I knew the day would be kind of weird when I caught the tail end of a conversation between two people who work behind the lobby desk of my mother’s retirement home.
The two words I heard for sure were “cocaine” and “addiction” -- followed by some abomination of Barack Obama’s name.
“It was in his book,” said Stan. “The part about cocaine.”
That’s when I walked up.
“Have you read his book?” I asked, emphasis on read.
“No, but I hear it’s in it,” Stan answered.
I can’t wait to hear what they have to say about Hillary, who is so moderate, so middle-of-the-road, so humorless, so intelligent, so cautious, so circumspect, so safe as to be so-boring and probably oh-so-good for this country and the world stage.
It doesn’t hurt that 9 million more women are registered to vote than men. Contemplating a Hillary win is as delicious as watching the hard working Detroit Tigers eliminate the cocky New York Yankees.
(I love to see who hates Hillary. It’s usually the holier-than-thou, chauvinist philanderer in the group; have you noticed? Even Andrew Sullivan, who writes a great blog, by the way, begrudgingly admits having reversed his anti-Hillary stance).
But I did not get into Hillary with Stan. He’s a good man. He does his job. He grows kale and garlic. He’s patient with the residents (if not management, which is a good thing).
He listens -- as did I -- when some woman sidled up to the desk, interrupting his harangue on Obama to show us a piece of her pocket knife that she claims someone who works here broke off after breaking into her apartment and then slipped into her frozen soup. Later on, when she was relating more infractions, more intrusions, I asked where she lived before moving here.
She named the place. So why did you leave? I persisted. Because her life was in danger, she said. Well then, watch your back and sit facing the door, I thought.
This was a particularly hard weekend for the old people. Two residents died. Two more single roses (with their names) in the lobby. Two new empty seats in the dining room. All certain to have a ripple effect on the living, I am sure.
All through dinner, Faye, a woman with Lou Gehrig’s disease who has lost her speech but none of her wits and who sits at my mother’s table, insisted I tell my mother about both deaths. Since my mother can’t hear diddly-squat, that required a very loud voice I was reluctant to use, especially since except for the Bears game on television, the room can be deathly -- well, maybe that’s not the right word to use -- quiet
Yet she persisted.
It is not easy, this end-of-life stuff. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers who work in nursing homes. It saddens me on many counts how little money they make, and I wonder once again how minimum wage issues can get so tangled up in politics.
Looking for relief, I was happy to toddle over to my old high school, Royal Oak Dondero, which was hosting a swim meet. I was hoping to find my nephew, whose three young children were competing.
But this is the suburbs, and kids in the suburbs -- the other end of our two-tiered society (earth to Jack Kingston: these parents are most likely not working minimum wage jobs) -- are busy and active.
At this swim meet 750 kids were competing. Add one or two parents per kid and maybe an aunt or two and you have a ton of people in one sweaty space. How would I ever meet up with my people?
But kismet was working. One of the first kids to pass me was my nephew’s 11-year-old daughter, hard to recognize with her new nearly-teen body and hair piled under a swim cap but tattooed with the same lines of black type on the back of her hand as all the other swimmers.
“Oh this?” she said. “It’s all the events I’m swimming in.”
I guess so. The family had been there since 7 a.m. and were scheduled to return the next day. Even her six-year-old sister was swimming -- in the 25 butterfly.
Nice to be there. The other end of the spectrum. A perfect contrast to the old people at the other end of their lives.
Great to see healthy kids who could compete but not throw a hissy-fit if they didn’t win (there’s no time; participants in the next heat are already standing on the blocks, listening for the start gun). Parents who could settle in with a book or crossword puzzle for the day. A nice mix of races and sexes, though certainly not of social classes.
Still, I couldn’t help but think of all the kids who would never be there, who would never get that kind of personal attention, that kind of opportunity, whose parents use credit cards to pay medical expenses, not coaches.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to hear a little more from our politicians and from our fellow voters about the old people, the marginalized people, the poor people, instead of who smoked what and when, instead of a person’s political party?
I won’t be holding my breath on that one.
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