Hope I Die Before I Get Old

Page 9 of 9

Like most nursing home residents, the inhabitants of Mara Villa Care Center aren't in a position to protect themselves.

Katherine Bautista, 82, drifts in and out of lucidity as she describes life at the home where she's lived for eight years. Call lights aren't always answered promptly, she says. "I used to have pretty good service, but lately it hasn't been no good," she says. She misses taking trips in the home's van, which is parked outside but is so old and broken down that it's no longer considered safe. "We went to the airport," she says. "We went to the park and had a picnic."

But Bautista isn't the type who complains a lot. The fresh paint and new flooring please her eyes, she says. Drying off with sheets and pillow cases is no big deal. "I don't mind," she says. "At least you can get dry with it."

Ronald, age unknown, is even more stoic.

Do you have any complaints?, he's asked.

"I don't give a damn," he answers.

Does a lack of towels bother you? "Don't bother me worth a shit," he responds.

How do you spell your name?

"I don't give a damn."

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Bruce Rushton