Tag Archives: old people

You Get What You Pay For

Although I’m single, I’ve had several long relationships with Ziploc bags I rinse and reuse. You could say that in some circuitous way, my grandma has set me up for these questionable couplings.

She was an outspoken woman whose kitchen at any point in time was an abstract art gallery of repurposed and pilfered goods—washed and dried paper plates, aluminum foil smoothed out and reused until the tears couldn’t be (off-brand) taped up, and sugar and salt packets slipped in her purse from the local Juicy Lucy (two burgers for $1!)

This was a woman who believed that once meat was cooked, it didn’t need to be refrigerated and could be left out on the hot countertop until it was either consumed or it disintegrated.

(I once arrived at her condo, Florida sun blazing down, to find a picnic basket on her porch from her neighbor, the contents of which being potato salad, roast beef and cheesecake. “I found my dinner!” she triumphantly cried.)

What did need to be refrigerated—or more specifically, kept in large (off-brand) plastic zipper bags in the freezer—were ketchup and mustard packets from various fast food establishments that always gave out “free condiments.”

For most people, the assumption would be that a packet of sugar or ketchup was available for your convenience to use at that time. My grandma wasn’t “most people.”

I clearly recall an instance when I was younger in which we went to McDonald’s for ice cream. As we pulled up to the pick-up window, she leaned over the driver’s seat and gave strict orders to the window worker to include the condiments, which I naively assumed to be the optional nuts for her sundae.

In retrospect, I should have been prepared to hear her demand not the nuts, but the free packets of ketchup and mustard to add to her collection back home.

“Free condiments means free condiments,” she said with a chortle. “When you’re paying (99 cents) for each ice cream, you better get what you pay for.”

She wasn’t alone in her frugality though. These sundaes were purchased after a dinner during “Early Happy Hour” when drinks were 2-for-1 at most chain restaurants—as long as you ordered both drinks at the same time.

That meant when you walked into the restaurant during that time, you would be greeted with senior citizens pushing their oxygen tanks off to the side of their booths to make room for their two Rum and Cokes.

I never witnessed anyone slipping a few extra limes into their bags to take home, but there were rumors that Gram’s neighbor snuck out a steak knife from Outback.

I guess you get what you pay for.

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Senior Moments: Spring Break

Given the proliferation of Florida pictures in my Facebook feed, it’s become apparent that it’s currently Spring Break season. In the words of the immortal Matt Foley, a la Chris Farley, “Whoop-deefrickin-doo!”

My apologies to those enjoying sunshine and relaxation, but until a mandatory Spring Break for working adults is implemented, I will continue to carry a slight chip on my shoulder.

Oh wait, that’s just part of a pita chip. I really shouldn’t eat those on the couch.

Anyway, my point is this got me thinking about Spring Breaks of the past. When I was in elementary school we often went down to Florida to visit my grandparents, and I’ve already recounted the tale of eight grade Abby and her best friend going down to stay with those grandparents at their condo for 10 days.

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I was basically a child genius.

In case you don’t want to click over—although I would advise that you do if you want a good chuckle—we spent the trip riding three-wheeled bicycles to the community pool, narrowly avoided both food poisoning and elderly binge drinkers while dreaming of a trip to the beach that turned out to be less than expected.

But a couple years later I went back to Florida to spend Easter with my grandma, as it was the first Easter she would celebrate after my grandpa passed away.

Unlike the first trip, it rained almost every day and instead of spending time sunning myself at the pool, I made the 20 minute drive to the only mall within 100 miles to use a tanning bed so I could at least return home looking less miserable than I felt.

However, a large chuck of time was once again spent cleaning large Ziploc bags full of ketchup and mustard packets from various fast food establishments—“free condiments!”—out of the freezer, among other mysterious things.

Now if you’ve never spent time as the youngest person in a retirement community, I feel the need to prepare you for your adventure.

Geriatric Girls Gone Wild

Elderly women often marinate in perfume and get their thinning hair styled and set into old lady Afros once a week at the beauty shop, tipping “the young girl” of 55 at least $1 each time. Old men with shorts pulled up to their nipples will smell of flea market cologne and stylishly wear white socks with balls on the back with their sandals. If the temperatures dip below 60 degrees, all will be outfitted with earmuffs and gloves.

Yard decorations, a year-round staple, will take on a festive Easter feel, and passive aggressive signs of a dog pooping with a big “X” over said pile of crap will be replaced with trees decorated with massive plastic eggs, pastel lights and plastic flamingos wearing bunny years.

