Wanda here. I’m the director of Social Services at the Lutheran Home. I do a little bit of everything around here. I’m the chief cook and bottle washer, so to speak. Mainly I’m in charge of patient welfare. I see to it that the gals get new undies when they need them and that the guys get to the grocery store when they run out of oatmeal or prunes. It’s a good job. Busy, busy. But that’s the way I like it. And George and Ida are good people to work for.
If you have to be in a nursing home, this is a good place to be. Nobody volunteers to get in here, I suppose, but we take good care of the residents. We go the extra mile. The food is good, and we give the seniors lots to do. There’s something going on all the time. Talks, music, Bible study, exercise classes, bingo. Nobody gets a chance to sit around feeling sorry for himself.
Did I see trouble coming when Mack and Archie moved in? No, I didn’t. Mack was okay until Archie showed up. Mack got along with people, and he didn’t complain. It was the two of them together that caused the problem. They egged each other on.
Oh, Mack had an eye for the ladies, so I should have seen that coming, I suppose. But when he started mooning over Rose, it seemed innocent enough.
About the other, I didn’t have a clue.
Mack was popular with the other residents, especially the ladies. He was a tall, lanky fellow with a full head of white hair. “The Silver Fox” was a nickname that one of the women gave him. They didn’t call him that to his face, of course. Archie was tall and bony, all arms and legs. He had kind of a gloomy personality, whereas Mack was more upbeat. Archie got along well with the others, too, once he settled in. Both of them liked to talk, and they were both good listeners.
Mack and Archie hit it off right away. After a few weeks, they were the best of friends. Every day they would have coffee together in the afternoon, and they’d sit for hours in the day room arguing about politics and talking about the old days.
When Rose moved in, and Mack started acting like a love-sick teenager, I thought it would put a crimp in their friendship, but Archie seemed amused by his friend’s behavior. If anybody asked, he’d just shrug and explain that Mack was “twitterpated.”
It’s my fault that the two old boys got in trouble, I suppose. One of the other residents, Otto, came into my office one day. He wanted to have a party, and he wondered if the staff would help him set it up. I asked him what the occasion was, and he said he had won some money. “Oh, yeah?” I said. “How much?” “Two thousand dollars,” Otto said. I whistled. “That’s a lot of money,” I said. Otto nodded. He was all excited. “I won it betting on the horses,” he said. Otto said that Archie had made the bet for him.
When I talked to Archie, he was perfectly honest about it. Yes, he made the bet. He made bets for a lot of the residents, he said. Mack was helping him. Mack collected the money, and Archie called in the bets. A friend of his in Minneapolis made the actual wagers. Or if the race was in another state, he’d call another friend who lived in Reno, and he would buy the tickets at a sports book.
Then it hit me. I had been wondering why the residents had taken such a sudden interest in football! In the past, during football season, three or four of the men might sit in the day room and stare at the TV during the Vikings game, but this year there were fifteen or twenty people in there every Sunday. They were a noisy bunch, too! One day the weekend charge nurse had to go in there and tell them to pipe down.
We all thought it was pretty funny. The staff, that is. All of those old Norwegians and Swedes suddenly becoming football fans!
I asked Archie if they were betting on football, too, and he said yes. Football, basketball, hockey. Whatever anybody wanted to bet on.
Well, I had to tell Ida about it because I knew that if George found out that there was gambling going on in his nursing home, I’d be in trouble–we’d all be in trouble. Ida, George’s wife, is a very sweet lady. When I finished telling Ida the tale, she clapped her hand over her mouth to keep from laughing.
Ida had to tell George, though. I could see her point. If the state got wind of what was going on, they could close the place down. And it would be bad for business if people in town found out. Very bad.
So George had a talk with Archie and Mack, and the upshot of that was that the two old men had to move out. Archie went back to California, and Mack moved into one of the new apartments down by the river.
I had a talk with Mack before he left, and he didn’t seem too upset. “Hey,” he said. “We’re lucky. We’re walking out of here. Most people leave this place in a box.”
I told Mack that it was none of my business, but I was curious how they got started betting in the first place.
It grew out of an idea that Archie had, Mack said. One day Archie said that some of them ought to get together and bet on which one would live the longest. They could all throw some money in the pot and buy a bottle of good booze, and the last one to go would get to drink it.
The idea just took off from there, Mack said. They started talking about how they used to bet on the horses, and on football and basketball games, when they were younger, and one day they said, why not? So they asked around to see if there was any interest, and there was, so Archie made the call to his friends, and they were in business.
Some of the folks around here were pretty down in the mouth when Mack and Archie left. Mack stops by to have coffee with his old friends every once in a while, and he always gets a big welcome.
Yesterday I got a card in the mail from Mack. It was in a fancy envelope, and I knew right away what it was. It was a wedding invitation. Mack and Rose were getting married the week after Christmas. Mack had written in black ink at the bottom of the card, “Honeymoon in Vegas. Tell the boys.”