Thursday, January 18, 2018

Notes from the Home- January 18, 2018

FAKE NEWS ALERT!!! Any current reports of me being full of shit are false, fake, bogus, counterfeit, fabricated, fictitious, forged, fraudulent, phony, spurious, and untrue. It is possible that I was full of shit last week, though I doubt. And, there is a chance, though small, that I will be flush with feces in the future. But for this week, any reports of me being full of crap are full of crap.

The flu stopped by Covenant Woods and nestled up to me. He was content to cause discomfort and considerable achiness for three days. But on Sunday, and especially Monday, he led me on a series of hurried, unpleasant jaunts to the bathroom. Four bowel movements in twenty-four hours, each one smellier and messier than the one before.

It was a shitty situation. Before going to bed Monday night, I cleaned off myself, the wheelchair, and sundry surfaces as best I could. Tuesday morning, I could not call Russ and ask him to pick up some sterilizer and deodorizer - he was sick, too, maybe because he had been to see me over the weekend. What was a boy to do? I turned to Alisha, who is the Covenant Woods' activities director. I do a little proofreading for her each month. The last time I proofed something, Alisha said if I ever needed something from the store, she'd be glad to pick it up for me.

Good to her word, Alisha did my necessary shopping. When she returned, she put the change on the table and showed me the Pine Sol, Lysol, Clorox Disinfectant Wipes, and Pro Chem Spotless she'd purchased. Then she proceeded to use them with a vengeance. It was as though the haz-mat unit was on the job. She even wiped the almost two-years worth of accumulated dust off my wheelchair. Wow.

As of now -Thursday afternoon - my biggest concern is getting my legs back to what was normal for them a week ago. Whether as a direct result of the flu, or perhaps because I stood up as seldom as possible for several days, the old legs feel older and weaker than before. Transferring from the wheelchair to the bed is now more difficult, in terms of both strength and balance. And while I haven't fallen while clinging to the counter as I pull up my pants, I keep thinking I will.

The left leg is not cooperating at all. Not that it ever did. In the pre-flu era, however, I could pick up my left leg and put it across my right knee. With it there, I put a sock on my left foot. After getting a sock on the right foot, I hoisted the left leg again, put it across the right knee and got my foot into appropriate trouser leg. With the pants started on the left, I moved to the right leg. Once trousered, I got the left leg off the ground sufficiently and at the proper angle to put my shoe on. There is a brace on the left shoe, which makes putting it on difficult in the best of circumstances. Warren and Curtis, the night security guys, have helped me every morning. Good thing, too. Otherwise I'd be sitting in bed all day.

This morning, I darn near got that sinister limb to get where it was supposed to go. If Russ is feeling better this weekend, I'll ask him to come over so we can work with the leg. Maybe we can get a leg up.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Lust to Dust

One night when I was nearly drunk,
I sez, "Sweet Lass, ain't I a hunk."
She looked astounded,
Said, "You've come ungrounded.
Why you're a tub of flabby gunk."

That chick had lots and lots of spunk,
But would not join me in the bunk.
She said she was proper
And my plans came a cropper.
I guess I'll go become a monk.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

On and Ennui Go

The word "ennui" has been on my mind lately. Whenever ennui pops into my otherwise vacant skull, I think about it.  Ennui is the only word I can remember the exact moment I came to know it. Of course, there are a lot of words I know I learned while sitting in a class. I might recall the class where I picked up a word, but I wouldn't be able to relate the details of the moment the word became part of my vocabulary.

And many words work their way into my vocabulary as I read. But I cannot recall what I was reading when I came upon this or that word. The most memorable word in this category is "exacerbate". I must have been forty at the time that word got my attention. I have no recollection of what I was reading - book, newspaper, magazine, who knows? When I saw the word, I consulted the dictionary. Like so many other words I've looked up in the dictionary, "exacerbate" would have quickly fallen out of my vocabulary, except "exacerbate" suddenly became a hot word. In the papers and on the TV news, every situation was being exacerbated due to one thing or another.

There is no uncertainty about when and where I learned about ennui. It was a summer evening in the early 1960s, and Mom was sitting on the milk box by the front door, working on the crossword puzzle in that day's Pittsburgh Press. I stepped outside, sat on the door step, and began hassling her. "Do you need my help?" I asked several times. Finally, she handed me the paper and said, "OK, see what you can do."

