Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Notes from the Home - September 12, 2012



   The hallway outside the activity room was alive with activity Thursday. On one side some residents were lined up to have their blood pressure checked, and on the other side there was a line of residents waiting to take a memory test. It was shaping up to be a forgettable day, so I opted for the memory test. As I waited, a question that had been floating in and out of my mind floated in. Annie was there keeping an eye on things; so I asked her.
   “The maintenance man – the little guy who’s always riding around in a golf cart – what’s his name?”
   “That’s Terry,” she said.
   I thanked her and continued my wait. A few minutes later, I was looking across a table at a middle-age woman who told me her name and the name of the organization she works for. Then we got started. She asked me what day it was, the day’s date, the time, the season of the year, what sort of facility we were in, what floor we were on, and on and on and on. There were thirty questions on the test, and I went thirty-for-thirty.  Needless to say, I was one insufferably proud man as I went down the hall to my apartment.
   When I opened my door, however, I was washed away in the wave of humility that surged from my humble abode. Sure, I knew the day, the date and all the other stuff that lady asked. But did I remember the name of the woman who administered the test? No. Did I remember the name of the organization she worked for? No. But the most bothersome realization came when I tried to recall the name of the maintenance man. I couldn’t. I had no idea. And if I hadn’t asked James a day or two later, I still wouldn’t know.
   Then I started wondering about some of the questions. I knew the date, the year, the day of the week, the time. But what if I hadn’t? Would that be an indication of a failing memory? Or would it be the result of not needing to know? For me, anyway, the rhythms of life are different here. For sixty-four years my life marched to the beat of the workaday world. Dad went to work. In time, I started school, and eventually I went to work. I haven’t worked for five years, but when I lived with Nancy, the tempo of life was usually dictated by her work schedule. Now I’m in an apartment by myself, with no job, and surrounded by people who are retired. The days are all the same. Oh, there are doctor appointments and this and that to keep in mind. But most of the time it isn’t vital to know the day, date or time. Of course, I knew all that stuff. It was Terry’s name I forgot. The one bit of information that was important enough to me to ask about, I forgot. Go figure.
  
   Four of us went to hear the Ft. Benning MCOE Jazz Ensemble Sunday. The event was sponsored by the Columbus Jazz Society and was held outside on the grounds of an Episcopal church. It was a wonderful night for an outdoor concert, at least for those of able to get seats in the shade. But even in the sun it wasn’t as hot as it has been, and the humidity was much, much less oppressive than it has been for a couple months.
   In its first set, the group played a few selections from the big band era, a few tunes from the sixties and seventies and a couple pieces that are familiar to jazz aficionados and few others. After taking a break, the band began its second set shortly before seven o’clock. After they played a song or two, Catherine said something about going home. If Catherine was ready, none of us wanted to force her to stay, and we left.
   I didn’t think of it until I was back in my apartment, but on our way to the concert and on our way back, Catherine talked about Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos new quarterback. Catherine grew up in Tennessee. Manning played his college football at the University of Tennessee, Catherine said she hoped he would do well against the Steelers that evening. I think Catherine wanted to be sure she got home in time to watch the football game. Then Manning and the Broncos went and beat the Steelers.  There is no justice.
  
   As I went to get my mail today, Lynn was coming back with hers. We said “hello,” and then she said, “You have such a beautiful smile.” I hear that a lot here. A woman who lives down the hall has told me several times that my smile is an inspiration. The first person here to comment on my smile was a man who no longer lives at Covenant Woods. A week or so after I moved in, I was up in the lobby, and the man said, “What a nice smile you have.” I must have looked surprised, because he hastened to add, “I’m not coming on to you or anything.”
   There are some crabby people at Covenant Woods. But there are crabby people everywhere, and I am not the only person here who smiles. Yet, the smile that no one noticed in the Rust Belt seems to wow them here in the Sun Belt. It must have to do with the angle of the sun.
  
   I was looking at some old posts earlier this week and noticed on April 20 the wheelchair odometer had 792 miles on it. On Monday, the odometer reached 1,300 miles. Five months and 500 miles, almost all of which came while I was circling the building. That must say something about me, but I’m not sure what.

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