I had a 90-minute interview today. Happily, I don’t do anything at my real job so nobody noticed that I was gone for a long time at lunch. The interview was for a Capital Campaign Events Coordinator with a Jewish nursing home/assisted living organization.
I walked into the lobby and gave the receptionist the name of the woman I was there to meet. As soon as I walked in the door, I was thinking “This is a mistake. I can’t do this.” Nursing homes smell of age and infirmity. My mother was in a convalescent/rehabilitation facility for a couple of days when she was sick and it was awful, absolutely awful. I know the people at that facility were doing their best to help sick and old people but it was so oppressive and depressing.
While I was waiting in the lobby for my appointment today, a young woman came to the lobby pushing her baby in a stroller and her grandfather in a wheelchair. The young mother was fresh-faced and great with both baby and grandfather. The baby was a chubby adorable probably 7-month-old and the grandfather was deaf, so loud, he had casts on his feet and a sling on his arm. His good arm had a deep maroon purple bruise, the kind you get used to seeing on old people who bruise so easily if they fall or bump into something. But he was enjoying the baby and not enjoying his coffee, “It’s too hot! What’s in this?!”
My dad was almost 82 when he died and living with an ill, elderly person changed my perspective regarding old people. For years, after he died, I couldn’t bear to see old men let alone interact with them. On the other hand, I gained a better understanding of being old. I remember the vibrant, volatile, funny and scary man my dad was before he was taken ill with congestive heart failure around the age of 80. I don’t know most of the other old people in the world but I learned from my dad that they weren’t always old. I know that sounds simplistic but I think people forget that old people were babies once, they were in grade school and high school, and were athletes and students and writers and teachers and soldiers and firefighters and car salesman and lawyers and nurses; they were in love, they had young families, and they screwed up and celebrated and lived. So the white haired, bent, old person in the sturdy shoes is not who they always were and they most likely never thought they would be old and probably don’t think of themselves as old now.
I interviewed with Debbi and Trish. They are both older than I am which is a treat as I am currently the old lady of my office. During the interview, my phone rang. I know it’s poor form that I forgot to turn off the ringer. As luck would have it, my ringer is the theme from “The Odd Couple” (kids if you don’t know what that is, run the Google on it). It makes me happy every time I hear it. Debbi and Trish LOVED it! And we all had a good laugh and then talked about Mary Tyler Moore for a while…I used to have that theme song for my ringtone.
I had a great interview. Both women had been housewives and returned to the work force. Both women LOVE what they do. The capital campaign’s goal is to raise $4 million of a $25 million construction cost for a new nursing home facility. The assisted living building is 10-15 years old and it is gorgeous. It’s like a hotel. So they want the nursing home facility to be that bright and welcoming and dignified. Debbi and Trish were both verklempt talking about how thrilled they will be when they can see the patients move into their new beautiful living quarters. Despite their goal being years away, their enthusiasm, love and determination was written all over their faces.
Debbi took me on a tour of the buildings. Yes, the nursing home building is superficially a bummer. Old people are asleep in their beds and wheelchairs. But while I was there, the staff was setting up for the afternoon cocktail party and there was a buzz of excitement for that. I love a cocktail party that starts at 3:30 because most of the guests will be asleep by 6. In another hallway, a perfectly coiffed old lady was sitting in her wheelchair singing “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” for a group of half a dozen nurses. And she was good!
We went over to the beautiful assisted living facility and I met Evy. If I get this job, you will be hearing more about her. Evy is in a wheelchair. She is a bleached white blonde around 80 or perhaps older, she looks fantastic. Her make-up is perfect, she had great clothes and jewelry. Evy told Debbi about the ceremony this past weekend to dedicate a brick in the courtyard to her deceased husband and she got all teary. She asked my name. “Maggie.” She’s originally from the Bronx and still has the accent, “what’s your laaast name deah?” “O’Connor.” She loved my Irish name which I admit, I said haltingly knowing she might be expecting Maggie Silverberg. Evy has six kids and only one of them married a Jew so she has a couple of Irish Catholic grandchildren. Evy writes plays, produces and directs them casting residents for the performances. Her last one was “Snow White and the Seven Yentas.”
Oh I got stories, already!
I hope I get the job. I know I have a second interview. This is a place where I would be busy and I would be helping people to live out there years in a beautiful environment for the patients and their families.