I looked at the clues for the spaces not yet filled;  every one of them stumped me. So I moved to finding Mom's mistakes. She didn't make many mistakes, but there was always a chance she would. If she did, I wasn't likely to find it. But she made a very obvious error that day. Well, I thought she did.

"You goofed," I said.


"Right here."

"That's not a mistake," she said.

"Yes it is."

"No it isn't," she said, getting testy.

"Come on, E-N-N-U-I is not a word."

"It is so. It's 'ennui', and it means lazy or listless."

"Oh," I said, as I got up to go back in  the house and consult the dictionary. I was determined to prove her wrong. But the lexicographers agreed with her. defines ennui as, "a feeling of utter weariness or discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest; boredom." That would be me these days. Maybe it is the short days. For some reason, nightfall coming early seems different this year. I can feel the darkness setting in, and it doesn't feel right, like the world, or at least my world, is contracting.

Except for one other year, the shorter days and the return to standard time never bothered me. Back on Myrtle Avenue, as the kids were growing up,I always thought dinner was better when the sun went down before we sat down. The four of us at the table in the well lit kitchen, our little island in the dark world. I don't know how Debbie, Russ, or Bethany felt, but to me dinner on a winter's night was family time at its best.

Short winter days and long winter nights lost their aura of family and togetherness when the nest emptied in 2001. But fall and winter's dwindling daylight hours never bothered me. I was working for the Star Beacon then and more worried about the chance of snow as I made my way to a high school gymnasium to cover a basketball game.

In the fall of 2007, I left the ranks of the gainfully employed, going from two jobs to no job. The short days of fall and winter came and went without notice that year and in 2008. Not so in '09. The clouds and rain moved into Northeast Ohio the day the clocks were turned back. The dreary, damp weather stayed for two weeks. If the sun managed to poke through for a minute or two during that time, I didn't notice. I was one sad sombitch. Then one day the wind shifted, the barometric pressure rose, and the sunshine and blue skies returned, lifting my spirits in the process. The clouds came back every few days, but so did the sun. My outlook on life didn't have a problem with that.

From 2010 through '16, the autumnal equinox and the return to standard time passed almost without my noticing. Not so this year, and I can't blame the weather this time. Oh, there have been rainy days, but there have been many more pleasant sunny days. Days so comfortable and beautiful that on my wheelchair trips through the Covenant Woods' parking lots my mind has often returned to Ashtabula and memories of those magnificent spring evenings in late May and early June when we'd go to Cederquist Park to watch Russ and Beth play Little League ball.

It isn't long, however, before the ennui returns. "Ennui", the word I learned while kidding around with my mother, has become all too meaningful to me almost sixty years later. Should anyone wish to give me a good, swift kick in the ass, you are welcome to do so. I promise to get out of the wheelchair and standup to make it easier for you.

*                    *                    *

I was taken aback when I typed "sombitch", and the BlogSpot spellchecker didn't throw a squiggly red line below it to let me know I'd misspelled a word. Thinking it might be a legitimate word that I was unfamiliar with, I checked the and Merriam-Webster websites. They were both befuddled and provided a list of words they thought I might have intended to ask about.

Then it was on to Urban Dictionary, which confirmed my belief that it is the way some men in the South say "son of a bitch." But it went on to say, the southern men who use it are mostly "over fourty." Even the BlogSpot spellchecker knows that ain't right. Urban Dictionary also said, "sombitch" is usually said in a loud, high pitched manner and can be heard all the way across the trailer park. I don't think I was that loud. Was I?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Notes from the Home - December, 13, 2017

A visitor came to my door Sunday morning. I didn't let it in.

During the summer, five or six feral cats roamed the area between the parking lot and the apartments. They came by every day, sometimes several times a day, to frolic and occasionally fight on my porch and around the dogwood tree. A pair of them would wrestle on the porch, another would chase his buddy up the tree. Then the buddy would come down and they ran through the scene again, and again.

They might have been the cats that once caused friction among the residents in the duplexes. Some of the folks were cat lovers. They put bowls of food and water in their driveways for the cats. Others thought the cats were a nuisance and potentially dangerous. They didn't want anyone giving aid and comfort to them.

