Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Urban Suburban *

Saturday night was our annual fundraising event for an art gallery where I volunteer. The fundraiser was an art auction and cocktail party at the gallery, complete with entertainment (fire twirling, quixotic dancers, men dressed in drag as the Desperate Housewives, you know...your standard fare). The art gallery is housed in a nursing home. This made for an interesting evening. We were told we'd have to keep the fire twirling outside, for security reasons. *rolling eyes* And the music? Outside. Because the residents had to sleep. Ah, the indignities of old age. Bedtime at 8:30, when there's a party going on. How sad. But the real fun was sitting back (I was working the check-in and check-out table all evening) and watching the art patrons interacting with the residents (those who didn't want to go to bed yet) who strolled in and around the goings-on with varying degrees of clarity and mobility, some attached to oxygen tanks and some with tri-colored tubes dangling from their necks, temporarily detached from their life-sustaining IV tubes.

As I stood at the bar waiting to order my tonic water with a twist of lime, I asked the gentleman standing next to me if he was having a good time. In return, he scowled and grunted something like, "it's alright." He asked if it was a cash bar and I told him that no, it was an open bar, hoping that might cheer him up a bit. He ordered a screwdriver and puttered off to his room, reminding me of Tim Conway on the Carol Burnett show. I bid him a good evening, hoping that he might find a little something to be happy about.

Another gentleman came by with his walker and a copy of a death certificate for a relative. I suggested he might wait until morning to turn it into someone who works in the office. And then there was Marion, who was supposed to work the front door that had to remain locked, but kept wandering off and forgetting her duties, leaving guests standing outside the glass doors. And Anna, who took a liking to me and stood at the check-out desk asking questions and initiating small talk while I tried to quickly process art sales when the flood gates opened after the auction closed. Bless their hearts.

All of these residents were not-so-gentle reminders that, if we are blessed enough to live a long life, we can also look forward to the many indignities of old age. We can fight it all we want, staying healthy and active, both mentally and physically, for as long as possible, but the end of life is just never pretty. The philosophy of the gallery is that art has the power to overcome differences and celebrate our common humanity, and at the end of the evening, I felt we did just that.

* This was the name of our event...suggesting the integration of urban artists and patrons with the suburbs, in a very suburban venue.



At 10:19 PM, October 30, 2007, Blogger Eric said...

We can fight it all we want, staying healthy and active, both mentally and physically, for as long as possible, but the end of life is just never pretty.

Ain't it the truth. Good thing that the end of life isn't, you know, the end of life.

At 8:27 AM, October 31, 2007, Blogger Gwynne said...

Good point, Eric. Doesn't this make you wonder why we struggle so with letting go?

At 10:39 AM, October 31, 2007, Blogger Eric said...

Yeah, it does. And it's sad to contemplate that for many, this present life is deemed preferable to the next, or that the very concept of "next" has been totally rejected.


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