Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Notes from the Home - November 20, 2012



   I looked at the calendar last week and discovered that Thanksgiving is Thursday. How did that happen? It can’t be; not already.
   “Tom, it’s an age thing,” you say. “You’re no spring chicken, you know.”
   I know. And I’ll be the first to admit those birthdays and holidays have been coming round ever more quickly for years. But this November surprise was different. It was as if the calendar had gone into warp drive. Or that I had aged thirty years in the last 366 days (this is a leap year, you know).
   I’m pretty sure, however, this year’s I-turned-around-and-it-was-Thanksgiving moment has more to do with climate than chronology. It’s fall in Georgia. The mornings are cool, sometimes cold. But by noon, a jacket is optional. On clear days, the sky is an amazing blue, and the air is lively and crisp. I can close my eyes and see fall days like these in Ashtabula. Of course, in Ashtabula these are the days of late September.
   It doesn’t even look like November here. The leaves are changing, but not so dramatically nor as beautifully as in the North. And the leaves are falling, but there are still more leaves on the trees than on the ground. I look around and I see September. Thanksgiving seems out of place here. I’m befuddled.
  
   Covenant Woods’ Autumn Dance was Wednesday. As I listened to the music, Lynn, a retired English teacher, came by and sat next to me. I figured Ed would join her momentarily. The two have been an item for several months. Ed is in his early nineties. Lynn must be too, or close to it. They are almost always holding hands when I see them in the hall, a refreshing and hopeful sight. Just as I was about to ask Lynn where Ed was, Annie came along to remind everyone that free chair massages were available in the lobby.
   “That sounds good,” Lynn said, and off she went.
   Annie’s timing, it turned out, was impeccable. The next morning, Judy, one of the housekeepers, was in a chatty mood as she gave my room its fortnightly cleaning.
   “Did you hear about Lynn and Ed?” she asked.
   “No.”
   “I thought everyone had.”
   “Not me.”
   “Well,” Judy said, “Elaine [a resident] says Lynn put him in the hospital.”
   “What?”
   “They were… you know?”
   The “you know” being, you know, sharing a moment of passion. Judy was amazed because Lynn was within earshot while Elaine was dishing the gossip.
   “Lynn was standing right there,” Judy said. “And Elaine was telling me all about it. She pointed right at Lynn and said, ‘She put him in the hospital.’”
   And to think, I had been seconds away from asking Lynn, “Where’s Ed?”
  
   Every month there is a reception for the new residents at Covenant Woods. It’s called a reception, but it’s more of an orientation. Roger, the general manager, and a few staff people welcome the new people, ask if there are any problems, talk about the place and what there is to do. A few residents who have been here a while are invited to the gathering; their price of admission being a few kind words about the establishment.
   Nona asked me to be one of the resident yakkers at yesterday’s reception. I was delighted. It seemed like an easy way to get a beer or two. I didn’t get a beer at the new residents’ reception when I was a new resident. Our choices were limited to coffee and soft drinks. But a couple months ago, I was on my way to the mailbox and saw Annie in the activities room.
   “What’s going on?” I asked, eyeing the beer and wine on the cart.
   “The new residents’ reception was today.”
   “They didn’t have beer and wine when I was a new resident.”
   “They do now.”
   They did then. But they didn’t yesterday. Maybe they’re trying to save money. But I think the reason is because Nona was running the show. Roger had an appointment and dropped by just long enough to say “hello and welcome to Covenant Woods.” Nona is nice enough, and she’s been very helpful, but she isn’t much fun.
   Yesterday, with the new residents and the invited old residents sitting around a large table, Nona asked the new residents to say something about themselves. One by one they described the trail that led them to Covenant Woods. When no more stories were forthcoming, Nona asked, “Are there any more new people?”
   “No,” I said. “The rest of us are old people.”
   “We never, ever say those words here,” Nona said, with only a hint of a smile.
  
   Al, who had been in self-imposed quarantine with a cold for several days, was out and about and sitting with Ralph and Isabelle at dinner last night. They remind me of my dad. Ralph and Isabelle don’t have a lot of bad habits, but they are not judgmental, and they enjoy the company of good people, regardless of their habits.
   “I’m feeling a little better,” Al said. “I went out on my porch earlier and had some wine and smoked a cigar. But I didn’t smoke any marijuana.”
   Ralph howled. He was the perfect antidote for Nona.
  
   Corrine provided the entertainment at our table last night. She asked Gloria if she knew Hank. Gloria said she didn’t.
   “Sure you do,” Corrine said. “He’s the guy sitting over there.”
   “What guy? Over where?”
   “Him. The one with gray hair and glasses.”
   “That narrows it down,” Gloria said.
   Corrine also told us about her campaign to improve Covenant Woods’ image. She had made a trip to the front desk earlier in the day, and there were four residents sitting in the lobby, all of them asleep.
   “That doesn’t send a very good message if someone comes in and sees a bunch of people sleeping,” Corrine said. “So, I woke them up.”
   And I have no doubt the somnolent four were fast asleep again within ten minutes. At least I hope so.
  

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