Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A bottle of red...

The Setting: A nursing home in Queens/very late afternoon, early evening New Year's Eve.

The day had been a nice one, as December days go gorgeous. The weather somewhere in the high 40's so we took to the yard for some last pre-winter outdoor work. I had mentioned to Scissors that I wanted to visit Grandpa, his stepdad, who since this past April resides in a nursing home.

The circumstances that led up to his incarceration included his roaming the streets in the wee hours leaving the front door wide open. Actually he had taken to hanging out at a nearby 7-11 convenience store as an unpaid employee on their overnight shift. According to him, he was the store manager. He would give their home telephone number out and my mother-in-law would field subsequent calls about apartments for rent that did not exist. He has Parkinsons with Alzheimer's symptoms. While at home, he refused medication and by the time of his first mini-stroke which started his real downfall and hospitalization, he would walk in a completely stooped posture. It was sad to see. Scissors had gotten more than one phone call to come quickly as he had fallen and was unable to get himself back up. Considering Scissors is 5'9" on a tall day and Grandpa is 6'0" on a short one, this was not always an easy task.

He didn't go down easily and was not at all happy about being placed in the facility. Honestly - who would? But he had gotten so bad at home with the roaming and refusal to take medicine that his health was on a downward spiral. Months later, he still talks of coming home although not quite as vociferously, and has made friends, especially a new friend - Sally.

As my MIL announced in the car one day, "Sam (not the name we know him by but his "American" name) has a girlfriend". She said this with a wry look on her face, quickly followed up with "not that I care about that, just that it makes a fool of me". Theirs was always a marriage of convenience, or judging by the way she yelled at Sam, inconvenience. But still, it's sad. They do love each other in their own way. I offered gently, "well you can't really hold him accountable, he's not really in his normal frame of mind" (normal being a relative term as Grandpa always sort of reminded me of Chauncey Gardner in Being There).

So in we came last night, my little family to visit Grandpa. We found him in the dining room with Sally and another woman at their table. Sally seemed sweet and in true Jewish Grandmother form, tried to figure out what of their non-eaten dinner they could give the kids. Tali would have no part of it, but Julian happily complied and was lapping up chocolate pudding faster than you could say "medication time".

The dining room slowly cleared and we were the last ones along with another gentleman introduced only as "an opera singer" as he joined us, left in the room. When Julian heard opera singer, he took center stage and began singing in operatic fine form "I sing OP-E-RAAAA" to the delight of Sam, Sally and Opera Man. Then he began a dance to go along with it. Grandpa (still in fine voice) took to singing his repertoire of Jewish songs capped of with Those Were the Days. Sally smiled and Opera Man even sang along a bit. We joked about having our own New Year's Eve party and we were actually having a nice time. Julian took to speaking in a clipped Cary Grantesque voice (which Tali refers to as his Jewish Santa voice - inside joke) peppering his speech with "Yess darling's" which amused them to no end.

Opera Man excused himself wishing us a Happy and Healthy New Year as he was retiring for the night. We decided to take the elevator downstairs to a sitting room with a huge aquarium and aviary with finches flitting about. Sally seemed to regress into a childlike behavior when the nurse scolded her for standing as she had fallen recently and was not allowed to be out of her wheelchair just yet. When we went back by the Nurse's Station, and pressed for the elevator I asked if Sally could join us and the nurses said yes. Her face lit up as I wheeled her along with us. The party continued and then it was getting a little late so we wheeled them back to the elevator with Tali and Julian "helping" Grandpa with his walker.

On the loudspeaker some piped in music played Billy Joel's "a bottle of red, a bottle of white...I'll meet you any time you want in our Italian Restaurant".

The elevator doors shut and we headed for the car.


Dan said...

G, what a beautifully written post. You are a wonderful writer, my friend. I was there with you. Sally's smile lit my little office here! ;)

Anonymous said...

We've been through something like this recently in our family. Great warm mix of humor and pathos in your post, G, that nicely mirrors such situations.

Logophile said...

