Notes from the Home - February 14, 2013



   Robert sat with us at dinner last night. He has the look of a man who might have been the Clampett’s neighbor in the days before Jed shot at some food, and up through the ground came bubbling crude. Robert is a big guy. Standing straight, he’d be an inch or two over six feet, but he slouches most of the time. Behind the wheel of his black pickup with a small Confederate flag flying above each door, Robert, a man of much more than ample girth, with unkempt hair and beard, whose jeans are held up by suspenders, is a living caricature of the men of the rural South.

   Robert scares me. He is obese, and I think he has respiratory difficulties, but he is about my age and ambulatory. OK, he lumbers more than he walks, but manages, however slowly, to get from one end of the building to the other and out to his pickup in the parking lot. And when he gets to where he is going, he must be able to lumber from his pickup to the store, theater or whatever. I wonder about reasonably able-bodied people my age who live here. But that isn’t what scares me.

   Robert spends most of his days sitting in the lobby. And he passes most of his time there sleeping. When he is awake and can bend the ear of another resident, he talks about things he did years ago and things he’s seen on television. That’s what scares me; not that he’ll trap me into a long and boring conversation, but that someday soon it will be me sitting in the lobby, falling in and out of sleep and begging unfortunate passersby to stop and listen to me ramble.

   Then again, isn’t that what I’m doing with this blog?

  

   Beverly is a tiny, tiny woman with very, very short hair. At dinner, she curls up on the chair and holds her plate on her lap. From behind, she looks like a prematurely gray, eight-year-old boy eating his dinner while watching television. Once she’s done with the main course, Beverly wants to move directly to dessert.

   “OK, I’m ready for ice cream,” she’ll tell every server who goes by. Then she’ll turn toward us and say, “I’m so hungry.”

   The woman has spunk. She taught at an inner city school in New York, and claims not to have been intimidated by any of the young thugs who came her way. I believe her.

    Beverly wears blue jeans and T-shirts. Her clothes are always clean, ironed and fit well. But most of the women here come to dinner dressed as if they are coming from a day at the office or are expecting to be asked to go to a nice restaurant. Beverly has the look of an artisan on her way to a craft fair, or an activist on her way to protest an injustice.

   Last night at dinner, when Beverly excused herself, Corrine asked what she was going to do.

   “Have a cup of coffee and write some letters,” Beverly said.

   And with that, I was back in the employee lounge at Ash/Craft listening to Maxine talk about Aunt Mary. According to Maxine, Aunt Mary, who lived in Nova Scotia, would sit down with her pen in hand, a cigarette hanging from her lips and a bottle of her favorite stout and write the most wonderful letters. I’ll bet Beverly’s letters are wonderfully cantankerous and treasured by those who receive them.

  

   It was raining when I woke up Monday, and the rain kept me inside for two days. Tuesday, after several hours of steady rain, the water crept in under the door at the end of the hall to the B building. There was a Madre Gras dance in the dining room, and Johnny, the maintenance director, dropped by to check out the action. Then he had to spring into action to get the water out of the hall.

   “There’s too much water out there,” he said. “It collects down by the door, and the only place it can go is under the door.”

   The rain took a break Wednesday morning, and I was able to get out and make a few trips around the building. Shortly after I went back inside, the rain returned. I hope Mother Nature knows how grateful I am that she let me get out for the few minutes. Today, Valentine’s Day, we are being told to expect partly cloudy skies, and there is no mention of rain in the forecast.

  

   I Skyped to the Geneva Public Library for our writing class Tuesday. One of Suzanne’s suggested assignments for next week is to write an ode to cocoa. So, yesterday afternoon, as I listened to the rhythm of falling rain, “N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestles makes the very best . . . chocolate,” took up residence in my mind. I remembered the names of the puppets: Danny O’Day and Farfel. But I couldn’t recall the ventriloquist’s name.

   I turned to Google, which directed me to site where I could watch one of the old Nestle Quick commercials. When the ad had run its course, the site listed a number of other available clips. I opted to watch Phil Rizzuto’s appearance as the first mystery guest on What’s My Line.

   Then there were more suggestions for my viewing pleasure, including a clip of Colonel Sanders on What’s My Line. The Colonel wasn’t the mystery guest. Dressed in his white suit and looking as if he’d just stepped off a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Sanders entered and signed in in full view of the panel: Arlene Francis, Dorothy Kilgallen, Bennett Cerf and some other guy. KFC was obviously a much smaller operation then, and the Colonel stumped the panel.

   Then I took the site up on its suggestion of a clip of Phyllis Diller on You Bet Your Life. It was Phyllis Diller as I had never seen her before. She didn’t look like Fang’s wife; she looked like June Cleaver. And she comported herself in true June Cleaver fashion as she told Groucho Marx she was the mother of five and was now in the entertainment business, currently appearing in a club in Los Angeles.

   It turned out to be an interesting afternoon, despite the rain. And when I turned the computer off, I realized I still didn’t know the name of the ventriloquist. I think it was Jimmy Nelson, but I’m not sure.


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