Tag Archives: Retirement home

Arsenic and Very Old Lace

Yesterday evening, after another exhausting day here at the retirement home, I dropped onto the couch for my after-dinner nap. I grabbed the remote and began surfing, looking for entertainment to while away the dark hours. “As usual,” I grumbled, “nothing to watch.” Channel after channel – bad news and worse news or basketball, snooker and soccer. What entertainment there was, is now all shooting mixed with car chases, more shooting and wrecking cars in the most diabolical fashion imaginable. And then, right in the middle of all the violence, a flickering black and white movie introduced by a moth-eaten lion. “Arsenic and Old Lace”. I reached for the chocolate and settled deeper into the couch.

Of course I had seen it before, long, long ago, but there is still magic in its old-fashioned actors, acting and technology. Everything about it is ‘olde worlde’ charming. I wondered if I would have to stand up for God Save the King at the end.

My wife walked in and sat down, watched for a couple of minutes and said, “What on earth are you watching?”
“Arsenic and Old Lace,” I replied.
“Gee! What year was this made?”
“1944.”
“What??”
“1944.”
“That’s 70 years ago! You’re watching a movie made 70 years ago? What’s the matter with you?”
“How many years?”
“70!”

I was 11 years old in 1944. I’m pretty sure that my mother never took her 11 year old son to see a movie called Arsenic and Old Lace in the year it was released but I probably saw it a year or two later and I have probably seem it a few times since then. It’s still a great movie.

It just goes to prove: Some things never age – they just get older.

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And It’s All Thanks To the Gefilte Fish

Passover is on the way and we’re shopping for “different” foods. The supermarket shelves are loaded with goodies and many of the items are hard to ignore. Who would walk past a skyscraper stack of chocolate covered macaroons (ugh) and not buy them? We picked and chose carefully as we cruised down the aisles so as not to put too big a strain on the overdraft but our resolve gave in as we came to the selection of gefilte fish, a long time favorite in this household.

“Hmm, look at those big bottles,” said my wife, the chief shopper.
“12 pieces per bottle,” said I, reading the label. “How’s the price?”
“22 shekels. That’s pretty good.”
“Take two,” I say, and we load the heavy bottles into the trolley.

This is only the third time we have bought the gefilte fish: up to now this traditional Ashkenazi dish has always been home-made, but age combined with the small retirement home kitchen has brought about changes and the truth is that the ready-made is really good. So we ignore the guilty Ashkenazi feelings and buy our gefilte fish. Each ball will still be served with a roundel of carrot perched on the top and we eat the fish with the same red chrain.

At home we unpack our purchases and look for storage space until the big day arrives. It is then that we notice the expiry date on the bottles – 9 October 2017 at 16:07!

Look at it this way: If the gefilte fish maker is confident that his fish will still be edible in October 2017, we will do everything in our power to make sure that we will be here to eat it. Thank you for your optimism, gefilte fish.


Can One Be Over-Retired?

“The thing about being retired is that the days are all the same,” complained my friend as we were driving along to the art supplies shop in search of canvases and brushes. He is 83 and worked in his dental clinic up to a few months ago when he was forced by his professional indemnity insurance company to retire. “A high speed drill with one end in the patient’s mouth and the other end in a pair of shaky 83 year-old hands could be dangerous. They cancelled my insurance cover so I had to quit.” He spends most of his days painting, turning out beautiful canvases of landscapes with a portrait thrown in now and again to change the subject. He is also an avid football fan and never misses an important match on the TV. And he’s bored.

“I enjoyed working,” he says, “even though it was only two days a week. At least it got me out of the retirement home and into the city, allowed me to see and talk to different people and most of all, enabled me to practice dentistry which has been my occupation for over 60 years. I miss it. I need a break from retirement now and again. All this retirement is just too much!”

Next door to the art shop is a supermarket. “Let’s do something different for a change,” he said, pulling me into the store. “Where’s the Men’s Department?” We find a carousel loaded with bowls of olives, pickles, lemons, hot peppers and other delights and we stand and eat a few of the olives stuffed with chili. When we can breathe again we head for the wine counter where there are special displays and stalls selling wines for the coming Passover holidays.

