Here in the retirement home we’re all experienced coffee drinkers. We’ve been drinking coffee since World War II when you couldn’t get coffee at all. Some of us were drinking coffee before the war. We know every coffee story that’s gone around in the past 50 years and we’ve tasted every coffee blend that’s been around for the same time.
Friday is a day of relaxed coffee drinking before the coming hectic weekend which will be probably be spent with children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren and which will drain all a retiree’s energy reserves, leaving us limp and red-eyed.
The pre-weekend ‘do’ takes place in the entrance lobby cum coffee shop of the retirement home amid noise, hustle and bustle. All you have to do is show yourself to Etty the coffee-bar tender and in seconds a cappuccino and slice of cake appears in front of you. The cake, of course, will be sugarless. You can then choose whether to talk to your spouse, a friend or go solo and make a start with the weekend papers. Some folks even jump the gun, curl up into an unapproachable hunch and get going with the weekend crossword. The coffee is nothing special, but that’s of no consequence, it’s not the coffee that counts.
This crowd, experienced in every subject under the sun, can talk on any topic for hour after hour and once they get going it’s not easy to stop them. Some of the little circles of coffee drinkers turn into noisy argument centers: It wasn’t July 17th 1931, it was August. 15th to be exact. I was standing right there!” And because this is a retirement home, there’s strange stuff going on as well. Like the attractive woman who wanders around in and out of the crowd, smiling and greeting others and then suddenly drops into an armchair opposite me and starts talking – to herself. Her eyes are completely blank, but she smiles now and again during her soliloquy and is clearly enjoying her company.
And the not-so-old man who shuffles along propped up by his male caregiver. He finds a seat, sits down, stays put for ten seconds, jumps up, finds another seat, sits, jumps up and spends the entire morning like this. He looks fit and well, but by lunch time his caregiver is a total wreck.
Retirement is a full-time occupation. There are no holidays, no days off and no such thing as a sick day. It is a dedicated job covering 24 hours a day. Of those hours, 16 involve working flat out at being retired. The other 8 are devoted either to sleeping on the couch in front of the TV or trying desperately to fall asleep in bed. Most successful sleeping is in the form of short naps throughout the day. The after-lunch nap is popular but I find a pre-lunch half an hour equally refreshing.
And then there are the daily activities. I overheard this conversation between 2 retirees in the elevator: “So how’s it going? You keeping occupied? What did you do today?”
“I was at the bank today.”
“Got any arrangements for tomorrow?”
“I’m planning on going to the post office.”
“Wednesday is my day for blood tests.”
And that’s roughly how the retiree’s week goes. Busy, busy, busy. Another major consumer of retiree time is food and eating. We enjoy hanging out in the supermarkets, tasting and checking the goods here and there. You’ll find us testing the cheese, grapes and olives for quality. We also enjoy seeking out exotic recipes, none of which will be good for us or suitable for our digestive systems. We love eating – slowly and early, that is.
We all devote time fulfilling our responsibilities to the community. That’s why you’ll find us down at the lake feeding the ducks, helping little children and little old ladies cross the busy streets, keeping the park benches warm and heckling the parking ticket officers.
On the international level we meet often during the course of our days at the local coffee shops and discuss the state of the world. We can all remember how things used to be in the good old days and wonder what it will take to get it back on the rails.