America Day 52 – Old Folk

She’s playing the mouth organ. I’m not really sure if it’s part of the show or just what she does. She’s good at it. But from the looks of rage given by the other old folks, she might have been practicing constantly in front of them. It’s called The Waters. It’s an old folks home. And I suspect she isn’t part of the show I’ve been asked to watch.

I don’t know these places well. Mum died young. Dad was home and then suddenly he  was in a hospice. My grandmother hit a hospice at the end too. I love the hospice. They always get my donations. It’s a good way to die.

My grandfather died very suddenly of a massive coronary in his chair after his regular morning walk and his cold shower. It was quick for him, but too early and left too much undone.

My father’s parents were dead before I had memory. As a result, Old folk’s homes are relatively unknown territory. Maybe there’s always someone playing the harmonica. Maybe it’s a special kind of hell for the residents. But I enjoyed it on a brief exposure.

They have the best pumpkin patch I have ever seen outside. There are loads of scarecrows. There are two skeletons sitting in wheelchairs holding hands. It’s hilarious, apt and macabre.


I’m here to see the Silver Linings. Fronted by Linda, they are a group of seniors who perform skits from Shakespeare. They’re doing it in another home tomorrow.

First up, the witches from Maccers. “Double Double Toil and Trouble.” Three older women speaking in gleeful unison. Plenty of cackling. All of them are wearing pointy hats. They have an actual cauldron. Thankfully they don’t have the actual ingredients – the ingredients are mimed. Macbeth has forgotten his glasses. He can remember some of it. But he feels the time pressure. Sometimes he improvises when he knows the intention but not the specific words. “Goddamn witches just do what I tell you.”

And then it’s Henry V. Crispin. 2 days from now. The Battle of Agincourt. It’s somewhat grounding to realise that the most celebrated English victory in Europe took place on St Crispin’s Day. This car crash might resolve around the same time.

The guy playing Henry V has somehow got hold of a massive heavy sword. It’s brilliant. But it’s also strangely moving. Give a different actor the same words and they hit you differently.

“Old men forget, yet all shall be forgot, but he’ll remember with advantages what feats he did that day.” (Or something along those lines.) It rings sharply to us, seeing these “seniors” doing such beautiful work with these thoughts about memory, knowing that this is their issue.

This job never ceases to surprise me. To expand my idea of “me”.

After the show tonight three of the old folks waited. I hadn’t thought they would, so I engaged myself in the bag pack until Jono came to find me and tell me they were waiting. A lovely validation. Even in small town Indiana I’m loving this job.


Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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