The Force is with Mr. Gray

The Force is with Mr. Gray

My father gave my brother several creative nicknames as a kid. If you were a parent of a super common name like Michael in the ’80s/’90s, you likely felt this pain: They would yell out his name in the playground: “MIIICHAAEEEL!!!!!!” 

26 heads would turn….none of them his.  

So my dad came up with a few nicknames that to this day will whip my brother’s head around faster than you can say ContinuingCareRetirementCommunity. They are “Jake!” and “Obi-Wan!” Seems random right? Well, sorta. Jake was indeed random, but it did the job. The more appropriate nickname, however, was “Obi-Wan”— you know, as in this dude:  

  Obi-Wan Kenobi:

Obi-Wan Kenobi: “Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. The truth is often what we make of it; you heard what you wanted to hear, believed what you wanted to believe.” 

Was my dad a huge Star Wars fan? Not particularly. Did my brother think he was a wise sage who by nature of simply being himself KNEW EV-ER-Y-THANG? OHHHH yeeeeeah. Was he typically wrong? Bingo! So while my younger brother Michael lacked the wisdom he thought he was blessed with at the ripe age of 10, Mr. Gray on the other hand, has got it in spades. At least, that’s my not-so-humble opinion ;o)

Lemme explain…

Seniors know things. They just KNOW. Kind of like mothers know if their kids are sick or women get an eerie feeling if their men are cheating. It makes sense though if you think about it. They have the most life experience, so they must have a deeper and wiser perspective on most topics, from romance, to health, to family life.

The issue is, many of us (myself included as I will show you), don’t often realize it or take advantage of this wisdom and acquired knowledge. Instead, we hear what they saybut we don’t listen. Lemme present a husband/wife analogy with which we are all TOO familiar. 

Ladies want their husbands to listen to them like this:

“Go ahead. I am hanging on your every word honey.” 

And luckily, our husbands give us that undivided attention. 

Sike. You know it’s really more like this: 

“Can YOU BE-LIEVE Suzie didn’t even ASK me if she could borrow my pen and just….” I wonder if I should trade Ben Roethlisberger this week for mmmmmm burger. Actually…Doublebaconcheesburger. Beer WITH my doublebaconcheesburger. 

Like hubbies illustrate to their wifey’s on the regular, when Mr. Gray speaks, we “youngsters” are physically present (gold star for us!), but that’s about it. We see him. We hear him. Buuuuut let’s be honest, we don’t really care what’s being said and the message doesn’t really stick. However, we DO care about feigning interest to be polite, because anything else would be, well, rude. Unfortunately, this nodyourheadupanddown interaction is pretty useless and a disservice to both parties; We are passing by these stories, ideas, and opinions like stale toast, when they really are gems– Jennifer Aniston damn that engagement ring is huge she must need finger insurance GEMS!!!

Don’t believe me? Just watch…

“Judge, I’d like to take the stand and make my opening argument against MYSELF for the mistreatment of Mr. Gray.”

Circa 1997, my grandpa was in his mid 80’s and always had unique ideas. As a teenager, I definitely was guilty of the senior “yeahyeah okok suresure that’s nice” with him. I loved him dearly and knew he was smart, but I still had that subconscious he’s just being an old fogey reaction when he told me his wacky ideas. I’ll never forget being in the bathroom we shared (he lived with us) when he went on a mini-lecture about the harms of chemicals in regular deodorant. And then he whips out his “natural” crystal deodorant that looked like a piece of kryptonite and/or stalactite yanked from Luray Caverns. 

Let us pause…………………………………       ………………………………………………     …………………………………………………………………….. …………………………      ……………………………………….     …………………………………………………    ……………………………………..  ………………………………….

Yes, that’s right folks. THAT is basically what he was recommending I switch to from my smooth, white, lovely, normal, Dove deodorant. MR. GRAY YOU CRAYCRAY. My 16 year old self laughed and said something along the lines of “got it Grandpa, I’m sure it’s AWESOME and I’m so worried (not) about chemicals going into my armpit. Thanks but no thanks. You do you booboo.” 

Well, KARMAKARMACHAMELEON. Look who (me) develops chemical friggin’ sensitivity 12 years later? Yep, now I’m a synthetic fragrance free fanatic. I even give people the squinty eye and shake my head when they wear strong cologne or lotions saying to myself “Uh, can’t you see you’re killing yourself slowly and me as well? OPEN YOUR EYES PEOPLE!!!!”

Luckily, there is growing selection of these products today and I’m always on the lookout. Well lookey what I pass by in the grocery store last week:

  The crystal and all his crystal friends. 

