I will be heading south back to Florida, for the third time this summer, to stay at our parents' empty home and visit Dad in the nearby rehab hospital and help him in any little way I can. I've been wrapped up in trying to find him a place to be after his stay there is up, which at this point means what they call a "skilled nursing" level of care. He of course wants to return home, and believes he might, but if you can't get up or use the bathroom or get a bath or shower, I don't know how that could work. Not all, but a lot of us, want to be the free-range kind of chicken.
You would like to make that work, you think several times a day, because being in an institutional room and at the mercy of everyone else makes life look like an empty bowl to a hungry person. When they leave the little rolling bedside table against the far wall, he can't even reach the cup of water or the TV remote. Can't reach the light switches, can't see well enough to read, can't hear clearly what people say to you. It's prison with better furniture and lighting...with no control over anything, nothing to do and nothing to look forward to, your mind sooner or later collapses.
Last time, I found his 1937 high school yearbook at home and brought it in, showing him some pictures and reading his paragraph (which highly praised his tennis game). I think I am going to bring in some music next time; his one lifelong hobby. He'd really be happy with a martini, and I might do it, but he's on strong antibiotics. It doesn't seem to help much to stay on the hospital's good side, but it will help less if they regard the two of us as troublemakers. I'd like to see him smile, though.
Dad, Mom and for quite a while, Mom's elder sister Carolyn spent 17 pretty happy years in their gated community of neat homes full of retirees, when they weren't on cruises or at jazz festivals. He said that he liked that no one asked who you were in your active life or what you did, only where you were from, and status wasn't an issue. Most people tootle around in golf carts on the private roads and they can even get to shopping and offices using them. Dad and Mom were never outdoor people, despite liking the Sunshine State a lot, and I couldn't see them in the open-to-the-breezes cart either. Would have been silly fun, though. As they got older they just visited doctors, usually every day, and did not go the local or clubhouse events as much or the (very nice) pools at all. In the end, they stayed too long and instead of a transition into assisted living when the warning signs were there, their household fell apart all on one day.
So we will both be in a state of suspended animation for some indeterminate time, while outside our cocoon Florida gets stranger almost daily. Look for the series on www.slate.com under the heading "Oh, #Florida!" for enough inexplicable weirdness to keep you amused for a while. Pasco County, north of Tampa, not only has a Bigfoot, but teachers gone wild too: one recently came to class drunk and forced the students to dance before she ran away and passed out by a community pool. And one young man was arrested for domestic battery after squirting dish soap into his live-in girlfriend's mouth when she wouldn't stop swearing loudly and repeatedly. And a little farther north in Sumter County, there's a large master-planned age-restricted community called The Villages built and run to shelter right wing-nuts. It has its own (mostly illegal) government controlled by the developer, its own propaganda newspaper, and a Fox News-affiliated (natch) radio station. Palin, Huckabee and Glenn Beck have stopped there to bloviate, defending freedom and virtue, despite the fact that any properties sporting non-Republican campaign signs are frequently vandalized. Heck, that happens here in Camp Hill, PA, too. Maybe Florida is just leading the way to a more, um, unbalanced sort of life.