Life Goes On
There was a three week interval between the two visits (because my parents are a couple of thousand miles away), which somehow changed my reaction. On the first visit, the "no exit" patients gave me a bad case of existential alarm. Good God, stop the clocks! One day that will be me! I sure don't want to wind up ensconced in hospital mauve, eating terrible food, and deprived of the essentials of life--like good coffee and wifi! Are my kids going to visit me when the time comes? Etc. etc.
The second time, I was a bit more used to the environment, and so was my father. I had the (profound, maybe not) insight that (um) life goes on. The day still has its pleasant rhythms in a place like this. There is friendly banter. There is black humor (one of the essentials of life)--like when a staff member joked with a very old man in the dining room about how men like to be tied up. The nurses and assistants are miraculously patient and accommodating. But yes, life is different. A total stranger will sit and talk to you about his urinary incontinence over dinner. But there's laughter about it--these people have not entirely lost their original identity.
I left my father with the book Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar...Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes (Cathcart and Klein). The book itself is as lovely and charming as can be -- it is small, adorable, and completely unintimidating. But smart and insightful too, from what I could tell. A little elevation can't hurt, when everyone's talking about their urinary problems.
at 9:10 AM