Monthly Archives: August 2012

This War Will Be In the Retirement Home

We go through this traumatic exercise every few years. In 1990 it was the First Gulf War that sent us running to the supermarket to lay in stocks of canned tuna, sardines and bottled water and then racing back home to put sheets of plastic over our windows and tape up the glass. By 2003, just when we had reached the end of our tuna and bottled water diet, it happened all over again, this time the Second Gulf War. More tuna and bottled water, but by this time we had learned and added chocolate to the diet.

Now that we are in the retirement home and hoping that all these irritating household panics are behind us, warnings are sending us to the supermarket yet again. In addition, we have heavily reinforced secure rooms on every floor, complete with gas filters, a water supply and a chemical loo. Something to look forward to… This time we are 22 years older than we were the first time. And a lot wiser: if I have my way, the diet will be straight chocolate this time.

There are foreign caregivers in this retirement center. They too are lining up to buy emergency provisions in the face of the threats to “wipe us off the face of the earth”. Working here in order to save a little money and send it home for the welfare of their families in the Far East, they fear they are about to be caught in the crossfire between two foreign countries. I heard today that the “coming war” is a popular topic of conversation among them. Hopefully the emergency rations will all be in vain and we will be eating chocolate in peace for the next years.


Keys: An Ongoing Saga at the Retirement Home

Everyone loses their keys sometime. I’m sure that close to 100 percent of the customers in the locksmith shops and key duplicating kiosks are replacing lost keys. The thing about lost keys is that one does not lose one’s keys; your keys just get lost or most likely, just disappear. We’ve all heard this cry: “They were here on the table just 5 minutes ago and now when I came to pick them up to go to the car, they have disappeared!”

As a child I did well out of lost keys. I lived in a large house with many cupboards and small rooms. Because she was convinced that the servants would steal everything from her, my grandmother kept everything locked and carried a huge bunch of keys that could open everything. She kept the keys in her hands or in the pocket of the apron she always wore. But her keys were always “lost” and there was always a reward for finding them. My bother and I would listen for the cry, “has anyone seen my keys? A penny for the finder!” It is possible, of course, with such large rewards being offered, that it was us that “got the keys lost”.

Here in the Retirement Home keys go missing every day; keys to the apartment, car keys and other keys. It’s an ongoing event. Somewhere deep under the foundations of this large building there is a key repository, but there is no reception desk, no clerk and no access. This is the “lost” department. There is no “found” department as is usual. Retirement homes are different.

There is also no lost-key pattern, meaning it’s not mainly the men or the women; the young or the old; everyone is prone to losing their keys. And if you are going to lose them, what better place than a retirement home? Everyone knows about the memory glitch here.

The Coffee Lady Returns to the Retirement Home

For various reasons certain people should never be allowed to go on leave. They may feel better for the break, but they leave behind chaos and misery. Take the coffee lounge here at the retirement home for example. There is a long coffee and sandwich counter at one end where one goes to order a cuppa or something light to stave off hunger pangs, which are a common affliction among us seniors. The lady behind the counter is Ettie who is fast and accurate when it comes to serving up drinks and snacks. She is everyone’s friend, knows everyone by name and after a week of your custom, knows exactly how you like your coffee.

Well, last week was Ettie’s annual holiday. Early on Monday I went down for my morning wake-up cup and… no Ettie. I hung around, hoping she would show for the mid-morning cup. No such luck. By noon I had developed a small twitch at the side of my mouth and I finally resorted to going back to my own apartment and preparing myself a cup of some ghastly tasting mixture which bore no resemblance to Etty’s coffee. I will not describe the rest of the week but there was a circle of residents walking endlessly and aimlessly around the coffee bar which testified to growing withdrawal symptoms and shot nerves of the decaffeinated seniors.

Yesterday, all was forgiven. Ettie arrived wearing an innocent smile, unaware of the chaos her absence had caused and by 8:30 everyone had their favorite cup in front of them. Now at noon on Tuesday, all Ettie Coffee Addicts are back to normal and not one of us short memory challenged seniors remembers that last week actually happened.

So What Should I Paint For The Retirement Home?

Last week as the members of the retirement home Art Group were folding up their easels, we were each handed a 70 x 50 centimeter or medium size canvas. This was followed by a short explanation: “We are refurbishing the waiting area outside the administration offices and we would like to hang pictures which have been painted in our own art studio. All the paintings will be the same size on similar canvases.”