Dinner at the clubhouse will bring to mind memories of middle school in which the women gossip and men talk about their upcoming athletic pursuits, be it a shuffleboard tournament or landing a 7-lb fish. If you’re single, this will become the point of conversation and condemnation as each yenta tells you how perfect you are for their 60-year-old single Jewish son who has most of his hair and part of his hearing.

Members will make sure to eat their fill—they paid $10 for the meal, after all—and then stuff whatever they can into napkins to take back to their condos for later. This not only includes food, but often silverware, sugar packets and toothpicks.

Speaking of food, you might return back to the condo one blazing hot afternoon to find a picnic basket on the front porch—in the sun—from your grandma’s best friend down the street. This picnic basket might contain potato salad and leftover prime rib.

You might have a horrified look on your face as your grandma deems it her supper for later, as she believes once meat is cooked, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated and can left out until it’s either consumed or disintegrates.

You might just be lucky to make it out alive, older—but still the youngest around—and hopefully just a bit wiser.

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A Matter of Taste

The fact that the employees at my local grocery store pretty much know me by name is no secret. Along with multiple stops during the week for myself, I also do the grocery shopping for my mom (she hates it) and for my uncle (he’s physically unable.)

I don’t mind it, so I do it.

Grocery shopping for someone else is entirely different than grocery shopping for myself. Considering I’m not going to actually eat any of the items I’m purchasing, I’ll admit that I’m much less particular. A banana is a banana and an apple is an apple.

When I’m shopping for myself, I morph back into that delightful (annoying) person who carefully selects the best green beans out of the bin one by one and performs a full body of scan of a potential potato purchase with the intensity of a DNA expert on CSI.

Given the amount of produce that I eat in a week, I consider it necessary to ensure that the money I spend is going towards quality stuff. I will NOT be satisfied with limp beans, people. I will not!

Once my purchases are home, I am vigilant about washing the items before they wind up in my mouth (or on my shirt first, in all likelihood.) I’m not a freak about it, but I’ve witnessed people sneezing on open produce and little kids licking a vegetable and putting it back more times than I’m comfortable with.

That’s why a recent trip to the store has prompted this long-winded post.

First I was cruising through the aisles in pursuit of the two containers of overpriced pineapple my uncle has me buy every week when a middle-aged man walked by the green bean bin, grabbed a handful, started chomping down like a small woodland creature and continued to walk through the store.

What the hell?

Who walks by a bin of green beans and treats it like a buffet with no regard to the fact that a) it’s technically stealing and b) it’s technically gross (see above for snot and saliva encounters, which in this case, serves the dude right.)

Brushing it off, I wheeled my cart towards the grapes and spent 42 minutes trying to open the plastic produce bag before being joined by an elderly lady. From her lowered position on a Hoveround, she began popping grapes in her mouth from a number of bags with the dexterity of a Wack-A-Mole champ.

At this time, please see the paragraph above under “What the hell?” replacing “beans” with “grapes.”

Noticing that I was simply grabbing a bag of grapes without much fruity fanfare, she went on to lecture me about how I was wasting my money by not tasting each batch. She had been “scorned in the past” and was forced to throw out a batch of (literal) sour grapes, and now appeared determined to help others avoid a similar fate.

I politely told her that I was fine and that I would “buy on blind faith.”

Looking at me as if I had two heads—neither one of which was being supplied with green grapes—she went on to warn me of the perils of my decision. At that point I told her I wasn’t shopping for me, but for my uncle, and gestured to the denture cleaner and Right Guard deodorant spray.

Still skeptical, she was either full or thought I was full of it, because she shrugged her shoulders, popped another grape and left me with, “Well, suit yourself.”

As she turned and left in a motorized huff, I couldn’t help but notice that her basket contained no grapes. I guess there’s truly no accounting for taste.

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Making Spirits Bright

I don’t remember when I first “found out” about Santa, but I do know that I kept on pretending long after that day. Part of it was because I didn’t want to stop believing in something so magical and fun, and part of it was because I didn’t want my mom to be bummed.

She was always incredible about keeping the magic alive, wrapping the gifts in different paper, writing in different handwriting, putting reindeer food on the deck, etc. There isn’t a Christmas from my early childhood that I don’t remember being special in some way. Along with traditions and large family gatherings, I also had that youthful innocence that made everything seem merry and bright.

Now, at age 31, I have to admit that I’ve become a bit cynical about the holidays.

Between the loss of traditions and large family gatherings, the rampant and unnecessary consumerism, no holiday break, a dash of deep depression and being forced to listen to “So This Is Christmas” while waiting in the doctor’s office, I would much rather just skip to January 2 when (relative) normalcy can reoccur.

