Retirement centers are a bizarre thing. [North] Americans, and how we treat our elderly for that matter is generally a bizarre thing, or so I used to think. When people grow old in traditional villages in Vietnam, for instance, family and friends care for them at home until their dying days. In the states, the elderly are more typically sent to nursing homes — the kind of stark contrast that can come off as unfeeling, even cruel.
But what is one to do when say, your Grandmother starts to show tall tale signs of dementia and everyone in the family is either working full-time or going to school? I remember the first time my family had the conversation to move sweet Granny Mac in to a nursery home. I was 17, it was 2 AM in the morning, summertime, and I had received a phone call from the San Diego Police Dept. (I should mention we lived in Westminster at the time, not exactly a stone's throw away from the good ol' SD). My heart was racing, trying desperately to think of what crime they could possibly be pinning on me. 'Is this Christina Craig?' [long pause] I was the total goody two shoes type. This phone call didn't make sense. Did I jaywalk one vacation many years ago and had the CIA finally tracked me down? Finally I managed to reply with a 'Errmm yeah.. this is Christina... How can I help you?' There was another long pause (on their end this time around) then, 'Yeah okay. Um Miss Craig, are you by chance missing a Grandmother?' To which I ran to my Grandmother's room and found myself coming to the same conclusion — indeed, I was missing a Grandma. Apparently, as they would later piece together, she had cashed out her latest retirement check, hopped on the nearest Greyhound, then rode it all the way down to the south county casinos. Everyone else had gone home for the evening and she was the last person there- confused as to why she was where she was, how she had gotten there, and what's worse, grossly addicted to gambling.