Friday, June 29, 2012

Notes from the Home XV

   Russ picked me up yesterday and carted me off to Target and a natural foods store, the name of which I don’t recall. The great thing about the natural foods place is the selection of what in more traditional stores would be called junk food. I don’t know if the muffins, lemon cake and chips in the natural foods store are any healthier than those at Piggly-Wiggly and Publix, but they certainly taste as good, and often much better. Besides, it’s an interesting shop to spend time in.
   Not long after we got back, Catherine knocked on my door. She is ninety, and a few weeks after I moved here, she gave me the skinny on signing up for activities.
   “Penelope puts all the activity signup sheets for the month in the book at one time, usually during the last week of the month before,” Catherine said. “There is only room for two wheelchairs on the bus, so you have to sign up early for the things you want to do.”
   Sage advice, indeed.  And Wednesday morning, Catherine and I were together in the back of the bus.  She was on her way to the ear doctor, and I was on the way to the retinal specialist. As have a number of other people here, she became a little concerned when she found out which doctor I was seeing for macular degeneration. The complaints I’ve heard are that he doesn’t spend much time with the patients, but he is so overbooked and it takes forever for him to get around to you, and that he is much too quick to recommend laser surgery. Getting in and out in a timely fashion hasn’t been a problem the two times I’ve seen him, but both times he’s dropped hints about holes in my retina and the how “we” will probably have to have laser surgery. Perhaps, but the doctor in Mentor, whom I saw for nearly a year, never mentioned holey retinas or the possible need for laser surgery.
   Catherine’s purpose for dropping by Thursday was to give me a brochure for the West Georgia Eye Care Center, where she goes for her macular degeneration. I didn’t get a shot Tuesday, and I don’t have to go back until the middle of September. So, maybe this would be a good time to investigate other options.
   Later in the day, Judy, one of the cleaning ladies, stopped me in the hall.
   “Was that your son with you this morning?” she asked.
   “Yep. That was Russ,” I said. “He took me shopping.”
   “How old is he?”
   “He’ll be thirty-four in August.”
   “Wow. He doesn’t look that old. I figured he was a college student; maybe twenty-five at most.”
   Alas, she never said the words I was waiting to hear: “You don’t look old enough to have a son thirty-four.”
   Last weekend, I went to a performance of The Great American Trailer Park Musical, which was staged by the drama department of Columbus State University. Looking at the program, I noticed the choreographer had the same last name as Richard, one of the residents also in attendance. I asked if they were related.
    “She’s my daughter-in-law,” he said. “She teaches drama and dance at CSU.”
   During intermission, I talked to Catherine, whom I hadn’t met before. After we had talked for a few minutes, I asked about her Irish accent.
   “I came to this country sixty-one years ago,” she said. “But I go back every few years for a refresher course on my accent.”
   The air conditioning will be tested this weekend. The predicted high for today and tomorrow is 105. It will be slightly cooler Sunday – very slightly – when the thermometer is supposed to reach 102. I did go out for a couple laps around the building this morning, but whether I’ll do my usual two after supper remains to be seen.
   One of the pleasant surprises about the weather in west Georgia, at least in the three months I’ve been here, has been the less than overwhelming humidity. The humidity is noticeable when I leave the air conditioned building, but just for a minute or two. There haven’t been any days yet when the humidity is a shroud that envelopes you, unseen but very real and very, very uncomfortable.
   And there are times when a little less air conditioning would be welcomed. After the doctor finished looking at my eyes the other day, I called Dennis, the Covenant Woods bus driver. He said he’d pick me up in about twenty-five minutes. My plan was to stay in the waiting room until Denis arrived, but it soon became apparent that sitting in the exceedingly well air-conditioned waiting room dressed in shorts and a T-shirt was akin to spending a November morning in Ashtabula’s Lake Shore Park in shorts and a T-shirt. I went outside and sat in the sunshine until Dennis came to take me home.
   Bethany and Ken are now the United States representatives for Kahles, an Austrian company that makes gun sights. In what seems to me to be a strange example of corporate diversification, Kahles is connected with Swarovski, the famous crystal people. But anyway, Beth and Ken went to a shoot in Wyoming last week and made a favorable impression on all those in attendance. Beth was pressed into service as a range officer. Never having been at a shoot, I have no idea what a range officer does. But though it was her first time in that capacity, Beth was voted the best range officer at the shoot. I’m impressed.
   Skype is now far and away my favorite toy. It makes me feel like a real, honest to goodness grandpa. Debbie was babysitting the other day, and I got to watch as Hayden ate lunch. He pretty much ran the show from his high chair, telling Grandma what he wanted and when he wanted it. Mostly he wanted crackers and little puffy fruit thingies. Several times he seemed to look at his adoring grandfather on the computer screen. Once he reached toward him, and a couple times he even played peek-a-boo with him. OK, he was probably tired and just rubbing his eyes. But I’m an insufferably proud grandpa, and this is my blog, and I say he was playing peek-a-boo. And I also say thank you, Debbie.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Good Life