“What about the subject?” called someone from the back of the studio.

“Anything you like!” was the answer. “We would like to complete this project in two months. Go paint already!”

Now the difficult question: What should I paint? I have just completed a painting of a hillside village with some nice strong trees in the foreground and I don’t want to do another one like that. In fact, I have had a long run with trees and buildings, I need something different.

Oddly enough, when it comes to choosing a subject one is limited by one’s abilities and then by one’s desires. A portrait is out – I tried that and it’s a tremendous amount of work and the results are not always what the artist (or the subject) wants. Landscapes, the most popular subject, are, well, everyone paints landscapes. Buildings? Maybe, but it means perspectives, setting it all out, details, etc. No, it doesn’t stir me. Flowers? I have never tried them.

How about a nude? A full length reclining nude a la Goya! That’ll cause a stir. I will tread the corridors and lounges and seek out a suitable subject and sweet-talk her (it has to be a her) into stripping and posing. I used to have a wide brush….

Chair Exercises for Seniors in the Retirement Home

I had never heard of chair exercises before I came to the retirement home. I was pretty skeptical – how can you possibly exercise sitting in a chair? I started attending right away and to my surprise I can feel the benefits. The people who attend are a mixture of the residents and are all shapes and sizes, ranging from extra-small to extra-large. The instructor is a woman of about 40 and she too sits in a chair and demonstrates and does every exercise with us. I am sure her challenge is to vary the types and sequence of the exercises in order to prevent sheer boredom from taking over. So she has come up with some creative ideas.

The first one is the “ball game”. Everyone gets a hand-size softish rubber ball and uses these in exercises to strengthen every muscle in the body. The ball is under your foot, between your knees, under your arm, behind your back and under your chin. The final exercise is squeezing the ball to strengthen your hand muscles and then squeezing the ball with the various fingers. Not a single muscle escapes!

This morning’s session was another “out-of-the-ordinary” one. Everyone got a strip of rubber about a meter long and quite wide. The exercises were simple: hold one end of the strip in each hand and stretch it wide apart in front of you, to the side of you, over your head, behind you back, and so on. It’s not easy. I could feel my muscles straining against the pull of the elastic. I looked around and saw that many of the women were not exercising, just sitting and watching. It was too strenuous.

In the corner Janie, who lives near us on the third floor and weighs about 40 kilos or 90 pounds and is at least 85 years old, had one corner of the rubber strip firmly under her foot on the floor and the other end in both hands. She was straining mightily upwards, her face red with exertion. I never actually saw what happened, but I heard a “crack” as the rubber came loose, followed by a yell and I, with the rest of the group, swung around. Janie was airborne.

Try and remember what you have to take with you when you leave the house

A Free Mid-Summer Lunch – In the Retirement Home

This is midsummer, the temperature outside is about 36 degrees and the humidity swings somewhere between dripping and soaking. And today is the Grand Mid-Summer Festive Luncheon at the retirement home – a free lunch, no less and every single resident is here. That means 250 people. Set for noon, anxious diners began rolling in half an hour early, worried that there may not be enough room for everyone. After the residents had parked their walkers and explained to their caregivers that they would be eating a little later, the director made a short speech of welcome and said, “In these days before the coming winter”. Winter! Wow! I shivered at the thought of cold days and colder nights and blessed rain.

What a lunch! And all prepared while we were looking on. The maintenance staff grilled chicken wings, meat patties and sausages on barbecues outside and the food was served by the staff. On the tables was a selection of salads to go with the meat. The residents tucked in. I saw bottles of wine and other drinks being passed around and someone even put a glass of beer in front of me. To cap it were little individual servings of a chocolate mousse and then the staff walked between the tables offering little squares of home-made chocolate. I used both this and next year’s sugar and cholesterol allowances on the chocolate. The noise level inside the dining area was at maximum and the air-conditioning chillers were belting out cool air at high speed to keep the temperature down.

To organize the food and seat all these elderly people in one area and keep them happy was a major undertaking. The management did a great job – it will be remembered by all as a great success! We look forward to the Wild and Wet Winter Breakfast…

Retirement House Rules

We had a visitor here at the Retirement Home today and after giving her the grand tour and showing her all the in-house facilities and trying to convince her that this is the ideal way of life for seniors, we took her to lunch in the dining room. The food is excellent but we eat there only on ‘special’ occasions. What we often do, is take a container down at noon and buy a meal or part of a meal and take it back to our apartment.