The crystal and all his crystal friends. 

Yup, there she is in all her glory. Not only would I use this deodorant today. I would ROCK THIS ROCK. Today, many people are aware that chemicals, including those in our deodorant, impact our endocrine system, contributing to cancer, and all these other horrible things. But back 20 years ago, we didn’t know. No one was talking about that stuff. There was no Dr. Oz. No organic aisle at Giant. Fools we were….but Mr. Gray is no fool. He knew. MY Mr. Gray knew. 

He used his good ole noodle and thought to himself: “Hmmmm….chemicals….on the body…on the body means in the body…A+B=C…this is not a good combination.” 

DUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

But that’s the beauty of seniors! As we are all caught up in the sheepish do what everyone else is doing rat race, they are capable of and see the value in taking a step back to evaluate; they are able to think about things through a unique lens and arrive at common sense conclusions. What my grandpa realized about his deodorant wasn’t rocket science — but it was WISE. 

Shoulda listened. 

Well, judge, guess I am guilty as charged. But I promise I will never again doubt Mr. Gray’s wisdom. Why? Because he’s got a crystal ball and it showed him to use crystal deodorant.

 

Mr. Gray in the Garden of Eden

Mr. Gray in the Garden of Eden

Okay, no Adam and Eve eating the apple stuff here. Sorry.

But I do wanna talk to ya’ll about the The Eden Alternative. Raise your hand if you’ve heard about this?! Didn’t think so. Not your fault doh, but it is a shame because because BECAAAUUSE, because of the wonderful things The Eden Alternative does!

First, lemme show you why Mr. Gray views today’s senior facilities (nursing homes, assisted living facilities, etc.) like you view mushy peas. BLAND & GROSS! These places make Mr. Gray feel lonely, bored, and helpless. I mean, total sad face :o((((((((( Why? Because a few years in a senior facility is NOT a trip to Disney World. Personally, I envision the “Walking Dead.” This slideshow will show ya why (click on the pics to swipe right):

I mean, it’s just depressing…and not a place me, you, OR Mr. Gray wants to be.

I could go on explaining why Mr. Gray kicks and screams when someone says “it’s time to go to a nursing home”, but you guys get it. AND. Despite what you might think, it doesn’t matter if the place has crystal chandeliers and 25,000 activities OR if it’s an outdated inner city facility that smells of urine (sorry I know that was a bit TMI but it’s true). It might SEEM that Mr. Gray is better off when things are fancypants, but that’s not necessarily the case.  You know that saying “you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig”? Well that’s what these fancy facilities are — a beautiful cover up for the misery that lies beneath. And Mr. Gray sees right through it (he’s so keen like that ;o))

So, why is it that these places (dingy or gorg) that cost a fortune make Mr. Gray feel so blue? It’s because they were created based on an institutionalized model. Translation: They look, feel, and operate like a hospital/psychiatric ward/scene from “The Shining” aka not a home. The whole thing is just SO OLD SCHOOL. But without Will Ferrel. I mean it’s not the 1930’s – time to change the model people. For example, check out this nursing home that looks like a scene out of Grey’s Anatomy:

Nursing home? Hospital wing? IDONTKNOWITALLJUSTBLENDSTOGETHER

Nursing home? Hospital wing? IDONTKNOWITALLJUSTBLENDSTOGETHER

Not only does the layout still mimic hospitals with long ward-like hallways, but the care is also based on the staff’s convenience. It’s like if you paid for a week stay at a 5 star resort and the staff were helpful, but told you when to eat, sleep, drink, move, etc. UHHH REFUND PLEASE! Here’s the gist of it:

It’s all about keeping the residents alive and from falling, but it’s not about true physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.  

Sure, Mr. Gray can attend Friday night “game nights” and a Sunday sing-a-long, but that does very little to compensate for the failings of this archaic model. These facilities just focus on keeping him alive (with a little fluff on top). But survival is not happiness. It’s not fulfillment. It’s not enough for us as young adults, middle ages adults, and it’s STILL not enough for older adults. It doesn’t matter if he can’t walk anymore or he has dementia, Mr. Gray still has the potential to live life.

And this is where the Eden Alternative saves the day!!! [Cue inspirational comeback music]. Essentially, it’s a philosophy that attacks head on that loneliness, hopelessness, and boredom that Mr. Gray feels. Everything that an old school facility does, well it does the opposite so *put that thang down flip it and reverse it!* (Sorry, I really miss Missy Elliot).

Old School Facilities  MR GRAY SAYS BOOOOOOO!

