A week ago, in Ashtabula, I was looking out the window and wondering what it said about a man that all his earthly possessions could be stuffed into a five-by-eight U-Haul trailer. It took a tremendous amount of work to get everything in the trailer, and Nancy and Aaron did all the work. I will be eternally grateful for their effort and for the many, many things they have done for me over the last six years. But, I couldn’t shake the feeling that an estate that fits into a small U-Haul trailer isn’t much of an estate.
On Monday, here in Columbus, Georgia, I watched Russ and Karen unload the trailer and deposit its contents in my new apartment at Covenant Woods. “Where the hell did all this come from,” I wondered. Nancy must have used every ounce of her ingenuity to get it all in the trailer, and there was no way it was all going to fit in the apartment. But Russ and Karen uncluttered the clutter – and reassembled my bed and kitchen table – so I now have a comfortable, almost roomy place to live – along with two more people I’ll spend eternity being grateful for.
The trouble with being dependent on others is that you’re so damn dependent. When you’re able bodied and let someone else do what you should do, there is a feeling of roguish pride, like Tom Sawyer convincing his chums to whitewash the fence. But when you’re unable to do the work that needs to be done, it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’re an inconvenience and that the people you’re inconveniencing have better things to do. And that is why I am eternally grateful to Nancy, Aaron, Russ, Karen and so many others.
So here I am on the eastern bank of the Muskogee River. Phenix City, Alabama, is on the other side, a place Chuck, my writing buddy, says he wasn’t allowed to go when he was stationed here at Fort Benning years ago. I have yet to find out if sinning is still rampant in the town.
As a child I watched too much television, and as a result, my view of facilities such as Covenant Woods is colored by the laxative commercials of the fifties and sixties. Those of a certain age will recall the scenes of happy oldsters gathered on the veranda discussing their bowel movements. If such things are grist for the conversation mill at Covenant Woods, I haven’t noticed.
Covenant Woods isn’t set deep in the woods, but it is surrounded by enough tall trees to give the impression that it is. It really is a beautiful setting. The weather has been fabulous this week, and I’ve enjoyed taking a lap or two around the place after meals. There are two nearby strip malls. One is accessible by wheelchair thanks to a paved path. There is a supermarket, a Family Dollar, a soon-to-be-closed K-Mart, a Subway, a Chinese restaurant that Karen said is pretty good and a small Italian place Russell and I tried yesterday and enjoyed. The other shopping center is a long block or two down the road. But the road has four lanes and no berm or sidewalk. I’ll have to become braver or more foolhardy to venture down there.
The food here isn’t bad. Based on three dinners, the entrees – I’ve had shepherd’s pie, veal parmesan and baked chicken – are very good. The vegetables are flavorful but a little over cooked and soggy. Eggs, oatmeal, bacon, sausage, toast, juice, coffee and fruit are on the breakfast menu, and I think I heard someone say you can get pancakes or French toast on Sundays.
According to Richard, my next-door neighbor, I am the third youngest resident. Richard is a year younger than I, and William, a muscular ex-Marine, is in his late fifties. Evelyn is a fit-looking woman who tells you right away that she has trouble remembering things. I talked to her for a while yesterday, and she said she was 91; a few minutes later she said she was going to be 93 next month. No matter. She still drives; in fact she drove Richard and William to the store Wednesday.
Eleven years ago when my nest suddenly emptied I assumed that in 2012 I would still be heading off to work at Ash/Craft every morning and to the Star Beacon every evening. Perhaps, if I was still working I’d be anxious to retire, but as it is, I’d rather have my jobs back. Still, Covenant Woods isn’t a bad place to be. And the best part is that Russ and Karen are but two or three miles down the road. Having family close by sure beats being several hundred miles from my nearest relative.