Notes from the Home - February 10, 2013


   Shorty has been living at Covenant Woods for two weeks. There is something familiar about his thick, tousled white hair and horn-rimmed glasses, which led me to ask: “Has anyone ever told you, you look like Spencer Tracey?”

   His face answered with a look that said, “I’m going to throttle the next person who tells me that.” Fortunately, in true Spencer Tracey fashion, he decided that discretion was the better part of valor and said, “But I don’t believe them.”

   Shorty, who uses a walker, said he was stiff all over. He had spent the day at his house with a friend and a real estate agent.

   “I got rid of everything. The house is completely empty,” he said. “There was nothing to sit on. I had to stand up for a couple hours. Now I’m stiff as a board”

   Being nosey, we asked how much he was asking for the house.

   “Not as much as it’s worth,” he said. “But I want to get it sold. I’m in the croaking place now, and I want to be rid of all that stuff. I’m here, and I’m waiting to croak.”

   Shorty may be clearing the decks, but he doesn’t act like a man who plans to go down with his ship any time soon.

  

   Brenda was our server at dinner, and she wasn’t her usual self. Her usual self is smiling and darn near excessively attentive. She was neither tonight. Eventually, Corrine asked her if something was bothering her.

   “I’ve been having a bad day,” she said. “Everybody at my house is sick, and there is a bunch of demanding people in my section.”

   Brenda’s real job is at Publix. She’s a sub at Covenant Woods. Corrine said she likes Brenda much more than she likes Kevin, our regular server. Kevin does have an attitude at times. Of course, Kevin’s attitude might be the result of facing the “demanding people” everyday instead of just once or twice a week.

  

   Saturday afternoon, I got started on The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard. It wasn’t long before I found some nits to pick. The first sentence of the first chapter reads: “The line outside Madison Square Garden started to form at 5:30 p.m., just as an orange autumn sun was setting in New York City on Halloween Eve, 1912.”

   “Now wait just one minute there, missy,” thought I, “even in Ashtabula, several hundred miles to the west, the ‘orange autumn sun’ is all but gone by 5:30 in the waning days of October.” Indulging my suddenly curious mind, I went to the U.S. Naval Observatory website via Google, and learned the sun had set over New York at 4:55 that afternoon.

   Then I wondered about “Halloween Eve.” Halloween is a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve, so October 30 would be All Hallows’ Eve Eve. And with that, I decided it was time to get out of the apartment. In the hallway, I stopped to talk to Al, who was on his way to his mailbox. A few minutes later, Louise, who was on her way back with her mail, joined us.

   “What are you doing?” she asked Al.

   “I’m going to see if I got any mail.”

   “After that?”

   “Well, I’m going to go back upstairs,” Al said. “Then I’ll go out on the porch and smoke me a cigar. Then I’ll have a glass of wine, and then I’ll get my pipe and have toke.”

   “After that?” Louise asked.

   “Oh, I’ll probably eat some chocolate.”

   “That’s when you call me,” Louise said. “I don’t care about the rest of that stuff, but I do love chocolate.”

   Now that I have a recorder, Al has been reluctant to talk while it’s on. But, ever since I gave him the newspaper article about the Battle of Song Be, he has been writing to and talking with several men who served with him in Viet Nam. The other night, he was trying to draw a map of the area around the compound at Song Be based on a letter he’d received from one of the men who was there.

   “This stuff is driving me crazy,” Al said. “And, god damn it, Tom, it’s all your fault. You’re the one who got all this started.”

   I guess I was. And I believe there are three or four old men who are delighted that I did.

  

   The piped-in music at Covenant Woods has undergone a generational shift. Henry Mancini, Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Andy Williams have been sent packing. Now the music of the Beatles and Beach Boys fills the hallways.

   Alas, when elevator music is the music of your youth, it can only mean one thing: You’re old.

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