My kids have put me into Green Haven, a "retirement home" and they are feeling guilty. I don't mind Green Haven so much at all, but I like to see them squirm. This is probably the first time in their complacent little lives they have ever felt any real guilt, or even much of anything beyond a vague sense of put-uponness or self-satisfaction. I do wish they wouldn't feel the need to visit quite so often and I definitely wish they would leave those fat, sullen, cellphone-dependent brats of theirs at home. We'd all be happier that way.
I wish they would quit bringing me food treats too. They of course believe all institutional food is by definition inedible so every time they visit they bring meals. My daughter Julie's made from a mix brownies are appreciated, especially by the other "residents" of Green Haven, but not even the stray cats will touch Mary Ellen's chicken salad. I have worked out an arrangement with one of the nurses here, Marie. I give her the chicken salad and she lets her daughter feed it to the 4H-project pig, and Marie sneaks me in pitchers of Bloody Marys already mixed up to keep in my mini-fridge. Everybody is happy that way, especially the pig, who I understand is named Marge, after that funny cartoon lady on TV. The salad, like most of everything else Mary Ellen makes, is chockablock with mayo and various other goopy substances that don't do me any good but are probably perfect pig food, and I hope Marge wins a blue ribbon at the fair. Sometimes I try to give the grandkids money, because that's what grandparents do, right? My own dear Granny Ruth used to come visit us twice a year and always made sure to leave us with a little something. In those days, of course, a very little something went a pretty long way. Nowadays of course you're lucky if you can buy a Pepsi from a machine for fifty cents. So I adjust for inflation and give the kids twenty bucks apiece, minimum. They accept it in the remote, impersonal nongratitude you see in toll-takers and parking garage attendants, but their parents always protest. My son Dave always says "You ought to hang onto your money, Ma. Time enough for that when..." then he trails off and seems embarrassed. He means "Time enough for us to have your money when you're dead" but of course he'd deny it if you pointed it out to him, and who knows, he might even believe his denial.
But none of them know that they should accept my little gifts with more appreciation, because *now* is the time for them to get it! My dirty little secret, which I confide only to you and to Mr. Peter Huckaby, my lawyer, is this:
None of them are getting a blessed thin dime when my time comes! The house and car are to go to Way Home, our local charity that helps the homeless and down-and-out. My jewelry goes to Vintage Charm, an outfit in New Mexico that sells old jewelry or makes new jewelry out of its parts. And all the rest is to be split equally between Jose and Amanda. Jose is the groundskeeper here at Green Haven. He has two kids in college and is bound and determined that the other three should go as well. He works like a maniac and so does his wife and all but the very youngest of their kids.
Amanda is the night nurse, and a kinder, livelier and more considerate soul you will never meet. Her dream, which she has confided to me over a late-night cup of hot chocolate when, as so often happens, I find myself uninterested in sleep, is to buy up the old McNaughton house over in Spring Creek and transform it into a bed and breakfast/bakery. I've eaten her homemade bread and cookies and I think financing her dream is a no-brainer of an investment.