Conversation over dinner at Willamette Oaks, my senior residence, can be predictable. We don’t always sit with the same people every evening but our discussions tend to follow a pattern. After effusive greetings we get down to business, leading off with an organ recital, the heart and bladder being of primary interest.
Next we have a joint discussion, with the back and the knees of first importance, followed by hip replacements. At the mention of a new or recurrent symptom or complication, our ears prick up and we interrupt one another with detailed accounts of our own experiences with the exact same thing, each of us privately certain that no one else has suffered as much as we have.
These comments segue nicely into details about meds, shots and other related subjects. From this the conversation turns to who the E.M.T.s picked up on their last visit, whether they were admitted to the hospital, and a complete update on everyone’s well-being.
It’s not that we’re being ghoulish, not us, we’re really very nice people, just caring. In our age group, everyone’s health is important to us.
When we find ourselves seated with newcomers, we never intend to get nosy, we just want to be friendly. We might subject them to a barrage of questions, all meant to welcome them and put them at ease. However, by the time we’re satisfied, they’re wondering if they’ve had to pass a test to be allowed to stay here, while all we want is to be able to remember their names and faces, at least for a day or two. There again, not nosy at all, just caring. We’d hate to be thought of as shallow.
We’re also never catty about one another. Oh, there may be a stray comment now and then, “Where on earth does that man buy his shirts?” or “Hasn’t she worn that blouse every day this week?” Someone did remark once, “Tights! With those hips? I don’t think so!” but such remarks aren’t really catty. Or are they? Maybe a tiny bit but we mean well.
One subject everyone agrees on is our young, energetic servers, We adore them, maybe there’s more than a touch of envy there, but they’re all neat kids.
There will probably be a brief discussion on current events, No one reaches our age without being a bit firm minded on most subjects, not opinionated, not us, just a bit firm. As this part of our conversation continues, there may be a lone dissenter or two. We assure them that we love them anyway. These are usually the same people who wonder why we can’t have stewed prunes on the dessert menu every evening.
The idea of stewed prunes brings us to our ongoing discourse on the food, invariably our main topic. Was it hot food on cold plates or cold food on hot plates tonight? Were the veggies over or undercooked.? Opinions are always evenly divided here. How about seasonings? Here again half of us want garlic in everything and the other half swear they were up all night popping Rolaids after finding a shred of onion in the stew. We all agree that if the green bean crop in the Willamette Valley ever failed, we’d probably starve to death, but we usually have a nice variety.
It follows that every dish is compared to the way we used to prepare it, the way our mothers made it, and the fact that they and our grandmothers were the best cooks ever. Never mind that those old dears used pure lard with abandon, real butter, whole cream and lots and lots of eggs. Nutrition was unheard of and nobody cared,
And so we wind up our dinner conversations with our favorite subject of all, the wonderful way things were “back then.” Wallowing in nostalgia, goodnights are warm. We’re all agreed that we aren’t really ghoulish, opinionated, nosy or catty, well, maybe a tad catty once in a great while, but overall we’re pretty darn nice. And definitely envious when it comes to our young servers.
It may seem as if we waste a lot of time on chatter. Well, yes and no. Taking into account all the time spent trying to recall a word, a name, or an entire train of thought, or the need to repeat ourselves, the evening passes quickly.
Before we know it, another night and another dinner will roll around and we’ll be right back at it. And who knows , we may end up repeating the exact same discussion we’ve had the past few nights and have already forgotten. To those of us with faulty memories, life is always fresh and interesting and dinner is the time for new memories.