Friday, May 29, 2009

Chapter 8, Part 2 - The Doctors

Residents with diabetes – and there are many of them at Harbor View – have to take special precautions with their health, mostly with their diet. In addition to the medication they take, they have to make sure they eat the correct foods at restaurants like Bubbe’s, Antonio’s, and Harvey’s. If they love sweets but have diabetes, they do not have to worry. Bubbe’s and most other restaurants in Florida offer two kinds of cake for dessert – regular and sugar free, in addition to sugar-free pie, sugar-free ice cream, and sugar-free candy. As Dad’s friend Irv, who has diabetes, says, “Diabetes is not a pleasant thing to have anywhere you live, but if you are unfortunate enough to be afflicted with this disease, it is best to have it while living in Florida.”

Friday, May 22, 2009

Chapter 8, Part 1 - The Doctors

When old age hits, people usually experience a decrease in health and an increase in the number of ailments affecting them. Chronic ailments are as common to residents of Harbor View as chronic colds are to children in daycare. Some of the most typical ones affecting residents include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, bad knees, bad backs, and bad hearts.

With this increase in illnesses comes an increase in the amount of medication the elderly folks have to take. Popping pills is nothing to be ashamed of for residents at Harbor View. Being on medication is not something to hide as it may have been in residents’ younger days. When they were young, they probably wanted to keep the news that they were on medication a secret. Now that they are old, folks at Harbor View pop pills out in the open for all to see.

They pop them while eating out. Mom takes three pills before embarking on her evening meal, thus turning a three-course meal into a six-course one. Her friends Flo and Irv each take two pills after dinner, in addition to several more they each take at other times of the day. Dad is lucky to only have to take one pill a day, and he takes it at breakfast, in the privacy of his own home.

Others take their pills earlier in the day as well. Both men and women can be seen taking pills while sitting around the pool in the afternoon. In the middle of a discussion of tomorrow’s dinner, for instance, Mom’s friend Phyllis will overtly put a pill in her mouth, which will lead to a change in topic from the new menu item at Antonio’s to the latest medication. Some of these residents are so intimate with their knowledge of illnesses and the different medications used for those ailments that they throw around terms for diseases and prescriptions like they are doctors at a medical convention.

“So what are you taking for your osteoporosis? I hear most people now only have to take a pill once a week,” Mom says to Phyllis.

“I’m on the alendronate sodium tablets. I still do the once daily routine, though” Phyllis answers.

“You really should talk to your doc about getting a different prescription. Hardly anyone does the daily routine anymore.”

“Believe me, I know more about the options available to me than my doctor does; I’ve been on this medication forever. The reality is that I’m one of those few people who still has to take it every day,” Phyllis replies.

Still other people take their pills late in the day. Mom said sometimes she will be sitting at a show at the clubhouse in the evening when all of a sudden an alarm will go off, which will cause her to jump out of her seat. She will look around to seek out the source of the noise and inevitably, it is someone’s watch alarm. Mom says she always wants to scold the person, but then she will see the offender pop a few pills in his mouth, and she will nod understandingly.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Chapter 7, Part 6 - The Pool

The most typical conversations around the pool, however, are about the everyday goings on in Florida of the other residents of Harbor View, and not always (okay, almost never) in a complimentary fashion. These conversations usually take place a minute or so after the person has left the pool.

“Did you see the new car that Phyllis and Herb bought? They paid a fortune for it, and it’s the ugliest color.” Stan says to Dad and the other men as Phyllis and Herb exit the pool area.

“That’s funny, Phyllis told me they got a good deal on it,” Flo answers.

“Nah, they got ripped off big time. Herb doesn’t know how to bargain.”

“Are you talking about that hideous-colored car that Phyllis and Herb bought?” Sylvia cuts in on the conversation. “Phyllis’ sister told me that they paid cash for it. Who has that kind of money lying around?”

“Stupid ones, that’s who,” Stan answers.

“Shhh…Herb will hear you,” Mom says, “I think I see him coming back for his towel.”

