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It was a very small Faberge egg, hardly noticeable as it sat in the busy shadow box above the television set. But its absence was very noticeable to Sophie Feldstein. It had been a gift from her children for their fiftieth wedding anniversary.
She and Mortimer Feldstein had enjoyed fifty-two years together before he passed. That was when her children selected Meadowdale Manor for their mother. Of course it was guilt that drove them to make sure she was close enough to visit each week. And now it was guilt that caused Sophie to question whether to report the egg missing.
What if she had moved it while dusting? Or had put it away for safe keeping? At seventy-four she was too young to be losing her mind. But, it was missing.
That evening at dinner, she asked her table-mate Myrtle, if she had heard of anyone else losing things from their Independent Living apartments.
"Well, George complained that his coin collection was missing two Liberty Walking silver dollars. I just figured the old coot spent them," Myrtle said, pushing her thick glasses back up on her nose. "But then, that Mrs. Pho said her antique vase was gone. She suspected an aide had broken it and hid the pieces."
"I never let anyone in my apartment but my children. Oh, and that nice Dr. Patel two weeks ago when I had a nasty cough. He is so attentive." Sophie smiled at the memory of Dr. Patel's visit. His bedside manner was just what she needed.
Sophie lowered her voice. "Should I go to the administration and report it? I wouldn't want them to think I need to go to the second floor."
Myrtle laughed. "You will not be heading for the Memory Unit any time soon, Sophie. When George reported his silver missing, they had him fill out a report, but nothing came of it. Are you sure it is gone?"
"That's just it. I don't know when it went missing," Sophie admitted. "Oye vey, it may turn up again, God willing. Let's go to Bingo tomorrow. Maybe I will get some new hand cream."
At that Myrtle laughed again. The prizes were never that nice.
On the second floor, in the men's Memory Care unit, Olive and Walter were trying to enjoy their dinner.
Olive Harting lifted the glutinous mess carefully with her fork and grimaced. She looked over at her husband, Walter. "Looks good honey. Eat up!" she encouraged him with an overly cheerful voice.
Walter laughed. "I may have lost my mind, but I'm not stupid. It doesn't look very good, does it Olive? If I eat the mac and cheese, can I have some ice cream?" He looked up at her with puppydog eyes and grinned.
"Hmph," she said sternly, then gave him an affectionate smile. "Okay. But you have to eat it all." Olive fingered her pearl earrings, just to make sure she had put them on that morning. She never felt dressed without her earrings.
He began to spoon the three little mounds of yellow gloop rapidly into his mouth, a bit of cheese oozing from the corner of his lips. Olive was disgusted. The food was only passable, the rooms on Windom Hall were small, and the amenities were almost non-existent.
Olive sighed. At almost $4,700 a month to reside as a "guest" in the Memory Care Unit a person had a choice of trying to keep her loved one comfortable, or hoping he left this life before he lost his humanity.
Olive remembered driving up to Meadowdale Manor to see if this was the best place for Walter. What she saw was an elegant three story building with soaring glass windows, a lovely two story portico, magnificent carved wood doors, and an entrance that was enticing, warm and welcoming.
That was, as long as you stayed on the main floor.
When she went to the second floor, which housed those with various levels of dementia, it all changed. Apparently the decorator had decided those men didn't care about their surroundings. And the administration didn't seem to care what they wore, or what they ate.
Windom Hall and Haliburton were the units for the men, with larger units, Duncan and Williams Halls for the ladies. The men's halls were above the main building. The ladies were on the second floor over the large Independent Living wing of Meadowdale.
Dinner done, Olive walked Walter back to Room 215 which they shared. Walter smiled and winked at the aide who was assisting Calvin (who always wore the grey bathrobe), from the patio to his room.
"She likes me," Walter confided in a loud whisper to Olive.
"You think they all like you!" Olive responded, pulling her tweed jacket closer around herself.
"That's because I am such a sweet guy," he agreed.
Getting Walter settled in his recliner watching "Wheel of Fortune," Olive walked down the pale green corridor to the shadowed alcove where the staff kept the refrigerator stocked with Protein drinks, juice and small ice cream cups.
She got a small cup of vanilla ice cream and a plastic spoon and returned to her room where Laurel was waiting for her.
"These men just don't last," Olive complained to her new best friend, Laurel Baley. "I married a man younger than me for that very reason!"
Laurel laughed. "Well, Martin is older than I am, but I wouldn't trade anything for him."
Olive gave Walter his ice cream, which he began to eat greedily as Olive and Laurel went out to the hall. An aide smiled at the two of them as they passed by, two ladies of such different ages, yet both dressed as professionals in their jackets, soft cotton blouses and slacks.
Together, they went to the east side of the building to locking doors which led to a pretty, enclosed patio. The sun was beginning to set behind them, the clouds were streaked with pink.