The anti-cat faction won the argument, and the maintenance guys were dispatched to rid that area of feline pests. Whether the cats that were hanging around the apartments were ones from the duplexes that had escaped a crueler fate, or a new herd, I don't know.

A month ago, James, one of the maintenance men, and I got to talking about, among other things, the cats catting around the apartments. James said they had to get rid of them. Which they did, except for one. A tan, furry, obviously not under-fed distant relative of the King of the Jungle walks by my apartment several times a day. When it's warm, he sometimes lies on my porch and suns himself.

Sunday morning, I got up, got dressed, and slid the porch door open an inch or two. The temperature was barely above freezing, but I like the fresh air, even if it is just for a short while. An hour later, the fresh air was making me fresh frozen. As I slid the door shut, the cat rushed onto the porch, sat, and stared at me with his big eyes. He held the gaze for over a minute, walked slowly away. I haven't seen him since. Maybe someone took him in.

*                    *                    *

Not long after after the cat left, Russ and Karen arrived, and we made our way to the dining room for Covenant Woods' annual holiday buffet. It was a great time. It is getting more and more difficult for me to get in and out of a car. As a result, the three of us seldom go out to eat. Karen and Russ do come over and bring supper with them once a week or so; that's always a good time, and the food, which is usually something they made themselves, is always very, very good.

Russ, Karen and me at the Covenant Woods' Christmas buffet in 2015.

And though we only went as far as the dining room, it still seemed like a "going out' experience. There was plenty of good food: shrimp cocktail, ham, beef, turkey, and all the fixin's. How good was the food? Well, I got a late start Sunday and didn't finish my oatmeal and toast until after nine o'clock. Two hours later, we were in the dining room. Russ went through the buffet line for me and brought back a more than generous portion of everything. I ate it all, not because I was hungry, and not in an effort to be polite. No, I gorged myself because it was so very good.

The event also sparked memories of Al. The holiday feed used to be held in the evening, and everyone ate at the same time, instead of in shifts as we do now. As people made their way down the buffet line, Al would sometimes get up and take charge of the shrimp cocktail. He made sure everybody got some, and made equally sure no one took more than their fair share. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Die, Spider, Die

It was nigh on to eleven o’clock, and having worked hard at squandering another day, I was ready to retire. The bed had a welcoming, comforting glow, but before climbing in I noticed the pole lamp next to bed had been moved. Margarita, the member of the housekeeping staff who drew the short straw and is assigned tidy my mess once a week, must have moved it when she vacuumed. It hadn’t been moved far, just enough that I worried I wouldn’t be able to reach it once I climbed in the sack. Getting the lamp back in its proper place was no problem. Though, like so many once-easy tasks, it took several minutes longer than it would have ten years ago. And getting it done without incident made this clumsy, inept fellow feel a little less clumsy and inept. 

As I sat there all full of myself, I thought I saw something dash across the carpet. It was a spider, a huge, fearsome, ugly spider. Well, perhaps not huge, but certainly the largest spider I’ve encountered here at Covenant Woods. And all spiders, regardless of size, are fearsome and ugly. The creature sprinted toward the table and once under it he stopped. He just stood there, daring me to do something stupid. He thought I’d lunge toward him and fall out of the wheelchair. Then he’d saunter over, bite my nose, casually stroll away and never be seen again. 

What was I to do?  I’d never be able to fall asleep knowing the beast was at large in my apartment. But, there he was, staring at me from beneath the table with that cocky smirk arachnids give you when they think they’ve got the upper hand. Perhaps I should call security. Yeah, right. “Hey, Mr. Spider, don’t move, someone will be here in five minutes to squish you.” I didn’t think he’d listen. Those eight-legged creatures all have that come-on-and-make-me attitude so prevalent among rebellious teenagers.

There he was under the table, knowing he had the upper hand, ready to stand there all night and watch me fret. Well, if I couldn’t get the wheelchair under the table far enough to run over him, maybe I could throw words at him. Admit it, you’re thinking, “Great idea! Read him a few paragraphs of your prose, Tom, it’ll bore him to death.” True, but I’m opposed to torture. My idea was to drop the Illustrated Oxford Dictionary on him. If successful, the eight-legged pest would be crushed instantly by the weighty words. I got the dictionary and moved slowly toward the table. The enemy held his ground, never moving an inch. I reached under the table, getting the book directly above Spidey and dropped it – THUMP. “Success. Yes,” I said, one second before the evil creature slithered from under the tome. Six inches from the book, he turned and looked at me. I’m not certain, but I think he said, “Nah-nah-da-boo-boo, I’m going to get you.” 

