My first meal at Ocean House, I was assigned to a table with two interesting ladies; one, Mabel, age 100, was bright and cheerful and seemed to have all her marbles. The other was a colorful lady named Jessie, age mid-80s, also bright and cheerful and “with it.” We three conversed easily and soon knew each other’s families and early experiences.
Mabel had certain stories she told often, which were usually factual. One, however, did not appear to Jessie and me as such, and we figured Mable had a dream she though was real. Mabel said she didn’t like the door to her balcony left unlocked, as it made an easy way for “the man” to get in her room. When questioned, she said he (the intruder) was the husband of one of the caregivers, who told him where he could find Mabel’s valuables when he broke into her room in the middle of the night. (Mable lived on the 7th floor of our 10-story building.) She kept this narrative up for 3 or 4 weeks before abandoning it, even as far as reporting it to the front desk. Eventually, this sweet lady left Ocean House and moved into more of a convalescent home about a mile away. My daughter and I visited Mabel there and found she was well cared for and happy, so we felt better about losing her.
One day Jessie wasn’t in the dining room for her meals. I asked at the desk what had happened to her and was told they couldn’t destroy a resident’s privacy by telling us. Eventually, a few of the caregivers said that her son had come by and moved her out in the middle of the night. So that’s all we learned; and so, I lost a friend.
New residents have joined me at “my” table since, one for breakfast only, and the other for all three meals. Mary is the breakfast ally, and Jean is the all-day one. Both are extremely intelligent and help me miss Mabel and Jessie less.
There are a wide variety of residents here at Ocean House, most of whom are bright and cooperative; with just a few what I’d call “stinkers.” So each of us can find people with whom we’re congenial and want to do things with – whether it’s playing cards, or the Ocean House version of Jeopardy, or bingo, or a trip out to lunch, or to see a special performance, or a tour of an interesting place – we can each find something we’d like to do and people with whom to do it, including sharing a meal.
(Names have been changed by P.K. to protect the privacy of residents.)