If you’re looking for a dissection of the debt ceiling brouhaha or learned discussion of U.S. credit rating, you’ll be out of luck today. CR2S, in its infinite wisdom, can see no farther than one hundred and fifty two shuffling steps down the southward hallway — the exact distance from Room 215 to the dining room. Yup, for the time being, my sole interest is centered around what my next meal will be.
Welcome to my new world, Outside People. I’m trying real hard to get acclimated to a whole new existence as a ward of Keiro Retirement Home. No, that’s too harsh. A tenant of 325 S. Boyle Ave.? Much too impersonal. How about resident? Mochi-ron. Much warmer. Hey, let’s don’t kid ourselves. When you do something as drastic as moving into new quarters after over 50 years, it ain’t no picnic. More to the point, into “a facility.” Whoa, Nellie!
Now, let’s get one thing straight before I bury myself: We’re not talking about “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Birdman of Alcatraz” or “Snake Pit.” Not even close. What I’m trying to convey is the inherent shock of living alone for so long and then suddenly finding yourself surrounded by 144 smiling, friendly neighbors eager welcome a newcomer.
After living a life of going days without shaving, leaving the house or having breakfast, now if I’m not seated in the dining room by 7:10 a.m., a concerned voice intones over the intercom, “Hiroto-san, breakfast time!” Being an inveterate night person, Hiroto-san only gets up at 7 a.m. to go to the bathroom. The meal schedule sheet states that lunch is at 12:30 (it’s over by that time) and dinnertime is at 5:30 (again, most everyone is gone by then).
Assigned to Table 18, I join three personable, pleasant companions, two ladies and a gentleman. They kindly instruct this neophyte of the various rules and regulations to follow. Breakfast only is buffet, the rest is service. I quickly learn that reading a newspaper with morning coffee is taboo. Zounds! Now I not only have to shave, I have to talk!
Having lived the life of a bachelor for so long, regularity has not been a byword. (Careful, we’re still talking about eating.) So partaking of a regular slate of three squares a day is a new twist in my schedule. The fare thus far has been fine and I have a hunch my losing weight days are over. (With a stove, micro and fridge in the apartment, I also have options.)
Still in the process of settling in, CR2S has yet to take in any of the various activities offered by KRH. (Knowing my bed and linen will be made up at 6:30 a.m. each Monday, there obviously will be much awake time to make use of!) But for the time being I’ve decided to take things in stride and get acquainted with my walls and ceiling first.
The first thing I did was swap the single bed for a queen-size. Not romanticizing. Why take the chance of falling out of bed? Already can’t seem to find some necessities among the few belongings I initially brought over. Nail clippers and back scratcher. Thesaurus. Shampoo.
Let’s be honest. It no simple matter to pack up and leave home after a half-century! It’s been a week now and I still catch myself wondering where I am. I miss the sound of the newspaper hitting the side of the house after delivery at 5:35 a.m.; the constant yelping of a puppy a block upwind; the Friday garbage trucks; weekend helicopters; Linda, my Saturday cleaning lady; the two lights that shone all night from the TV box that were comforting rather than bothersome; Woody’s leash that I purposely left behind.
And maybe you may think it strange, but I also left all of the old family pictures and mementos. I guess I’d better make sure the guys sort through everything one last time toot sweet before someone decides to ransack the place. To give you an idea of how well organized CR2S is, my wife’s closet is still intact and the whatchamacallit still has a slew of albums, LPs and 78s in it. The earthquake took care of what wine I had but there are bottles of Crown Royal everywhere, a reminder of past excesses.
Might sound nuts but one of my greatest losses was DirecTV. KRH is hooked up to Time/Warner so I had to go the cable route. Which means I lost the Sirius Radio hookup where big-band music was available. TW has a Singers and Swing channel but its version of oldies don’t quite reach back to the preferred genre. But, there we go again. Yet another sign that change doesn’t come easily.
To my peers, a message: Safely and comfortably ensconced as you are, enjoy and appreciate where you are and what you have. If you have a spouse, consider yourself fortunate. For youngers: Don’t hesitate or feel guilty about putting your parents into a facility. It ain’t bad at all, really. Safe. Secure. Stimulating. But let’s face it, sad, too. But only because of what is left behind:
The youth and a life that no longer exists. It is gone forever. Where did it go?
W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached by email. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.