“You won’t believe what came in the mail today,” I said to Martin.
Martin and I had been friends for at least 40 years. We sat in the small coffee shop where we’ve been meeting once a week for lunch and general conversation. He was good company.
“What was it?” he asked taking a bite of a tuna sandwich.
I pushed the envelope across to him. He wiped his mouth, put down his napkin, and picked up the envelope. Martin is a deliberate person and it seemed like he took forever to open it.
I watched his eyes as he read over it. They were attentive at first then showed concern.
“What will you do?” he asked returning the letter to the envelope then continued with his lunch.
“I can’t believe they did this to me,” I said.
“But what can you do about it?”
“I don’t think I can do anything about it. I don’t have the money to hire an attorney to fight it, and I don’t know if there is anything an attorney could do. It looks pretty much cut and dried.”
He took the letter out again and read it a couple more times.
“It looks legal to me.”
I shook my head and lifted the coffee cup with trembling hands.
“What am I going to do, Marty?”
“It may not be so bad. I know lots of people live there. They seem happy.”
“How old are you?” I asked splashing coffee on my hands and quickly putting the cup down.
“I’m 63. That’s too young to go into a home.”
I picked up the letter and read it out loud. I figured it might sound different if I heard it.
“Dear Mr. Berg, It is our duty to inform you that you have been admitted to our assisted living facility effective two weeks from today. Your next of kin see this as an opportunity for you in your advancing years. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us.”
The letter was signed by the head of the home with his abundance of contact numbers.
“Advancing years? I’m not that old and I’m not sick or can’t do for myself.”
“What if you don’t like it?” Marty asked finishing his sandwich.
“I know I don’t and won’t ever like it. This is being forced upon me.”
I took a deep breath and looked at the coffee on the table around my cup.
“They’re putting me there to die. You know that don’t you?”
Marty nodded wiping up my mess with the table napkins.
“Don’t die,” he said, “that’ll teach them a lesson.”
I smiled some. He could make me smile when things looked bleak. But the smile wouldn’t help me this time. My situation was beyond his ability to make me happy and we both knew it.
“What will they do if you refuse to go?”
“Kick me out on the street, probably.”
“You could live with me.”
Marty lived with his oldest daughter. She was single with no children so it worked out for both of them. As far as I could tell they had a good father/daughter relationship.
“Thanks,” I said shaking my head, “but your daughter wouldn’t let me. It’s not her place to take me in. I’ll just have to make the best of it.”
“I can talk to her.”
“Does she like me, Marty?”
“Of course, she does. She thinks the world of you.”
“Then let’s keep it that way.”
“You got it, old timer.”
“Will you come to see me?” I asked.
“We’ll have our weekly lunches like we always do. I’ll see to it.”
I reached over and touched his hand.
“You’re a good friend, Marty.”
He waved off the remark.
“You’d do the same for me.”
I like to think I would. We were in a growing minority from the days of high school. Most of the kids we grew up with had either moved away and we never saw them or they died. Now I was faced with my mortality in the form of a nursing home.
When my day of reckoning arrived I was dropped off at the front door. An elderly lady with gray hair and a winning smile showed me to my room. They informed me at the desk that I would have a roommate.
Great. No privacy.
She opened the door and let me in first.
“Hi ya doing, roomy?”
It was Marty.
Copyright © April 27, 2011 by Lowell Bergeron