Olive quickly punched in the code, and they strolled to the plastic chairs where they could talk in private.
Laurel had left her husband, Martin, sitting in his shared room watching an old Lash LaRue movie, for the third time that day. Unlike Olive, Laurel could neither afford to retire or reside at Meadowdale Manor with her husband. She still worked as a legal secretary to make ends meet.
Laurel smiled ruefully. "You are the only alert person here 24/7. I appreciate how you keep an eye on everything. Poor Martin's health has really deteriorated in the last few months. If I didn't have to work full time I would try to keep him at home, but it just isn't possible."
"You couldn't do it now, Laurel," Olive said sympathetically. "He needs too much care, too much medication. We sold our home so we could afford to be together here. When I was working as a high school principal we invested in long-term care insurance, but that won't last forever."
"You are telling me!" In anger, Laurel shook her pretty head vigorously, her long brown pony tail switching past her shoulders.
"Barring an emergency, we have enough for Martin to stay less than two years. My salary barely covers my crummy little apartment and living expenses for me!"
Olive responded sympathetically, "I know costs are high for long term care insurance, but costs without it are prohibitive."
"After we sold our home to help pay for Walter's care, I decided it would be easier for me to share a room with Walter. At first they resisted the idea, but Mr. Khan had cut staffing recently, and saw me as being an unpaid assistant."
"When did you decide that Meadowdale was the best choice for Martin?" Olive asked kindly.
Laurel thought for a minute. "Let me tell you about Martin first. It has been such a change you would never have recognized him a few years ago. He was amazing."
"I don't know if you heard of him. Martin Baley was a sought-after music publisher, and he was wise enough to invest as much as he could, but the two stock market downturns did us in."
"Then, Martin had a severe heart attack four years ago, at age sixty-nine. It was followed by Parkinson's disease which came on with a vengeance. He could barely feed himself, much less handle his daily personal care."
"I have since found out that several of the men here on Windom and Haliburton are Veterans like Martin. He was a Vietnam Vet, so there is a little help from the government."
"The Center for Older Veteran's Rights helped me sign up for something called "Aid in Attendance" which gave us an additional $2,100 a month toward Martin's care."
"It doesn't leave me much after I pay our share. I am a Christian and pray all the time that if he can't live a quality life, that God would take him." Tears began to streak down her face.
"Oh Laurel. I've talked with other caregivers, and this is really a typical response. It isn't just that the money may run out, but these men begin to fade, to become just a shell of themselves. When you love someone, that hurts."
Olive put a comforting arm around her friend. Laurel wiped her eyes quickly and they returned into the hall where aides were picking up trays from the rooms.
As she headed for Martin's room, Calista sashayed by and said sarcastically, "Well, if it ain't Laurel and Harting, the two funniest ladies on the ward. Best get back to Martin, Miss Laurel. The movie is almost over and I ain't running it again." She moved off, pulling out her phone to tweet her "funny remarks" to some friend.
"It will be okay," Olive laid her hand reassuring on Laurel's shoulder. "Calista is a pill, but fortunately she is only part time. I like the other aides who work today, but night time is a mess. There is one aid that gets stuck with all the dirty work and both the nurses on the weekend shift take long breaks and never answer a call. They send some little overworked aide and hope there are no problems."
Laurel was glad Olive was there to keep an eye on things, to look out for the men who had no one to visit them.
She walked slowly down the hall back to Martin's room. As Laurel entered Room 211 she pulled the yellow sticky note off the door jam.
"Ends 7:15" it read. She always noted the time the video would finish so the aide could either restart it, or put in another one. It was never a new one. All the videos were in black and white, and either old cowboy movies, comedies or light hearted mysteries.
Martin had regressed after his heart attack. Laurel sighed with resignation. Lovingly she smoothed the wild curls back from his forehead, gently pulled him up from the recliner and helped him settle into his bed.
Martin's roommate, Charles P. Gordon, did not stir. Of course, he rarely stirred. Charles never had visitors, and so spent most of his time in the bed across from Martin, not speaking unless spoken to.
Occasionally he would move to his own forest green Lazyboy recliner, but only to watch the news. He was very fastidious, in his expensive striped green pajamas and doe skin slippers.
Petite and energetic, Bebe Tron was a cheerful aide from the Philippines. Her smile was infectious, especially with the one gold tooth glittering. And Bebe loved to talk. She chattered about Charles, sharing all she gleaned from Nurse Betty.
"Mr. Charles here two years. He rich banker, with big house. No wife, so his sister put him here to keep him safe. That is all I know. But he VERY rich!" Bebe giggled as she said this.
Laurel notice that when a sophisticated thriller like "The Thin Man" or an old Cary Grant movie was playing, Charles positioned himself a bit sideways in the recliner so he could watch without drawing attention to himself.