Yessss, darling, that was lovely.
I was reminded of my times in similar elevators, emerging with a sigh, and then wondering, What is that sigh?
Sadness? relief? pain?
May the New Year be the best it can, to us all.

Anonymous said...

what a lovely, funny, and touching post, dear NBFF. quiet moments, lots of singing, many smiles *and* chocolate pudding? does it get any better than that? i'm thinkin' for Sam and/or Sally, it does not.

i'm glad you were able to spend such quality time with them both (hopefully your MIL won't find out -- i promise i'll never tell...) with or without memory impairments, happiness can be fleeting -- i hope theirs was able to linger a bit after you all went home. (i'm guessing it did) xox

Anonymous said...

My Grandpa struggled with dementia in the last years of his life. I didn't have a very good relationship with him until he started to really decline in mental health. He had always wished I was a boy, and I had always wished he was like my other Poppa. In the last years he lived in hell. He was afraid people were trying to kill him, he had violent dreams about my parents hiding behind the bushes with baseball bats to beat him. His wife was unable to understand what was going on and chalked it up to him being an old fool. I have to admit, my first thoughts of reading this post was "How wonderful it must be for Grandpa to have Sally."

G said...

Dan, your words have me smiling in my office here! Thank you and I'm glad Sally's smile came through.

Al: Such is life ay - the tragic with the comic. I was glad to at least experience a little of the latter with Grandpa for New Years and thanks.

Logo, Yesss darling, the sigh - such a release of everything. And that's a wonderful wish - may the new year be the best it can for us all indeed.

Neva: I hope so too. I think Sam is just happy to have someone sitting nearby smiling as he sings. I think it's been a while. Oy if my MIL should see us all having a grand ole time...our little secret.

cj: Believe me Grandpa is battling some of that too, but I must admit that Sam & Sally make a wonderful pair.

Doug said...

Perfect story, G. I laughed several time, especially at his ending the Jewish songs with "Those Were the Days."

Being there is one of my all-time favorites. Does he like to watch?

G said...

Thanks Doug. He sings it in such a way, that it sounds like another of the Jewish songs actually. And yes he does, right at the edge of the bed.

Anonymous said...

A very warm, colorful slice of life...thanks for sharing G. You made me smile on this one of the toughest days of the year - the day I have to go back to work after the holidays...it hurts.

Minka said...

I work at an old people ´s home. A nic eone too. That did warm my heart.
This Christmas we played secret Santa for those of our old ones that donæt have any known relatives. And we had a lovely feast with them, and sand and lit candles and told stories of old iceland. I love working at my work on Christmas!
Happy new year and may 2007 involve many more smiles :)d

G said...

Joel, I was there with you in spirit brother. A tough day indeed! Thanks for dropping in.

Actonbell: You always hit the nail right on the head! That was the best part, enjoying ourselves so unexpectedly. Happy New Year!

Minka: That is a noble and rewarding job that you do. Really and truly. The people really appreciate any time spent that takes them outside of their own little world, even for just an hour.

Happy New Year and here's to smiles :)

ann said...

g; this post has brought me to tears... beautiful. So much I could say, but I don't believe there is anything to add. My father had parkinsons, but luckily he still had his full faculties until... well until things went bad... another story, but not now.

lotsa luv ann xxxx

Nessa said...

The nursing home sounds like a nice one, but no one ever wants to be there. You are so sweet to take your family to visit and to include everyone.

Happy New Year, G.

G said...

Ann: Thank you for sharing that. I am always awed at the experiences that connect us all. lotsa luv to you too. xox

Goldennib: So true. Thank you but the truth is it was my pleasure and we don't get to visit often enough all together. To you too Nessa.

Carrie said...

Man, what a fantastic story. You really drew me in and I could hear the laughter and see the smiles. Thank you for sharing this. HUGS!

Hobbes said...

Lovely post, as they already said. That Julian sounds like a ham.

G said...

Pinky: I'm glad it came across as the laughter and the smiles seemed just magnified that day.

Weirsdo, Thank you. Julian is and a rather large one at that (Kosher of course :).