Ever confident of his ability to frustrate my efforts to end his worthless existence, he stood next to the dictionary, daring me to pick it up and try again. “I’ll show him,” I told myself, as I grabbed my cane. I no longer use the cane to help me walk, but it comes in handy when I reach for things I’ve dropped on the floor. Spidey wasn’t intimidated. He stood his ground until I thrust the business end of the cane toward him. As the cane’s base hit the carpet, the spider walked out from under the table. Foolish bug. BOOM! I brought the cane down again. And missed. But I didn’t miss a third time. The cane came down on him, and I spent thirty seconds twisting it back-and-forth, as if I was drilling a hole to bury him in. I lifted the cane, exposing what remained of his remains. And then to bed.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Life is Good at Covenant Woods???

WARNING: It has been nearly two months since I've written a word for this blog, or for anything else. If, for some strange reason, you have been anxiously awaiting my return, please be aware that what follows is a large, fetid pile of whining. You may stop now if you wish.

The subject of today's whine is my next-door neighbor's son. That inconsiderate bastard - oops, pardon me, that wasn't nice - let's start over. That slimy, overweight weasel - there, that's better - quite often keeps me awake at night. To give you an idea of the sort of person in question: He is not permitted in the building after 6 p.m. A real stickler for the rules, isn't he?

The problem started immediately upon the neighbor's arrival at Covenant Woods. Nearly every night the voice of a man droning on and on and on from the, TV, radio, telephone, computer, or some other modern inconvenience kept me up until the wee hours. After a week or two, I asked the neighbor to please turn it off, or at least way down at a reasonable hour. "That's my son," she said, "he listens to that stuff. You'll have to talk to him."

I have no doubt that it is her son. Before Covenant Woods obtained a restraining order for the neighbor and her son to ignore, the son parked his Kia, which looked like it had been through a bad night at the Demolition Derby, where I could see it from my window. When the car was there, I was treated to the crap. When it wasn't there, the night was pleasant.

But being of the opinion that we are each responsible for the behavior of guests in our apartment, I opted not to speak with Sonny Boy. Instead, when that voice from next door kept me awake, I called security. Some nights the response was immediate, and I was soon fast asleep. On other nights, nothing happened. "Must be an emergency somewhere," I thought, and tried to get to sleep before Mr. Thoughtful turned the thing off at one, two, or even three in the morning.

After the neighbor had been here a couple months, I learned that when I called to complain, the security guy would mosey down the hall past the neighbor's apartment. If he heard something, he would ask the neighbor to turn it down. If he didn't hear anything, he'd go on about his business without speaking to the neighbor. That is the Covenant Woods' policy: If the employee can't hear the noise when he goes by in the hall, he can't speak to the tenant about the complaint. Alas, my bed isn't in the hallway.

Eventually, I think it was in January, I took my concerns to the powers that be. I spoke to Kerri, the business manager, and she said she'd talk with my neighbor. She did, and for two weeks drifting off to dreamland was a delight. Then the nightly talks from who knows whom about who knows what started again. I spoke to Kerri several more times over the ensuing months. The result was always the same: A week or two of silence, followed by a return to abnormal.

Does the neighbor care? You decide. One Saturday in March, the son had the thing playing, and I couldn't sleep. A call to security proved useless. I started yelling, "Turn it off!" and a few other obscenity-laced requests. They were ignored until nearly two in the morning. At dinner on Sunday, the neighbor walked from the other side of the dining room to tell me they - they being her son and her - had heard a woman calling my name for almost two hours. "We were going to come knock on your door to tell you some lady was after you." She was so pleased with her attempt at humor, she nearly choked trying to hold back her laughter.

