The Tour

Washington State Veterans Home at Retsil

Yesterday, we toured the facility where Mom will spend her final days. It’s a VA home in Retsil, Washington, just outside Port Orchard. We drove up a slight hill past several well-marked buildings. Maintenance. Shop. Storage. Mom brought her walker but her main caregiver, Connie, fetched a wheelchair for maneuverability and a little more speed.

VA home

A sign taped to the door said “This is a no-weapons facility”. It’s very nice, bright and modern, with inverted cup-and-saucer-style light fixtures. It seemed a hybrid of light industrial and Danish modern. Our guide, Rachel, walked us through the main area. Rachel remembered Mom and Connie.

We walked down the hallway. A queen-sized quilt covered the wall, emblazoned with the words “Thank You For Your Service”. It’s because of Mom’s tour in the Navy that we had this tour.

VA home main entry

“This is the PT, OT and speech therapy room,” she said (below). A small white dog ran out to greet us. He barked at us, sizing us up.

OT room

“Oh, that’s Buster, the therapy dog,” she grinned. “He lives here.” Buster ran off with his toy. Several therapy dogs make their home there.

We wandered into what the home calls “neighborhoods”, which translated into wings or units. Each neighborhood has its own mini dining area. The bedrooms are dorm-style, next door to each other with a shared wall between. No actual door separates the room from the main hallway, only a curtain. The restroom is shared as well. Residents receive several staff check-ins per day. Laundry service and medications are included in the monthly fee.

Va home room

“If you want a single room, I would suggest getting on the waiting list now,” Rachel said. Those rooms had actual doors and total privacy, with en suite restrooms. Rachel pointed out the activity calendar. Every day had something to look forward to. They even have a stripped down version of The Nutcracker performance every Christmas season.

“The first resident here, Ray, came from Orting. He travelled by horseback, canoe and on foot. He died in a duel with another resident,” Rachel informed us. Hence the no weapons policy, methinks.

We wandered outside into a great bowl of blue sky and sunshine. We tried to explore the old chapel, but it was locked. We stepped down the path to the original building. It’s slated to be demolished due to asbestos abatement. Past that building is a great view of the sea. A cool breeze reminded us that fall is indeed here. I think it’s only fitting Mom end up next to the ocean, since she served in the Navy.

The dining hall opened at 11:30. The six of us had tickets to eat there. Who says there’s no free lunch? The menu included main dish choices of chili con carne, chef salad and chicken-fried steak. I heard the chili was good. The chicken-fried steak was not. They also offered jello, which all of us skipped. And not because of Bill Cosby.

VA home dining area

Despite all the windows and light wood, the spaces managed to feel intimate. No area felt too large. Nothing felt impersonal. I could appreciate capturing as much natural light as possible since 8 months of the year Washington can expect gray skies. The staff were kind and caring. Most residents self-propelled in wheelchairs or with walkers and seemed well cared for. Unfortunately, Mom is on a waiting list. The majority of veterans are men. The home meets a quota of settling in a certain amount of men first, then they take a woman. It makes sense. But it’s the opposite everywhere else.

Both Jonathon and I have to work and can’t take care of Mom regularly, which has been hard. Connie, Mom’s friend and a former nurse, does the heavy lifting, and will soon have another gal to spell her.  My brother and I plus our families pitch in on scheduled weeknights until a room opens for Mom. I am proud of Mom for serving our country, for serving her tour. Now our country will serve her. This facility, with their kindness and compassion, will help Mom have a better quality of life. She will be surrounded by like-minded peers, interesting activities, natural beauty, and someone else will do the laundry. I am grateful. I trust God to take care of the rest.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16