The Old Folks Home
I want to die in my own home.
That’s what I told my kids when they first brought up the idea. I felt, my life is over, let me live out my final days at home, in peace, where I feel comfortable. I don’t want to come to a place like this, where I’m surrounded by other seniors, other people like me, others, that the world wants to leave behind because they don’t know what to do with us any longer. People who they don’t have a use for. And I didn’t want to feel useless. I didn’t want to stumble around my room trying to relearn the path to the bathroom at night, the distance from the doorway to the chesterfield, which cupboard held the cutlery, which drawer held the cups. (He laughs at his own joke.)
I’m blind— legally, I can still see a sliver out of this eye, that’s why I’m always giving everyone the side eye… My kids would harp on it when I lived at home, how it was only a matter of time before I missed something— a chair pulled too far out from the table or what have you— and I’d take a tumble. My response? “Good. I want to die in my own home, let me die!”
But they didn’t. They pushed and pushed until this old man came rolling home— or from home— to the Eben Ezer 1. They hadn’t told me the name, and when I moved in I couldn’t barely see it, so I had to hear about it from the other tenants. Eben Ezer 1? It’s a joke, right? Management tells me it’s a biblical reference but say Ebenezer to anyone and what’s the first thing they think of? All us tenants laugh: a senior’s residence named after the quintessential most crotchety, grumpy old man in all of English literature? And it’s only #1, the other one’s around the corner there! (He’s laughing.)
Hoo. I thought they had played a trick on me. I tore my son a new one when he came to visit the next time. I let him have it. (He doesn’t fully commit to these.) “How dare you? You took my dignity, my freedom, my self-determination! I won’t die in Scrooge-ville, I want to die in my own home!”
But they had sold the house by then, of course, and thank god. Truly, I thank god every day. And beg his patience for all the shit— pardon my French— I put my family through. Because look at me. No, I didn’t die in my own home. But I didn’t die here either. Been seven years and I’m ready for seven more—god willing.
It’s not about the dying, dying doesn’t matter, comes for everyone, just like tax season they say. And it’s never pretty… just like tax season. (He laughs.) Here I can take the stairs if I want them, but there’s the elevator for the days I need it. There are other people around, folks to talk to if and when I get bored or lonely. And sure, god knows I wish my kids would visit more often. I miss my grand babies.
But when I open up my window I can hear little ones playing across the street in the park. When I take my daily constitutional, I can head to Whyte Avenue and buy a cup of espresso; reminds me of my time in Europe. The girl in the shop remembers my name. I even took a painting class at the church next door. I’m a little more Monet than Rembrandt.
I don’t want to die in my own home anymore. I want to live in it.
Your next stop is The Window, at 9945 86th Ave. Keep walking down 85th Ave. Turn left on 100th street, and then take a right onto 86th Ave.