  • Institutionalized model
  • Meeting basic needs is the focus
  • Staff-centric
  • Staff wear scrubs (i.e. they stick out like sore thumb & it’s all the medical feeeels)
  • Medical equipment & meds are out in the open
  • Strict and predictable schedules are followed as if the elderly were children (lunch now, bedtime now, etc.)
  • Limited access to other adults, children, and animals

VS.

The Eden Alternative Facilities   MR. GRAY SAYS YAAAAAAAAY!

  • Homelike model
  • Elderly-centric (staff support & befriend the seniors)
  • Staff wear regular clothes and blend in like family
  • Unpredictability & variety are key
  • Seniors have autonomy and a voice in their daily activities and general operations (even involved in meetings!)
  • Growing, learning, and contributing are a focus (ex. seniors can garden and grow their own food)
  • Seniors don’t just receive care, they have opportunities to give it
  • Medications, medical equipment, etc. are hidden so as to not be the focus
  • Easy access to humans (including children) & animals i.e. normal interactions

Which one would YOU choose? EA ALL DAAAAAAAY SON (OR GRAMPS) I have a dream, that one day, all senior facilities will be EA APPROVED.

So there are 2 ways to adopt the EA model: 1. A facility can go through a program with organizational restructuring, etc. and receive certification in this philosophy or 2. Be built from the ground up (*started from the bottom now we’re here*). #2 is called the “Green House Project.” These Green Houses have about 6-10 residents and look just like a regular home. Check it out:

 Pretty sure the Golden Girls live in this awesome rancher lol Note the garage, mailbox, and normal entryway. It's so house-like in every way! Pretty sure the Golden Girls live in this awesome rancher lol Note the garage, mailbox, and normal entryway. It’s so house-like in every way!

Now check out what goes on inside:

In conclusion, because I know this was a tad long but I mean, reading makes you smart and Mr. Gray told me to (his fault):

Mr. Gray doesn’t just survive with the Eden Alternative, he THRIVES, and isn’t that what he deserves? 

For more info, check it out at www.edenalt.org

P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANDPA!!!!!

Double Whammy

Double Whammy

 This is pretty much how I've looked up to older people my whole life - a bit of awe and wonder. This is pretty much how I’ve looked up to older people my whole life – a bit of awe and wonder.

You know how you hear stories about people who hit the lottery twice? Well, that happened to me, in the same day, with one minor difference. Instead of winning $350 Mill and retiring at age 35, I had TWO SIMULTANEOUS encounters with Mr. Gray. Ok, and I had to shell out a few bucks for labels. SameSame. Anywho, it was like the stars collided to give me a double dose of darling seniors.

Twins

This may surprise noone, but mailing packages is not typically one of my favorite things to do, ’til now. The other day I headed to UPS, my new favorite hangout, to mail some returns (I’d say Amazon Prime is 2nd in line to my addiction to the elderly). As soon as I got there, I noticed it wasn’t the same sweet middle-aged “What can I do for you sweetheart” lady I always see behind the counter. No no. It was Mr. Gray. And while I love that lady because who doesn’t like being called sweetheart at the end of every sentence, but BYE FELICIA.  

Well, voted off the island for this shift anyway. Frankly, not only was I elated about this new employee, but I was surprised and thought to myself:

“He’s like 90 years old. Shouldn’t he be doing a crossword puzzle or watching “The Wheel” right now?!

FYI: That’s senior speak for “Wheel of Fortune” (thanks Grandpa). Shame on me for putting Mr. Gray in a box!! In all seriousness though, it is a common problem in today’s society to stereotype the elderly as unable, both physically and mentally, to do a variety of things. Due to this, not only are we used to seeing them in certain roles in limited environments, but we don’t offer the same opportunities to them. Ageism is real and while there are laws to prevent discrimination based on age in the workplace, it’s still a reality. If you’re unsure of that, ask a 50+ person if they put their college graduation year on their resume.  It’s rare to be hired as a senior, and the older one gets, the harder it is and more unusual it is to see. I think that reality is such a shame and disservice because seniors are capable of doing so much more than playing bingo, including contributing in the workplace. That day, Mr. Gray really put my thought to shame as he clearly loved his job AND was so fast on the computer. Not to mention, he was easy on the eyes as always 😉 [Is that weird that I said that? Yeah, who am I kidding. Oh well.]

