Allowing LaughterRecently, my husband came home from playing Bingo with my dad at the assisted living facility (ALF.)
"That's the funniest game of Bingo I've ever played in my life," he chuckled as he handed me a small packet of Whoppers.
"Where'd you get these?" I asked.
"They were prizes," he said. "I won two games."
"A three-pack of Whoppers is a prize?"
"Yep. I think they're leftovers from Halloween."
My husband perched on a bar stool and continued.
"The Bingo cards are the size of a sheet of paper, and the game pieces are poker chips. Everything's big so the residents can see things clearly. One guy kept telling everybody to be quiet, so he could hear the numbers called," my husband said. "Another lady kept saying 'What? What was the number again?'"
I popped open a pack of Whoppers and munched on one.
"Two corners?" I said, wondering what the challenge would be in that.
"Yeah. Then we played 'one corner'." He shook his head. "I'm telling you, if you can't win 'one corner', Bingo's not your game."
My parents, my husband, and I are often amused by life at the ALF. Seventy residents with various disabilities have created a sweet family of their own. The staff is wonderful, and Mom and Dad have adjusted as well as can be expected for two independent people who don't like to think they need help.
It didn't start out that way. Dad had a stroke in 2007, and from that point on, it was clear that my parents could not live on their own much longer.
The actual move from and sale of their beloved home was painful. They mourned the loss of prized possessions and independent living. For a few months, there was a sense for them that this was the end; that usefulness and enjoyment were over.
There was a period of depression. For all of us.
But then...we begin to count the blessings: The meals were good. Snacks were available anytime. Mom didn't have to do her own laundry, unless she wanted to. She never had to clean again. Bingo was offered three times a week. Musicians and magicians and artisans came to the facility to interact and entertain. Exercise classes and physical therapy were on site. There were Bible studies and "teas" weekly. There were friends to be made.
But mostly...there could still be laughter.
Mom and Dad have been in their new home almost a year and have many colorful new friends: The guy who likes only cinnamon toast and mashed potatoes. The woman who has fifteen Tiffany lamps in her room. The woman who removes her teeth to eat (I can't figure that one out.) The woman who came into the dining room with both legs in one pant leg, the empty one flapping loosely. I asked Dad about her.
"Didn't she notice that she had to shuffle along?"
He replied, "She shuffles along anyway. That's how she walks, so that wasn't a big clue."
I'm so grateful the staff is kind and patient, as some residents are grumpy and need much daily care. It's an eye-opener to see this stage of life up close, every day.
Seeing my parents decline is difficult. But, I love having them close.
I'm grateful there are people who truly enjoy this age group since much of society can be dismissive with the elderly or the ailing. It's a great equalizer, however; we too will serve our time there.
On some days, I'm closer than I think.
In the meantime, we might as well laugh.
One day, the woman who removes her teeth to eat could not find her dentures after her meal. The staff shook out the napkins and swept under the tables. No teeth.
She later found them in her bra.
I can't figure that one out either.
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