Pulling the plug and heading to the nursing home
It’s not easy being a news junkie these days.
The ISIS crisis is reason enough to unplug the TV and mute the breaking news alerts forever. These jihadists, too merciless for al-Qaeda, have beheaded, raped and burned people alive. But they were just getting warmed up. In the past 30 days ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/DickWads, whatever you call them, have amped it up by bombing a Russian airbus over Egypt killing all 224 innocents aboard. In Beirut, ISIS suicide bombers killed 43 people and injured 239 more. And then, notre bien-aimé Paris.
So as we grieve for the innocent victims and get all “see something, say something” vigilant — it’s hard to believe life will ever be the same. These DickWads have all the suicide vests, assault weapons, soda can bombs and time in the world to carry out their mission of annihilating all the infidels (us). And it’s been this way since the seventh century. Yes, I watch “Homeland!”
You know what else isn’t easy nowadays? Being a black teenage boy in America. I’m horrified by the video of the Chicago police officer executing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. I’m disgusted that it took over a year to release the tape and charge the officer. When the Code of Silence can nearly squelch a case with such damning evidence, how can we believe the police in all the cases where there is no dash cam or police body camera? It’s disturbing to imagine how many times police may have resorted to unjustifiable lethal force.
And don’t get me started on the possibility of a man in the White House who makes fun of reporter’s disabilities, women’s looks and POWs. A man who wildly overstates his capabilities, misunderstands the role of immigrants and has the hots for his own daughter.
So I’m pulling the plug on the wall-to-wall coverage and turning to my volunteer gig at my dad’s nursing home for some peace and order. Yes, many of the residents are heading into that eternal bright light the little lady from Poltergeist told Carol Ann to ignore. Some have no family or visitors. Some don’t know who they are or where they are. But it’s the job of the caregivers and volunteers to make things as comfortable and peaceful as we can. I focus on their happiness and tune out the mad world they don’t have to know exists.
Due to my dad’s MS and long-lasting effects from a terrible car accident when he was a teen, he has gracefully accepted life in this care facility where he is one of the younger, more cognitive residents. Sure he has his share of bad days, but my Pops uses humor to make the best of things, something he has done since he was 17.
A couple weeks ago, Dad told me he was watching CNN and saw that Paris was attacked. He asked me what country ISIS is in. Good question, Pops. I did my best to explain it. And told him I’d hoped to return to France sometime soon. Instead of fretting over it he said, “That’s good. Then you can straighten those guys out.”
He was being funny and I wasn’t completely sure he understood the gravity of the situation. Until he went on to say, “And you tell them not to kill you. Because if they kill you, you’re never going back there.”
I wrote a column earlier this year calling my dad the Shecky Greene of the nursing home. Maybe with a dash of Yogi Berra?
One day out of the blue he said, “You know Hitler had one bad habit.” I took the bait and asked what it was. “He liked to kill people,” Pops said.
My dad likes to come up with crazy things he had for lunch or supper. He has short term memory loss so I never ask what he had so I won’t embarrass him. Last week he said they sprinkled fried butterflies on his salmon. It’s funny because it almost sounds real.
One of my favorite food exchanges goes like this:
Me: “So how was your supper tonight?”
Pops: “Excellent. We had salamander.”
Me: “Hmmm, how did they prepare it?”
Pops: “With great care.”
But my dad isn’t the only comedian in the house. Will, a former MP in the Korean War, told me he worked at the Wrigley plant in Chicago for thirty years after the war. I asked him what he did there and he said, “I chewed a lot of gum.”
Maurice, a soft-spoken, sweet man told me all about his hemorrhoids every time I (used to) ask how he was. Maury worked at the railroad, yet he also doesn’t exactly remember what he did there. But that doesn’t mean we should ever underestimate these folks. One day I brought a Diet Coke to a female resident sitting next to Maurice. He laughed and said “Oh she’s like that lady on 60 Minutes. What’s her name? Oh yes, Lesley Stahl. She likes her Diet Coke.” I had no idea what he was talking about but he got just enough right to motivate me to Google it. Sure enough, in 2013, Lesley Stahl did a story on face recognition marketing and received a Diet Coke ad when she walked into a coffee shop. She had previously liked the soda on her Facebook page. You go, Maury!
I used to see similarities between my dad’s facility and Ken Kesey’s “Cuckoo’s Nest.” But now I know all the real nuts are out here in this upside down world where the rest of us live.