Rick Sanatorium

“I watched the debate last night, you know, the one with that awful fellow, Rick Sanatorium,” said my 91-year-old neighbor, Joan.

“Santorum,” I corrected.

“Anyway, I watched that Sanatorium for an hour and a half. It made me sick to my stomach. I also heard he‘s raping women with wands.”

Joan is visually impaired. And it’s amazing how much a person relies on both sight and speech to get the facts straight. Especially regarding who said what to whom. “I think that’s the governor of Virginia,” I said.

“Can you explain that wand thing? Is what Sanatorium’s doing really rape?”

I come from an ovarian-cancer family. So I have some personal familiarity with the wand thing in what you might call the voluntary way. I considered what you might call the “involuntary way.”

“Yes. It’s rape.”

“I thought so.”

“But it’s the governor of Virginia who’s doing it.” I thought I could perhaps clarify that a bit more. But I was not getting very far, even with Sanatorium.

Due to her age and disability, Joan relies on Chris and me in a lot of ways. With a little help from her friends to augment her daytime aide, Joan remains largely independent, and—most important—in her own home. We’re there if the TV remote acts up, or the pill bottle cap won’t come off. Or to get books on her Kindle. Joan can’t get the language straight for that either. She says “Unload” rather than “Download.” As in, “Can you unload something onto my Kindle?”

“Download,” I’ve said fifty times.

I seem to have an obsessive need to correct her. It’s like I want more of an impact than just on pill bottles and cable boxes. If I can somehow help her get the facts and the names straight, I’m improving her sight just a little bit. Really keeping her out of the Sanatorium.

“Golly, I remember in 1952. I went all out for Adlai Stevenson. I worked like mad for him. On the phone all day long.”

“Too bad he lost.”

“And we were always marching. I went to Washington to support pro-choice and civil rights. That’s what’s great about being young. You have so much optimism, and the energy to be passionate.”

The Greatest Generation is so naïve, I thought. Even more so as they age, with all the attendant verbal and factual foibles.

Through the lens of my Gen-X cynicism, I clearly see how every once-venerated and trusted institution has committed treason against its people. From the Catholic Church and its pedophile cover-up, to Congressmen whoring themselves out to big donors, to the Country waging war for oil.

“Yeah, I don’t think people feel that way anymore.”

“Sure they do. Just look at that awful Sanatorium.”

I suddenly felt ready for a Sanatorium.

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