Friday, May 15, 2009

Chapter 7, Part 5 - The Pool

Mom tells me that sometimes the conversations around the pool resemble a childhood game of ‘Telephone’ (or ‘Whisper Down the Lane,’ as we used to call it in Pennsylvania). In early January this past season, Phyllis and Stan were driving up to Charleston for their niece’s wedding in their 15-year old car with high mileage on it. On the second day they were gone, Mom and Dad went to the pool in the afternoon, as usual.

“Did you hear?” Flo asked Mom as soon as they got there, “Phyllis and Stan’s car broke down in southern Georgia and they couldn’t get someone to fix it, so they had to call a taxi to drive them several more hours to Charleston.”

“What’s he doing driving a car with 200,000 miles on it more than eight hours away, anyway?” Irv asked.

“Especially since they broke down once before – last spring on their way home from Florida,” Hymie added.

The next day when Mom and Dad went to the pool, Susan said to her, “Did you hear that Phyllis and Herb’s car broke down and they had to find a ride to the nearest airport so they could fly to Charleston? Now they have to find a shop that will fix their car or they will have to fly home too. My God, they will end up spending a small fortune for last-minute airline tickets.”

During the next few days when Mom and Dad went to the pool the story kept changing, and the situation was always described as more dire than the day before. The mileage was up to 250,000, the estimated repairs to the car reached astronomical proportions, and the story had become that Phyllis and Herb had to hire a private driver or the bride was going to have to delay the wedding, so that her beloved aunt and uncle wouldn’t miss it.

A few days later when Mom heard (at the pool, of course) that Phyllis and Herb had came home, she called them immediately.

“How are you doing and how’s your car? I was so worried about you,” Mom said to Phyllis, relaying the stories she had heard at the pool.

“Oh my goodness, it wasn’t anywhere near that bad. The car was smoking on the highway – the car has 180,000 miles on it, after all. We called a tow truck and had them bring us to the nearest service station. There we were told that they would have to fix the radiator and it would take about four hours. I called one of the neighbors in my building whose husband was a mechanic to ask her if he thought we were paying a fair price. Which, by the way, he said we were. The guy at the service station actually had the car ready sooner than promised – in three and half hours, and we were on our way. Wow, I can’t believe the stories that were told about us,” Phyllis said.

“Oh, I’m just glad everyone is all right,” Mom told her, “It’s good you weren’t gone any longer, though, or the people at the pool would have had you buying a new car up there just so you could drive home.”

“Well, I do think we’ll get a new car after this experience, but we will buy it down here when we have time to shop around. This one really isn’t too dependable anymore. Besides, if we don’t get rid of this car,” Phyllis said, “the next time we take a trip, the situation might become as bad as the rumors that were flying, or rather swimming, around the pool.”

Friday, May 8, 2009

Chapter 7, Part 4 - The Pool

And of course the subject of the crazy drivers in Florida always comes up around the pool.

“The people down here cannot drive,” Dad complains to his pool buddies. “This morning some old man in front of me made a left turn from the far right lane.”

“Aaah, that’s nothing. That happens all the time. I was stuck behind some woman yesterday doing 15 in a 45.” Hymie adds to the conversation.

“That’s an old one too. I have the clincher. I saw a woman last week steer her husband’s car from the passenger seat, while he drove,” Stan says.

“They should make people stop driving when they turn 85,” Dad suggests.

“Hey, watch what you say. Some of us here are already 85,” Hymie says.

“Are you only 85, Hymie? I thought you were 87,” quips Stan.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Chapter 7, Part 3 - The Pool

Other topics of conversation around the pool among both men and women include which service people to retain while they are temporarily living in Florida.

“Phyllis do you like the beauty parlor you go to? I cannot seem to find a hairdresser down here who does my hair as well as my stylist back home,” Mom asks.

“Yeah, my hair salon is the only place in the area that is any good. But make sure you ask for my hairdresser. His name is Phil, and he’s the best around. If he’s not available, you can go to Marco. But, no matter what you do, don’t go to Linda. Her haircuts are good, but she doesn’t know how to color. She always makes my hair too red. I have to warn you, though, they charge a small fortune at this place.” Phyllis says.