As usual the choice of dishes was great, three different meat dishes, a couple of vegetables, a choice of two soups, lots of salads and sweets. Generous helpings and all for 33 shekels or $8.25. There is no better value. Many of the residents take a full meal to their apartment and it sees them through 2 days.

We chose our food and settled down to eat. After the first forkful our visitor looked around the table and said, “Where’s the salt?” She went back to the lady who was serving up the food and said can I have salt please?”

“Sorry ma’am, no salt.”

“Why not?” asked my wife’s cousin.

“Retirement house rules, no salt. Older folks, blood pressure, you know…”

Back at the table we continued eating.

“Enjoying the food?” I asked.

“Bit bland,” she replied.

“Ask for other spices,” I suggested and she did.

“No hot spices here, no curries, no chilies, ma’am.”

“Why not?”

“Retirement house rules. Older folks, heartburn, reflux, you know…”

The sweets on offer were stewed pears.

“These are completely unsweetened!” cried cousin

“Go and get some sugar, it will taste better.”

“No sugar is used in the preparation of the food, ma’am,”

“Why not?”

“Retirement house rules. Older folks, diabetes, you know…”

There are good reasons for taking the food up to one’s apartment.

Oral History Lives at the Retirement Center

One of the perks of living in the retirement home is the boost that my cultural side is getting. There is a lecture every evening at 6:30 sharp. There is music on Friday evenings and a classical concert on Saturday mornings. I’m getting all of this without leaving home, so to speak. I hope I don’t overdose.

The evening lectures are a sell-out, no matter what the subject. The other evening a very erudite man delivered a lecture on a topic related to the history of Israel. It was fascinating. He started off in a curious manner. He asked, rather hesitantly, if there was anyone in the audience who had been present on a ship that was sunk off the Tel Aviv beach in 1948. No one moved a muscle. He heaved a visible sigh of relief and said, “Good. Now I will continue.” He went on to tell the story of the shelling, the sinking, the political arguments and the complicated background leading to that fateful day.

“It was on the 14th of June that the prime minister made an announcement …”

“It was the 13th!” shouted a voice from the third row. “I was working in the prime minister’s office and I typed the words for him!” It was the 93 year old lady, Sarah, from the fourth floor.

“Okay, it was the 13th, I apologize.”


“Three days later they fired on the ship at 3:10 in the afternoon.

“It was exactly at 3:27!” said a loud voice. “I was on the beach with the new watch my grandfather had bought me and I was checking the time every few minutes to make sure the watch was going!” Solomon, 91, fifth floor.

“I beg your pardon, 4 o’clock,” corrected the lecturer…

More silence.

“Now on the 9th of August the president signed the paper that…”

“It was the 10th. I happened to be in his office at that moment…” Judith, 94, fourth floor.

Good thing no one in the auditorium had been on the ship…

The Over-90 Drivers Club at the Retirement Home

Ever since we moved into the retirement home, some 6 months now, I have noticed an exclusive clique that meets regularly. They gather in the far corner of the coffee lounge and shut their mouths the moment anyone comes close to where they are sitting. Yesterday I stumbled across the answer – nonagenarian drivers! These few men and one woman hold regular meetings where they discuss their driving, ask each other for advice on how to renew their licenses and exchange stories of their adventures and conquests on the roads.

I approached the one man that I recognized and suggested that I may be interested in becoming a member.

“How old are you?” he asked.

“A few months short of eighty,” I replied.

“Come back in ten years, sonny! I can’t even talk to you yet! Say, do you want to come with me? I’m just popping down to the mall to pick up shoes I left for repair. And you can help me into my car.”

I looked at him in amazement. He needs help getting into his car but then he’s going to drive it?

His car is old and battered. “There were a lot of concrete columns in the last place I lived,” he apologized, pointing his walking stick at the bodywork.

With much groaning I got him behind the wheel and I went around to the passenger seat. He fired up the engine and backed out slowly. He made a complicated 8-point maneuver to get the car out of its parking slot and then zoomed out into the traffic without so much as a glance in the rearview mirror. Cars racing down the street swerved and hooted and a couple sent messages with their fists and fingers.

“Everyone is so impatient these days,” he muttered. “They shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car at all.”

A pizza boy on a motor scooter shot into the road and I thought my driver swerved towards him. “That’s the third time I’ve missed that guy this week,” he said. “I’ll get him one of these days.”