The insurance salesman suggested I might want to think about upgrading my long term health care policy. When I suggested the monthly payment was already too high he said, Wait. This is nothing. Next month the prices of long term healthcare will skyrocket. You should be happy you got in early.

I had lots of time to talk to the insurance agent now that I was semi-retired, so made myself comfortable in his leather chair and agreed to have him tell me more about this upgrade.

He explained that my current policy would get me a double room in a nursing home, should I need one (or did he say when I needed one?) For only NIS 165 more a month, I could have a single room, as well as access to all life-saving procedures that will be invented in the glorious future.

Of course he’s not trying to sell me anything, he assures me, he just wants to inform me of my options and save me a lot of money because this rate of an additional NIS 165 for my single room at the nursing home in 2032 is going up in July 2012.

I sat quietly and listened to him talk his talk, while in my head thoughts raced and collided like bumping cars.  The more he jabbered about my room in the nursing home, the more convinced I was that I wanted to share it with Simcha. She would be from Kurdistan and her sons would bring her kubeh soup every Friday afternoon from their restaurant in the shuk. Simcha and I would reminisce about the good old days in Jerusalem before the light rail ruined everything. She would tell me stories about how her parents walked to Palestine from Kurdistan and I would tell her how I used to skate on ice and dance under water. We would sing children’s songs from the 1970’s and wonder out loud whatever happened to Erik Einstein. Simcha would occasionally help me walk to the bathroom when our Sudanese nurse’s aid was on holiday. Hold on to the wheelchair, she’d command with her tongue and hands, and pull me along at a slow shuffle. I’d help Simcha pin her long white hair into a bun on the top of her head, as my fingers would still be agile.  She’d speak to me in Kurdish and I’d answer in English. We’d be roommates for four good years until her lungs would give out one night and she’d die in her sleep. A Thursday. When her children would come with the soup the next day, they’d give it all to me as a token of our wonderful friendship.

This and more ran through my head while the insurance salesman spoke. I told him I probably wouldn’t turn to a conventional doctor if I needed a nursing home. I’d change my diet. And if I started to lose my mind,  more than I already have, I would sign a living will asking to release me and my family from my dementia after two-six years. That’s about how long it would take the kids to work through their mourning and make peace with their mother. Then I could die.  I didn’t want to be kept alive by some new-fangled computer chip stuck in my big toe or behind my left eye.  A hundred years would be fine, thank you, as long as I was somewhat cogent during the first ninety-five.

I felt sorry for the insurance agent who must discuss the concrete nature of aging with everyone who walked into his office. I wondered how a forty or fifty year old client could possibly imagine being sixty-seven, let alone ninety-seven. Still, I was not going to buy the upgrade just because I felt sorry for the salesman.  (I had learned something during my lifetime.)

After Simcha would go, I would demand a new roommate, because under no circumstances did I want a room of my own in the nursing home. I had enjoyed a room of my own during my productive years, I told the agent, holding on to his desk while lifting myself out of his leather chair. Old age was the time to be sociable, I told him, as I shuffled out of his room, praying that a slight hip pain would not undermine my confidence.


About Judy Labensohn

I'm a writer and teacher of writing.
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8 Responses to Upgrade

  1. estherhecht says:

    Ah, but what if Simcha groaned in her sleep and babbled incessantly all day? Maybe I should be selling insurance. Or thinking about those eventualities that could be just around the corner. Truth? I prefer to keep hacking away at the translation I’m working on, even though I took a break from it to read your post. I hope my brain stays with me as long as my body does, and I hope the same for you.


  2. Joan Leegant says:

    I loved this! (Would that Simcha’s family would cook for all of us when the time came!) Another gem, Judy!


  3. Judy, the long paragraph about Simcha was worth the price of admission. I wonder if the hapless insurance agent could ever imagine what rich material he was handing over to the fiction writer sitting across from him…


  4. very funny, I would use that extra money you saved and buy yourself somethiing outrageously fun.


  5. Annael says:

    Wow, such an inspiring mining of a mundane event. Brilliant!


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