Thursday, November 29, 2007

Snapshots of Retirement Living: Old People Are Funny

“What are we doing here with all these old people?” my mom said to my dad at dinner today. And yesterday. And the day before.

The “old people” start lining up at 4:30 for dinner at 5:00. It’s the social outing of the day, and everyone seems to know each other. Many are quick to welcome my parents and introduce themselves. The men are named Harry, Ray, and Bill; and the women have resurrected names like Grace, Anna and Eleanor.

Some of the men have a competitive thing going on. Harry from down the hall introduces himself, and immediately starts telling us about his recent hospitalization. “I just got out of the hospital,” he announced proudly. “ I had quadruple bypass surgery!” He looks at my dad. “I’m 86,” he adds, “How old are you, Al?”

(I turned to my mom at this point and asked, “Are you allowed to ask that question in here?” Harry still has sharp hearing. “Sure!” he said. “We’re all old here. We’re proud of it!”)

My dad, who’s two weeks away from 87, doesn’t pull his age card, but instead opens a new category: “I’m 86,” he said. “I’ve got a couple of stents in here myself,” he added, tapping himself on the chest.

Not to be outdone, Harry the Topper (props to Scott Adams) brags, “Yeah, I’ve got three of those, too,” and then he almost added, “Plus a piece of shrapnel wedged up against my spine from the War.” Later at dinner, we overheard him wowing the ladies with his tales of surgical survival.

After dinner a couple of nights, I sat down to play the old piano in the common sitting room. I love to play, but I have very little natural talent. I have a repertoire of about five pieces memorized, including the perennial favorite “The Entertainer” and Beethoven’s ubiquitous “Minuet in G.”

So I’m playing for my mom and dad, and the old people stop by to listen. “I’ve been here two years and I’ve never heard anyone play that piano!” another Harry says happily. “It’s great to hear it! Blessings on you. Blessings, blessings,” he repeats to no one in particular as he walks away.

I play the intro to “How Great Thou Art,” and it’s a big hit here at the Lutheran Community. Soon I have a silver-headed quartet of ladies singing along with me while I play. It’s hilarious and a tiny bit beautiful at the same time.

I like it here.

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