Uli Jr and Mrs. Uli Jr left soon after the singing stopped, just before the walkers and wheelchairs jammed in front of the elevators that would take the residents back to their rooms. That left Mom, Uli, and me sitting at our table, waiting for a break in the traffic.
Once the Uli Jr's were gone, the wrath of Uli was unleashed. Uli, who did not rely on a walker or wheelchair, complained that, at 96 years, he did fine on his own. He had maintained his independence-mowing his own lawn, washing his own car. Mrs. Uli was the culprit that put him in the tower. His comments were punctuated by sidelong glances from my mother to me, shot at me to infuse just a dab of guilt for the holidays.
I shot glances right back, as if to say "Yes, Mother, we put you here. But you won't walk and are overly dependent on a motorized wheelchair and motorized La-Z-Boy, and won't do the slightest bit of exercise to strengthen your muscles so that you can live more independently." But my look fell, as usual, on deaf eyes.
Uli, while able to get around on his own, walked with a wobbliness that betrayed the potential for catastrophe that his family must have feared. Should his family left him in his own home? I don't know. That's a question most of my friends my age have to wrestle with these days. Our parents can no longer live without assistance, but don't want to surrender control.
As the second wave of wheelchairs and walkers crowded around the elevator, the self-ambulatory residents, learning long ago the virtue of patience, busied themselves with other activities as the staff broke down the banquet tables and chairs and put the visiting area back in order.
One woman, Selma, began working on the community jig-saw puzzle.
"Oh, she's good at those puzzles," Mom said. "Let's go take a look."
Selma, indeed, worked quickly at finding a proper match for each piece.
"We've got hundreds of puzzles," Uli informed me. "They're all in that cabinet."
He got up and almost sprinted to the cabinet and opened it's doors, revealing hundreds of puzzles, containing one, two, as many as five-thousand pieces. We could have had a puzzle party.