Tag Archives: old people

Senior Moments: The Ones In Between

I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I’ve had a few people tell me that they enjoy my Senior Moments posts.

If you know my grandma, you know I’m not making any of this stuff up, and many of the other residents have endeared themselves to me with their stories, their wisdom and their wit.

They really don’t get enough credit.

I’m there a couple times a week, and lord knows I wish each and every trip could be post-worthy. But the truth is, 99 times out of 100, there aren’t many funny moments that I can share. For every Bingo game or dating firing squad, there are 99 times I go there not knowing what the heck I’m walking into.

These are the senior moments I don’t often write or talk about, the senior moments in between.

My mom and I are past the days of having to go at this alone, past those nights of phone calls that sent us flying out of bed in a panic and the horrific stress of being thrust into caregiving roles were weren’t trained for, but that we quickly took on day to day.

When Gram moved to this facility a couple years ago, it was as if the weight of the world had been lifted from our crumbling shoulders. We were finally in the clear. It’s not perfect there, but she’s safe, she’s cared for and we can return to our roles as her girls.

That role is still rough though, as we never know just what we’re going to face.

Some days she’ll look me straight in the eyes and tell me about how she’s exhausted from running here or cooking this and that for a husband who has been gone for years. Looking at her in her wheelchair—where I know she’s been all day, all week, all year—I can see  the confusion, the frustration, the genuine fogginess that hangs over so many there.

One day I’m called her sweetheart and a hero for brushing her hair. The next day she won’t get out of bed and will yell—and I mean yell—at anyone who comes to her side, nurses, aides or otherwise.

She’ll be mean, she’ll say things that she won’t remember but that I’ll never get to forget.

This is the case with so many there, so I’ve learned not to take it personally. But time passes on, as do many of our senior friends, and knowing this inevitability only slightly softens the blow.

You never get used to seeing an empty chair at dinner or the family members of other residents huddled and crying softly outside in the hallway, talking with nurses and struggling to come to terms with things before the final breath is drawn.

Again, you don’t get used to it, but you accept it.

So I apologize that this isn’t one of the funny(ish) posts, one of those that leaves you chuckling a bit with pictures of geriatric square dancing in wheelchairs or yard gnomes, but it’s also reality. It’s a reality that people face on a daily basis as they struggle to deal with the dementia, the Alzheimer’s or any other disease an aging loved one is suffering from.

These are the moments in between, and not to sound like a geek, but they are also “teaching moments.”

Because I learn something from every person I’ve met there, good or bad, and  I wouldn’t trade any of the time that’s been spent with any of them. They have stories, they have wisdom, they have wit.

They really don’t get enough credit.

And those few senior moments—the funny ones I know I’ll never forget and those that I share with you here—make up for the ones that I keep to myself, the moments that are in between.

This post was based loosely on the Studio30 Plus prompt:

In the Clear

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And…the nun is drunk

My mom brought home her nun friend from the old people’s place to join us for Thanksgiving, so the day was entertaining…and exhausting. 

I’ve never brought Sister up before, but she’s a trip. Any time she leaves the home she gets a little excitable, especially when she gets into the wine, and Thursday was no exception.

Now there is no accurate way to describe her for a visual, but the closest I can come is to say she’s a 5-foot-tall stripped down version of Cinderella’s fairy godmother, but a little more troll-like.

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Imagine darker gray hair, take out the wand, add a habit for certain situations and stick her on a motorized cart with a basket on the front. Sister has MS and although she can walk, she usually drives the cart up and down the aisles of the home with the resident dog securely placed inside the basket. 

Anyway, Sister was waiting outside in her oversized sweatshirt, sweatpants and sandals with socks when we picked her up from the home.

The five minute car ride revealed that she recently met a 30-year-old who wasn’t married, which she—a nun—found odd. When it was pointed out that I was single and that Sister was a nun, this prompted her to declare that yes, she did actually know “shitload of ‘normal’ people” who weren’t married, like her dentist and that one secretary at the doctor.

As we walked into the house, we were also told that at some point we had to go to the store—on Thanksgiving— to get her a new electric toothbrush.

Enter wine—not converted from water, but alcoholic nonetheless.