“That’s okay. I pay an arm and a leg back home, too. Speaking of legs, how is yours doing?” Mom turns to Flo.

In the meantime, the discussion between Dad and his friends changes topics to services as well:

“Hymie, where do you take your car for an oil change?” Dad asks.

“I go to the place on Palm and 34th. The one with the big coconut out front pouring out oil,” Hymie says.

“Oh, no,” Stan interjects, “‘Oil, Not Toil’ is a much better place. The one on Hinden Boulevard, though, not the one on Lake Drive. They’re all a bunch of young kids at the Lake Drive shop.”

“Aah, they’re all young kids to me.” Hymie replies.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Chapter 7, Part 2 - The Pool

While the women gossip, the men are discussing a more pressing issue – their money. Of course, you might think that the men are talking about some important topics such as which stocks are prudent to be invested in, how the country’s economy is doing, or what the insurance needs are of the elderly. But let me explain something here about financial business in Florida. Because there are so many aged people and therefore the commission potential very high, financial planners and other investment-type people compete aggressively for the old folks’ business. And since retirement communities like Harbor View house thousands of residents with financial retirement needs, the businesspeople of Florida have come up with a lucrative marketing scheme – one they knew the elderly wouldn’t turn down – if a retiree attends an information seminar about their financial product, he gets a free lunch. Keeping that in mind, a conversation about finances between Dad and his friends around the pool usually goes something like this:

Dad: What are you doing tomorrow, Stan?

Stan: Johnson and Covney are offering a long-term care insurance seminar at Crispy’s – a three-course lunch in exchange for listening to a two-hour seminar. I’d invite you, but you had to reserve in advance.

Dad: That’s okay. My wife’s dragging me shopping tomorrow. The weathermen said it’s supposed to rain.

Stan: Hey, do you want to come with me on Thursday to a talk on keeping wills current? The lunch isn’t much – it’s just at one of those all-you-can-eat buffets, but the talk is only an hour long.

Dad: Is it, by chance, at Harvey’s buffet?

Stan: Yeah, I think it is.

Dad: Okay, then I’ll go. I like Harvey’s

At this point, Mom interjected: Ooh, I want to go with you. I like Harvey’s, too.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Chapter 7, Part 1 - The Pool

The pool is the social hub of Harbor View. It is there that plans are made, dates are set, restaurants are critiqued, and Harbor View residents are talked about, discussed, and talked about some more.

The people of Harbor View generally participate in their clubs or go shopping in the morning. By mid-afternoon when the sun is too warm to do anything physical, except maybe shuffleboard, most people meet up at the pool to relax and socialize. I actually think the pool scene would function quite well without the pool itself. Only about 10 percent of the people ever seem to go in the water. Most of the remaining people sit on the many chairs and chaise lounges and gossip.

Mom and Dad go to the pool every afternoon at about 2:00 and sit there until dinnertime. They usually meet up with Flo and Irv and various other members of the ‘Young in Spirit’ club. A typical conversation among Mom’s friends goes like this:

Flo: Did you hear that Stan and Susan are taking a cruise in February?

Mom: Of course, that’s old news. I heard it last week. Stan bought it for her as a sixtieth birthday present.

Flo: Susan said she wasn’t thrilled with the selection of islands that he picked, but it’s too late to change it.

Mom: She shouldn’t complain. At least she’s getting taken to the Caribbean on a cruise. I got taken to a seafood dinner on Bay Avenue for my sixtieth.

Flo: Speaking of seafood dinner, we went to Barney’s last night to eat and we ran into Herb and Phyllis. They want to have us over to play dominoes next week. She said she’d call us. Anyway, I ordered the salmon and Irv ordered the flounder at Barney’s, and I don’t think the portions were as big as last year.

Mom: I heard they’re not. Sylvia told me that Barney’s has started skimping on their meal sizes. It’s too bad because I really like the food there. Is Phyllis having us over for dinner or just coffee and cake?

Flo: Probably just coffee and cake. You know she doesn’t like to cook.