Red hearts are everywhere, florists are busy, and chocolate lovers are delighted. Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day approaches. And it is no different at the assisted living.
Plans are underway for the annual Valentine Gala. Stan Skeens the local DJ who specializes in music from the past, has been booked. Red and silver hearts have been hung. Pink table cloths are on the tables in the dining room. Ah, but not all is sweetness and light.
Each year at Maple Top Assisted Living, a Valentine King and Queen are chosen. Residents and staff alike are urged to place their vote in the box wrapped in pink tissue paper located in the front entry area. Sounds simple, but it can be complicated.
Remember Mr. Alvarez who was having the hot and heavy affair with Martha? Well, Martha has moved out, so he is currently playing the field. He has had a few trysts with Elva, but Elva is not ready to settle on just one man. Recently, a nurse commented that she was “scarred for life” when she walked in to Don from down the hall’s room. Elva was visiting Don and they were quite “busy”. Mr. Alvarez has been energetically campaigning to be voted King this year, but his chances are slim if he is not part of a couple. While in the past, the winners have not necessarily been a couple, it seems that “couples” are the front runners this year.
Most favored in the unofficial polls seem to be Belle and Frank. Frank lives on the first floor. Belle lives on the second floor and sits at my mother’s dining table. She has told many stories over dinner, of her gentleman friends. Her husband died at a young age and after, Belle apparently never lacked male companionship. She laughed one day and shared that “they all seem to die on me, so I have to find a new man friend every couple of years.” Recently, she and Frank, have become a couple.
when weather permits, they sit outside together on the patio holding hands, and a couple of times, when her daughter has come to visit they have all gone out to dinner. They always sit side by side in their wheelchairs during the various assisted living activities.
Arbutus also sits at the same dining table. Arbutus has been a widow for many years as well, but she chose not to date after her husband’s untimely death. In fact, she disapproves of older people dating and has pointed that out to Belle on a few occasions. Just last week, they weren’t speaking because She informed Belle that she thought it was silly for Belle and Frank to think about being Valentine King and Queen. That made for a few tense meals.
As the day approaches, tensions increase. The Activities staff have purchased formal attire at the local second hand store for those residents who need something to wear to the Gala. Taffeta formals are altered, pink tulle is steamed to get out the wrinkles. Mr. Alvarez’s daughter is livid that a “used” suit and bright red velvet bow tie has been given to him to wear. “Dad has perfectly good suits to wear. He does not need to wear second hand clothes!” And I have to admit the over-sized red velvet bow tie looked like it had lived its first life in the 70’s.
As she has each year, my mom says she is not going to attend. And then, as she has each year, at the last minute she decides she WILL attend. There is no way she is going to wear a “prom dress” so we go through her closet and find a lovely peach wool skirt, with a matching silk knit cardigan sweater that pleases her. She has a cream silk blouse with peach embroidery to go under the cardigan. We get out her pearl and rhinestone dressy earrings and her tri-strand of pearls for her neckline. Her cream pumps coordinate beautifully. It’s a challenge to get the panty hose on (each year it becomes more difficult) but we get the job done. She looks lovely – like an 87 year old woman should look for such an event. And off we go!
I complement Mr. Alvarez as he arrives. His daughter had called me earlier in the day to tell me she wasn’t going to be able to attend. She asked that I make sure he wore what SHE had picked out for him. I also promised I would take a photo and text it to her. He smiles proudly as I snap the photo. Even “Grandma” from downstairs arrives in party attire. Grandma (that’s what everyone calls her) usually wears a nightgown and is barefoot, but tonight she has on a basic black dress and bright pink slipper socks.
Glenn Miller music is playing and there are two punch bowls. Belle excitedly tells me that the one on the right is “spiked”. She is in pink with a mink stole around her shoulders and beside her, holding her hand, is Frank looking pleased and dapper in his navy blazer and tan slacks. It has been announced that he and Belle are the King and Queen! I stand to the side watching the action. A gentleman is seated nearby that I have not seen before. He stops the Activity Director, Janet as she rushes by. He points to my mother who is sitting in her wheelchair with her back to him and says “Turn her around so I can see how she looks.” So Janet spins my mother around as she says “Ruth, I think you have an admirer!”
“Oh my, you look beautiful” he says as he smiles at my mother. She gives him a cool, disinterested look as she says “Thank you. You look nice as well” and then spins around again quickly. She is NOT interested in any male companionship. The appetizers are yummy. Chocolate covered strawberries are the sweet treat and the punch is going quickly. Mr. Reynolds, who loves to dance, is dancing with one of the nurses. It is 6:30 p.m. and it’s Valentine’s Day at the assisted living.