Thursday, July 26, 2012

My Ambition Up and Left Me

 My ambition up and left me, and now I’m really in a sweat.
   The computer’s on, coffee’s hot, a CD’s playing, I’m all set
   to write a story, poem or book until I start to write and then
   my wandering mind goes quickly off to hither and then yon. When,
   I wonder, will it come back to compose some poetry or prose?
   Unfazed by caffeine and dark chocolate, my ennui just grows and grows,
   transforming all my good  intentions to pavement on that Hell-bound road.
   I should be frustrated; I should be angry. I should pen an ode,
   or rambling essay, or some fiction, or fictional non-fiction
   praising my valiant deeds, stunning looks, and perfect diction.
   Instead, I check my e-mail, look at Facebook and play solitaire
   when I should be scribbling novels or love poems to a damsel fair.
   But me? I keep on staring at the computer’s large, empty screen,
   confident at this pace I’ll have a paragraph by Halloween.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Notes from the Home XVII, July 17, 2013

   While wondering through the parking lot Saturday morning, I met a Hispanic gentleman on his way to visit his aunt. A good nephew, he was bringing her a cup of McDonald’s coffee. My sole complaint with the food service at Covenant Woods is the anemic coffee it brews up. His aunt feels the same way, the man said.
   We talked about the weather for a minute, and then he asked if I had been in the military. I told him about my short, uninspiring stint as a draftee.
   “I thought that might be a service-related injury,” he said, pointing to my legs. “What happened?”
   “Multiple sclerosis happened.”
   “How long have you had it?”
   “Since sometime in the early 1990s, I guess. But until 2005 I thought I was just getting old.”
   “You married?” he asked.
   “Can you cope with women?” he said.
   “What was that?” I asked, thinking I’d misunderstood him.
   “Can you cope with women?” he asked again.
   Convinced that I was confused by his accent, I answered with a puzzled look.
   “Cope,” he said. “You know, cope: C-O-P-E.”
   “I don’t know how well I cope,” I said. “But, I manage to put up with them.”
   He laughed, told me to have a good day, and went on his way.
   In April, a week or two after moving into Covenant Woods, I called the Emory Clinic in Atlanta to make an appointment to have my baclofen tank refilled. We made a date for July 18. A few weeks later, Emory sent a medical history form for me to fill out and bring with me to the appointment. Two weeks ago, Harold from the Emory Clinic called to ask some questions about my condition and to get the name and number of the doctor I had been seeing at the Cleveland Clinic.
   Everything was proceeding smoothly, and Russ had scheduled himself off on the 18th to drive me to Atlanta. Then there was a change of plan. Thursday, while I was Skyping to writing class, the phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number and ignored the call. After class ended, I picked up the phone and debated whether I should return the call or wait to see if the caller wanted to talk to me enough to call back. Then the phone rang. It was an Emory Clinic scheduler. The clinic needed to reschedule my appointment; the doctor I was to see would be out of town on the 18th. Would the 25th at 9:30 be OK? she asked. I said it would be, and then I called Russ to make sure.
   A quick look at my phone’s calls received seemed to answer the question of who made the earlier call. The calls weren’t from the same number, but the numbers were close enough that they probably came from came from the same office. But they didn’t come from the same person, as I discovered when the phone rang on Friday the 13th.
   “Hello, this is Lisa from the Emory Clinic, may I speak to Thomas Harris, please?” she said perfunctorily.
   “This is he.”
   “Oh, is this Mrs. Harris?”
   “No, this is Mr. Harris.”
   “Is Mr. Harris available?”
   “This is Mr. Harris.”
   “OK,” she said doubtfully, the way a person says “OK” when she is sure she is being lied to but can’t prove it. I’m used to callers mistaking me for a woman when they hear my voice, but all the others were kind enough to hide their disbelief when I said they were speaking to Mr. Harris. Lisa, though, was calling to confess, and that might have affected her attitude.
   “Harold called you a few weeks ago to get the name and number of the doctor you were seeing at the Cleveland Clinic,” she said. “He gave it to me, but I’ve misplaced it. Can you give me that information?”
   Without implying that I doubted her competence, I gave her Dr. McKee’s name and telephone number. Later that afternoon, she called back to say she had received my records. It’s amazing how quickly large amounts of information can go from here to there with a few clicks of the mouse.
   Two weeks ago, a group of us from Covenant Woods went to hear the Hotlanta Jazz Quartet. It is a Dixieland group, and a very, very good one. The drummer is from New Orleans, the banjo player/vocalist is from Montana, the clarinet/sax player is from Wisconsin and the horn player is New England. But they all ended up in Atlanta and have been playing together since the late 1990s. The fellow who did all the singing had a voice right out of 1930s. It was great.
   The concert took place at the Liberty Theater. If there is an auditorium in the Liberty Theater, I didn’t see it. The wheelchair access for the theater is through the kitchen, and from there I was led into a room that looked like a church basement. There was a platform for the band at one end, and the audience of seventy-five or eighty people sat at tables. A caterer was set up in the kitchen, selling barbecue sandwiches, hot dogs, French fries, soft drinks and beer.
    Because of construction around the theater, the Jazz Society will be meeting in the basement of a nearby Episcopal church for the next year. There aren’t many Episcopalians down here, but the Jazz Society has a beer license and is working on getting a wine license, which would make it tough for them to find a home in one of the numerous Baptist churches.
   A week later, I got a nice reminder of that evening of jazz. Russ and Karen let me hang out with them Sunday, and among other things, they took me to a frozen yogurt place. While we were eating, the piped-in music piped in “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” a terrific song I hadn’t heard in years until the Hotlanta Jazz Quartet played it at the Liberty Theater.
   Bethany called yesterday, and we talked for over an hour. OK, she did most of the talking and I soaked up her enthusiasm, excitement and joy for life. The developmental specialist told her Hayden is ahead of where he should be in all areas for his adjusted age and ahead in most areas for his actual age. Last week, Beth sent me a short video of Hayden wearing her sunglasses. The kid is one cool dude.
   Yesterday at supper, Sue – who used to sell antiques and now does some writing – gave me some information about’s contest for essays or fiction involving sports. The site also is also holding a contest for humorous poetry. They don’t accept previously published material, which eliminates all my extant sports stuff. Twenty-five or thirty of the best humorous poems from last year’s contest were posted, and they are all considerably longer – I mean really, really longer – than any I have written. But the contests don’t close until May 31, 2013. I guess that eliminates all my excuses.
   And one more thing in the things-are-looking-up category: at 7:45 this morning I went out for my morning constitutional, and for the first time since the middle of May it was cooler outside than it was inside in the air conditioning. It will probably be another couple of months before that happens again, but it was an oh-so-pleasant surprise.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Notes from the Home XVI, July 1, 2012