"Obviously," Laurel had told Olive, "His tastes probably were more like fine wine and Ruth's Chris steak house fare, not cowboy flicks and gummy mac and cheese."
They both laughed at the thought of Charles rooting for Roy Rogers like Martin did, or stealing out in the middle of the night in search of vanilla ice cream like Walter.
Sometimes in the evening when Martin had gone to sleep, Laurel would put in a rollicking comedy like "Arsenic and Old Lace," with Cary Grant and Priscilla Lane and pretend she didn't notice Charles peeping from under his comforter to share her enjoyment of their antics.
Weekdays Laurel could only stay until 9 p.m. Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon she enjoyed visiting with her guy. Early in the day Martin still recognized her and could even carry on some sort of conversation.
In the evening, the Lewy's bodies brought on hallucinations and frustration with his unfamiliar surroundings. Then he asked, "Where is Laurel? When will she come take me home?"
Laurel felt blessed that Martin had a shared room on Windom Hall. These rooms were less expensive, had a smaller dining and visitor area than Haliburton where the rooms for singles were. Windom also had fewer aides.
But it also had Olive. She was someone Laurel could confide in.CHAPTER 2
Saturday morning when Laurel arrived, she had to wait quite awhile for the elevator. When the doors opened, the elevator was lined with drop cloths and two maintenance men stepped out.
"Can I use the elevator?" asked Laurel.
"Sure," said the bigger man. "We were just moving in a guest to Haliburton."
Laurel first stopped at the nurse's station to sign in, as was required. Then, looking into the small visitor dining area, she noted Olive and Walter were busy with a game of dominoes.
Actually Walter was building roads with them, while Olive was trying to keep them all on the table.
Laurel sat down. "I guess another one is moving over from Julep."
"Not really," Olive told Laurel, "I know you think that priority is given to those who start in Independent Living and run through Julep to get here, but most of the men on Windom and Haliburton are admitted directly, like Walter and Martin."
"Really?" Laurel said in amazement. "I thought that expensive buy-in for those private apartments would give you an advantage as you aged out as an Indie."
"The longer they can keep them at Julep, the more money they make," Olive confirmed. "I heard one of the nurses explain it to the new aide. It takes fewer aides at Julep. Moving them here is not cost effective. In fact, unless someone dies or moves to LaRonda, on the third floor, they can't come over here."
"But," said Laurel, "is the food any better at Julep or Indie? This food is awful."
"Julep has their own little kitchen because there are only about thirty guests over there. The building is mostly for the rehab unit and the swimming pool. Oh, and there is a big screen theater for Friday and Saturday nights," Olive said. "We aren't allowed there according to our contract."
"That contract," responded Laurel, "said our men were to receive meals according to the physician recommended diets, but I've noticed all the men are served the same thing."
"And I don't understand that," agreed Olive. "I've seen the food for the Indie's. It looked really good. Sometimes they have a salad bar, and the Cinco de Mayo party was a real Mexican spread."
Laurel hugged Olive as she got ready to leave. She went to look in on Martin. He was sleeping peacefully as Gene Autry thwarted another bad guy.
It was getting to be twilight when Martin finally woke up. "When can I go home?" he asked plaintively.
"After dinner," Laurel answered gently. She got him up out of his recliner and they walked to the dining area to join Olive and Walter and two other men.
The dining area only seated eight since most of the men ate in their rooms. Three aides were scheduled for each meal time to assist on Windom for sixteen men who were suffering from stages of dementia.
Haliburton had two aides for the eight men who had single rooms. That wing had a larger dining room and the Activities Director from Julep came over twice a week to assist with activities.
Olive had heard the names the aides on Haliburton gave their "men."
There was Danny Daytimer, because he was always asking, "What day is this?" or "What are we doing today?"
Harold the Hat had six hats, and he wore a different one each day. Mike Minabird picked up anything loose, and if you tried to take away he would holler, "Mine! Mine!"
Friendly (Chester), would shake hands with everyone and say, "Hello, how are you? I'm Chester. If called by a panther, don't anther." Chester had been an insurance man, and might try to sell you some. Sort of like Peter Pie, "Me oh my, I wish I had some pie." He would say that four or five times a day.
Doc, who actually had been a physician, wore a stethoscope and would talk about hearing the resiticity in the walls. Whatever that meant.
The Turk (Bobby Turkle) was always looking for his home. Bobby was a one-time famous movie producer. No room was safe from his wanderings. No drawer was safe from his rummaging. And, because his family was wealthy, no staff member took anyone's side but his.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Another Fine Mess"
Copyright © 2018 Ann Cornelius.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Quick read. Very entertaining with several references to things and events the younger readers won’t get, but made me chuckle. Unfortunately, life in facilities for older people was depicted very well. The costs, the boredom, and the routine were really not exaggerated.