If I won the lottery, there is one very important thing that I would do. I would save a certain, at this point, undetermined percentage of my winnings for my future nursing home, the place where I will potentially finish out this life. Because when I get too old, too sick, too unstable or too fabulously reckless to live on my own, I'm going to live in the finest damn nursing home that money can buy.
In my finest damn nursing home, I'll eat the finest damn food in the finest damn dining room with other fine, wild and grumpy women who never had children to whom we could burden our care. We'll talk about the men (or women) we have loved and the men (or women) that we have hated. We'll bitch about our aches and pains and giggle about the sorry old men with whom we must share our finest damn nursing space.
Every week, some one will die and a memorial card and flowers will be placed in the reception area. We'll get to a point where our grief will collide with our apathy and conversations of "Did you hear that Mary Lou died?" will obliviously segue into our complaints over the slightly soggy, not-so-fine cornbread and hard, tasteless pinto beans. We will no longer fear cancer and, like escaped prisoners finally caught by the law, will breathe a sad sigh of relief when it finally catches up with us.
Occasionally, one of my home mates will get a visit from a distant, forgotten family member. We'll all sit around, enduring the visitor's looks of disconcertion and sympathy, until she pulls the promised bottle of whiskey from her fancy city bag and sets it on the table. Our heads will bob through the childish patronizing conversation. Our minds will wonder why our friend tolerates such a floozy of a family member (beyond her promised delivery of a fine bottle of whiskey). And, our cataract-clouded eyes will remain firmly planted on the reassuring, amber bottle until the insufferable person returns to her outside world. When she leaves, we'll pull a bottle of Cabernet from someone's drawer of waist-high cotton panties, stash the bottles of whiskey and wine under the arms of whoever is the least likely to fall among us, and sneak into the lushest, most heavenly flower garden any of us have ever seen in our long lives.
We'll always go to the same spot, behind tall boxwoods where the nurses can't see. A ring of chairs that are only slightly uncomfortable on our brittle bones and cartilage-less joints. The new gardeners, the ones fresh out of landscape design school, will peek at us with looks of fear in their eyes, defensively gripping their hedge pruners as if our old age was going to jump out, grab them and pull them into our circle. The old gardener, the one who knows our secrets, will glance around the garden, sneak behind the boxwoods, and crouch down into an enviable squat somewhere in our circle. Then, someone will pass him the bottle of whiskey. He'll take a deep whiff, say "Ahhhh", and then "That smells real good, ladies, but you know I can't drink on the job."
We'll shoot the shit for awhile, each of us desperately, unsuccessfully, trying to remember how to flirt. Shortly, he will return to pruning the hedges, the lurking young'uns will migrate to another part of the garden, then we'll go back to drinking our toasty golden whiskey and ruby-red wine. Some of us will fall into a peaceful slumber. Some of us will talk to each other. Some of us will talk to our selves. And, some of us will fight through our unfortunate disbelief to talk to some type of god, our best and only hope for when the cancer, heart disease or atherosclerosis finally wins the battle.
In the evening, we'll put on our finest clothes if we feel like it. And, we'll put on our pajamas if we don't. We'll file into the dining room where John Coltrane softly spills from the speakers. None of the workers are in a rush to get us fed and away because they work at the finest damn nursing home earning the finest damn wages in the world. They joyfully bring us our mostly fine food and patiently wait as we talk to one another or plaintively hum Naima to ourselves, dribbling guiltlessly greasy food onto our chins and into our white linen-napkined laps.
Sometimes, they will bring in a pianist or a children's choir for after-dinner entertainment. Preferring Coltrane, Ornette or Marvin to the piano or the unending chaos of untrained children in song, some of us will retreat to our rooms. Some will finish our evening in the big room with the big TV and big, comfortable, overstuffed couches. Others of us will return to our garden.
By this time of day, dusk, the gardeners will be gone. We'll sit with our legs wide open, elastic-less socks bunched around our ankles and food full in our bellies as the evening's entertainment winds around the young pear trees, through the trained rose bushes, behind the tall, fragrant boxwoods and into our circle. Some of us will sip on coffee, others tea. The best of us will pass the bottle of whiskey, taking long sips, savoring the flavor as it tickles our lips, burns our throats, warms our bellies and soothes our old, tired souls.
As the sun dips behind the horizon and the moon peeks from behind our final earthly home, we will ease ourselves from our chairs, pull our socks to our knees (whereupon they swiftly fall again) and head back into the home. Once inside, we will give each other hugs or nods or kisses or sly pinches on saggy asses and shuffle off towards our beautifully decorated rooms.
Since I will have the finest damn corner room, I will have the farthest to walk. As I slowly, carefully walk, I will reflect on my life, thank god that I won the lottery, fart, burp, scratch an itch that I've never publicly scratched before and finish humming Naima as I enter the finest damn nursing home room that money can buy.