THE SONIC BOOMER
My 91-year-old mother is in an assisted living facility in Wisconsin, which we kids diplomatically refer to as her “apartment.” She’s happy there and, when we visit, we often stay at her place. But, of course, we can’t visit too often — and now, due to the pandemic, not at all.
You’d think she’d be depressed and lonely what without us, but no. Far from it.
But mom isn’t exactly sitting by her picture window, pining for company. She’s too busy. She has always been sociable and interesting because she’s outgoing and interested. She smiles at people; she asks them about themselves (which is everyone’s favorite topic of conversation); and she’s a regular ray of sunshine.
She’s on the phone a lot. Because she has to hear about her kids, her grandkids and her great-grandkids, but she’s also a newshound who discusses current events at length with her nephew, Randy.
“He listens to me!” she says, happily, and that reminds me that I shouldn’t be talking at her so much. But she’s such a good listener that I just ramble on and on. When I hang up the phone, here’s what I know — all about what I’ve done. But it’s because I’ve called her because I want to, not because I “should have” or — heaven forbid — because I’m worried about her. If anything, I don’t want her worrying about me.
Of course, I try to adhere to her schedule. She’s up at 4:30 a.m. (ready to milk the cows — old habits die hard), eats breakfast at 8 a.m., lunch at noon and dinner at 5:30 p.m. Because it’s Wisconsin, there’s a happy hour cart that comes around at 4 p.m. (when the civilized are drinking tea) and there’s usually a nap sometime in the afternoon.
So the best time to call is 4:30 to 8 a.m. (not my shining hours) and the worst time to call is Friday at 3 p.m. Friday at 3 p.m., she will answer the phone, spit out “callyaback” and hang up. Why? Because it’s time for the horse races.
Yes, this particular assisted living place is so in tune with its elderly population that, in addition to beer and wine at 4 p.m., they also have online gambling worked into their weekly schedule.
It wasn’t always online, of course. I saw the board when I last visited — a huge plyboard thing with slots where numbered horses slide to the finish, like you sometimes see at a carnival. The bettors choose their favorite, put down their money (yes!) and, “They’re off!”
When COVID-19 reared its ugly head, the whole setup was moved into the now-empty chapel, and mom sits in her apartment, hopefully not with a cigar hanging out of her mouth, tuned in to a special TV channel to watch… and bet. Right now, she said she’s “on a streak” — she’s up 60 cents.
Naturally, none of this happy hour or wagering stuff was mentioned when we kids took her there to meet the staff. The talk was all about the crochet club and jigsaw puzzles back then. But no one is arguing with success. The residents are happy — very happy. And just in case you’re thinking you or your parents might like to check in, I regret to inform you that may not be possible. It’s a state-run facility, and you have to be a Wisconsin resident.