others lets me know that life, as brief as it can be, is worth living. Although some days are dark, I hope I can look for the pony in all this horse manure. Thanks for reminding me.

  7. Elodie Pritchartt

    This was a hard one to read. I’ve always had a tendency toward depression, and I’m healthy as a horse. I’m so very sorry you were dealt this deck of cards. I’m sure you never asked to anyone’s “inspiration.” You either deal with it or you don’t. What’s the saying? It is what it is. I wish it weren’t. Thank goodness you can read, absorb, and discuss. I think I could get through anything as long as I could read.

    I’m so grateful to have gotten in touch after all these years. You’re a pleasure to know and I hope tomorrow is a brighter day.

    Love,
    me

    1. Don Bay

      I try to look at my situation with Zen-like equanimity, but I fail. I devour books, whether provided by a dear friend or not, because they carry me away from my petty concerns into other worlds, other times. I even try to educate myself on poetry so long rejected. I may fail but I am challenged for however short a period, and the disabilities that have plagued me for almost five years briefly fade from consciousness.

      For one who has had the good luck of being unusually healthy for much of my life, the limitations that govern my life now lead me into depression. Oh, I know depression will pass, but it occasionally smothers me to the point of wishing for nothingness. Then I am reminded that I am blessed by friends… as I am today.

  8. Linda

    My Dear Don…you know what I feel in my heart for you. On your blog, I see how many lives you impact…how many lives you touch and change through your daily life. And, while at this moment smiles do not come as easily at the old folks home, I remember how they did come: gradually. You change lives with your presence just as you are changing lives through your blog. For me, your traditional “Stay Healthy” sign-off is harder to follow without its past companion “Stay Happy.” But I will confess to you that I quietly repeat it to myself whenever I read your “Stay Healthy” because it reminds me just how powerful and how healing even a smile can be.

    1. Don Bay

      I’m always in the mood for praise. Who isn’t? More importantly, you have inspired me for many years with your wisdom and integrity. I do my little bit here in the warehouse, however unintentional it may be. Even a smile from one of my old companions is a reward for me. I get more than I give. Lately, the energy level has waned, but fingers crossed that it returns. The encouragement and the reminder are a goad.

  9. shelley stockwell-Nicholas

    LOVE LOVE LOVE YOU
    Shelley

    1. Don Bay

      Wow! So much love! That’s good medicine. Ups and downs are part of life for all of us. Meanwhile, I’ll keep putting one foot ahead of the other. I wish you Good Health, Shelly.

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