Thursday, May 17, 2012

Notes from the Home X


   According to Richie, I am younger than all but two residents of Covenant Woods. It is often inspiring to go about in a world filled with my elders. Evelyn, Al and Ed are lively octogenarians and nonagenarians. Both the men smile ever so slightly as they watch those around them, as if knowing that much of what the rest of us worry about is stuff and nonsense. But if someone needs a hand, they are there. Yesterday, as I was going to check my mail, a woman in the hallway was struggling to get up from the bench where she was sitting. I asked if she needed help. She told me to maneuver the wheelchair so she could get a hold of it and try to pull herself up. That didn’t work. Then Ed came along, and with the flair of a dashing young man, and with a twinkle in his eye, he took her hands, pulled her up  and walked her to the elevator.
   Evelyn has a limited number of stories, which she tells again and again. But she takes so much care with her appearance, you know she hasn’t lost touch altogether. She complains often, but her complaints are justified – most of the time. 
   I’m not sure how old Lisa is, but she’s old enough to be my mother. I know that because she is planning to go up to Atlanta this weekend to celebrate her son’s sixty-fifth birthday. Lisa has trouble remembering what she did five minutes ago. But when she talks about the past, of her husband, of her children growing up, of her relatives in Austria, she does so with such affection, you know she has had a very, very happy life.
   But there are times when the view from my youthful vantage point is just a little frightening. The other day as I was taking my after-dinner stroll in the wheelchair, an older couple, standing in the middle of a parking lot, was asking a staff person to help them find their car. I didn’t hear much of the conversation, but I heard enough to know they had no idea where they had parked. When I went back inside, the woman who had been assisting them was in the lobby, and I asked her if the couple had found the car. She said they were about ten feet from it when I went by. The couple had apparently pushed the wrong button on the electronic key, and when the door wouldn’t open they assumed it wasn’t their car and got discombobulated. Once the car was located and the doors unlocked, the couple got in and drove off. They must have remembered where they were going and how to get back. At least I haven’t heard any rumors of missing residents.
  
   I left the Pittsburgh area in 1974, but through the miracle of the Internet, the Post-Gazette is never far away. With a lineup that includes Gene Collier, Reg Henry and Samantha Bennett, the P-G leads Cleveland’s Plain Dealer in columnists with a sense of humor by a score of 3-0. This comes to mind because a week or so ago a good friend suggested fishing might be an enjoyable diversion for me. Then, right on cue, Reg Henry wrote about his experience at a fishing camp. It sounded like fun, especially the part about the men sitting around drinking beer, boasting, telling jokes and scratching immodestly. The problem with drinking beer these days is my legs hardly work at all, even when I’m sober, and I need my legs when Nature calls, which she does often when I drink. Of course, laughing at the people drinking beer can be more fun than drinking beer and laughing with them. I’m beginning to think that’s why Dad was such a happy teetotaler.
   And this morning, Samantha Bennett writes that while attending the National Society of Newspaper Columnists in Macon, Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal made her an honorary lieutenant colonel. I’m hurt. I’ve been in the Peach State for almost two months, and Governor Deal has yet to acknowledge my presence or name me so much as an honorary buck private. What’s the deal, Deal?
  
   Fishing and the outdoors kept popping up this week. Penelope, who sometimes pads her thrice-weekly activities announcements with one-paragraph biographies of new residents, called the other day to ask what I did before I came to Covenant Woods. After we talked about what I had done, she suggested something I might want to do: go fishing. She is putting together a day of fishing in early June. I forget the name of the place where this will take place, but she said it’s wheelchair accessible, very pretty, and that there will be a picnic lunch. I told her to sign me up as long as I’m not required to catch my lunch.
   Then there was the writing assignment Suzanne gave us. Suzanne doesn’t really give us assignments; they are writing prompts. In her words, they are assignments “should you choose to do them.” This week one of the suggested assignments was: “Hunting: the weapon, the kill, the camaraderie. What do women have against that? What are women deliberately missing? What gives them the same complex experience?” Well, that’s a story I’ve already written. Sort of. The story includes the weapon, the kill and the camaraderie, but none of the sexual stereotypes. It is the story of Bethany shooting a bear, which appeared in the Star Beacon on July 23, 2008, a few weeks after the bear met its demise. (For those with nothing better to do, and nothing could possibly be better than reading about Bethany and the bear, “The Bear Facts” was posted here on September 22, 2011).
  
   Now back to Penelope’s call. When I told her about my work with mentally retarded adults at Ash/Craft, she said, “No wonder you’re able to put up with those two knuckleheads (Richie and William).” That happens all the time. I tell people what I did for a living, and they tell me I must have superhuman patience and understanding. What these people don’t know is, it’s easier to work with people who are mentally retarded than it is to work with people who act as if they are.
  
   The printer I ordered arrived yesterday. Angie brought it down from the mailroom in a shopping cart. When I saw the packing box, I had visions of the printer that had looked so compact on Amazon being too large for my apartment. Angie set the box on the floor, and I stared at it for five minutes. When I finally opened it, I discovered, much to my relief, that the packing box was large enough for several printers. They had to kill three or four trees, I’m sure, to get all the paper that was stuffed around the printer. Too bad they didn’t use those sheets of plastic with all the little bubbles. I would have had months of fun popping them. Russ is coming over tomorrow to help me set up the printer. He’s a good kid, and I’ll buy him dinner.

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