If his life is prim and proper
A fellow will come a cropper.
He needs illicit,
Somewhat explicit
Fun - a pastime that's improper.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Notes from the Home XIV

Yesterday, on my morning jaunt around Covenant Woods I came upon Richie and his bulldog, Buddy. Any time Buddy spots the wheelchair, he pulls Richie over to it. Buddy and I get along, but we’re hardly close friends, and I doubt that he would bother with me if I didn’t occasionally drop food into the nooks and crannies of the wheelchair’s undercarriage. Buddy has found a few morsels on the buggy and is ever hopeful of finding more. He looked and sniffed, but didn’t find anything yesterday.
   But a woman, probably in her late twenties or early thirties, and her daughter, seven or eight, I’d guess, found Buddy. They had been visiting the woman’s grandfather and, judging from their outfits, were on their way to a swimming pool. The girl looked hopefully toward her mother, who asked Richie if the girl could pet Buddy. While the girl bonded with the dog, the adults talked about the weather for a few minutes.
   “Boy, you really have an accent,” Richie told the woman, as she and her daughter headed toward their car.
   “No I don’t,” the woman said. “Down here, you guys are the ones with accents.”
   Well, she was half right. Richie was born and grew up in Rhode Island and has spent all but the last few years of his life in New England. It does not take a trained ear to divine his Yankee heritage. I, on the other hand, speak English as God intended it to be spoken and do not have an accent.
   Last night at dinner, Lisa was remembering, and Herman was forgetting. Lisa’s sister died a few days ago. Lisa was born in Austria, married a GI, and came to the United States in the late forties. Her sister, and the rest of her family, remained in Austria.
   “We used to play school,” Lisa said. “My sister was older than me, and she was always the teacher. We had a lot of fun.”
   And Lisa remembered her father telling them stories. And she remembered beauty of the Austrian Alps, and going out to play on snowy winter days.
   “My husband was stationed in Germany for four years, and we were able to go to Austria and visit my family often,” she said. “And I used to go back to Austria every year, but I can’t do that anymore. I don’t get around very well.
   “My husband died twenty years ago, and I miss him. I wish I could go to Austria for the funeral, but I can’t. It’s sad. But, I’ve had a good life.”
   Herman and Joyce have two small dogs. Because Herman worries that the dogs aren’t getting enough to eat, he usually takes most of his dinner home for them.  Joyce worries that the dogs are eating too much, and that Herman isn’t eating enough. Several times during dinner Joyce leaned toward Herman and said something. Each time she did, Herman ate a little more of his dinner, until he had eaten it all.
   “You must have been hungry,” Sharnell, the server, said when she came to clear the table.  “You didn’t save anything for the dogs.”
   “We don’t have any dogs,” Herman said.
   Taken aback, Sharnell looked toward Joyce.
   “I told him we didn’t have any dogs so he would eat his supper,” Joyce said.
   Bethany called Tuesday. As usual, she was full of excitement about life, and sometimes in her excitement, the words came faster than her thoughts. In the background, I could hear Ken making little comments. Then Beth blurted out, “I’m married to a smart ass.” I told her that was only fair. After all, Ken is married to one too.
   That afternoon, Russ had to pick up some things at the supermarket across the street, and while he was in the neighborhood he stopped to see the old man. By the time he left, I was ready to write an angry letter to the people at the automotive department at Sears in the Ashtabula Mall. Not that it would do much good. The Sears in the Ashtabula Mall has closed.
   A week before I came down here, I took the Aveo to Sears for an oil change and asked them to check the brakes. Then the guy went out to check the mileage. When he got back, he said the tires weren’t worn funny, so the brakes were probably good. I asked him to check them anyway because we were going be pulling a trailer. Apparently, he didn’t. The brakes started acting up last week, and Russ took it to Sears down here Monday. The problem was the front brakes were rusted. “You bring this car down from up north?” the guy asked Russ.
   Fortunately, the brakes lasted this long. But I hope the guy at the Sears in Ashtabula is still looking for a job.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Notes from the Home XIII

