What felt like an eternity dressed in an atrocious hospital gown was finally over. Four months had passed since I stroked out at Robard’s Steakhouse during Maggie’s 50th birthday (Happy Birthday darling; I can’t believe I have a child who is 50!) and was dramatically whisked to the emergency room, then hospital and then into rehab. At my age any injury reminds you of the old board game Mousetrap – where one thing sets off another. The stroke had caused me to fall which caused an infection in my hip which has recently been replaced. Nothing is simple or easy when you are in your 80s.

Finally, I am back to luxury living at Avanti: high thread count sheets, plush towels and my own designer nightgown, robe and slippers. Personally, I think it’s a bit over the top to make me arrive through the “celebrity entrance” in back in an ambulance, but I did need a little extra help since the stroke – I am still not perfectly steady on my feet. My titanium hip is still in recovering mode and I’m on a boatload of new cardiology pills and blood thinners.

There was a new art installation of beautiful hand blown glass hanging above the main hallway. It was magnificent. So full of color and life.  That art was like an elixir to me as I passed beneath it. This purveyor of the pretty was so happy to be home!

Mandy, Avanti’s Engagement Director, welcomed me with a Texas-size hug and a fragrant bouquet of hyacinths (my favorite) and wheeled me to the private medical examining room where Maggie had arranged for Dr. Langford, my new cardiologist, to examine me upon arrival. This really was Avanti “rock star” treatment – having a beautifully appointed private medical room where the doctor comes to me.

Mandy and I fussed and fawned over each other as she helped me wiggle onto the examination table. She had cut her hair shorter with layers and this really suited her oval-shaped face. As we waited for Dr. Langford, Mandy told me she had some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that I had been selected to be part of Avanti’s new Personal Tablet Pilot Testing Program. Avanti had purchased several Samsung personal tablets for a new resident technology program – that would put all of Avanti’s residents’ needs at their fingertips: menu of the day, exercise class start times, roster of activities and games, internet, email, texting – useful communication tools. I was to use the tablet and make comments on what I liked and did not like and offer suggestions.

The bad news was Gwendolyn, my nemesis, had also been selected for the Personal Tablet Pilot Testing Program, which meant we’d be texting one another and booking social events together, making restaurant reservations on our tablets as part of the experiment.

Mandy handed me my shiny new tablet. I liked how large it was (like an iPad), how big the font was (I didn’t even need my readers!) and how it was housed in a bright neon orange, rubbery like case that prevented the screen from cracking from accidental drops. The case also had two large handles on each side – so it was easy to grasp. Very thoughtful.

I liked playing on my Personal Tablet already. Quickly, I selected Photos and up popped up a group of photos from yesterday’s Root Beer Float Social. This was fun! I saw my bestie, Lillian, in a pink satin jacket sipping a delicious looking root beer float. She looked great. It was a delight to scroll through the pictures and catch up on all I had missed during my rehab until I came across one photo that made me gasp for air (and not in a good way). It was a photo of Wes with Gwendolyn in profile almost forehead to forehead sharing a root beer float together with two straws! Gwendolyn was wearing a scarf around her neck and hair in a ponytail and Wes was wearing a leather jacket and had slicked his hair back in true 1950’s fashion. It was such a sugary sweet image it made my teeth hurt.  And it made me mad. Very mad. Has Gwendolyn no shame?

Dr. Langford and his chief resident Michael, who was pursuing a degree in geriatric care, arrived and listened to my heart, went over my medications and checked my chart. Michael was as kind and funny as his eyelashes were long and enchanting. Normally, I would have flirted with him and said something about how it was unfair men got the long lashes when it’s the women who want them and need blah, blah, blah, but I chose to remain quiet, because I was stewing over the fact Wes was with Gwendolyn now. It was such a poor choice on his part. How could he stoop so low? I didn’t expect him to stay faithful to me. Sheesh at our age, with death hanging on our doorknobs I get it – you have to move on. But with Gwendolyn? Pluh-ease! I wondered if he pursued her or if it was the other way around. I’m putting my money on Gwendolyn going in for the kill probably the same day I had my stroke. Oh, where is Lillian?  She’d have the grub!

I checked my Personal Tablet and could see Lillian was in The Stitch and Bitch Club so she’d be busy knitting for at least another 15 minutes. Hmmm. My wheels were turning. It was almost dinner time. On my Personal Tablet I selected Taste Restaurant and made a reservation. I was really taking to the Personal Tablet — it was easy to navigate and fun knowing what your resident friends were doing to keep busy.

I overheard Michael telling Dr. Langford this was his last stop for the day and he was going to grab a bite to eat before his night class. “Wait,” I interrupted. I had a better idea. I grabbed Michael by the wrist, and whispered in his ear while I pointed to the flowers Mandy had kindly bought for me.

“Alright, Darlene, it’s hard to say NO to you and it would save me time with traffic,” he said.

I clutched my Personal Tablet with excitement as Mandy wheeled me out of the room. I felt so alive again.

10 minutes later I was sitting at the best table at Taste with Lillian, Gwendolyn and Wes. From under the beautiful glass installation in the main hallway walked Michael, the young handsome doctor-to-be, like a model on a runway, towards me. The whole room of elderly men and women became silent as they checked out this vibrant young man with his caterpillar eyelashes.

“For you,” Michael said as he handed me flowers (the ones Mandy had given me), kissed my cheek and sat down beside me.

“Oh, thank you. Hyacinths. My favorite,” I beamed.

“Cougar,” said Gwendolyn under her breath while doing an eye roll.

“Hiss!” I formed my rheumatoid arthritis hand into a claw and pawed at her in the air.

Lillian almost fell off her chair laughing. Wes toasted my return and we all clinked drinks. As the menus were opened, I snuck a wink to Michael who smiled. He was going to be a great doctor one day. I was extremely grateful to him and to Mandy for the all the personalized patient recovery care at Avanti.