A Little Red Button

By Sandy Olson
(October 13, 2019)

red button


Let’s start out with full disclosure, as they sometimes do in New York Times editorials. I got a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) a while back and am living in a residential hospice in San Francisco instead of where I would much rather be, back at Lakeside.

I expected to live in Ajijic until my late 80s or so and die peacefully in my sleep without a stroke, but leukemia? Me? How? I asked one of the world’s leading experts on AML here in San Francisco and she answered, “Bad luck.”

So be it. We get mad or sad, then adjust to the change and surprises and one of them for me is this little red button.

I press that button and people run in and give me whatever I want in two minutes or so. Can I have a cup of coffee at 6 am with a toasted (not nuked) English muffin? Check. Can you open the window? Check? Can you turn off/on the fan? Check. Can I reserve a room for visiting friends? Check.

Can you help me to the commode at 3 am? The aide is often a young man in a baseball cap but you get used his handing over the toilet paper. Check.

All this instant and loving attention is getting to be bad for my character but I have a six month diagnosis of life and who’s going to report me to the principal or out me to a therapist, anyway? I do feel a little embarrassed at asking for so much so often but am working to get over it.

The aide staff is largely Filipino and one woman here who is from Chapala. With the exception of grumpy old Felicita Happy Little One, ha! they are warm, loving and eager to help at all times.

Here’s my point for Ojo readers.

Friends, you at Lakeside just about have those little red buttons already. In the interest of brevity it’ll be referred to as LRB.

One day I bought an office chair and one of those guys who work outside Costco (LRB) managed to wedge it into my car somehow. I chose not to worry about what to do when I got home and had to get it upstairs.

I couldn’t ask my friend with the bad knee to do it. (All the gringos have bad backs and hips and knees these days; have you noticed that?)

We arrived at the house and there just happened to be two sturdy young men standing around. They carried the box upstairs (LRB) and set it on the balcony.

I assumed that the gardener was capable of assembling the chair but he couldn’t, so an hour later showed up with another young man who could do it and who took away the empty box too (LRB).

Now some of you left comfortable lives up north, and decided as a sensible couple to relocate. You are already familiar with getting a lot of help when you need it.

You think nothing of hiring someone for the day to take you to Guadalajara to find that hidden place in some grubby mall where your helper can show you where to stand in the old folks’ line and get in and out of there in 30 minutes with the new license that actually has a nice photo.

I’ve never seemed to attract rich people in life. And it’s the same with the people I meet at Lakeside. Most new friends and arrivals can be classified as “economic refugees,” if this hasn’t happened already.

They haven’t been spoiled with services up north. They hardly have time to finish their IHOP breakfast before the waitress slaps down the check.

A fill up at the gas station can include breakdowns at the pump and trips into the office where you can’t understand Vietnamese. People at the city agencies have unintelligible accents and if you have phone troubles you might be talking to someone in India, or Florida, or anywhere else (actually that can be kind of fun, a chat with a new person).

If they ever did, they don’t any more shop at Whole Foods or Trader Joes, more likely now at Target or standing in line at the Family Dollar Store.

And then there’s ailing Mom. She isn’t doing that well and the family is talking about her growing dependence and what to do about her.

So thoughts move south and these refugees start showing up at Lakeside.

New friends, I want to repeat that each of you just about has one of those little red buttons already, a version of the one sitting on my hospice bed, Newcomers can afford a nice inexpensive meal of wholesome fresh ingredients (LRB) and sit as long as they want without being hassled by a waiter (LRB).

They go to the mercado daily and to the tianguis on Wednesday for colorful shopping (LRB). Gas? The attendant will do a full service while you wait. (LRB)

Doctor problems? Doctors make house calls or send representatives. They even drive you to Guadalajara. (LRB)

And Mom can get into one of these nice assisted living places with warm and caring attendants for a fraction of what it would cost up north (LRB).

I can’t say I want to invite you to be with me in adjoining beds in this hospice experience but I will be thinking of you when I press that button and am grateful that foresight? wisdom? dumb luck? whatever, took us all to beautiful Lake Chapala.

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