Old Folks At Home

The nursing home had rules. Lots of rules. The powers that be made me jump through all the pandemic-era hoops before visiting. By the time I was finished suiting up in protective gear, I looked like I was dressed for a leisurely stroll on Mars.

A nurse led me past the cafeteria, past the chair yoga class, and into the recreation room where a group of folks played pinochle. I wore a face shield, double masks, rubber gloves, and a full-length PPE gown. I felt like Darth Vader after a wild night.

In a few moments, they wheeled my first interviewee in. Her name was Miss Baker. She was small, wiry, and sipping a Coke from a can.

“So,” she said, “you’re the guy doing interviews?”

I nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Why?”

“Well, I’m a writer.”

“Oh, brother. Why on earth are you interviewing a bunch of old people?”

“Well, I was hoping for some good old-fashioned folksy advice for a column I’m writing.”

“Gee. You must be hard up for material.”

“You have no idea.”

And that was all it took. She opened up like a refrigerator.

“Well, the first bit of advice I have, young man, is drink lots of water.”

Hydration. Check. I made a note on my legal pad.

“And make sure you always keep moving. Doesn’t matter what you do, just don’t quit moving.”

Got it.

I made a few more notes.

Next, we were joined by Watty, a 93-year-old man using a walker, wearing double hearing aids and a Hawaiian shirt.

“You the gentleman interviewing people?” said Watty.

“I’m no gentleman,” said I. Then I asked for his best spoonful of advice.

“My advice is: You know how they say that youth is wasted on the young? Well, look, I think it’s the opposite. The truth is, wisdom is wasted on the old. In my life I’ve gathered all this experience and knowledge, and you know what? I realize now that I still don’t know jack squat. I feel as dumb as I did when I was a kid.”

I made a few more notes. And changed a few of Watty’s words to read “jack squat” instead of their original literation.

Next I heard from a soft spoken woman named Lucinda (85) who wore a pink nightgown bearing the phrase “Good Morning, Sunshine,” in gold letters.

“Are you the man interviewing us for advice?” asked Lucinda.

“Oui.”

“Will you interview me?”

“But of course.”

She got right to the point.

“I think kids today work too hard. They’re so busy, they never have any free time for themselves. We parents complain that kids never have time for us, but the truth is, they don’t even take time for their own kids. Young people need to have more fun. That’s what life’s all about. Fun.”

I made more notes.

Paul (88) joined the party. He wore his pants pulled up to his armpits, reminiscent of the late great Fred Mertz.

“You the young guy interviewing all the geezers?” asked Fred Mertz.

“Yessir,” I said. Then I asked him to fire away.

“Don’t exercise,” said Mertz. “It’s a waste of time. Trust me. It don’t work. I tried it once.”

Another man named Simeon (90) had something to add to Fred Mertz’s mosaic of worldly knowledge.

Simeon said, “Nobody controls you, so don’t let them try. Took me too long to learn not to be controlled. Don’t be like me. Do your own thing. Always do your own thing.”

Janice (84) said, “Make a little time to cry every single day, it feels so good. And it’s better to let it all out than to keep it in. Crying makes us stronger.”

James (79) said: “You should travel a lot when you’re young and healthy. Just make it happen, forget worrying about the money. The memories are worth more than money.”

A South Louisiana woman named Martha walked into the room. She was short and vibrant, with skin like mahogany.

“You the kid interviewing people?”

Word really gets around in a small place.

“Well,” she went on, “I say be hopeful. Whenever you think negatively, you’re taking a bad drug, and it affects your body. It’ll kill you. Be hopeful. Be hopeful. Be hopeful.”

Laurie (89) said, “Humor is the only way to survive this world. You lose your humor and you lose.”

Finally, the resident 101-year-old weighed in. A woman in a wheelchair with skin like tissue paper and a mane of white. Her name was Suzanne. She was old enough to remember the invention of the chariot.

“There are moments in this life when you will think it’s over, and you will really be convinced that you are not going to survive what is coming. But…” The old woman snapped her fingers. “That’s when, all of a sudden, God happens.”

“And you can quote us all on that,” said Fred Mertz.

33 comments

  1. Susan - September 22, 2021 9:52 am

    So good! The last bit of advice was the best of all! Thanks Sean!

    Reply
  2. Leigh Amiot - September 22, 2021 10:12 am

    Retaining humor and being hopeful spoke loudest to me. Each morning,my husband and I get a kick out of being the first to make the other laugh. We both tend to agree with Watty, so much yet to learn. I’m not quite old enough to generate the wisdom of the elderly, but you not forgetting them and seeking out what they’ve learned is quite wise! Loving, too.

    Reply
  3. Marcie Emory - September 22, 2021 10:44 am

    God happens. Nothing more to say. Except I love you.

    Reply
  4. Bill in Montgomery - September 22, 2021 11:11 am

    “Don’t exercise. It’s a waste of time… I tried it once”. That’s a good one!

    Reply
  5. Cheri Johnston - September 22, 2021 11:13 am

    Yup! Not in nursing home (yet) but good advice!

    Reply
  6. Christine - September 22, 2021 11:27 am

    I know you made their day, getting some attention in a lonely place.
    Thank you for speaking to these special people. And, I agree, loved them all, especially the last.

    Reply
  7. BJ - September 22, 2021 11:35 am

    Loved all of it! But, yes, God happens! He’s there every moment of the day! We just forget to look to Him! It takes such a weight off my shoulders to remember He’s always there. I love those old people! Thanks, Sean!

    Reply
  8. Paul McCutchen - September 22, 2021 12:36 pm

    I agree with it all but, as life goes, you can only follow some of it.