   The other evening, I was talking to Lynn and Ed, her gentleman caller, as we waited for the dining room to open for dinner. Lynn glanced toward the dry erase board on which the activities for the day are listed, walked over to it and did something, but I couldn’t see what.
   “I erased an apostrophe that shouldn’t have been there,” she said, when she rejoined us. “That stuff really bothers me.”
   “You and Lynne Truss,” I said.
   Truss is an English writer who has been known to go about correcting the punctuation on signs. Several years ago, she gathered her ideas on punctuation in a book titled Eats, Shoots and Leaves. The title is from an esoteric English majors’ joke about a cute panda that eats shoots and leaves, and his gun-toting brother, who goes into a restaurant and eats, shoots and leaves. I would have given Lynn my copy of the book, but it didn’t make the cut when I was packing to come down here.
   I sat with Lynn and Ed at dinner, and William was also at the table. About halfway through the meal, William turned and started talking to a man at the next table. I don’t know what they were discussing, but, over and over, William asked the man, “Where’s it at?” The more he asked, the more exasperated Lynn became, until she finally said, “Right before the at.”
   “Were you an English teacher?” I asked.
   “I’m sorry. Is it that obvious?” she said. “I shouldn’t be so persnickety, but I can’t help myself.”
   I told her to go ahead and persnick. I was enjoying it.
   Friday, a group of us got on the Covenant Woods’ bus and went to lunch at The Market. Ellen, a feisty woman who will turn eighty this year, dominated the conversation. Among other things, Ellen was upset because one of the women who went to dinner with us last Friday told Penelope she was shocked that Penelope had chosen to have the mystery dinner at a restaurant that serves alcohol. As Ellen went on about this woman, I realized that she was the lady who sat next to Roger, the new general manager, and across the table from me. Roger had a Bud with his meal, and I had a Guinness. I hope she noticed that both of us drank responsibly.
   Sue was also at The Market with us. A new resident, Sue was an antiques dealer, and in the last few years she has been doing some writing, mostly fiction and memoir. She hasn’t published anything, but she’s entered some of her stuff in regional writing contests and done well. I’m going to have to find out more.
   A few of us went to the Columbus Lions’ indoor football game, Saturday. While we waited in the lobby for Penelope to park the bus, Helga and Russell got into a science vs. the Bible discussion. Russell, who has all the physical attributes needed to play Santa Claus, including the beard, came down firmly on the side of the Bible. The conversation was short and without rancor, and neither Helga nor Russell changed their position on the matter one bit. The surprise came a little later, when Russell and I, due to our limitations, sat apart from the group, and Russell seasoned our conversation with the liberal use of the F-word. Apparently, the range of acceptable Christian behavior has expanded dramatically since I last checked.
   No one at the Columbus Civic Center Saturday fanned himself in an effort to offset the heat. But many people, myself included, wished they had worn long pants and a sweatshirt. I haven’t any idea why the air conditioner was cranked up so. I wonder if the Lions were trying to put the crowd into a proper football mood by making it feel like November.
   As seems to be the case with every professional sports event these, the people in charge did everything they could to keep the decibel level in the triple digits. Between the recorded music, a high school band drum line, and a public address announcer who spoke in a yell and never shut up, every second was filled with noise. Why? Shouldn’t the game be enough to hold the fans’ attention for a couple hours? Or should I accept the fact that I’m getting old?
   I talked to Beth Thursday evening. I could hear the enough-already tone in her voice when she talked about all the rain they’ve been having. And I could hear the excitement in her voice when she talked about the chicken coop she and Ken have built, and the huge garden they are working on when the weather cooperates. And, most importantly, I could hear the love and excitement in her voice when she talked about Hayden. Bethany has always been full of life, and now she is enchanted by the wonder of life as she and Ken watch Hayden grow.
   And Russ is quite a guy. He spent several hours Wednesday chauffeuring his old man. I like to think he does it out of love and respect. But, when he is the chauffeur, I have to use the manual wheelchair. So it is possible he does it because he enjoys pushing me around. On Wednesday, he pushed me around Target – which he and Karen call Tar-jay, in the manner of Hyacinth Bucket on Keeping up Appearances, who pronounces her last as “bouquet.” I needed a few things, but my real purpose for shopping was to be a doting grandfather and get a few gifts for Hayden. I found a couple books, which I hope he will enjoy. And Russ and Karen dropped in Friday evening to pick up the package for Hayden and take it to the post office.
   Whether it was skillful parenting or dumb luck, the Harris kids turned out pretty good, and I’m proud of them.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Today. Or is it?

At dawn, I thought today was Saturday,
Then I thought, no it is some other day.
Perhaps I am thinking of yesterday
When the air was hot and the sky was gray.
No, wait, I think that was last week one day,
And yesterday was a big holiday.
Wasn’t it? No, I saw Doctor Fred May.
I know that appointment was for Wednesday –
Or did it get changed? I really can’t say.
Oh, my poor mind is in such disarray,
I’m never quite sure what day is today.
It could be Tuesday, or even Friday.
I’m realizing now, to my great dismay,
That yesterday will be tomorrow today.


Alisha, the activities director, asked me to play Reader's Digest editor and condense an article on spring health tips she'd found ...