The House of Has-Beens


One of the fastest growing industries of our times is the "assisted living" facility. It has astutely stepped in to provide coverage for those not able to live independently, but not yet in need of total care. All right, it's a way-station, if you will, before the nursing home scenario.

Assisted living is becoming a familiar feature in the American landscape for a number of already well-discussed reasons such as medicine, mobility, work patterns and all the other complex characteristics of life in the nineties. It is a viable and pertinent service.

The House of Has-Beens is a small collection of grapes (some of them sour) from within one of these vineyards and it's pure vintage from an 89 year old man trapped inside an obstinate body, a marriage of 66 years, and the House of Has-Beens.

"This may prove food for my displeasure"

When Mrs. N. and I first came here, the food was a disaster; hence my fondness for Shakespeare's pronouncement. Shall we just say that the cook lacked concepts? Let's!
That cook disappeared and, inserted in his forgettable shoes, came "the team approach." Now this meant that there was no designated cook as such, but that whoever was willing (forget about being able) would muster up something that might pass for food.
That didn't last long. The residents asserted themselves (those who could remember who or where they were).
My approach was to write a letter to the administrator and owner of the establishment. I tried to instigate a conversation with her on the rare occasions I would spy her in the distance, but distance is what she sought, and so I penned my protest.
I harbor no illusions that this action of mine brought about a change any more than a food-fight in the dining room would have, but eventually, things did improve.
This time it was in the form of a nutrition manager whose job it was to oversee the kitchen and dining experience. They fancied up the decor of the dining room, put in a salad bar station (that most of us can barely walk to) and introduced fresh fruit and whole pieces of protein in place of the previous mutton gruel monotonously mashed into non-recognition and topped with a glutinous coronet of calories called a sauce.
Mrs. N. and I share our table with Ned and Edith. Edith is deaf and wears too much make-up. She likes Ned's gentlemanly attentions. When Ned isn't asking her if she's seen his wife, he's thinking that she is his wife. In either case, she can't hear a thing he says and leans over and yells, "What?" Ned gets that confused/ apologetic look on his face and I end up having to translate to Edith and render reassurance to old Ned.
This is none too good for the indigestion.
My displeasure has had enough food thank you.
Mr. N.


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Originally appeared in and written forThe Courage of our Confusion