I know, I know. Ba humbug.

But last Saturday night my mom was at it again, this time at the home with the old people. She came armed with two strings of colored lights, two dozen foam ornaments/treat bags I made the night before and a few other decorative things.

wreaths

More arts and crap.

My grandma, stuck in her bed and out of her mind, delighted in the simple addition of one string of lights to her window, to the new snowman candy dish, to the battery-operated candle, to our off-key duet of “Jingle Bells” complete with (requested and stereotypical Polish white girl) dance moves.

And so was Jerry, the man who lives in the room right next door to my grandma.

His room, stark and empty in contrast to that of my grandma’s, soon was adorned with one string of lights, a battery-operated candle and a foam wreath and gingerbread man (he didn’t request the duet.) The look on his face—usually stoic and hard—was enough to make all spirits bright.

He had us move his wheelchair to the center of the room and turn off the lamp so he could sit there and stare at the lights, and he kept telling us how wonderful it was, how happy that string of lights made him. As we walked out the door and back into the hall, I couldn’t have agreed with him more.

Young or old, the magic’s still there as long as you choose to believe.*

*Off-key duet of “Jingle Bells” complete with stereotypical Polish white girl dance moves not required, but I’m pretty sure it couldn’t hurt.

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Senior Moments: Hail Mary

June 21 is not only the first full day of summer, but also my grandma’s 90th birthday.

gramtiger1

This is how we party—batting helmets and bibs.

If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know that she’s quite a gem, to say the least. I’ve written many posts about our “Senior Moments” at the home — everything from Bingo etiquette to dating advice — but I haven’t had many to share lately simply because there aren’t as many funny moments as there were in the past.

Heck, she’s 90.

You can’t expect her to tap dance and sing, although she often requests that my mom and I do a little of both. But she did call an old lady a cocksucker yesterday, so there’s that. Considering she’s 90, I suppose she gets a free pass on that one only because the woman referenced wasn’t a nun.

It could always be worse.

Anyway, the Tigers serendipitously had a day game today, so we spent the afternoon watching the game and treating her like the Polish queen that she is.

partyfood2

There was a hot dog bar—which meant I had to explain once again to her that tube meat is not vegetarian so she could call me a spinster hippie—Cracker Jacks, decorations and cake.

It was also 352 degrees in that room, yet she still insisted on bundling up and telling us that she was cold.

gramtiger2

That’s her friend Evy that I named a doll after when I was little. I also had a doll named Gert and obviously no young friends. 

Anyway, as a mini-tribute I’m doing that annoying thing where I link back to some of the funnier old posts that you might have missed the first time around. (I promise my next post will be “new” and probably not improved.)

If you have a few minutes, I invite you to get to know the woman who inspired me to complete my first full phrase as a fat little baby — “goddamn dog.” She claims that she doesn’t know where I picked it up from, as it surely wasn’t from the 203 times a day she would yell at their old poodle Pokie to get off of the couch.

From that point on she only swore in Polish, which meant I only swore in Polish. At least at that point no one knew what the fat little baby was saying.

Again, it could always be worse.

So Happy 90th Birthday Gram.

I’m not sure I could love you much more.

chair2

Senior Moments

Senior Moments Bingo

Senior Moments Opening Day

Senior Moments Dating

Senior Moments Fork Fight

It Was a Drive-By Beaching

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Arts & Crap

Not that she’s worried about it, but just like Heloise, Martha Stewart can sleep well at night knowing I am in no way going to wrestle her to the ground for her crafty crown.

basket1

I did make these, but we’ll get back to them in a minute.

Let me back up and say that I’m actually kind of artistic. When I was little I was always drawing, painting, changing the interior decorating in my Barbie house or doing something creative with my Tupperware containers full of art supplies.

But as I got older, I traded in my blue box of Mr. Sketch scented markers for sports equipment and foam balls to put in my shirt for impromptu Mariah Carey concerts given on the front lawn. It’s not that I ever lost that creative spark; I just put it on the shelf for a while and replaced it with other forms of artistic expression…like painting my living room and coloring my hair.

With that said, the past couple of years I’ve tried to be crafty in an attempt to also be charitable.

Our senior friends love anything you make for them, so I’ve taken to going to Michael’s and investing a few bucks in “simple” crafts that can be given to the old people.

Before you get too impressed, let me be clear that we’re not talking about intricate needlepoint—I can’t be trusted with sharp objects—but rather a variety of foam decorations that can be displayed or attached to my super simple pretzel treats, also known as geriatric crack.