Sister tried to situate herself on the couch. This resulted in her falling in the couch crack, flipping the recliner part of the couch open and almost flying heels over head over the back. Recovered, she took a sip of her “spirit” and engaged  my mom’s husband in a conversation about cheese and Mexican saints.

I “helped” my mom in the kitchen, and by “helped” I don’t mean fisting a bird, but rather making sure she had a beer.

The meal itself was full of stories.

Some I had heard before, others I hadn’t about her traveling the world, accidentally legally changing her name to her “nun” name instead of the one she was given as an infant and how she knew she wanted to became a nun at 18, but that her mom wanted her to run the roads to make sure, at least going to prom with a boy.

“They were just one date things,” she said. “I never tried to get laid.”

“However,” she continued, taking a sip of wine and leaving a mashed potato ring on her glass. “Some of the girls from the school used to go to the sand dunes and lay around with the boys. I was sent with them, but I don’t like sand.”

At that she picked up the turkey leg and continued gnawing on it like a carnivorous Catholic cavewoman.

“Is this the Super Bowl?” she asked as I turned up the Thanksgiving football game between Detroit and Green Bay. “Did you know people bet on these things? I heard sometimes the players lose on purpose and throw the matches. Is that what the Lions are doing?”

The next 30 minutes were spent explaining football to the buzzed nun, who kept claiming that her “craziness” was due to the eight mini peanut butter cups she had before dessert and not the wine.

“Are we the yellow pants or the gray pants?” she asked as she propped herself back on the couch, sipping her wine through a straw. “Ooh! Who has the ball—the ‘G’ or the ‘D’? Are there any points out there? Can I take my wine home with me?”

She didn’t forget about the toothbrush.

After once again implementing our makeshift Catholic catapult to get the nun in the truck, we made our way to the store, which was 10 minutes from closing. Sister honed in on what she wanted, grabbed the $7 Oral-B model from the ad and engaged the cashier in a conversation about her tartar issues and the dinner she just had.

As were walking out, a couple of men were walking in, which prompted Sister to proclaim with a huff, “The store is closing in five minutes, good sirs. I suggest you either hurry yourself up or come back again tomorrow, as that poor man hasn’t even had dinner yet!”

“Can you believe how rude some people can be?” she asked as we boosted her back into the truck—again. “Now where are my peanut butter cups? Do you think the ‘Gs’ or the ‘Ds’ won the game? When can we do this again?”

Oh good lord.

Say a prayer for us all.


As determined by random.org, the winner of the free copy of the book or Amazon card and the chocolate pretzel treats is: Laura Grimes

Please send your address to me at Sunshineach@comcast.net and I’ll get that package right out!

For everyone else, now that you know you’re not getting a free copy, you can go here and find out how to order it for yourself in a couple different ways. It’s literally the cost of a movie ticket, and you don’t have to put up with people talking through the previews…or tipsy nuns.

Senior Moments: Dating

It’s time for another installment of Senior Moments and the genius that is my 90-year-old grandma. We’re back in the dining room again, but this time the meal is not the center of attention, but rather the lack of a beefcake in my life—a subject that has been brought up on more than two (or 202) occasions.

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Seeing as my grandma was married when she was 18, the fact that I’m 30 and single still baffles her mind. However, at 90 years old, people who refrigerate their perishable items still baffle her mind.

At any rate, I’ll set the scene.

It was me, Gram, a resident we’ll call J and her (single, middle-aged) daughter, B at the table—the usual crew. The nurse doing meds in the dining room was not a crowd favorite, and Gram loudly proclaimed her to be a pain in the ass multiple times throughout the meal. I didn’t tell her to be nice. The nurse is a pain in the ass.

The pain in the ass walked by our table and in a fake smile on her face and told J she was looking nice. Gram looked at her with disgust, picked up her fork and pointed it at J before saying, “That woman can eat shit.”

I grabbed Gram’s arm and did the, “Gram, shush” thing before she dared me to “shush” her again with her death stare usually reserved for ballgames and people trying to take away her mashed potatoes.

“She can eat shit,” Gram continued, keeping her eyes on me before looking back at J, “because J knows she looks nice every day. She doesn’t need that pain in the ass to tell her that.” 

I was glad I didn’t shush her. 

