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.