    Reply
  9. Karen Erwin-Brown - September 22, 2021 12:42 pm

    Suzanne, you are so right!

    Reply
  10. Pingback: Old Folks At Home – Virginia Belle

  11. Shelton A. - September 22, 2021 1:05 pm

    God saved me twice. I’ve never stopped being thankful. God does happen.

    Reply
  12. Rich - September 22, 2021 1:24 pm

    After a rough night, I really needed this. Thanks!!

    Reply
  13. Melanie - September 22, 2021 1:24 pm

    Thank you Sean for sharing the words of those who know best. Hope to hear more.

    Reply
  14. Hawk - September 22, 2021 1:46 pm

    The schematics of the wheel {and life} is in the minds of our elderly. Great literary creations are locked away in their mind vaults (just ask them for the combination). Their work ethic is measured by the thickness of their calluses and the depth of their wrinkles caused by years of selfless housework or tool use. The joys and heartaches of love is the scar tissue on their hearts. Ask them. They will share it all. You may need to prod to get to the depth of the heartaches.

    Reply
  15. Nancy Crews - September 22, 2021 1:55 pm

    ❤your writing!
    Amen!

    Reply
  16. Elaine Price - September 22, 2021 2:01 pm

    This one brought tears for some reason, but I guess crying a little every day is indeed a good thing!

    Reply
  17. Stacey Wallace - September 22, 2021 2:07 pm

    As my grandmother, who lived to be 104 once told me, “Antiques are worth a lot of money. Old people are like antiques, so they must be worth a lot, too.” She was right, and she was our family treasure. Thanks, Sean.

    Reply
  18. Cathy - September 22, 2021 2:13 pm

    I think God happens is the best. Without him in your life, there is no ammunition to battle old age and it’s a tough battle. Everyone needs a little Jesus. This was wonderful and as I have always been told, with age comes wisdom. I feel it in my old bones. ❤️🙏🏻😂

    Reply
  19. Martha Black - September 22, 2021 2:17 pm

    Thanks for listening to these folks. Conversation with interest in what you have to say is sorely missed in the “golden age”. And the advice to cry is a wonderful thing to advise. It keeps the cobwebs washed away. My daughter doesn’t allow me to cry, but I learned to tell her I was praying & she left me alone. This younger generation isn’t that smart, lol.

    Reply
  20. Liza Bragg - September 22, 2021 2:24 pm

    Fabulous advice!💜

    Reply
  21. Laurel - September 22, 2021 2:55 pm

    Sean, you couldn’t have ended this any better! GOD is the beginning and the end.

    Reply
  22. Bob E - September 22, 2021 3:15 pm

    Old people know stuff.
    I’m an old people, I know stuff and I concur that God happens…happens to be the answer that is.

    Reply
  23. Becky - September 22, 2021 4:03 pm

    My favorite is the lady that said be hopeful! Don’t allow the negative thoughts to consume you. I’m standing on hope today!

    Reply
  24. Joan Vibert - September 22, 2021 4:20 pm

    Love these so much – a bright spot every day!

    Reply
  25. Sue Rhodus - September 22, 2021 4:41 pm

    OhMGoodness !!! I WANT YO BE AS WISE AS SUZANNE !! ❤

    Reply
  26. Linda Moon - September 22, 2021 4:49 pm

    I’d like to find the real Darth Vader for a wild night. That would be out of this world fun! I have no advice to add to these elders’ advice, except the oxymoronic “don’t always follow the advice of others”….including mine. Wait ’til God shows up, then follow. Deus Ex Machina in the snap of a finger!

    Reply
  27. Gayle Wilson - September 22, 2021 4:52 pm

    Wise words, especially the “and God happens.”

    Reply
  28. MAM - September 22, 2021 6:32 pm

    It hit home when one of them was the same age as I am, but I’m staying out of the old folks’ home as long as possible! And definitely God happens. He answered one of my prayers yesterday, but it took me a good half hour to realize that God had done it. Yes, we need to always remember He is with us all day every day and all night, too. Thanks, Sean!

    Reply
  29. Karen Holderman - September 22, 2021 7:30 pm

    I love the wisdom each person shared. God bless them and you for taking the time to visit them.

    Reply
  30. Cindy Lou Who - September 22, 2021 7:58 pm

    Love all of these people and this wisdom! I’m so glad you could visit them and share the bounty with us. Thank you, Sean!

    Reply
  31. Rebecca Souders - September 22, 2021 9:12 pm

    Good one, Sean. Here’s a “share” from a great uncle: “The trouble with having nothing to do is that you don’t know when you’re done.” I smile every time I think of Uncle Homer. A bachelor, he lived in the family farm home in only two of the rooms: the kitchen and living room, which held a bed and a TV. The only time he went in the bedrooms was to place the latest defunct TV that he’d bought at a farm auction and had replaced it with another. (We cleaned out two bedrooms of those TVs.) He ended up in the rest home when he had an appendicitis attack and found that when he was recuperating in the care facility, someone cooked for him! So he stayed. He only drove (no license for years!) from the rest home to the store to buy beer because he couldn’t get anyone else to do that. And he bought lots of candy and hid it from his keepers. Yup. Lots of fun memories from Uncle Homer.

    Reply
  32. Karen Snyder - September 23, 2021 1:20 am

    What a double treat! First for those whose advice you sought, and then for all of us with whom you shared it. ❤️

    Reply
  33. Robin - September 28, 2021 8:48 pm

    I can’t wait to read this to 99 year old, best friend, Rose! She doesn’t get a lot of exciting things happen in her life these days in the assisted living community. Thank you Sean for brightening our lives with your magnificent stories! I look forward to them in my email box daily! Bless you!

    Reply

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