Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Rock rock, rock n' roll high school

Nolan and I go to an "intergenerational" play group on Friday mornings at a senior citizens' residence here in town. There's a group of about 6 or 8 of us mom/kid combos (no dads at the moment) who all go to this residence, which is like a huge, gorgeous, well-appointed college dorm (certainly much nicer than anything I had in college) for a little socializing with the seniors. There are lots of different rooms for scheduled activities: the Arts and Crafts room, the Billiard Room (no Professor Plum or Colonel Mustard, alas), the Music Room, etc. When we take the elevator up to the second floor where the playroom is for our group, I always get a kick out of reading the events schedule for the day posted inside. They call our group "Babes in Arms," which is a little misleading since the babies mostly play on the floor and the seniors watch from chairs around the periphery of the room, but I guess it's catchier than "Intergenerational Play Group." They also have "Happy Hour" (which starts at 3pm - it is a senior citizens' residence, after all) and last Friday there was a listing for "Rabbi, Read" which I imagine was a Jewish religious service (no indication if they would be reading any Updike) since there isn't a synagogue in the building (I wouldn't be surprised if there was, though - that place is huge.) I imagine the staff works fairly hard to come up with cute names for the various events, either to try to generate interest among the residents, or to keep themselves entertained, or both.

The thing about going to this residence is that it really brings home the notion that as we get older, we start to regress back into childhood. The interactions among the various residents that come to the group reminds me of nothing so much as the social cliques that form in high school. I was holding Nolan and talking to one of the residents last week, and two other seniors were watching us and making catty remarks about the woman I was talking with: "She shouldn't touch his face so much. Babies don't like their faces touched." "Plus she could have germs. Who knows when she washed her hands?" I tried to ignore them, but I was subconsciously waiting for, "I heard she gave the homecoming king a blow job," or something along those lines. The same people always sit together (or not together) every week, and I sometimes feel that Nolan is a prize they are all wrangling for - it's easier when there are four or five moms and babies there, so there are enough of us to go around.

When you become old enough or infirm enough that it's no longer a good idea to be living on your own, you (perhaps with some reluctance) move into a residence. It's a transitional stage between independence and living with a caretaker, much like going to college, only in the reverse order. There are staff members who function similarly to the RAs in your dorm - they're there to help you get the most out of the place, basically. Then there are extreme cases such as people with Alzheimer's who continue regressing until they are completely unable to take care of even their basic bodily functions, much like, eight-month-old baby.

Where am I going with this? I don't know, exactly. There's a certain amount of wistfulness I feel when we're at this group. Many of the seniors spend our conversational time recounting their own children when they were babies, or talking about grandchildren and great-grandchildren that they have, who they always hope are coming to visit soon. (They also spend a fair amount of time asking me to repeat Nolan's name - it's not a familiar one to these Bettys and Bills and Marys). The sense I get is that they're saying to me, "I was someone once, too. I had a life that included babies and playgroups and toys, so don't think you've got a monopoly on that." What makes me sad is that when they talk like that, I get the feeling that they don't believe they really have much of a life now. I guess it's hard not to feel that most of your life is behind you when you're 80 or so, because, statistically speaking, you're right. Which is probably why the staff have to work so hard to get the seniors to go to lunch when the playgroup is over - they never want to leave the babies. They always ask if they can stay a little longer, or take the babies with them, as if the babies have a magical ability to keep their aging at bay. And maybe they do, at least for an hour and a half on Friday mornings.

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

Electric Mayhem said...

First of all, LOVE Nolan's faux-hawk.

Second, LOVE the Updike reference. :)