We each drink a couple of glasses of a new Red from Australia before we decide we don’t like it. We’re out of the ‘retirement blues’ by now and we make for the cheese counter. We spend the next hour sampling thin slivers of goats’ and sheep’s milk cheeses and then we each buy a small slab to take home to show that we haven’t wasted the entire afternoon.

“This retirement home is really a great place, isn’t it?” says my friend as we walk into the lobby, “and there’s nothing quite like being retired, is there?”


97 Year Old Leads Dancing At The Retirement Home

The retirement home staged their annual Purim party on Sunday evening. The invitation read 7:00 sharp and by 6:20 the dining room was packed. One or two hopefuls who arrived on time wandered around looking for vacant chairs. The mountain of electronic sound equipment with 2 human operators and a singer provided a variety of music throughout the evening and there was a heavy flow of soft drinks and sugarless cakes to the tables. A few enterprising Goldenagers remembered their good old days and smuggled in bottles of wine under their clothes.

The costumes were dazzling. The dress theme was “The Sixties” and many of us didn’t have to dress up – our everyday clothes are from the Sixties anyway. Violently colored wigs are all the rage this season and many of the women were topped in psychedelic pinks, greens and blues.

The party started off with a selection of dancing. A short, agile and super-energetic woman was in the forefront and for the first half an hour none of us recognized her. She had on a spiky gold wig, a shiny pink mask with narrow eye-slits, a top with flashy gold sequins and a short, um, very short skirt and black tights. She twirled and twisted her way around the dance floor, moving from one partner to another.
“Who is she?” we asked each other as we watched her in action.

We were stunned to see her bouncing. No one in this retirement home bounces. We keep both eyes strictly on our weak points, meaning hips, knees and ankles. Bouncing is out! And then her mask slipped and her face was revealed.
“It’s Gilda, you know, from the corner apartment on the sixth floor!
“Who?”
“C’mon, you know her. She’s usually in a wheel chair. The one with the attractive Nepalese caregiver! She must be about 90!”
“Impossible! Look at her go!”
“Actually, she’s 97,” someone at our table said. “I’m her neighbor and she asked me to help her to fill in some forms for her bank one day. Born in 1917. Saw it with my own eyes!”
We watched in disbelief, our mouths wide open as she whirled, twisted and bounced her way through the exhausted line of partners. It was a stunning exhibition of 60’s dancing. The band took it as a challenge and the faster she danced the faster the beat of the music.

Shortly before 9pm her Nepalese caregiver came into the dining room. She was pushing a wheelchair. She weaved her way through the dancers, gently took Gilda’s arm, led her off the dance-floor, settled her into the seat, snuggled a blanket around her and wheeled her out. The party was over.


The Exclusive Club at the Retirement Home

From our first week here in the retirement home I’ve noticed an exclusive clique that meets regularly and secretly. They gather in the far corner of the coffee lounge, talk a lot but shut their mouths the moment anyone comes close to their circle. Retired members of the secret service, I thought excitedly. I wonder if I could waylay one of them, ply him or her with whisky and get an exciting story for my blog, a plot for a thriller, a script for a movie…

Yesterday I bumped one of them in the elevator and invited him in for a drink. He took 2 sips of whisky and started to talk. I had a tough time getting him to stop. It’s not what I thought, but they are an elite crowd, all right – 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 mostly un-renewable licenses, make it through the eye test and exchange stories of their conquests on the roads.

When I finally managed to get a word in, I told the guy that I’m interested in becoming a member.

“How old are you?” he asked.

“Eighty-one,” I replied.

“Come back in nine years, sonny! I’m not even supposed to 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.”

He needs help getting into his car but then he’s going to drive it?

His car is old, rusty and battered. “There were a lot of concrete columns in the last place I lived. Not worth fixing,” he muttered, pointing his cane at the bodywork.

With much groaning I got him behind the wheel and I went around to the passenger side. 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 a glance in the 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 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.”


