I walk into the local retirement home to visit my mother in law as she is in for a short stay doing physical therapy. The place has been remodeled within the last year or two. There is even an infused water station with a different flavor every day right next to the coffee bar with an assortment of Arabica bean flavors and light or dark roast. A new sitting area with comfortable modern seating and a glass fireplace. You feel like you are in the lobby of a Marriott hotel. Gone is the old look from the 60’s and the stacked up wheelchairs and the Lysol floor mopping smell. Everyone says “hello”, “good morning” or “good evening.” It’s like they are “Stepford Wives.”
I go to the elevator and get out on the third floor and another infused water station and new wallpaper and new hardwood floors or a laminate. I swear they must have timed aerosol sprayers infusing the air to mask the scent of soiled diapers or bedclothes. The nurses and the aides who have the worse jobs are all smiles and friendly. I’ve even been there at all hours just to see if those smiles change and they don’t.
So far they have me impressed but, all the infused water and air freshener can’t cover up how many people are here. The hallways seem like a mile long and most of the people are in their beds not able to walk or take care of themselves. They are all in what seems to be a 10-foot by 10-foot box of a room. The furniture is as cheap as hell like it came out of a Motel 6. The rooms are bright they have flat screens tvs and air conditioning. They have at least one sitting chair and a dresser and a side table and a small bath with just a toilet and a sink.
I have visited every other day or so on the way home. It’s been about 30 days so far and she has improved a lot and will be coming home soon. But every time I visit I imagine myself there. Sitting in that small room probably sitting in the wheelchair all day starring up at the tv and no interaction with anyone unless the nurse or aid steps in which is not very often as others need more care. It’s almost like a prison. Where can you go? Your family has dropped you off there while they get on with their life as your life winds down. God bless those of us that are somewhat healthy and can take care of themselves.
I am getting a much better understanding of how depression can affect us and why so many people are taking their own lives. I was reading today that Anthony Bourdain took his own life as he was depressed and was afraid of people or his family having to take care of him as he deteriorated. I have even had friends who have thought this also. Last week I also read about a retired scientist who flew to somewhere like Norway where you can choose to end your life with no repercussions.
Some people are lucky and they go along fine into the autumn of their years and leave this world in their sleep. I hope I’m lucky like that but I love life too much to not go out kicking and fighting. Even sitting on the sidelines and watching the world go by is a hell of an experience. Watching a hummingbird fly past you or a butterfly floating by or having an opportunity to hold any of god’s creatures (preferably a puppy) will keep me going for a long time. Keep your eyes open wide folks as the greatest show on earth is right in front of you even in a 10-foot by 10-foot room.