Life at Covenant Woods gets curiouser and curiouser. There is the Evelyn and William question: Are they lovers? Sometimes at dinner they stare into each others' eyes, smiling and holding hands. Other times, they pout and spit insults across the table. Then William gets up and leaves. A few minutes later, Evelyn excuses herself. When I finish eating and head out, I usually find them in the lobby, sitting side-by-side on one of the couches, talking pleasantly.
   William is a retired Marine in his late fifties. Evelyn, who worked for the State of Florida, is in her early nineties. Despite her age, Evelyn stands straight, walks without assistance and speaks with authority, although she often makes the same authoritative statement several times in a fifteen-minute span. She is always well dressed, and her gray hair always just so. William is muscular – he must work out – and all his T-shirts are a few sizes too small; the better to show off his physique.
   Evelyn is a proud woman. Most of her conversations are about Evelyn, unless she is complaining about this or that. Often she’ll complain about things that weren’t done, which frequently turn out to be things that were done; she just doesn’t remember them being done. William spouts nonsense loud enough for everyone to hear. His diatribes are so disjointed that it’s often impossible to discern their targets. He is easily upset, and when he’s upset, his language gets earthy.
   Evelyn might be a cougar and William her prey, but I think it’s more likely William is the spoiled little boy, and Evelyn the doting mother. They depend on each other for affection, and for the satisfaction they get from playing with each others' emotions. But I was never very good at relationships; so who knows?
   Al, a retired Army officer, has as hard a time as anyone dealing with William. They exchanged words Friday at happy hour. Al told William to keep his voice down so he and Ed could have a conversation.  William said he wasn’t talking to Al and Ed, and that Al should butt out. They went back and forth, got loud and broke into four-letter words. Then we adjourned and went to dinner. Later, I ran into Al in the hallway.
   “I know William has problems,” Al said. “But damn it, he makes it impossible for anybody else to talk. It’s tough. I know. I’m starting to have problems with dementia myself.”
   He stopped and was quiet for a moment, then added, “And I’m not that old. I’m only eighty-eight.”
   There is a lounge area near the elevator and Al suggested we stop there and “bullshit.”
   “Why are we on this earth, Tom?” he asked. “Are we put here for some purpose? Does anything we do make a difference? Or are we just a bunch of chemicals? Do we matter? Really?”
   “I don’t know,” I said. “I wonder about that, too.”
   “I’m trying to find out. I’ve got a bunch of books upstairs I’m reading. I want to know why we’re here. Right now I’m reading Marcus Aurelius.”
   We talked a while longer and agreed that just because the human race is smart enough to build weapons capable of killing millions, perhaps billions, there’s no reason to believe we’re wise enough not to use them. Then Al took the conversation in another direction.
   “Tom, did you ever smoke marijuana?”
   “Once. In Vietnam,”
   “Did you like it?”
   “I can’t say. We’d been drinking beer, and I already had a buzz on. If the marijuana did anything for me, I didn’t notice.”
   “Well, if you ever want some marijuana, I’ve got it in the room,” Al said. “Get yourself a pipe and come up some day.”
   About that time, a woman on her way to the elevator came by, looked at Al, grinned broadly and said, “Don’t believe a word he says.”
   I am not sure if I should believe him or not. But last night, as we waited for the dining room to open, he extended the invitation again.
   As I said, it gets curiouser and curiouser.
   And it gets hotter and hotter. It was 104 in Columbus, Friday, equaling the all-time high. We had to wait until yesterday, when it was 106, to set the record. I’ve been out riding around every morning, but I’ve not been going out later in the day. According to Yahoo, it’s 103 at three o’clock this afternoon. On Thursday, however, the predicted high is a mild ninety-two, and I should be able to resume going out two or three times a day.

To Bed, Perchance to Sleep

According to an article on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's website, a person with MS is up to three times more likely to exper...