And so it goes. Last Friday, after putting up with Sonny Boy's stuff until one in the morning both Wednesday and Thursday, I spoke to Roger, the general manager. He said he'd talk to the neighbor. All was quiet Friday night. Not so Saturday. But Roger did say, if I heard voices next door to call security. At one o'clock Sunday morning I heard a male voice say, "Hey, Mom." I called security. Cedric, the security guy, was at the neighbor's door moments later. The neighbor wouldn't let him in. Cedric told her he'd be back with the police. I heard the neighbor whisper something to her son. Then the cops showed up. I don't know what happened, but it was quiet the rest of the night.

The son didn't stay away long. I've heard his voice once or twice during the day, when he is permitted to be here. And yesterday, I heard the neighbor knocking on her door and yelling "Get up and open this door." I've also heard the crap her son listens to several nights when I got into bed. But he has been turning it off when I yell, "Turn it off!"

But here's the rub. There is no reason to believe, based on his past behavior, that he will be cooperative much longer. And it's not likely he and his mother will converse much at night. They never have; hell, they don't even talk much during the day. Sometimes I think they communicate with sign language. So, I'll be left with the option of yelling until he turns the stuff off, or lying sleepless, hoping he'll hit the off switch before dawn.

The latter will soon be my sole option. Richie, who was my other next-door neighbor, officially moved out three weeks ago. Rich hasn't been at Covenant Woods since May, when he went to visit family in New England. I don't why he was gone so long, or why he moved, but with no one in that apartment, yelling at the jerk on the other side was an option. Heck, Rich's hearing was so bad, yelling was an option when he was here. Once someone moves in, I'll have to shut up and lie quietly.

To make matters worse, I was talking to Mildred last night in the dining room. She said she was talking to Warren, the other security guy, recently, and he told her he thought I was hearing things. That is reassuring. He told her that he has looked in the neighbor's room several times and never seen the son. I'm guessing he goes outside and looks to see if there is a TV on in the neighbor's apartment. I'm not absolutely sure, but I'll bet next month's retirement check, the TV isn't where the recorded voice is coming from. It is coming from a smaller devise, something he can slip into a drawer. Very often when he does finally turn it off, I hear a drawer open and shut.

I'd hate to leave Covenant Woods. I like it here. But I need my sleep. If the security people think I'm crazy, and if I respect my new neighbor and refrain from yelling at the inconsiderate SOB, I'll soon have to listen that stuff all night long. Not pleasant thought.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Donut Memories

Such a pleasant, sunny morning, and as I circled Covenant Woods, my mind filled with pleasant memories. In the early 80s, we lived on Harmon Road in Ashtabula. Russ hadn’t started school, and I was home most mornings. 

“Daddy, let’s go get donuts,” Russ said.

“Want to walk to the Squire Shoppe?”

“I’ll walk.”

“The whole way; there and back?”

“Yep, the whole way.”

We walked down East 6th Street, passed the railroad yard and the hopper cars full of coal. Then across the lift bridge, where we stopped for a minute to look at the lake boat taking on a load of coal. Then up Bridge Street to the Squire Shoppe.

Russ always ordered two powdered donuts and a glass of milk. I got whatever struck my fancy that day and some coffee. Russ led me to an empty table. We ate our goodies, talked a little, and looked out the window, while those around us discussed the Indians, the Browns, and local politics.

When we started back home, we didn’t get far before Russ said he was tired and wanted me to carry him.

“But you said . . .”

“I know, but I’m tired.”

I tried to look disgruntled, but I couldn’t hold back the smile. This was the game we played once or twice a week.

Back at Covenant Woods, my mind turned to memories I’d like to make. Memories of being in Idaho with my daughter, Beth, her husband, Ken, and the grandkids, Hayden (7), and MaKenna (4). 

Beth, Ken, and I would be sitting on the porch, as Hayden and MaKenna played in the yard. Then the kids would come running, yelling, “Grandpa, Grandpa, can we go get some donuts?” 

I’d look over to Beth and Ken, who would be discretely mouthing, “No.” Then I’d look into the imploring eyes of the two kids now sitting on my lap, and I’d say, “Sure, let’s get some donuts.”

That’s what a grandpa is supposed to do. Isn’t it?

Notes from the Home- January 18, 2018

FAKE NEWS ALERT!!! Any current reports of me being full of shit are false, fake, bogus, counterfeit, fabricated, fictitious, forged, fraudul...