We just came back from San Diego, where we went to visit J.'s mother. She lives in a retirement facility (?) Independent living compound (?) Or, as Kitty Cat calls it, her Compartment. I never quite know how to refer to where my mother-in-law resides.
It's this sprawling, multi-winged stucco structure with spanish tiled roofs and dark, thickly carpeted hallways and a special space for Walker and Wheelchair Parking outside the dining room and lots of balding men with scabby heads and frothy-haired old women and sparkling swimming pools and the smell of salisbury steak everywhere.
J. finds the whole endeavor depressing. Being around the elderly reminds him of what's coming. And if there's one thing J. doesn't want to think about, doesn't want to be, it's old.
I understand where he's coming from. You can't help, when you're surrounded by it, pondering what you'll be like in thirty or forty years, what will ache, what will have stopped working, what surgeries you will have had. How it will feel to know that any day your body could just give out.
But I like the geezers, too. I always have. When I was in middle and high school, we had a Senior Citizens' center located two doors from my dad's chemistry lab, down the hall from the band room. The Seniors would eat lunch in the same cafeteria as the students. A handful of us were recruited to help them carry their trays, fetch their condiments. Good Morning America even, in 1980, came and did a Feel Good story on the integration of Seniors and kids (Of course, they rearranged us to look like we actually sat with the old folks and chatted while we ate, which we did not, like we walked down the hall side by side with them between classes, which we also did not (an early lesson in how media distorts reality)). My point is, I've always been comfortable with the over-seventy-five set. I feel for them. I admire them. I see the hunger and the resignation and the gleam in their eyes.
I don't mind hanging out for a while at the Senior Housing Development (?) Fruit Bat and Kitty Cat dig the long, racetrack-like corridors and the lemon trees and wild rabbits and the pancakes in the dining room.
So we just do it, once a year. We go there. I sneak in my six-pack or my bottle of wine and we sleep with the window open (albeit, all in one room which is crazy-making after the second day) and cobble together meals that are safe for Fruit Bat and we take the kids swimming and J. puts on his lawyer's hat and looks at papers for his mother and, as long as Kitty Cat doesn't get too princessy and foot-stompy, I'm okay with it.
How to explain the pencil-lead point I teetered on last night after we got home, then? Travel logistics? Trying to communicate with a grumpy spouse? Re-immersion? Post traumatic Elder Community (?) Sleep deprivation?
I don't know, exactly, but I'm better now, startlingly happy, today, to be alone with the kids.