May 26, 2018

My Corner of the Canyon: Sunrise, Sunset...


He crows on Monday mornings. Of course, he crows on Tuesday mornings, too, and so on through the week, but somehow it is the Monday morning herald that is most pronounced.

As I lie in bed, hoping for a few more minutes sleep, the rooster’s bray pierces the early Topanga morning traveling through the air from Bonnell: “Cock-a-doodle-doo! Wake up! Wake up!”

“Go away,” pesky cockerel I think. “I don’t want to get up yet. It’s too early, and gas is too expensive.”

The fowl is persistent. “Cock-a-doodle-doo! It’s later then you think! Wake up! Wake up!”

How is it that so many of our pets and small animals have been lost to coyotes but the rooster continues to thrive? There he goes again.

Over the sound of passing traffic he clearly calls out, “You know I’m doing this for you, Kathie Gibboney. Doodle- doo! Heed me before it’s too late. The world awaits. Wake up!”

On this particular Monday morning I know where overpriced petrol will take me. I must pay a visit to the Sunrise Senior Living facility where my father-in-law resides.

“Sunrise” is, I think, not the most accurate name for the complex and its ageing occupants. “Sunset” might be more appropriate. However, to be fair, there really is, to some extent, a range of function among the residents. Some can move along with their walkers at an alarming speed and one man, being pushed in his wheelchair to lunch, brandishes a cane at anyone who is within reach.

To its credit, the facility is rather posh in its way. It’s clean and smells only slightly of Sunday’s supper, which I note was the Flounder Florentine. There are carpeted halls and walls decorated in what must have been considered soothing and familiar décor. One wing depicts movie star photos from the 1940s, while in another area the interior designer has tried for a charming nautical theme, although I’ve always been somewhat suspicious of a portrait of a jolly bearded sea captain surrounded by a group of young, frolicking children, with a little girl perched on his knee.

“Beware the captain,” I have been known to advise my daughter when passing the picture.

The activities for each day are posted and include such varied and stimulating enterprises as Crossword Puzzle Club, Hymnal Songs, Poetry Reading in the Library, (“The Road Not Taken,” anybody?), Scrabble Club and the Milkshake Monday Social, though I have yet to witness any residents exchanging so much as a, “How do you do?” with each other. Perhaps they spike the milkshakes. Maybe it turns into a Rave. I’d like to think so.

Sometimes there is a cat or dog on the premises and that always helps. But it is a challenge to visit. Especially the third floor. They call it “memory impaired.” Mostly it is “memory gone.”

The quote of the day, printed in the daily Sunrise activity flyer, seems an odd choice: “The memory of my mother will always be a blessing to me.” It seems doubtful that many residents on the third floor remember Mom, although, who am I to know? Maybe some have regressed to their youth again and when they mumble inaudible babble are really promising Mother they will clean their room or be home before 10 o’clock. Riding up the elevator I steel myself for meeting the cranky lady. I have encountered her several times and must admit I am afraid of her. She is a resident and from her wheelchair she looks up with hard eyes and demands in a voice of drill-sergeant, military precision, “Who are you?”

The first time, I was taken aback by her rude manner and stuttered my name, hoping that would satisfy her. It did not, which made me feel somewhat inadequate. “Why are you here?” she drilled.

“Oh I’m visiting my father-in-law,” I explained. I mentioned his name and she just waved me off, directing her caregiver to wheel her away as if she had a million things better to do then waste her time with me. Maybe she was late for the Bingo game.

The next time she questioned who I was, I smiled in a friendly way and answered her directly and precisely. It didn’t seem to do any good. She still seemed to dismiss me as insignificant. So now I have my answer ready. I have practiced it and rehearsed. When next responding to her curt query I shall say in regal manner, “I’m the Queen of Sheba. Who might you be?”

I am almost disappointed not to see her.

You punch in a special code to obtain access to the third floor. Not to give away the secret security, let me just say, the number 13 plays an important part in the sequence and again I wonder at the obvious ominous choice. Once I forgot the code and stood at the elevator door for what seemed like hours as a panic began to set in, fearing I would be trapped there forever. I had to seek help from an attendant and was flooded with a sense of freedom when finally exiting the place.

Due to the fact that I often dress in, how shall we say, a fanciful style, I think I am frequently mistaken by the Sunrise residents as entertainment or, let’s be honest, a clown. They look at me expectantly, as if I should begin singing some of the old favorites, tell a few jokes, or at the very least, fashion some balloon animals. Many hold out their hands and I take them as if I’m a visiting celebrity, (who am I to turn down fans?). And I am after all, the Queen of Sheba.

The Father-in-Law sits sleeping in his wheelchair, head drooping down on his chest. He is at a table with other members of the Third Floor Club. An old woman with sparkling eyes snorts from time to time and smiles at some corn kernels in front of her as if they shared a secret. The other members stare at me and listen attentively to every word I say to the sleeping man in front of me.

When I mention my children, a man across the table nods and laughs as if he knew them both and was recalling some amusing incident, like the time Riley fell off the bicycle or when Miranda got the bead stuck up her nose.

One woman in a pink jogging outfit clicks her spoon on the table signaling she wants to be included in the conversation, which I would be happy to oblige as the patter with my Father-in-Law is a bit one sided. I can’t really tell if the plate in front of the elderly Anapol is a late breakfast or early lunch. It looks like a great gob of mush.

A television is on in the viewing room and reminds me of the time we were there and observed the residents sitting around while an Eric Clapton concert, of all things, was televised. Although most seemed oblivious to the scorching, soulful guitar, one woman tapped her foot along to “Layla” and I thought, “turn it up.”

I sit chattering on and suddenly the Father-in-Law lifts his head, picks up his spoon and begins to eat. It is a small victory. Although I don’t think he really knows who I am, I kiss him goodbye, wave to the rest of the Third Floor Club and am gone. I am gone and free to still drive the crowded streets and recall the words to the song on the radio and the names of my children. I am free to recognize my own, dear, Beleaguered Husband and smile a little to myself as I hear him complain about the price of hamburger buns, such a minor thing in the great scheme of things.

“Don’t let it upset you too much,” I advise. “It will make you old before your time.”

The next morning I am up before the rooster crows.