In the Reminiscence Neighborhood, Bingo can be exciting.
In addition to what numbers are called and varying levels of ability at covering numbers, you've got many other levels of chance: whether players will leave the table, whether someone not playing will make an escape attempt through the secure door, whether someone's heart or brain will shout "Bingo," ending the game.
Today I called Mom to say, "I'm flying home from New York--I'll see you tomorrow."
"I'm winning!" she reported, using the cell phone of her caregiver, Jona.
Within minutes I boarded the plane and turned off my cell phone, happily, thinking "For the next five or six hours, no one needs me. I can be out of touch with the world."
But half an hour later, Jona noticed that Evelyn was slumped in her chair.
"Evelyn, are you okay? Evelyn!" All the care givers joined in the effort to rouse her, but she sat motionless, her body bent forward and to one side.
"Evelyn, can you talk to me? Evelyn! Can you talk to me?" cried Jona. This had never before happened in the year she had been working six days a week as Evelyn's private caregiver. There had been a crisis three months earlier, an allergic reaction causing Evelyn's tongue to swell and block her airway, but that had happened on Connie's shift, and today seemed different from that. Her tongue was not swollen, though it was hanging out of her mouth, and saliva was drooling from each corner.
"Marnie, call 911!" Jona decided.
Phone calls went out and almost two minutes passed as she continued to be unresponsive. Everyone tried to rouse her.
And then, amazingly, she opened her eyes. "Leave me alone... I want to go back to my room."
Meanwhile the nurse's aide and medications nurse rushed into the room from the second floor to find a big fuss being made over a patient who seemed to be fine.
"Why did you call 911? She doesn't need to go to the ER."
"Anne told us to call 911 if anything happens, even if it turns out that she's fine."
"You didn't need to call 911!"
Then the paramedics arrived, trying to assess the situation.
"Leave me alone--let me go back to my room!" Evelyn yelled.
"She's pale--her skin is cold," Jona told them. "She was unconscious for one or two minutes."
"I was just sleeping," Evelyn insisted.
But the paramedics took her vitals and decided not to take any chances. Over her protests, they put her on a stretcher and carried her out to the ambulance. Jona stayed with her and negotiated the questions and paperwork of the emergency room--all without so much as a Medicare or Blue Cross card.
Meanwhile Lorraine at the reception desk of Ocean View Assisted Living was enjoying a real emergency. She reached Emily at a football game in Maryland: "Your mother's unconscious! The paramedics are arriving!" Somehow word of Evelyn's miraculous recovery never reached her as she witnessed the action at the front door, including the inglorious exit via stretcher.
Lorraine did not reach me. I was peacefully reading The Atlantic at 40,000 feet, then sleeping for the last hour of the flight.
"You may turn on your cell phones," I heard and realized we were taxiing to the gate. When I turned the thing on, it exploded with messages.
Emily in a voice of alarm: "Mom's been admitted to the hospital. She was playing Bingo...."
John in a text message: "I visited your mother in the ER. She seems fine but--"
Groggily, I stumbled off the plane and to the baggage area, where John met me and took me directly to the hospital. By the time I got to bed, it was 3 am New York time.
In the constant game of chance at Ocean View Assisted Living, Mom was the winner of today's prize: an ambulance ride.