Notes from the Home IX


  Thursday morning, the writing class met at as usual at the Kingsville Public Library, and I was there. Not in person, of course, but via Skype. For some reason, they couldn’t see me, but I could see them. I felt like Miss Francis, or whatever her name was, on Romper Room. “And I see Suzanne, and I see Jeanne, and I see Chuck, and I see Katie, and I see Gitta.” They were all Do-Bees, which is what I think Miss Francis called the well-behaved children in the television audience. I was a Do-Bee too, or maybe I wasn’t. They’ll never know; they couldn’t see me.
   Sometimes technology is a pain. But it is a wonderful thing when it allows us to be in the company of people nearly a thousand miles away. The only thing I couldn’t experience firsthand were the goodies Gitta brought to class. I could have had goodies of my own. I planned to have goodies of my own. I even went to the store Thursday morning to get goodies of my own, along with a few necessary items. But when I got back to the apartment, I discovered I had remembered all the needed items and forgotten the goodies. How’s that for misplaced priorities?
  
   Since moving here, I’ve thought a lot about Jesus’ comment to Peter: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” There’s no doubt my body is ready for a place such as Covenant Woods. My mind, though, believes I’m capable of doing all the things I once did. This is always frustrating and, at times, disheartening. Fortunately, I keep getting reminders that life is full of possibilities, and the secret is to concentrate on those things I can do and not worry about the things I can’t. And anyone who thinks I’m in need of a good swift kick in the backside, please feel free to administer it. I might wince a little and go off in a huff, but give me an hour or so, and I’ll be fine, and I’ll thank you for your sage advice.
   James, one of the maintenance men, dispensed some sage advice the other evening. He was sitting on a bench among the trees that edge the parking lot, waiting for the final five minutes of his shift to tick away, and I was making my post-dinner inspection of the grounds.  We got to talking, and pretty soon he was telling me how important it is to keep busy at things you enjoy doing. “My wife and I found that out when the kids starting getting older,”he said.
   James told me about his garden and how big his tomato plants are getting and how they’re covered with buds. “You like tomatoes right off the vine?” he asked. I told him I surely do, and he said he’d bring me some when they ripen.
  
   Now and then at dinner I sit at the same table as Lisa. She was born in Vienna, and married a GI soon after the end of World War II. “The Nazis were gone then,” she says. “But the Russians were trying to move in.” Her husband stayed in the Army and served in both Korea and Vietnam before he retired. He and Lisa must have had a terrific life together. She sometimes looks up from her plate and says to no one in particular, “My husband has been dead for twenty years, and I still miss him.”
   I forget how many grandchildren Lisa has, but she has said enough times for me to remember that she has eight great-grandchildren. To make sure that her kids, their kids and their kids’ kids all get a birthday card in a timely manner, Lisa makes a point of going to the card rack when she’s at the store, and if a card strikes her fancy, she’ll buy it. She gives the cards to her daughter, who lives here in Columbus, and who keeps them and keeps track of all the birthdays. When a birthday approaches, the daughter has Lisa over and they go through the cards so Lisa can decide which one is most fitting for the person about to be a year older.
  
   When I went to check my mail yesterday, a woman I don’t recall seeing here before was also getting her mail. She asked about the T-shirt I was wearing. This T-shirt, like almost every one I own, I told her, was payola, a gift from the organizers of an event I covered for the Star Beacon, this one, the Pyma-Laker 5K. She said she’d never heard of the Star Beacon. I told her that didn’t surprise me. Then she said she used to do some writing for the New York Times. I told her, I had heard of that paper. After her stint with the Times, she went to England. She didn’t say what she did there, but whatever it was it must have brought her into contact with royals, because she said she had to do a lot of bowing. By then, the hallway by the mailboxes was full of people, and she had to be somewhere. Too bad, but maybe we’ll run into each other again and have a chance to talk more. She can regale me with stories of New York and London, and I can entertain her with tales of Ashtabula.
  
   It’s raining this morning, a steady, gentle rain. The kind of pleasant rain you can lose yourself in thought asyou walk in it. Which brings me back to the spirit being willing, but the flesh – or in this case, the electric wheelchair – being ill suited for a walk in the rain.
   It’s cool out, and I’ve opened the sliding door. I can hear the rain as it falls on a small tree nearby, and there are a few birds chirping. Maybe I’ll go over by the door and lose myself in thought there.
    

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