Life Goes On

Recently I've made two visits to a skilled nursing facility--a place that's part "rehab" and part "nursing home."  Some residents are just there temporarily, but for others this is going to be the last stop.  My father's there temporarily, because of a broken hip.

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.


s. wallerstein said...

I hope that your father gets well very soon.

Jean Kazez said...

Thanks, Amos.

s. wallerstein said...


Since you mentioned books for your father, has he read Slow Man by Coetzee, which is about a man in
his 60's (but ageing), hit by a car while on his bicycle, causing him to lose one leg?

Not an upbeat book, but perhaps right for an intelligent (and ageing) person with a broken hip?