Life has taught me to roll with the punches and I’ve gotten really good at it lately. I’ve also always had a knack for making humor out of just about any situation. Combine those with my appreciation for dark humor and you’ve got one sick, twisted puppy.
Case in point:
So the other day after work, I decided I would visit my dad at the nursing home. The home is just two exits up from my job and figured I’d be in and out before they started serving dinner. I admit, going there isn’t my favorite thing to do; I’ve been super busy lately, the place smells, there’s this one guy who follows me around and they keep that place heated up hotter than a sauna. Plus, it’s getting harder and harder to converse with my dad.
That day, however, it must have been a full moon because that place was more alive than I’d ever seen it.
I arrived to the second floor and was immediately greeted by that same old, stale urine smell that has been impermeated into the walls and floors. I smiled and nodded to the nurses and looked around for my dad.
The residents were abuzz and wandering around like the undead, which was unusual since most spend their hours moaning and eating brains in their respective rooms. The staff was putting on a late snack in the lunch room for the residents and they were blaring some preschoolish, nursery rhyme-type songs from a boom box. I found my dad in his room. His face lit up when he saw me and asked to go for a walk. He then repeated his ritual of introducing me to every nurse on the 2nd floor. “This is my daughter, Sarah! This is my daughter! She is a…uh…(and then he asks what my job title is again and I tell him)…She’s Director of Sales & Marketing! She’s the apple of my eye!”. It’s sweet. The nurses and I play along every time and pretend like we are meeting each other for the first time.
Dad decided he wanted to sit in two chairs that faced the nurses station. I ran through my usual list of easy to answer questions that i ask him that would be unlikely to send him into an emotional bad place:
1.) “How have you been”
2.) “Anything good on TV?”
3.) “Have you been doing any of the activities at all?”
4.) “What did you eat for lunch today?”
Straining to converse, the music in the background changed tracks to “BINGO” and one of the older, female residents in a wheelchair started yelling “Halp! Halp! My legs don’t work!” This piqued the interest of my dad and he shuffled over to the lady in distress. I followed.
He stood in front of her and stared at her with a confused expression on his face. “Halp!” she screeched. “There’s something wrong with my legs! I can’t feel my legs!!”
Her atrophied legs gave away that she had been unable to walk for some time. The nearby nurses looked at me with a tired expression which told me that this must be her catchphrase. Many of the residents there say the same thing over and over. One lady’s catchphrase is “Abba bah! Abba bah!”. I call her Abby.
“Halp me!” the lady repeated. In flight or fight, my dad has always chosen the former in precarious situations. This hasn’t changed. He looked to his left and then his right and quietly tiptoed away in front of the the woman, and the entire lunchroom of people. That seemed like a good idea to me so I followed.
We walked back up to the two chairs, but now there was a commotion at the nurses station. My dad’s “nemisis”, a 90-year old man named John, had snuck behind the station to call his dad (!!!!) sporting nothing but his diapers. The nurses were trying to get him to put the phone down, but he insisted that his father was trying to reach him and proceeded to ask me if I knew his dad’s phone number. My dad saw what was happening and mumbled something hateful under breath. Pretty sure he called John a “low-life scum bag”. This is getting interesting!
The next track on the boom box changed from BINGO to “She’ll Be Coming Around The Mountain”. Halp Lady, realizing she’s being ignorned, increases the frequencies of her distress calls. The funny part was though, and I don’t think she meant to, is that her “Halps!” are now in time with the music. So now it sounds like this:
“She’ll be coming around the mountain, when she comes!” HALP!
“She’ll be coming around the mountain, when she comes!” HALP!
“She’ll be coming around the HALP, she’ll be coming around the mountain, she’ll be coming around the mountain, when she comes!” HALP!
I faked coughed and covered my mouth to hide my obvious grin. It was all I could do not to laugh at that point and I didn’t want the nurses thinking I’m some sadistic bitch. One male nurse caught my eye and for a second, we shared the same humor. I saw a glimmer of a smile, which with great effort, he quashed.
Back to my dad, who was now glaring at John while the nurses escorted him back to his room. Another gentlemen in a wheelchair paddled up to my dad, obviously concealing something in his shirt.
“I-I have a plan,” he said to my dad. i-I know how to escape from here. I-I know a place to go to.” Holy Shawshank. This is getting REALLY interesting!
However, my dad thinks this guy is talking about John.
“Oh you mean John?” said my dad. “He’s a low life son of a bitch. I told that woman to get the hell away from him.”
The wheelchair man continued. “Don’t tell anybody about this, but I stole this map” and he pulled the concealed brochure out from under his shirt. It was the same nursing home brochure that they gave me when I registered dad there, only his was all rolled up and dog eared.
Dad took the brochure, looked at it briefly, and then continued to tell his imagined tale of 90-year old John, trying to sweet talk one of the female nurses into running away with him, but my dad knew better and told that nurse to stay away from him. Because he’s a low life son of a bitch.
Oh my. Where’s my popcorn? This is too rich.
The wheelchair man, frustrated at my Dad’s lack of hearing, paddled away and tried his escape plan pitch on another man around the corner.
At this point, my dad is getting really worried about dinner so I gave him a hug, told him I loved him and that I had a good time visiting with him today. And I did! What a story that was painted! We had a damsel in distress, a sweet-talking womanizer who still loves his dad and our very own, in house Andy Dufresne.
I walked out to my car with an amused grin and very glad to be back in cold, fresh air.