Saturday, January 12, 2008


When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable.

There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age.

Victor Hugo


A week ago today, we were invited to Jack & Beas, to
watch one of Jacks historical videos and to have dinner
with them at their Retirement Home.

I had to sit on this post, 'cause it really bothered me,
the experience of not only the meal, but the people
who brought it out, and the food overall.

That the elderly have to pay so much to live in this
environment, wouldn't be so bad, if the quality
overall was better. Not only that, but without detail,
lets simply say, the food did not agree with
our systems. And if not ours, what is it doing to theirs?

The servers, young, and with nary a word coming our
of their mouths. I don't know, it's not that you have to
have a conversation, but something would be better
than nothing, not to mention at least a smile.


Back in the early SF Chronicle days, my first
4 yrs were spent in the Oakland/Hayward
area. Mrs. Virginia Peck was the first person
I met, who helped show me around in her area.

Someone told me to be careful, as she always rode her back,
from the 40s and was pretty bossy. Wasn't quite true
of course and we spent many a conversation, trying
to stop the Worlds problems, and me listening
to her life with her husband who had passed away.

Through the years we kept in contact.
She is no longer among the living.

Laura Crotogeni, was 94 here.
Whenever I drove by this retirement
home, located in Hayward, she was outside
in the early morning hours, gardening.

Although she had a stroke, she maintained
a half city block garden, by herself.
After I stopped a few times, she had asked
me to come in and she shared her lifes
story, 7am after she rested a bit.

She had come from Italy and married and settled in
S Ca during the depression. They had a farm, but
lost it during those times, and she had a mental
breakdown, what with a small child, etc.

I have a recording of her somewhere
here in a box.

She passed away at the age of 104.

When we had lived in Concord, Ca for a short time,
we would go to one of the retirement homes
and met Jennie Crone.

When she was a young child, she remembered
coming through the east on a wagon with
her family, when her mother died, and she
then had to perform the tasks her mother
did so her dad could work.

Somewhere here, I have her notes of that trip.

She died at the age of 99.

One thing I notice in visiting people
in these homes, is there is only a small
amount of mental stimulation, and once
you meet and spend time with them,
they seem to come alive and the spirit
they once had and excitement comes
out in their stories and in their eyes.

dignity - dylan

(thanks to moon for this version
which came from touched by an angel)

no longer available


robin andrea said...

What a stunning and beautiful post, coffee. It is a tragedy that we isolate elders from the general community in these retirement and assisted living facilities. So much of their lives and experiences are lost from us. I keep having the same dream, the one where I live on a commune with all the people I love, every generation together. The extended community learning from each other, shared meals and burdens.

Unknown said...

This is a marvelous post. Thank you!!!!

Many years ago I met the woman who founded “The Grey Panthers.” (Sorry, in my old age I can’t remember her name). She enlightened me about the need for justice (I think that’s the best word) for the elderly. (That was before “senior citizen” became the euphemism for old dudes as I am becoming now).

Carol Gee said...

Thanks for this post. You truly honored these women by showing who they are and a little of what their lives have been about.
In some way I think there is a hint of what immortality is about in the way we notice others. Peace.

Daniel said...

Hey, Coffee, since we stopped venerating the old and replaced them with brash, pushy adult/kids who are mostly wet behind the ears, our society has made a huge leap backwards.

To deny old people their rightful place as the wise elders of the tribe is tribute to our stupidity and poor judgment.

Fortunately, there are still some civilizations in the world that venerate and care for their elderly people but, as capitalism rages like a malignant cancer, they too are changing.

Humans have lost the plot! And their souls.

Coffee Messiah said...

robin: I know you are aware of this kind of situation 1st hand. Funny you should mention living with all the people you love, as my friends in Marin Co, who all came from the east coast, had mentioned purchasing land together so when they did age, they could live and help one another. I wonder if that plan is still in place?

ssn: I remember the GPs well. Reminds me that no one today is doing that either. Wonder why? No one, young or old will protest anything, anymore? ; (

Hope you're doing better these days.

cg:When I met them, they all showed more life with the interaction, and I guess it helped I was in my early 20s too.

daniel: Very good points, but here in america, no one seems to be respected, young or old. ; (

Bobby D. said...

This is a nice tribute, I was telling a friend about it yesterday and we got into a long conversation about senior citizens and dignity.

she said:
We need more Grey Panthers-- Maybe some Red Hatters could become Grey Panthers. (the red hatter group near us is a social club)

The mom of a friend of mine was a successful business owner, she bought into a really fancy retirement village. It took pretty much all of her money to get a small apt. with an actual galley kitchen in it (most of the cheaper units were like dorm rooms) We all begged her not to do this, but she did not want to hire a cleaning lady or move to a smaller house--
I was shocked when I saw how little she got for her money. The apt was dismal, even though it was fairly new. As fate would have it she caught a bad cold, which sent her to the medical center that was part of the village. It turned into pneumonia and she was gone-- She used her fortune to live in a place for less than 3 months. No refund to the family--thats the rule.

Also, I notice many people in these communities become almost wary of outsiders of any kind. It is a very closed lifestyle. A bad commune in some cases. I don't want to check in because checking out is nearly impossible--unless you actually... check out. I do not want to be going on organized field trips to the mall or the park. I notice these "villages" are sometimes isolated as far as public transport is concerned too. It creates an unnatural dependency.

Coffee Messiah said...

dcb: I wholeheartedly agree. When we had our get together, Jack had a new friend who has come from Florida to stay (he's 81) and very funny. He's here 'cause his daughter lives nearby. When we left, he shook my hand and had a death grip on it. Previously, I told Jack I'd drop by. A nurse came by and said the Dr. appointment he didn't go to that day would be changed to later in the week. He changed it because I was coming. This is how desperate people are for interaction.

And yes, this particular place is among the best out here, but the more I see, the less I like it! ; (

Anonymous said...

Hi Coffee! Happy New Year.
This post was really touching.
In our society old age is like some sort of an illness... look at those stupid actors who undergo any kind of plastic surgery jsut to look younger. But they don't realize that for every thing there is a season... turn, turn, turn...

hugs & Peace

Coffee Messiah said...

olgostin: It never used to be that way. Something happened to people since the "old days" and it may be the lack of interaction, and too much consuming. ; (