Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Taunton Inn

Make sure you like where you drink.  You never know if your favorite watering hole might become your nursing home.

This has happened to my grandmother's friends.  As young men and women they drank at The Herring Run or had dinner in the Haitian Room, both part of the Taunton Inn in Taunton, Massachusetts.  They ate special dinners or attended wedding receptions at the Taunton Inn.  Now elderly, they live there.

Why is that?  Today, the building once known as the Taunton Inn is Marion Manor, a skilled care center.  The property has been a nursing home since 1962.

The Taunton Inn that my grandmother and her friends knew in the 1950s featured a ball room, the Haitian Room, and a bar and restaurant called The Herring Run.  I should note that The Herring Run was an air-conditioned bar and restaurant. Many old postcards and advertisements highlight this very special feature.

The Herring Run called to mind the annual migration of herring in Taunton. Every spring the fish traveled from the ocean towards freshwater spawning grounds. The herring swelled the Taunton River and its tributaries, and local men with seines swept them out of the water. The Herring Run looked rustic, but, in one man's recollection, it was "the classiest" of all the bars in Taunton.

You might think it would be incredibly depressing to spend your last days in the transformed spaces of your youth. One day you're raising a glass with friends at a favorite hot spot.  Then, before you know it, you're back there again. Only this time, you're on the wrong side of ninety and someone's raising a glass to your mouth because you can't anymore.

I cannot deny that sounds awful. Yet even in a nursing home not all days are like that.

My grandmother's friend, we'll call her L., loved living at Marion Manor precisely because she thought she was at the Taunton Inn.

I won't lie. L. had dementia and was no longer totally in control of her own thoughts. Yet because she lived where she had spent so many happy times, L. approached everyday as though a waiter were about to appear with another round of drinks. She believed that whatever cup was in her hand was a Manhattan.

And why not? She was at the Taunton Inn. What else would she be drinking?