There have been pumpkins, turkeys, wreaths, hearts—you name it, I’ve foamed it, farmed it out and have the glitter still stuck in my dining room rug to prove it. But the latest project—mini Easter baskets—once again cemented the fact that I am no Martha Stewart.

kit2

Check that. It “super glued” the fact that I am no Martha Stewart.

I artfully placed my supplies on a towel on my dining room table and began crafting, creating little foam Easter baskets from the 132 pieces that were supplied to me, secure in the knowledge printed on the box that no glue was required and anyone over the age of 4 could easily complete the craft.

kit2b

Long story short, I completed the craft only to find out the next night that all the crap that DIDN’T NEED TO BE GLUED had peeled off the baskets and basically fallen off.

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This did not please me. I went to the Dollar Store and got super glue, maniacally gluing each and every piece of foam back to the carefully constructed baskets, holding down each piece for the 15 seconds the tube recommended.

The good news? I only glued my fingers together twice.

The bad news? It took me entirely too long to do a simple craft that some lunatic in the foam factory thinks a 4-year-old could do with NO GLUE and I found a leftover sticky foam flower stuck to the ass of my yoga pants a couple hours later.

donebasket

Plus, things still kind of peeled off.

But when you add in pretzel treats stuffed into Easter bags from the Dollar Store, you have an inexpensive, festive, chocolaty treat for a bunch of old people who probably won’t notice a slightly detached flower petal due to cataracts and a “go-for-the-chocolate” crazed look in their eyes.

So to summarize, I’m artistically somewhere between Martha Stewart and a 4-year-old and I deal out geriatric crack (pretzel treats) in super glued foam Easter baskets.

I do believe Martha is safe. 

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Senior Moments: Fork Fight

Despite what you may have heard, my Grandma did not try and stab a woman we’ll call “Eugina” with her fork at lunch.

At least that’s what I was told when I sat down by Gram the other day in the dining room, her chair wheeled up to the table and clothing protector in place. While Lorraine was wheeled up on the other side of the table, Eugina’s spot was mysteriously vacant.

Dinner with Eugina—a large, loud woman from the South who looked like Oprah in “The Color Purple” but talked like a drunk auctioneer—was stressful, so I can’t say I was entirely disappointed with this development. 

Eugina would shovel food in her mouth and loudly ramble on about things no one could understand. Gram and Lorraine would exchange cataract-filled looks across the table and ramble on in Polish I couldn’t understand, but that I interpreted as something of less than a stellar opinion of their dining companion.

(The first words you learn in a foreign language are usually those of a profane nature.)

“Put in a penny, get a whole goddam dollars worth of noise,” Gram has said on more than one occasion, a sentiment Lorraine would echo with a simple “amen”  between bites of her mechanically processed meal.

As I sat across from Eugina’s empty chair, I was immediately given the defendant’s side of the claim.

“That floosy made up some story about how I tried to stab her hand with a fork at lunch,” Gram said, taking one more bite of her meatloaf before turning the fork around to point at me—a bit of incriminating evidence, but apparently done for emphasis. “Not that I could understand her, but I know what she was saying.”

She went on to tell me how the nurses had to calm Eugina down, but that they would have been more successful if they had just put more ice cream in front of her, as “the woman would eat shit on a shingle if you put it on her plate,” a sentiment Lorraine again echoed with a simple, “amen.”

At this point in the story, the dessert cart was rolled in, prompting many seniors to get twitchy and anxious like junkies awaiting their fix. While there are always several options, there are also always several complaints—the wrong flavor of pie or cake, cookies too hard or too soft—and usually from the same people.

“Why is there no cherry pie?” Irene asked, looking around to see if everyone else was as appalled at this development as her. “All I wanted was cherry pie, and what do they bring? Apple. Who brings apple pie?”

Richard, nursing his bottle of root beer like Corona, kindly told her “don’t get your tit in a wringer” before taking some pie for himself, a nugget of advice he dispensed often to both men and women.

Settled in with some sweets of her own, Gram turned her attention back to the matter at hand—literally.

“Why would I do such a thing as stab her?” Gram asked incredulously as she brought her hand up to her heart, revealing the Kleenex shoved up in her sleeve. “First of all, I was too busy worrying about my own food to think about sticking that woman with my fork.

“And second,” she continued, “if I were going to do it, I would have used the butter knife.”

No further questions, Your Honor.

*Apparently Eugina was moved to another wing on charges unrelated to the fork incident in question. Gram is in the clear—for now.

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