With that she winked at J, set down her fork and proceeded to go on dispensing advice like a Polish Dr. Laura. Apparently two of the young aids were talking to Gram about dating that week, something she felt the need to tell me and B about over her pistachio pudding pie and coffee.

We were told the following things:

  • When I was younger, it was about finding a good Polish man. If you were bored, it was because you were too picky or not trying hard enough. If he’s boring, go bowling with him. There’s nothing boring about bowling. Just remember to let him win once or twice.
  • Don’t be so stubborn. He doesn’t have to look like a movie star or make a lot of money. You don’t want ugly kids, but if you wait too long, you won’t have any kids at all.

B and I met eyes at this, and it’s possible I rolled mine, prompting Gram to say, “Did I mention you by name? Did I say that you’re too old and too picky?” before moving on with a shrug.

  • You have to spice things up. I remember your grandpa would come downstairs while I was doing the washing and bend me over the washing machine. Sometimes I was annoyed, but it never lasted long enough for me to care.
  • If you’re in a car with a man and he starts to get fresh with his hands, tell him to knock it off. If he doesn’t listen, open the door and kick his ass out of the car. Tell him to go find a floosy on the avenue and then take yourself out for ice cream.

With that she returned her focus back to finishing her coffee before leaning over and conspiratorially whispering, “Abby, come here.  You see that woman at the table across from us?”

I looked and saw the same 85-year-old woman that always sat across from us gumming at a cookie.

“Look at how her bra strap is showing and her shirt is falling down,” Gram said with disgust, wiping her hand on her John Deere “clothing protector” before continuing. “Men don’t find that attractive. It’s sloppy. Take note of that.”

“I don’t think she even knows it’s showing Gram, as her oxygen tube probably moves her shirt around,” I said, not adding that an 85-year-old woman was probably not trying to snag a man when she couldn’t even snag a pea with a fork.

“That’s no excuse,” Gram said with a scoff. “She looks cheap.”

A male aid walked up and wheeled the senior slut away, providing an opportunity for Gram to tell me that when she was my age, “Well, I would have been married for 12 years at that point, but if I wasn’t, I would sink my clamps into that beefcake.”

Drained of the will to argue much more or explain that the definition of “beefcake” for  a 30-year-old woman in 2011 wasn’t a homosexual male nurse with bigger boobs than my own,  I simply looked at her and felt a wave of affection wash over me.

“Gram, come here,” I whispered conspiratorially. “I love you.”

She turned to me and with said with a sigh, “Abbuchucka, I love you so much that it hurts.”

She was quiet for a moment before adding, “Then again, that might just be gas from the crap that I ate.”

With that I gave her a kiss, smoothed back her hair and told her I had to head home. She gave me the standard warning to be careful and not pick up any strange men.

“Then again,” she said with a wink, “maybe you should just take what you can get.”

Well played, old woman, well played.

It Was a Drive-By Beaching

Today I am going to tell you a story about the time me and my best friend B went away together for Spring Break.

This could conjure up expectations of a “Girls Gone Wild” type post if I failed to omit one important detail—we were 8th grade girls and we went to Florida to stay with my grandparents at their condo.

Every morning we would throw on our suits, flip-flops and tanning accelerator, hop on  three-wheeled bicycles and spend our days in the sun by the community pool. Aside from the occasional water aerobics class and shuffleboard tournament, we basically had the place to ourselves.

My grandma was someone 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. What did need to be refrigerated—or more specifically, kept in large Ziploc bags in the freezer—were ketchup and mustard packets from various fast food establishments that always gave out “free condiments.”

Because of a desire to avoid food poisoning, we often suggested frequenting various chain restaurants for dinner, be it gram’s favorite—Juicy Lucy—or something more familiar to those of us under the age of 65. This suggestion was often well-received, not only because my grandpa loved to eat anything anywhere, but because Happy Hour drinks were 2-for-1 at most of these restaurants—as long as you ordered both drinks at the same time.

That meant that when you walked into any Applebees, Outback, etc. between the hours of 4-6, you would be greeted with tables full of senior citizens pushing their oxygen tanks off to the side of their booths to make room for their two Rum and Cokes, Screwdrivers or Vodka Tonics.

The waitresses were thrilled with their tips, I’m sure.

