I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting. I think it was Tevye.
Yes, I was expecting Tevye, cleaned up and in a suit. Not singing “If I Were a Rich Man,” because he was a rich man. Maybe singing, to the tune of “Anatevka,”
Focus Rehab, Focus Rehab
Understaffed, overworked, Focus Rehab…
No, wait, he wouldn’t be singing about the staffing shortage. See? I didn’t know what to expect.
These are the things I knew about the new owner:
- He was wealthy.
- He owned multiple nursing home facilities.
- He talked in circles.
- He was Jewish.
How or why my father knew that he was Jewish was a mystery to me and I didn’t pursue it. I hate stereotypes and his personal faith didn’t matter to me, or so I thought.
“Jewish” translated into Tevye in my mind.
And then he was late for the Family Council meeting at the nursing home.
“LATE!” I jotted into my little notebook. Not a good first impression.
For one thing, Tevye had said, “I won’t be late! I won’t be late! If you ever stop talking, I won’t be late!” Maybe there was a Golde behind the scenes talking to him.
When he walked in the door I barely noticed him. I thought he was a late-arriving family member, but he walked right over to the seat next to the administrator, the seat reserved for Tevye.
He was not Tevye.
For one thing, he was tall and thin, the kind of person who folds when he sits down and unfolds when he stands again. His pants were about an inch too short at the ankles and an inch too high at the waist. The muted tones of his plaid shirt were understated and unassuming, like he was. Quiet, mild, yet articulate when he spoke. And young. He could have been a future son-in-law to Tevye, but not Tevye at all.
Except for the yarmulke.
He wears his faith, I thought.
Almost immediately people started demanding answers from him about staff shortages and retention of the remaining staff.
He sat, calmly folded in his chair, legs folded as he crossed them at the knee, manicured hands folded across his knee, body folded somewhere between slouched and erect. He seemed so relaxed.
And he calmly fielded the questions and spoke of industry standards and union negotiations.
I wanted to say that no one cares about industry standards. These are our parents, not statistics.
Others spoke up though, and talked of how much better this place was than some other one.
And I wanted to say to them that I don’t want relatively good care for my mother. I want the best care.
He stayed with us for an hour and a half. Listening, responding, listening some more.
He knew his stuff. He fully understood the business end of this industry.
He was clinical, dispassionate — but those are words that have been used to describe me.
And he wore his faith, there, for us all to see, right on the top of his head. It must matter to him in some way — maybe culturally, maybe religiously.
Either way, Tevye liked to say, “As the Good Book says…”
And as the Good Book really does say, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)
I have hope that he will understand that that is the bottom line in this “industry.”
It’s not about comparing ourselves to industry standards, but doing everything in our power to rise to standards set millennia ago.
Our parents deserve the best. It’s our job to honor them in that way.