2009-02-08

Land of Curmudgeons


My grandpa is in Rehab. No, not that kind of rehab. A few weeks ago, he got sick and went into the hospital where they discovered an infection in his left artificial knee. (How does a fake knee get infected?) They operated to clean it up, and now he's in a facility to get his leg strength back so he can get back home. Visiting him in rehab has been a real experience.

On my first visit to the curmudgeon compound, I managed to get myself lost and inadvertently toured most of the facility. I'll be honest, it seemed so wonderful that I thought I wouldn't mind living there myself. There's no shortage of people to talk to, they don't seem to care how loud your TV is, and the week is filled with activities like "Sit and Dance with Carol", "Valentine Craft Hour", and regular viewings of Lawrence Welk. Afternoon naps are encouraged. They also have tons of animals; cats, dogs, birds, and rumor has it, an adolescent kangaroo. So, basically, it's half kindergarten and half petting zoo. You can tell that everyone is comfortable with a certain level of chaos.

Adding to the fun is the fact that many residents have varying levels cognitive function and hearing loss while much of the care staff speaks some form of accented English. Hilarity often ensures, as happened today with my grandpa's roommate Earl. The caregiver brings into Grandpa's room halfway through our visit.

She says to Earl: "Dis es your hroom."
Earl: "Eh?"
Caregiver explains: "You whas en de hwrong hroom."
Earl repeats: "Whas???"
Caregiver repeats with emphasis: "You WHAS en de hwrong HROOM."

At this point, it's all I can do to not laugh. I'm not sure what caused the breakdown in communication: Earl's hearing, the sweet caregiver's accent, or that he is very concerned about proper subject-verb agreement.

I also think that there may be an ulterior motive with all the animals wandering about. Shortly after lunch in Grandpa's room, in wandered an enormous bloodhound. (I'll be honest, I love dogs, so I thought this was awesome.) He adroitly sniffed about the room, let us pet him, and proceeded locate and lick up every crumb on the floor. I'm seeing some serious savings in the custodial budget if you had enough bloodhounds.

Even though the facility is very well kept and the staff is awesome, it's hard to visit because Grandpa doesn't really fit in. Mentally, he's years ahead of his "fellow inmates." (His description.) Inmates is also a pretty apt description, because they've got that place locked down tight. I've seen important government buildings with weaker security. Doors with electronic keypads are scattered about the place, both to keep the old people safely inside and to keep the surly old people away from the well behaved ones. It wouldn't surprise me too much if they had riot gear in case "Sit and Dance" gets out of control.

Adding to the prison feel is the fact that Grandpa has only been there a few days and doesn't have much in the way of room decoration. I joked that I should get him a wall poster, like Andy Dufrense did in Shawshank Redemption. Grandpa has always had a wry sense of humor and appreciated the irony. Of course, maybe that explains why Shawshank is Grandpa's favorite movie; just like Andy, he's been wrongly imprisioned, not for a crime, but by an aging body.

I wonder if grandma would be upset if I got grandpa a poster of Rita Heyworth?