I write this while surrounded by the elderly, the homeless and the ignorant.
Every time I come to Reno to visit my 86-year-old mother I get worn down by the shocking lack of compassion and empathy in this city and at my mom’s “premier” living situation. The rent is appalling. Considering that, the level and quality of service at this independent living facility is way off balance. Knowing that mom pays more in rent in four months than I make in a year seems absurd.
On top of the rent, they take every advantage at every opportunity. Lost your key to the room? That’s $15. Want to have a guest for your horrific dinner? That’s extra even though you will never eat your food allowance. Want to gather your friends in the “private” dining room? Get out your card. Want to exercise? Extra. Park a car? We need more. Want an internet connection? Everyone in the building has to set up their own account and spend more than $80 per month.
And that’s just the start. Her mailbox is full of deceptive mailings and manipulations that make my head spin (and I still have most of my marbles). She doesn’t understand what’s coming in the mailbox and sees some mailers as bills and writes checks for periodicals that she can’t read and charities that are top heavy with suits and/or not really charities at all. Disgusting.
Of course it does not stop there. It seems that everyone from the family to complete strangers have their hands out. The land line rings relentlessly with sales pitches, scams and deceptions. Happily, she rarely answers that but the land line is bundled with the insane price of the cable television bill so she’s stuck with it.
And TV? Thankfully all she wants to watch is Judge Judy and Dr. Phil. I don’t even have TV but when I go to mom’s and browse the channels, she doesn’t get much. Want to watch a movie? That’s extra. HBO? Click here to subscribe. Alexa? Too confounding and they want an extra $80 per month to talk to a robot that’s silently tracking her every question, utterance and purchase. What’s new with Alexa? She wants more data and more money, that’s what.
We should be easing our elderly into a gentle glide to the afterlife but we are too busy and instead find “a place for mom.” After all she doesn’t want to be a burden and most of us don’t make time to care for our indigent. A place for mom? These places are full of moms … hunched over their walkers, confused and alone, except for the other moms going through the motions. Amazingly, some manage to keep smiling through it all. A little winde goes a long way. The population at my mom’s detention center is mostly women because most of their men are long dead.
I drove my mom to a little town over the hill in California to watch her great granddaughter take a horseback riding lesson. Crossing the state line from Nevada to California is like visiting another planet. The roads are perfect. There’s no trash. There are no sleazy casinos with signs encouraging people to come “win.” The schools are funded. Safety nets are still in place. California is not perfect but it beats Nevada by a mile.
Reno is pretty much a desperate dump. Especially if you are down and out or, heaven forbid, homeless. The desperate are out there with their shopping carts and camo jackets. Even my mom is wondering what the hell is going on.
Back in her apartment the TV blares with political advertisements that are so negative and false that she’s afraid to vote. The ads are relentless and they either paint a picture of Reno that is so idyllic or they point out the fatal flaws of opponents or common sense legislation. If they took all the corporate money spent on deceiving the public and used it on housing homeless vets that problem would be solved.
My mom looks to the sky and sees planes flying overhead and proclaims that someone is spraying us from every commercial jet with a vapor trail behind it. She’s convinced! I try to tell her not to worry about things out of her control but she still gets wound up about jets and Hillary and the low ranking of Nevada schools.
Sometimes I take her to church but I notice that those in the robes and coned hats want some of her worldly cash to help usher the good people to heaven. Jesus could walk into the sanctuary from the street and they’d kick him out because he looks like a “bum.” Irony and agony are but a collection basket away.
They just raised mom’s rent again and she wants to downsize. A smaller space could save her about $700 per month. We looked at an apartment upstairs that was not yet clean or presentable. It smelled of musty cats leaving their musty scents on everything for years. I asked if they were going to replace the carpets and was told that the apartment had to be assessed before that could be decided. I wondered if the guy showing us the place had eyes and a nose. These places are full and if you want a space you’d better jump on it, dander, piss and poop included until death do you part.
Fifteen years ago my dad left my mother enough money to live pretty well s and compared to the veterans on the streets she’s living high off the hog. But I could never afford it and would probably rather live under the bridge than in a gilded money funnel, anyway. I have to figure out something because life in your late ’80s is not easy.
When mom’s cell phone rings she races to find it before it stops ringing. Sometimes she catches it before the call is terminated but almost every time there’s someone on the other end that does not have her best interests at heart.
Steve Skinner calls his mom and envisions her scrambling for it, hoping it’s someone that cares. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.