Friday, June 19, 2009

"You too, Norman"

There aren't many couples in old age homes. I hope this changes in the future, but right now most of the people are single and the large majority are women. I'm not sure whether this means that women are stronger or that life takes a greater toll on men. It's probably a combination of both. I have been observing life in the slow lane at my parents' retirement hotel for the last few days. It truly is another world--one, if we're lucky, we'll experience, too.

In one sense growing old is the great equalizer. No matter what you have accomplished in your life, or how much money you have, when you can't take care of yourself, or get around without help, we are all the same. As we lose our physical abilities life is less about the material world, and more about what is going on inside our head.

Actually this is the way it always is, but it takes growing older before we can fully appreciate this fact. This is the great secret of life. Most of us never truly recognize that the reality of our lives is not outside of ourselves but within our minds, and hopefully, our consciousness. We create the reality of our lives by our thoughts. The quicker we uncover this secret the easier and more productive our lives can become.

There are advantages to being young. No question about this. There are also advantages to being old. Less is expected of you. There is nothing to prove. This enables you to be more honest with yourself and others. There is a freedom when you're only requirement is to get through the day. You don't have to wait until you are old to get these advantages. I think this is the meaning of the statement "youth is wasted on the young."

My sister and I have been discussing how to reduce my parents monthly expenses. One of the options is to move them to another retirement facility. My mother is constantly complaining about the one they are in, so moving them might be reasonable. I asked them if they have any friends. It seems they have one couple whom they consider friends.

I asked them, "How much time do you spend with this couple?"

My mother replied, "We eat with them every day. We've been doing this for over a year. I enjoy speaking to the woman. She is a Zionist and believes that Obama is bad for the Jews. Sometimes she gets on my nerves."

I then turned to my father and asked him, "Do you like her husband?"

"Oh, yes, he is very smart, also."

"What do you talk about?"

"We have the same exact conversation every day. It hasn't changed the whole time we've been together. Mommy and his wife do all the talking."

I then asked, "Do you eat with them three meals a day?"

My father answered, "Yes, although mommy and the wife don't get down to breakfast. It's just me and Norman. We spend an hour together."

I wondered what this conversation could be like. "And what do you guys talk about?"

My father said, "It's the same every day. He says to me after breakfast, 'Have a good day, Maury.' That's it."

"And what do you say?"

"You too, Norman."

I said, "That's it, Dad? That's all you have said to each other for over a year. How do you know he's smart?"

He said, "Yep, that's it. I say only three words. He says five."

That's their friendship, the same eight words each day. I keep thinking about that. I'm not sure what to make of it.


  1. It is a very common condition that our parents exhaust all their money before leaving this planet!Be thankful you still have parents. Is it possible that you and other siblings can supplement their income when they exhaust their savings? Look into Judaic organizations that do charity. My mother's local church helped supplement my mother's income to pay for the rent at Sunrise A.L. And my sister was able to pay for other needs as my mother's day to day living needs changed. My mother lived at Sunrise for 5 years before she had to be moved to a nursing home. BTW- Medicare would pay for that care if your father was in a nursing home. Possibly they could live in a nursing home together after the money runs out?

  2. My father in law runs the only remaining 100% jewish nursing home in NYC. I could arrange a conversation with him if your parents ever consider moving back to Brooklyn, that is. But who the hell would ever want to do that?