A Place For Who?

Perhaps you have seen the advertisements on television for A Place for Mom, “the nation’s largest FREE elder care referral service.” According to its website, A Place for Mom can direct you to elder care resources and living arrangements in your area. Despite its title, A Place for Mom is a service for anyone who is elderly and needs help – it’s not just for elderly moms.

It’s rather interesting that the company’s title singles out moms. Why not mention dads? Maybe they’re just cutting to the chase and saying, “Listen, we all know that mom is the most important, and no one really cares where dad goes,” so they decided to name the website solely after the matriarch of the family.

Who on earth was their marketing consultant? A place for mom. It sounds like they are trying to find a spot for chipped China dishes or old sneakers they’re not quite ready to throw away. I envision the company’s title stemming from three squabbling siblings, sitting around a computer arguing over what to do with their ailing mother.

“I’m not taking her! Hell no. I had her for the past five Christmases and you know how THAT turned out.”

“Well, she can’t live with us! I simply don’t have the room now that Jake moved back home and converted his bedroom into a studio so he and his rock band can practice.”

“Someone has to take her.  Here, hand me your laptop. Let me Google ‘where to put your mom’ and see what happens. There has to be someplace for her to go.”

“A place for her to go … hmm… a place for mom. You know, that kind of has a nice ring to it.”

While my stint in medical social work was fairly brief, I can tell you with full certainty that the elderly do not like moving into  assisted living facilities. It means losing their last shred of independence; it’s the final step before the big NH (nursing home). Now picture the situation being made worse by referring to a company called  A Place For Mom.

“Uncle Tom, you know it’s no longer safe for you to live home alone. Karen and I are worried about you, especially since the last kitchen fire. We really think it’s time for you to move into a facility where you will be cared for.”

“I’m not moving into any nursing home. Those are for old people.”

“Now Uncle Tom, it’s not a nursing home. Karen and I used the services of A Place For Mom and we found the best -”

“A place for Tom? It’s named after me?”

“Not a place for Tom. It was called A Place For MOM. Not TOM. MOM.”

Mom? I’m not a woman! Why are you putting me in a ladies place?”

Need I go on?

In reality, the company’s intention may not have been to exclude dads or other people. The original name could very well have been A Place for Mom, Dad, Aunts, Uncles, Crotchety Neighbors and Elderly Family Friends. Or A Place for Mom, Dad, et al. I suppose they also  figured So They Don’t Have To Live With You would not only be crass, but equally wordy.  End result? The name A Place for Mom was chosen.


Growing Old

All I could see was the top of her silvery-blue hair. She was creeping her boat of a car inch by inch into the parking spot, like a barge navigating its way on a canal. I sighed and glanced at the time. So far she had been working on this arduous task for three minutes. Several cars had lined up behind mine.

In true New York fashion, someone laid on their horn. Silvery-Blue Hair’s car came to an abrupt halt and she looked in her rear view mirror, confused. I should have given her an encouraging smile, but I too am a New Yorker, so all I did was raise my eyebrows hoping she could read my thoughts of, “C’mon lady!”

Silvery-Blue Hair faced forward. The car moved a millimeter. Progress was being made! I could almost fit my car around hers if she would just –

Wait! Oh no! What was she doing? Why were her reverse lights on? It doesn’t need to be straight honey! Just. Park. Your. Car.

The jerk laid on his horn a second time. Someone else joined in. This time, Silvery-Blue Hair was not daunted. She was too focused – too determined – to get her Buick Lesabre in the spot. Her little hands were putting the car’s power steering to the test. Suddenly, the car lurched forward and she turned off the engine.

Hurray! I stepped on the gas and sped past her, only to stop behind another car.  This time an elderly man was reversing out of a spot.  Where was I? On the set of Cocoon? Painstakingly, the gentleman eased his car backwards. He looked straight ahead, as though he was assuming – trusting- other drivers to give him the right of way. We did of course, but not without groaning, throwing our arms up in the air, or banging our foreheads on our steering wheels.

