“What did you do in life?” he asks cheerfully, interestedly, and I nearly punch his lights out.

“The last time I checked,” I say, dryly, “I was still doing it.”

He’s about 18, just entered college, determined to be a doctor some day. I think he’s got a way to go on the bedside manner, but he means well. He crept into my room, reached for my arm in the dim light of the nightstand, and is trying to learn about me as he “takes vitals,” i.e., my blood pressure, oxygen saturation, temperature.

I’m his practice patient, the practical part of his education. The caregivers at the Fortress work with local colleges to show students the ropes, and he’s drawn the night shift in my wing. Most of the students are ready to graduate, and I wonder how a freshman got into the program.

“Do you prefer ‘Mrs. Morgan’ or ‘Cynthia?'” he asks, “I want to be sensitive to your needs and respect your age.”

I really am going to punch his lights out.

“Robert,” I say firmly, “I am not retired. I have a job. I actually go out in the world on occasion. Not everyone in The Fortress is 89.”

“Oh!!! I’m soooo sorry!” he gasps, finally turning on the lights and getting a good look, “I didn’t realize. You’re my last patient tonight and everyone else is so ol…retired. I guess I should turn on the lights before I start the conversation part,” he finishes.

“A distinct advantage,” I agree.