The Oscars Come To the Retirement Home

It’s panic night here at the retirement home. Someone, who has to remain nameless, downloaded copies of a dozen movies and guess what – they all ended up in different categories in the Oscar Awards this week. Downloading movies is a definite no-no so the minute disc-on-key device that is moving at the speed of light from one apartment to another is much sought after. Two days after Oscar night, the entire disc will be out of date, the movies discussed, hacked to pieces by this discerning crowd of Golden Aged movie critics and forgotten.

Meantime, the main objective of every resident is to get one’s hand on the disc for the least possible amount of time and make copies of the movies one wants to see, meaning all of them. There are a few minor problems in this. The average age here is 80, so the computer operators are all between 75 and 90 with quite a few in their mid-nineties. The first problem is finding the switch on the computer. Once that’s been accomplished and the screen is glowing in anticipation, one has to remember exactly where one hid the disc-on-key thingy the last time the great-grandchildren came to visit.

The second obstacle is locating my glasses which are always on my head when I don’t need them. Finally I am confronted by the microscopic disc-on-key and the almost invisible matching slot in the computer. By the time I’ve got everything together the crotchety old guy from the fifth floor who is next on the borrow-list is banging on the door. I hit the ‘enter’ key and start the copying process. “Too bad!” I smile at him, let him in and pour him a whisky to dull the edge of his impatience. “It’s out of my hands. My computer is almost as old as me and steam operated!”

We have 6 great movies to watch, enough to get us through the next couple of weeks. But I‘ll have to buy another bottle of whisky tomorrow.


Life in the Retirement Home Involves Tough Decision Making

Before we moved in some 2 years ago I thought that life in a retirement home would be smooth and seamless. No major speed bumps and few potholes to contend with. It’s not like that at all. Each day comes along with its own problems.

Take last Thursday, for instance. I woke with a feeling of guilt – I hadn’t posted a blog for a couple of weeks, the editor was probably sitting with her hand on the phone, about to call and fire me. I rushed through the shower, by-passed the shave but lingered over the coffee while I wrote a new blog article in my mind.

In the study, I cranked up the computer and leaned back while it coughed and gagged its way through its start-up routine. At that moment my eye caught sight of the painting I am working on and I noticed that the main character’s eyes are too close together, giving him a village-idiot look. Decision required – fix it or not? I reached for a brush – there are about 30 lying all over the study table – dabbed it in a glob of yesterday’s paint and started. Moving eyes is no small matter. They are followed closely by eyebrows, wrinkles, shadows and other accessories.

As I threw the brush back into the bottle of grey-brown-green water that stands permanently on the desk, I sneaked a look at his face again. Darn, look at that long upper lip. It’s going to mean a huge shadow under his nose. Decision required – fix it or not? I picked up another brush and carefully began to move his mouth up a fraction. Halfway through the exercise I felt I needed a cup of tea to steady my hand. That’s the whisky we drank the evening before when we celebrated the birthday of the lady on the 5th floor, I reasoned. No more drinking if I’m painting the next morning. I finally repaired the lips, added back the two lines dropping from the corners of his mouth – this is a retirement home so we all have those – fixed the shadow and dropped the brush into the water.

Back to my blog. It is now 12:30. I think I have to add more grey hairs around the temples. The blog? It’s too late now, I’ve missed the early morning edition, the midday has just hit the streets and no one reads papers in the afternoon. I’ll attend to that blog tomorrow. Promise.


A Letter from a Pen-pal

How, how and how do I get my name off the income tax department’s computer? How many more phone calls must I make and letters must I write to tell them I have retired, that I exist on pensions, such as they are in these days of dark economy? And even if I manage to break through into the brain of the infernal computer, will it believe me? Or will it simply put an ‘x’ in the box marked ‘Liar’? Will the computer recognize my address as that of a retirement home or will it read it as part of my tax evasion scheme?

I remember the last job I did. I completed the work, checked everything, pulled up my invoice from the depths of my computer, wrote it out to my client and hit the ‘send’ button. About 4 seconds later I heard a gong chime, the sound on incoming mail. You guessed it. My partner, aka ‘Income Tax Department’, was there, demanding payment of his 50 percent share of my fee. That’s efficiency as I would expect from a government department. But when I tell them: ‘Retired – look elsewhere’, they laugh: ‘Yeah, right! We hear that one every day!’

