Vero Beach: Where Restaurants Feel Like Nursing Homes
Apologies for not blogging in more than a week now. I returned to NYC for my Hechinger Institute conference on covering community colleges and then have been traveling up and down the East Coast visiting the important folks on my list. Now I’m in Vero Beach, Fla., for the night with my sister to visit our ailing grandmother, who still has her spirits and spunk about her but is increasingly succumbing to dementia. It’s hard to watch someone you love go from independent living in an apartment to the nursing home’s special care (Alzheimer’s ward) in less than a year:(
But Grandma enjoys the constant attention and makes the best of things, though she has lost her appetite and apparently subsists on Ensure shakes. She did enjoy the Fig Newton I fed to her on the side today. She also takes comfort in her 100-year-old boyfriend, born in 1908 in Newfoundland, who we discovered today is still married to a woman who lives in another section of the medical ward. When she comes down the hall to visit, the nurses hide Grandma from him. Scandalous! That didn’t stop the inseparable pair from holding hands and sweetly kissing on the couch today!
Still there’s something so depressing about these Florida retirement communities, where death, illness and decay hovers in the atmosphere. Its presence is palpable. Restaurants here cater to 1950s-style tastes, even the best, more expensive ones. Though among the best options in town, The Lobster Shanty felt like an overpriced nursing home cafeteria at 2:30 p.m. (were they early-birds in for dinner?). But the complimentary corn fritters they served were sweet (albeit fattening), reminding me of those from my beloved Baugher’s farm restaurant back in Maryland’s Carroll County. We did eat local fish (Pompano) twice today: grilled with tomato-feta-olives at the Shanty, and grilled with a red pepper sauce at The Lemon Tree tonight. Both places were too expensive, but at least The Lemon Tree dinners came with a free ample glass of wine and an included scoop of raspberry or lemon sorbet for dessert. Those seniors love those all-inclusive deals!