Breakfast at Rosewood

May 21, 2010

My dad’s and my birthdays on the 19th two days
ago are an almost distant memory. I had spoken in the afternoon to a gathering
of Rosewood residents (the retirement community my dad lives in as had my
mother and her mother) about a few of my travel adventures for the IMF
(Kyrgyzstan, Bosnia, and Iraq) and this was followed by dinner in the Rosewood
dinning room. My brother and sister and I had wanted to take dad out somewhere
for the birthday dinner but he insisted on inviting relatives to join us for
dinner at Rosewood. He had booked the 4:30 pm sitting. Dad’s 93rd
birthday was announced during the regular activities announcement period as was
the remarkable fact that his visiting son was also celebrating his own birthday
on the same day. Balloons where delivered to our table and every one sang happy
birthday to us. We were all still there through the 5:00 sitting and another
birthday announcement and a second round of “happy birthdays to you,” as we
were through the 5:30 sitting and a third round of “happy birthdays to you.”

I don’t quite understand why my father preferred this to
going out to a restaurant, but the next day at my speech to the Quest Club (a
group of Bakersfield business leaders that has met monthly for 75 years), dad
related with pride that he had been sung happy birthday to three times the day
before. Who would have guessed?

Each day during my visit dad has taken me walking, saying
quite correctly that the exercise would be good for me. This is a task normally
performed at home in Maryland by my friend Will. Walking with my dad, while
pleasant, is of limited exercise value as his pace with his walker is rather
slow and he must sit down and rest every two blocks or so.

I missed breakfast with dad at Rosewood the previous two
days due to urgent deadlines for comments on notes being prepared for officials
in Southern Sudan by my Deloitte colleagues Steve Lewarne and James Dean. Their
workday in Juba ends about 4:00 am California time and I need the Internet
connection in my hotel room not available in my dad’s apartment in Rosewood to
respond to them. But today I made it in time for the 7:30 breakfast service at
Rosewood. I sat across the table from my dad and next to Mr. Hall, who told me
again (as he had at lunch the day before) that he had been called up twice by
the Army—WWII and the Korean War.

Dad told us once again that the very nice lady in the
kitchen had asked him what he wanted to eat for his birthday. Being caught by
surprise, he told her that he would like upside down pineapple cake. Later,
after the opportunity to think about it more, he told her that he would like
carrot cake. She service both he proudly told us. I decided not to mention that
I had eaten the carrot cake with him two days before. Dad was always the one
with the impeccable memory. Now, like my mom in her final months who lost her
short term memory but remembered clearly events from decades earlier, he
remembers earlier years clearly but is beginning to forget what happened
yesterday.

Like me, dad has always been the quiet one, letting mom do
most of the talking. Now, as if to fill the void, he has become rather chatty.
Mom had prepared his obituary as well as her own for our use, and he informed
me that he wanted to redo it himself and then proceeded to recall all of the
things he wanted to include.

In no time we returned to the dinning room down the hall for
lunch. Mr. Hall asked where I was from and told me that he had been in the Army
twice. Dad asked me again how far I lived from the Capital. People seemed more cheerful
and up beat than when I was here the last few times just preceding and just
after my mother’s death. The staff remain as cheerful and attentive and gentle
as ever.

When I arrived for this visit I found it a bit jarring to
see on my dad’s assisted living apartment door: “Sue and Warren Coats.” For a
few days I pondered how to approach the subject of its removal with my dad.
Seeing indications that he was moving on, tossing out one unused and useless
item of mom’s then another, I worked up my courage and asked him if he thought
we should remove mom’s name from door. Sure he said, and when we returned from
our walk it was gone.

About wcoats

Dr. Warren L. Coats specializes in advising central banks on monetary policy, and in the development of their capacity to formulate and implement monetary policy. He is retired from the International Monetary Fund, where, as Assistant Director of the Monetary and Financial Systems Department, he led missions to over twenty countries. Before then, he served as Visiting Economist to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and to the World Bank, and was Assistant Prof of Economics at the Univ. of Virginia from 1970-75. Most recently he was Senior Monetary Policy Advisor to the Central Bank of Iraq; an IMF consultant to the central banks of Afghanistan, Kenya and Zimbabwe; and a Deloitte/USAID advisor to the Government of South Sudan. He is currently a member of the Editorial Board of the Cayman Financial Review and until the end of 2013 was a member of the IMF program team for Afghanistan. His most recent book is entitled "One Currency for Bosnia: Creating the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina."
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