At last, he was out of his spot and gliding ahead. He looked ridiculously small in such a huge car, his hands positioned at ten and two. I was now able to drive around him, and I did so deftly. Wasn’t I just the coolest, spunkiest driver ever?

Then it struck me. Decades ago, Silvery-Blue Hair could have been me: impatient, patronizing in thought, in a hurry to run to the grocery store before having to shuttle her children to an activity. Likewise, the elderly man could have been just like my husband: working long hours to provide for his family, young, strong and handsome, driving a sporty car with ease.

All this meant, of course, that someday we would be them: frail, uncertain, and slow. In a few decades, I could be trying to maneuver my car (a car that used to be easier to drive) into parking spots that now seemed much too small – while irritable, young drivers like myself beeped their horns and rolled their eyes. I was ashamed.

Feeling sentimental, later that day I asked my ten year old daughter if she would take care of me when I was old.  Suddenly, the idea of growing old seemed very near and real.  I pictured my daughter as she is now, only taller, cradling my arm as she eases me into the passenger seat of her car.

My daughter was quiet for a moment before answering.

“I’ll be too busy with my own family to take care of you,” she said, “but don’t worry. I’ll visit you in the nursing home … as long as we’re not on vacation.”

Move over Silvery-Blue Hair lady, I just may need a ride.

Best Foot Forward: Toe Wrestling

The Toe Wrestling Championship was recently aired on ESPN.  Apparently, ESPN has a loose definition of the term “sport” and does not discriminate what they choose to cover. The TWC (Toe Wrestling Championship) was won by Alan “Nasty” Nash. For all three of you who are toe wrestling enthusiasts, this victory was a no brainer. “Nasty” holds the world record for toe wrestling and has no plans on relinquishing that title. In fact, his nickname “Nasty” has to do with how merciless he is with his opponents and not – as I had thought – because toe wrestling is simply gross.

All this leads me to ponder: how does one enter into the peculiar niche of wrestling with one’s feet? I can’t help but picture a toe wrestler (let’s name him Terminator Toes) and his mother being interviewed…

Interviewer: So tell me, when did you first suspect your son had a talent with his toes?

Terminator Toes’ Mom: In utero. Seriously! I could literally feel him scraping the inside of my womb with his toes.

Interviewer: Good Heavens!

Terminator Toes’ Mom: It’s true. When he was a baby, there wasn’t anything he could not pick up with his toes: wet bars of soap, balls, ice cubes, the cat, our neighbor’s Pittbull…

Interviewer: Was this when you decided to enhance his talent?

Terminator Toes’ Mom: Oh no! I had no idea you could do anything with toes.

Terminator Toes: That’s when I stepped in. I knew at a young age my feet had a special gift. I knew my toe strength shouldn’t go to waste, so I started working on them. I made little barbells to fit my toes. I invented toe yoga to make my toes more supple.

Interviewer: Toe yoga?

Terminator Toes: Sure. Why should yoga exclude toes?

Interviewer:  Good point. How did you discover toe wrestling?

Terminator Toes: Toe wrestling is actually an ancient sport. It is said that Cleopatra and Julius Cesar were talented toe wrestlers. I’ve also heard that Bill and Hillary Clinton are fond of toe wrestling. Hillary usually wins. 

Interviewer: Bill and Hillary! So, you discovered toe wrestling how?

Terminator Toes: Oh! So one day when I was  seventeen … no … wait … eighteen, I was home exercising my toes and a friend stopped by. When he saw my toe barbells he said, ‘You too?’ Turns out he had toe strength too! I told him my toes were stronger and he disagreed. So we decided to test it out and see …

Interviewer: And the rest is history! Well! May the best toe win!

I am sure toe wrestling is just one of the many strange sports that are out there. I wonder what ESPN will cover next. Perhaps Elbow Tennis (where people use their elbows – and not rackets – to hit the ball) and Staring Contests.