One day my grandparents presented us with an exciting proposition—going to the beach.  About an hour away, the beach was where the action was. We eagerly packed our beach bags and hopped into the backseat the Cadillac, windows down, Neil Diamond warbling from the speakers.

As we got closer, B and I exchanged excited glances and gathered up our bags, waiting for the car to slow down and park so we could join in the whole beach experience.

The car never stopped.

“This is the beach,” said my grandpa, proudly pointing it out as we kept driving by. Confused, I asked where we were going to park.

“What? Why would we?” asked my grandma, looking a me as if I had just suggested only playing 12 Bingo cards at once or actually refrigerating leftover chicken. “It’s too busy, too hot. Do you girls want some ice cream?”

Now mortified, I looked at B and saw panic in her eyes. The only way we wanted ice cream was if it could be eaten on the beach, which meant the car would have to stop at some point soon.

But despite my protests, the next time the car stopped was at McDonalds just off the highway. Grandpa placed the order of sundaes and cones while we sat in shock in the back. No basking in the sun on the sand, no dipping our toes in the ocean—just a drive-by in the Caddy and “Sweet Caroline” on repeat.

As we pulled up to the pick-up window, my grandma 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, turning around to face us in the backseat. “When you’re paying (.99 cents) for each ice cream, you better make sure you get your money’s worth.”

Because after all, nothing completes a day at the beach like free ketchup and mustard to hoard with your ice cream.

“Now who’s ready for happy hour?” she asked, tucking the packets into her oversized purse, no doubt to make room for the sugar sure to be swiped from the restaurant.

I looked at B and saw hope in her eyes.

We were ready.

Make it a double. 

This trip down memory lane was brought to you by this weeks RemembeRED prompt:

Take us back to an embarrassing moment in your life. Did someone embarrass you, your parents perhaps? Are you still embarrassed or can you laugh at it now?

As you probably know, I could write a whole book on my senior experiences. And trust me, we always find the funny…and the discounts.

Hold My Hand

They sit together—wheelchair next to wheelchair, hand in hand—watching the birds in the cage.  As they listen to the birds sing their song, watch them flit from branch to branch, they don’t talk.

They watch, hand in hand.

She comes from the other side of the facility each night to eat dinner with him and is wheeled back home when it’s done, dialysis forcing their split. Nurses will help them both, oxygen tubes and dexterity lost complicating the task of each meal. Memory fading and energy spent, their conversation is minimal.

Yet they sit, side by side.

Those days she’s not there he just simply looks lost. He worries. He calls out her name and asks for her, confused as to where she could be. Not coincidentally, these are the days he refuses to eat and acts out, the days he’s belligerent, stubborn and mean. 

Those days he won’t notice the birds.

But that night I was stopped in my tracks as I saw them just watching the birds—wheelchair next to wheelchair, hand in hand—waiting for her to go back.

It was a simple scene.

Residents unable to be in their rooms in their wheelchairs alone (fall risk) sit there all the time as they wait for the nurse to come back. But those hands—those aging hands holding each other and years of memories time couldn’t steal—were a profound reminder that there’s a kind of beauty that comes only after one has spent many years on earth, that there is always a reason to smile, that you should hold on when you find it.

That you should always notice the birds.

Opening Day Senior Moments

Today we will be moving from dining room drama to Opening Day of baseball season in the activity room.

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Gram in her throne pre-game.

If you know anything about me or my family—I tend to overshare here—you know that there are no bigger sports fans than me, my mom and my grandma (G.) Needless to say,  I am super excited that baseball season has started, and considering I don’t get excited about much other than food, sunshine and sleeping—preferably in the sunshine—this shows the magnitude of my love of the game.

And much like the bump on my nose, the love of the game is genetic.

Even though she can’t remember what day it is, G can tell you who played first base in 1968 and who pitched the third game of the World Series. This is the woman who Ernie Harwell knew by name at the games and who kept a mini souvenir Tiger bat under the seat of her Cadillac to ward off hoodlums that drove white vans with no windows.

So per tradition, I took the afternoon off of work to watch the game with mom and G. While we didn’t get to raise the Tiger flag outside as we had year’s before or hang up the banner in her room (damn fire code), we still had our own little watch party.

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We pimped G’s ride.

