I’m feeling patriotic today. And I’m not talking about animal doctors. It’s about the quality of life and what is commonly referred to here as “Minnesota Nice”. It’s simply a way of being. It must be built into the genetic Minnesota code somehow, so that it’s the norm to have pleasant, you-bet-cha responses from every front and encounter. We’re shaking our heads on a daily basis, chuckling aloud, giving each other knowing glances and nods each time it happens. And, believe me, it happens EVERYWHERE – the Pamida pharmacy, the state licensed liquor store, the DMV, the State Bank and Trust where they bake six kinds of fresh cookies each day and call out – “Thank You Johnsons!” when we complete our transaction. It makes me wonder just how Minnesotans (and I include North Dakota here) must feel when they move to other locales. Like a Walleye out of water, evidently.
In the years when my son, Kevin Grey (as we call him to distinquish from our other Kevin and the yet “other Kevin Johnson”) was in Aid’s homes, nursing centers, hospitals, and finally hospice, and in the brief time I spent with Harriet in her last few months at the Danish Center Rehab, I realize I have had a lifetime of experience in care facilities. That is not to disparage any of the above. For the most part we lucked out. But today I entered a new dimension.
It began when T. M. transferred his medical care from Fort Ord in Monterey County California to the Veteran’s clinic in Fergus Falls which is also part and parcel of a “Veteran’s Home”. We previously thought that Fort Ord was a pleasant and admirable facility. And it is. But today we came face to face with Minnesota Nice to the Max.
As I waited in the comfy lobby and worked on my Sunday New York Times Crossword, I encountered three older gents who shuffled by on their walkers or wheelchairs and stopped to chat about something only known to their personal inner life. But they were all sweet and, even if in some parallel universe, part of a benevolent new society. One of them even told me that I was much beloved and appreciated. Was he an angel? One old darling tried to shuffle out the front door and his personal alarm system triggered all the bells and whistles. The nurse that arrived post haste, began (not by scolding for his near escape and off-limits exit) but by complimenting Bob on his cap and how well it fit and suited him, and then enticed him down the hall for cookies and coffee (cookies again). Brad, at the reception desk, set aside pressing calls to take the time to chat about trucking and managed to wend his way through a sea of confusion with another old vet. It was an hour steeped in nostalgia and grace.
We ran into my angel, actually, when we took a quick tour down the hall and found that his name was Lyle Alystad and his life was pictured just outside of his room, and he too had been a Marine, but in the second W.W.
From there we meandered past one of the nostalgic rec rooms and the blown up photos of Fergus Falls, as known so long ago to many of the residents.
But the best part of all was in the inner courtyard garden where one old vet watered the flowers and I marveled at the tomatoes (so much better than mine) and the perennials reigned supreme.
Here is something I never thought I would ever say – but – “Thank you for your service!”