On the drive from the midwest, we say Chicago, though we don’t live there, to the Jersey Shore, we hit every kind of weather you can experience in winter. Sunny but with strong winds, fighting to keep the car on the road, to sleet, ice, snow and finally thick fog and torrential rain. My knuckles were sore from gripping the steering wheel for two days after we pulled into the Old Folks place.
A word about the Old Folks Place, I say that, but the image you might conjure up might be different than what it really is. It’s a beautiful apartment building, with wings coming from it for step down units. The apartments are gorgeous, and each one we saw was uniquely decorated, I should do a blog on the stories from their belongings alone. Most moved from larger homes and had to choose what they loved most to bring to their apartments. There were some amazing old pieces, mixed with stylish decor. Some had only antiques. Other couples had twin beds. One apartment had a tiny workshop area. Each place brought the history of its occupants.
They get dressed up for supper. Supper is served like a restaurant with several choices, and they sit with different people most nights. The food is so good, twinsie and I love eating there and the company is even better. Our father is handsome and dapper and the ladies all love it when he stops to chat, and the gents love to clap him on the back and have a few words.
Twinsie and I were all over the building for 10 days as we cleared things out of our Dad’s apartment to bring order, or ran to see Hedy at the Alzheimer’s Unit. Here are some of the conversations we had, or overheard. True Tales from the Old Folks Place…
In grocery before getting to dad’s, it’s inky black out, pouring rain with thick fog and frazzled nerves: Twinsie to stock boy:
“Hi, can you tell me where the pop is?”
“Yes, you know Pepsi, Coke. Soda pop?” (Voice becoming a little shrill.)
‘Oh, soda! Gee, pop sure is old fashioned.”
On the elevator at the Old Folks Place (OFP).
“Hi, ladies, did you just get your hair done? You look beautiful.”
“Oh, thank you, we get it done every Friday, how’s your fatha?”
“He’s better, thank you. Have a lovely evening!”
Dedunk, thump (rolling their walkers over the elevator door) “Those are the twins..”.
Beckie riding up the elevator chatting with a couple. She’s wearing a long tunic and leggings with knee high boots. After she gets off she hears: Man: “Boy, she sure has a short skirt on.” “Smack” Woman: “She’s got on leggings…”
Dad after he’d been sick with the flu for a few days and his fever finally broke: “Boy, I don’t know what I would have done if you two hadn’t been here to take care of me. I would have been very frightened, and probably wouldn’t have had the strength to get the help I needed.” (Hear my heart break.)
Woman we meet in the hall outside Hedy’s room: “Are you twins?”
“Yes, we are.”
“I had six boys and finally got my girl when I had twins my final pregnancy.”
“Oh, how nice!”
“Her twin brother played on the Yankees!”
In Hedy’s room:
“Look! Nothing here is mine, so what am I doing here, Frederick?”
“You are here because they are giving you medicine, and they have to see how it works, and then you can come home.”
“Our apartment, sweetie.” And she plops down on our father’s lap and they snuggle and kiss.
In the hall outside hedy’s room: “Are you two twins?”
“Yup, sure are.”
“I had 6 boys and got my daughter with my final pregnancy. Her twin brother played for the Yankees!”
In the elevator: “Are you the twins.”
“Yes, I suppose we are.” We say, bewildered.
“The grapevine is active here.”
Outside the elevator waiting for it to arrive having an animated conversation with a man who is obviously sick and pale, and his wife. As we get into the elevator, she says. “He’s had a couple pints of blood today and has the pep to his step back, always feels better after…”
In Hedy’s room after we snuck down belongings and filled up her drawers so that she would feel at home. We put photos out and little boxes in her drawers with inexpensive costume jewelry trying to make it exactly how it was in the apartment. Each room in this wing has a large shadow box outside each door. She refused to have anyone put anything in hers when she first arrived, no photos of her and our father. She was mad at him for “locking me in here.” We decided it was time to put photos in her shadow box that included a beautiful black and white photo of her and our father taken just five years ago at twinsie’s daughter’s wedding.
We were walking Hedy to her room and I stopped by the shadow box. “Oh my! Look at you in these photos!”
“Yes, I don’t know how they got there. Your father must have brought them. Here I am with my mother and father and sister. But all I really care about his this one.” She cupped her hands around the large B&W photo of her and our dad.
Inside her room, she asked us to sit and then putzed around moving things on her dresser and opening her drawers. “I don’t know how my things got here.” Turning around she put her hands on her hips and smiled. “Do you think your father did this to surprise me?” And she laughed and clapped her hands. “I love it!”
“But, why am I here, I suppose that’s normal for people to say here, but look, I’m healthy! Unless it’s here?” (she said, pointing to her temple).
Me: “Hedy, actually you are having trouble with your memory, so they are giving you medication to see if they can work that out and then you can go home to the apartment and live with dad again.”
Giggling with joy, she says, “Oh, that would be so nice.”
In the hallway: “Are you twins?”
Yep, we sure are, do you have twins?”
“Why, I do! I have six boys and had my girl and her twin brother my last pregnancy. He played for the Yankees, maybe you heard of him?”
At the table at supper: “You girls should come up and have a glass of wine with us.”
Now, alcohol is prohibited in this building, but there are a lot of wine and liquor bottles in the recycle bin, and one of the ladies at the table is a faithful Baptist, and she doesn’t like such talk. But she’s good natured with the ribbing, and we all laugh.
My friend Harry is having pizza. “Ugh, Harry, look at that flaccid piece of pizza. That’s a crime. In Chicago the pizza is so thin and crisp it would never bend and get sloppy like that.”
“You had pizza in Italy?”
“No, but I hope to one day.”
“They eat it with a fork and knife.”
A blizzard has come and gone, our dad is on the mend. He’s got a new wireless Bose that twinsie bought, and he listens to Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Beethoven. And he can actually hear that beautiful music because we made him get new hearing aids. Twinsie has sat for hours continuing his iPad education started by our big sissy who was there over Thanksgiving. We bought him a new comforter and sheets, a Kuerig coffee maker, a wireless printer, and have put out his beloved things that come from his past, mingled with his favorites of Hedy’s. The lights are just so, his books lined up on shelves, his papers just the way he likes them. And suddenly it’s time for us to go.
No goodbyes, we hate them. Just “we will see you soon!” We all cry, we hug and cry some more. It’s the night before we are to leave and I’ve already come down with his flu, so we want to get started early just in case we hit bad weather again. So, we are saying, “See you soon. I love you so much, Daddio. What would I have done without my twinsies?…” And we wonder, truly, what we would do without him.
We’ll see you soon, Daddio.