Now comes decision making time – tear up their letter and file it in the bin under the desk or write them another letter? Or make another phone call and leave a message with another tinny voice which you know will never go anywhere?

On the positive side, my pen-friend has already decided on the amount of money I will be earning this year. That’s the advantage of having optimistic friends…


A Face Slap In the Retirement Home

Probably the most common sight in a retirement home are back problems, meaning walking problems. The worst cases are confined to wheel-chairs. They are usually found parked in clusters, looking bored as hell while their care-givers drink coffee, tell jokes and generally have a good time. They go over to their “patients” from time to time to make sure they put the brakes on. Next in the pain line are the back-sufferers who push themselves along with “walkers”. These are easily recognizable by the two yellow tennis balls on the back feet of the (metal) walker. After that are the “caners”. They often suffer from some sort of military or teaching background.

Now we come to the “help-free cases. The worst is the shuffler where one foot remains in contact with the floor while the body slides forward. Then there is the bent spinee, the straight knee-er, the limper, the twitcher, the foot dragger and the foot dropper. I belong to the ‘sideways bent’ class. All these ailments lead to one common symptom – the pain grimace. One soon learns who has what and which twitch is which.

The other day I dropped into a couch with a huge sigh of relief at taking the weight off my feet – and thereby my back. Sitting on the couch is a lady who I know by her own particular pain brand – the walking butt clutcher.

“Are you sore when you walk?” I ask the stupid question as an ice-breaker. It works.

“Sore as all hell,” she answers.

“And when you sit?” I say, continuing the questioning.

“Not too bad,” she says, “as long as I lean to the left and the seat doesn’t sag.”

“Hmm,” I say digesting this piece of information before I make my diagnosis.

“How about when you stand?”

“That’s the worst!” she exclaims, wincing at the very thought. “I cannot stand which means I am badly handicapped. No museums or art galleries, no standing in lines at the bank and definitely no cooking!”

“Wow!” I offer in sympathy. “That’s pretty bad.”

“Any more questions?”

“What are you like in bed?”

The three second pause is followed by a loud thwack which rattles my teeth.

“Well, your back problem hasn’t spread to your arms,” I say, running for the door.


Mozart, You Would Have Lived To 100 In A Retirement Home!

Every morning I drop into my chair in front of the computer and with a click of the mouse I turn on Radio Mozart, a radio station that I found on the internet. It plays Mozart’s music 24 hours a day interrupted only by very short announcements. And every day I am stunned anew by the beautiful music that Wolfgang Mozart composed. When I am stuck for a word in an article or essay, I think of Mozart, never stuck for a single note.

Can you imagine how different our world would be if Mozart had been born in the last 50 years, in our time, in the years of antibiotics and healthcare, in the years of recognizing and fostering genius? Instead, he lived his short 35 year life, from 1756 to 1791, in days where he had little chance of reaching old age. Of his 5 siblings only 2 made it past the first year, an indication of how fragile life was in those days.

But it’s what he achieved in those few years that really count. He composed over 600 works, an incredible output of work, considering that it includes operas and symphonies, long complicated works that he couldn’t have completed in a day. In between he struggled on a daily basis with family matters, health issues and making a living. In today’s world he been fawned upon from every angle by well-wishers and perhaps have produced many more great masterpieces on a finely-tuned grand piano in a retirement home.

If Mozart had lived in today’s world with our medicines and healthcare he could easily have attained a great age, continuing his genius to the very end, surrounded by admiring fans and music lovers in a five-star retirement home where he could devote himself to composing great music. He would also have had the advantage of listening to his own music and would have a collection of records, tapes and CD’s lining his study. All his own work.

Of course he would have had to fight off all the suggestions and corrections that the residents would have offered. You can almost hear them:
“But Dear Maestro Mozart, if you reverse the last three bars it will sound much better!”
“No, No! Not the violin here! The cello is much more suitable for this!”
“Mozart, get rid of that E flat at the end of the last bar!”
Perhaps he was spared after all…