                  *JUMPS OFF SOAPBOX*                  *JUMPS OFF SOAPBOX*

But wait, there’s more! Whilst capable and confident Mr. Gray was kicking butt one scan/label at a time, Mr. Gray #2 started to roll up, literally, in his wheelchair. *Cue praise songs* I mean, what did I do to deserve this, in one day, in one store. Apparently, American Legions are soooo last year, because UPS is the place to BE! In the midst of all this internal excitement, I darted to the door to help him open it. (I always look for an “in”) After a little chitchat, which is honestly, sometimes a bit forced on my end, I went to leave and said: “Have a nice day!”  

Normal responses one expects to hear:

  1.  “You too.”
  2.  “Thanks!”
  3.  *Crickets*

But no, not Mr. Gray, he always exceeds my expectations; he rocked my brown box world and hit me with a: “It already has been…you helped me.”………SWOOOOOON. WHAT?! MARRY ME. NO THAT’S WEIRD AND WOULD NEVER WORK SINCE I’M HAPPILY MARRIED. JUST HANG OUT WITH ME FOR LIFE. Luckily none of those thoughts actually came out of my mouth. I was just kind of in awe of him. Way to keep me on my toes Mr. Gray. I’ve never heard such an optimistic and delightful response to a a boring phrase people just say on autopilot. And now you get my point. Mr. Gray is extraordinary; he expressed good old fashioned gratefulness for a tiny gesture most of us would take for granted. 

So I left UPS with 2 gems. No, I did not take Mr. Gray 1 & 2 with me. But, I did leave with 2 lessons learned: 1. Some seniors love to work and can do a damn good job. 2. Find even the smallest opportunities to be grateful.

 

Mr. Gray Can Dance!

Mr. Gray Can Dance!

Welcome welcome welcooome. So excited to meet all of you and to finally share my love of Mr. Gray (see the “Mr. Gray” page for a proper introduction). My hope is that this blog adventure will be like a beautiful blind date where you, too, will fall head over heels for Mr. Gray. I’ve been into him since the age of in utero, but ya know what they say: “It’s never too late to Go Gray.” So, whether you’re an old fogey fanatic like me or just a bit curious, let me lure you into the mystical world of seniors with DANCING…

Mr. Gray is hot like a fox trot. We’ve all seen the videos where a 90 yr old couple is breakdancing and making everyone’s jaws drop in awe of their physical prowess. Seniors don’t stop loving to dance just because they walk slower than we do. And sometimes, they do it better than us. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this cane-free since 1923 Fred Astaire:

I’m not sure what I love more, watching Mr. Gray strike these epic poses OR the trashbag of treasures on his belt. I mean, what’s IN there? Maybe it’s a cape or something because this man is SUPER! And check out the ladies that are flocking to him. What a stud.  

I admit that was an impressive video, BUT, have you ever seen an elderly Captain boogie? Well, a couple years ago, I spotted Mr. Gray at my favorite Pittsburgh Beer Hall, the Hofbrauhaus. While everyone was dancing on the tables in true German spirit, with beer spilling out of their giant mugs, I was soberly focused on more important things.

Like a moth to a flame, I spotted my white-hatted knight there on the dance floor BREAKING. IT. DOWN. 

I immediately turned green. Green with jealousy. There he was in his swanky vest with a striped tie and sleeves rolled up laissez-faire style. To complete his “I do what I want” ensemble, he wore a white captain hat as the piece de resistance. The only problem here was that he was dancing with all these other not-me ladies. *Cue eye roll* I HAD to get in there. Now, I am known to be bold and grab that beautiful butterfly when the opportunity presents, and maybe it was that hat that got me all weak in the knees, but I just couldn’t compose myself enough to jump in and steal him. Luckily, dad saved the day and before I had much chance for self-debate, he threw me to the wolves. (My family knows how I feel about Mr. Gray and fully support my vice). 

Mr. Gray was sweaty and definitely had that dancing-all-night scent, but as you can see by the smile plastered on my face in the video: “long hair don’t care.” He was SUCH a strong dance partner and leader and you better believe there was no shame is his game. He twirled me around to the tunes of Jimmy Buffet for the whole song and I could feel the confidence in his lead. At that point I was thinking the following: 1. Mr. Gray has stamina because I’m already tired and this is his 5th dance. 2.  This is already better than my senior prom (sidenote: if ONLY senior proms were really senior proms). and 3. He’s MINE ladies. Back up. I hear the band’s xylophone player is available. So yeah, it was like time froze in his arms and I could die a happy woman. So next time you’re watching DTWS aka “Dancing with the Stars” just remember that just like Julia Roberts in “My Best Friend’s Wedding”, Mr. Gray’s got moves you’ve never seen.