We escorted Mo home last night, giddy as a teenager who raided his father’s liquor cabinet. Good thing old men in wheelchairs don’t stagger.
It was a doozy of a party, at least to an 87-year-old escapee from an assisted living facility. Mo’s caregiver made a spicy dish, and I whipped up some Penne Franco with biscotti for dessert.
Mo quickly accepted my offer of a glass of beer. I hesitated at first, given Mo’s health and prescription load, but I recalled advice from a caregiver’s seminar: “Our job is to provide comfort and happiness.” A man with a “Do Not Resuscitate” order taped to his fridge would agree, no doubt.
Mo melted when we raised glasses. “To Mo and his new family!” I could see the tears in his eyes as we clinked.
Even though we were an odd family, it was what Mo needed and craved. Physically and emotionally, he had been through tough times of late. Gone were his wife, his home, and his freedom and dignity.
It had been a matter of weeks since Mo and I were introduced after I helped lift him off the pavement of our condo parking lot in Sun City Center. Joy became his live-in surrogate wife and mommy; I took the role of administrator and advocate.
Our mission was to establish an affordable family lifestyle for Mo, where his needs could be met and he could be safe at home. He fell between the cracks at the assisted living facility. An institutional setting with three caregivers per 30 residents failed to meet Mo’s needs, especially when a caregiver called in sick and the staff became stretched to the point of breaking. Sometimes, Mo said, he called for assistance to rise from bed and, despite promises of a speedy response, an hour or more passed before a caregiver arrived.
Of course, Mo, a tough-nosed World War II Navy vet with a stubborn streak, tired of waiting and tried to get up. More than once he ended up on the deck.
Periodically, he escaped on his scooter, disappearing for hours into the neighborhood, sightseeing life outside the walls, throwing the staff into a tizzy.
“They told me I couldn’t take any more unauthorized trips,” Mo said. “I would tell them I’d be good, then in a couple of days I’d take off again. They said I was a ‘wanderer’ and ‘non-compliant.’ They didn’t like me, I didn’t like them. Too much like jail.”
I knew Mo was having a good time when he lifted his glass and signaled for another Guinness. I cut him off at two when I saw him dip his biscotti cookie in the beer.
“When the guys at the assisted-living facility find out about my new lifestyle, they’ll all want to visit.”
The next morning Mo slept late. “How ya feel, buddy?” I chirped.
“I feel good.”
“Did you have fun last night?”
“Damn right, let’s do it again. We never had parties like that in assisted living.”
Jimmy Curtis is a retired journalist and entrepreneur.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.