At first it was just the three of us. Then another resident got wheeled in, then another, then another until there were close to 10 residents and a few nurses—all women—watching the game.

It wasn’t like being at the ballpark or at a sport’s bar, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing—especially for me, considering my desire for social interaction is limited to the clerk at the grocery store.

A quick recap:

  • The crowd was comparably demure, most likely due to overmedication and not overconsumption of $8 beer. There was the occasional “whoop!” from me and mom (normal, but in a much more reserved fashion,) a “Come on my little sweetheart” or “Goddamn bum” from G (depending on the situation) and random bodily noises from various other residents (normal, but in a much less reserved fashion.)
  • My attempts at the wave were not well-received, or even noticed, as far as I could tell.
  • Stadium blankets were not needed, but quilted afghans were placed on the laps of all residents in attendance—despite the fact that it felt like an 85 degree day in that room.
  • There were no $5 hot dogs or nachos to buy, but the nurse did come around at snack time with her cart of assorted juices and munchies—free! Mom supplied the Cracker Jacks, a single box of which contained exactly three peanuts and one tattoo among the popcorn.

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Gram got tatted up while eating the peanuts.

  • Although a resident did have her “baby” (doll) with her as usual, there were no screaming children and no tantrums due to cotton candy sugar highs or the denial of overpriced souvenirs. My kind of kid.
  • Due to their decreasingly slow reaction times, my efforts to circulate a beach ball through the “stands” was less than successful—even more so than the wave.
  • However, the seventh inning stretch included a rousing round of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” that Harry Caray would have been proud of.
  • We had no streakers, but Geraldine did fly by the TV in her wheelchair numerous times throughout the game. She tends to cover a lot of ground when she’s on a mission, which is apparently all of the time.
  • Finally, when the game was over, there were no crowds of people to wade through or traffic jams to battle. In fact, considering that most of the residents weren’t aware that the game was actually over and were nodding off due to the post-lunch pre-nap nap they are accustomed to, they didn’t seem to be in a hurry to go anywhere.

So even though it’s possible this was a closing chapter on our Opening Day tradition, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I take that back.

The Tigers could have won and saved us from the post-game overanalysis of a certain 89-year old woman convinced she would have led the team to victory, but then again, it was just another Senior Moment.

And she was quickly distracted with a chocolate bar.

Let the games begin.

Must be nice

How did you choose to read that phrase? Talk amongst yourselves. We’ll come back to that.

I once again gained a little bit of insight from my senior friends this week.

Although I’m convinced that he was aiming at Chet’s bad foot, Leon dropped his fork. More than once. Considering I was the only one in the vicinity not sitting on wheels, I walked over and picked up his fork each time. He thanked me. Chet mumbled, “Hmph. Must be nice,” implying that Leon was somehow being indulged in a service not offered to Chet.

*It should be noted that he did not test this theory by throwing his spoon, and for that we all were most grateful. What we were not grateful for was Ray’s declaration of independence from bladder control. More than once.

Anyway, as I wheeled Gram to her room, we passed a woman putting lotion on her mother’s aging hands. Gram scoffed and said, “Hmph. Must be nice.” Despite the fact that she gets regular manicures and more daily attention than most royal queens, good ol’ Mary was still “hmphing” about the luxuries afforded to those around her, those things she was obviously being intentionally deprived of.

While I understand the nature of their complaints is related most closely to boredom, they’re not the only ones who think they have it rough, or at least rougher than somebody else.

I’ll admit I fall prey to the “it must be nice” mentality at times. After all, it must be nice to be on vacation while I’m stuck at work. It must be nice to grow up in a family of wealth. It must be nice to not have to worry about this or get distracted by that.

Hmph, indeed.

But in all actuality, it does me no good. In my world—and evidently in the geriatric community of Chet, Leon and Mary—resentment gets me no closer to a vacation, inheriting wealth or being relieved of my burdens, all most likely relative in nature (no pun intended.)

The moral of the story is that you can be better or you can be bitter. Instead of resentment, appreciate the fact that you might just have a multitude of things that cause the less enlightened to “hmph” that “it must be nice” to be you.

Because while “it” must be nice to have those things I never seem to have, “I” must be nice and appreciate that most often, I already do.

How will you choose to read that phrase? Talk amongst yourselves.