Friday, November 23, 2007

It probably isn’t going to surprise anyone that I am bored to within an inch of my life. It’s not that there are not busy schedules and things to do, or that just surviving my body’s limitations is a time and energy-consuming activity these days. Figuring out how to pull my sweat pants up and how keep the fitted sheets from slipping off the plastic mattress: these events demand time and energy and resources. However the engagement between the task and my mind is pretty superficial, and I find myself murmuring little encouragements to myself. “C’mon, Judith. Find the little pants-puller-upper gizmo (Bet even Terry doesn’t have one of these…) and hook it over the waistband. Now snap it shut. Ok, pull.” And then after a while I answer myself, “You can DO this. Just take it easy. You are not coordinated in the best of times, go slowly.”

And there you have it. Problem-solving conversationalist, that’s me! My dinner conversation is just as stimulating:

“Is that supposed to be fruit?”

“Not much snow today.”

“May I help you cut that?”

“The name’s familiar, but no, I don’t know her”

Later, Sarah comes to visit and talks about how everything is at my house, how much the dogs miss me, and how she’s coming on redecorating her new home. After she leaves I hear the tv game shows filtering through every door, louder and louder as people remove their hearing aids and settle down for the night. I check my email one last time and climb into bed, adjust the blanket, and stare up at the ceiling fan and the sprinkler heads dotting the walls.

Inertia settles down around me like a hot, wet blanket.

At least I have internet access and a laptop. When I first made inquiry about coming here, we asked about internet access. “None,” they said. “Our patients just aren’t the type to need it.” “Well, THIS patient needs it,” I fumed, and promptly set about getting a wireless modem though my cell phone company. Fortunately, it works very well, and I can prop my Vaio on my tummy and blog, surf, and work to my heart’s content.

Granted, most of the patients are not, I suspect, great surfers and e-mailers. The irritant in the reply is the presumption of ‘our patients’…and it extends to more than just internet access. The presumption seems to be that we seniors don’t have a brain, or at least we don’t have a brain that needs care and nourishing and demands some respect. It’s ironic that a facility dedicated to healing does not think of mental and spiritual healing and sustenance as well. What passes for mental stimulation is the soporific of television…which is everywhere! In every room, hanging on the wall of the dining area, in the ice cream parlor, in the lobby.

Now my dislike of tv is pretty well known, and I am not happy when I am relegated to having no other choices for information and entertainment. It’s not that I want to be provided with free broadband access or some such—I’d just like the availability of a choice. A newspaper in the morning, for instance. Some good magazines in the lobby. A lending library. Some board games. Some digital games with good sized screens and keyboards for slow fingers.

Technology can certainly be used to provide more intellectual and spiritual engagement at very little cost. But so can just plain ‘attitude’—a movie discussion group, spiritual enrichment programs like guided meditation, tai chi, an internet station in the lobby.

Marian, my current dining companion, is a case in point. Marian has lived in Traverse City all of her 80-plus years, worked at the State Hospital, married a local boy, and has a large assortment of children and grandchildren. I am really enjoying the history she brings into my day. She remembers Saturday morning films at the State Theater, and knows much of the local perspective on our community events. I look forward to talking with her, whenever the television isn’t blaring during meal times preventing even the most superficial conversations.

But generally, between the noise of the TV and the emphasis on body healing in the most programmed sense, one’s brain begins to atrophy—at least mine seems to. It would be far too easy to retreat into my own world as a barrier against the noise and the daily organization of food, baths vital signs, and toilet habits. And sit at the dining table, staring at my empty plate, impervious to the voices of FOX TV.


7 thoughts on “Wasteland

  1. Well, bored you may be, but you remain insightful, thoughtful, and aware of the world around you in good ways. I hope you’ll hang onto this journal. It contains many things that many of us need to know and be reminded of. And, it may contain the seeds of new and different directions in your own life. So, perhaps there is a purpose.

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts that all of us need to “hear.”


  2. Can I ship you some books from my “lending library”? Better yet, wanna read a couple with me? I’ve been thinking of re-reading some of the novels that so impressed me as a very young man (Dostoevsky, Hamsun, Forster, Ford, Waugh, Maugham, Greene(I have a weakness for 20th c. Brits)). I want to see how I feel about them now, and I could use a friend with whom I can correspond about them …

    🙂 Good luck as you go into week three of recovery two…

  3. Well, big sis –

    Saying you’re “bored” is a TERRIBLY dangerous thing to say in public. You reacted to that from Jonathan and Sarah how? “Fine – here’s work you can do!” Or words to that effect. It’s what Jean said to us – if we dared admit to being bored. Of course, at least ONE of us would lay on his bed and read comic books rather than admit to being bored!

    SO – doing my part to help out… 🙂 – and using some of our bro’s dollars in the process – I’ll be subscribing to the Detroit News for you. You can have it changed to home when you leave – or leave it at Orchard Creek.

    Anyway – you want something done – organize it! Get on the phone – find out how much internet would add to the cost of care at OC. Find people who want it. Then go to the administration and tell ’em. Give computer lessons. etc. etc.

    I love you, sister mine!

  4. Brother mine….the messsage “You want something done…organize it!” is exactly the way I’ve lived my life (I like to think). It’s why there’s a library in my old township, and a co-op nursery school, and an Irish sessiun every Monday in Traverse City. And you are right–rather than vegetate here and whine, I do need to formulate a plan to leave things a little better than I found them. Thanks for the kick in the seat of the pants (and the newspaper). Now, go back to your comic books.


  5. I would imagine that before long you will be lobbying management for changes. I can see you organizing an uprising among the residents.

    During the last year of my Grandmother’s life, she had to be in a nursing home. Six days a week she was pretty much non-responsive to everyone. On Wednesday, I would visit her the entire day. I would first get her in a wheel chair and go down to the day room. They had a piano. I would play church hymns and Christmas Carols for about an hour. She would start to sing along. After about an hour of music therapy, she totally came out of her shell. We would have the rest of the day to go for a ride out doors in good weather or indoors when required. We would have lunch together and she was totally lucid. She asked appropriate questions about me and my family and my work. The nurses were amazed.

    While television is a great hypnotizer, it is not very interactive. Music therapy, video games, a computer terminal in the day room would be much more productive.

  6. Judith, I am mezmerized when reading your commentary. What a great writer you are! Honey, if you can make a stay in a nursing home fascinating to the reader, it’s time to start your new writing career. I’m serious. You know you can’t be entirely “retired” when you break out of O.C., so now there’s something to tackle. You don’t have to start with the great American novel – short stories, essays, etc. can get you going. I want to be able to say I knew you when. Keep the reports coming – we’re all hooked now!


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