Sunday, March 31, 2013

Notes from the Home - March 30, 2013

   Tuesday was the anniversary of my arrival at Covenant Woods. And what a difference a year makes – weather-wise, anyhow. According to, the high in Columbus on March 26, 2012 was eighty-four. Russ and Karen spent that day lugging all my earthly possessions from the U-Haul trailer into the apartment. There was no relief from the heat inside – the air conditioner in my apartment wasn’t working. They must have lost ten or fifteen pounds each that day. James, the maintenance guy, had the AC up and running by the end of the week, but it was too late to give comfort to Russ and Karen.
   This March 26, the thermometer was thirty-five degrees short of last year’s mark, topping out at forty-nine. I must be adapting to the Georgia weather.  Instead of enjoying the pleasant fifty-degree March day, as I often did in Ashtabula, I whined about the cold. I’m writing this on Saturday, and the predictors are predicting a high of seventy-five today. The anticipated high for Thursday, however, is a frigid fifty-eight. A week from tomorrow, they say we’ll have a high of eighty, followed by an eighty-three degree day that Monday. If the forecast holds, it won’t be long before I’m whining about the heat.
   But before I start another weather whine, I need to give thanks to Nancy and Aaron for all the work they did getting my stuff packed and put on the trailer, and all the help they gave me over the five years I lived with them. And also give thanks to Russ and Karen for finding Covenant Woods, for getting me down here and moved in, and for all the help they’ve given me since I’ve been here.
   Besides, there’s nothing to whine about today. The sun is shining, the temperature is sixty-eight, on its way to seventy-four, the dogwood tree by my porch is bedecked in blossoms and the bees are buzzing, the birds singing.
   Debbie called Thursday and asked if I wanted to Skype with Hayden, Well, doh! I spent a pleasant forty-five minutes watching Hayden eat breakfast and listening to Grandma extol his virtues, or as many of his virtues as she could extol in forty-five minutes.
   When I talked to Beth, Friday evening, she said, “Mom told me Hayden didn’t say very much.” I suppose that’s true. He didn’t count to ten in English, Spanish or German, nor did he recite the alphabet (he’s monolingual with letters). That might be because he was so busy asking for toast. “Toast,” he’d say, holding his hand out, “toast.” And once or twice, when he wasn’t asking for toast, he looked into the computer screen and said “Grandpa.” And with that, Hayden had said all that was necessary to make his grandpa a very, very, very happy man.
   Beth went to the doctor Friday and got lots of good news. Both she and Hayden’s little sister are doing extremely well. The doctor told Beth the baby weighs four pounds, thirteen (if I remember correctly) ounces and is eighteen inches long. How the doctor knows that when the baby is snug inside Beth’s sizable baby bump I don’t know, but that’s what Beth was told. Beth will see the doctor again next Friday. The following Friday, April 12, the doctor will unstitch Beth’s cervix, and the doctor, Beth and all of us who love her will wait for nature to take its course.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Life Goes On

  Sometime late Friday night or in the wee hours of Saturday morning, Jerry died. They found him in his recliner, his television on. Jerry was a retired high school principal, and from what I hear, a well-respected educator.
   He was eighty-five and got around in a powered wheelchair. When asked “How are you?” Jerry’s usual answer was, “Pretty good. At least that’s what they tell me.”
    He was in good spirits Wednesday when I sat with him at dinner. As we ate, Roz, who works through an agency, came along to pick up Corrine’s dinner. Corrine has been having trouble with her legs and feet swelling, and the doctor told her to stay in bed.
   “Corrine will be eating down here tomorrow,” Roz said. “The boot the doctor ordered for her came in.”
   “Corrine needs a good boot,” I said.
   “Tom, you’re terrible,” Jerry said.
   “She’d give it right back to me if she were here.”
   “She sure would,” Jerry said, laughing.
   That was the last time I talked to Jerry.
   Jerry was a widower, and his son lives in Louisiana. Al stopped in Sunday to talk about Jerry. “I’ve known him most of my life,” Al said, shaking his head. Al often says he is ready to die, but Jerry’s death seemed to be an uncomfortable reminder of his own mortality.
   Death happens, of course, and it happens frequently at Covenant Woods. Sara, who lived across the hall with her husband Loyd, died two months. She was diabetic, had problems with spasticity, and spent much of her time in a wheelchair, which Loyd pushed. Loyd doesn’t have any apparent physical problems other than slowness brought on by age. But, he was perpetually at sea. One day last summer, he was standing in the hall when I came out of my apartment.
   “I can’t remember,” he said. “Which way is the elevator?”
   There were other occasions, too, when I saw Loyd standing in the hallway obviously confused. He knew where he wanted to go, but wasn’t sure how to get there. When Sara died, I assumed Loyd’s family would move him to the assisted living wing or place him in an Alzheimer unit somewhere. They didn’t. Loyd is still living across the hall. He’s moving a little faster, and acts more alert, more aware. He must miss her terribly, but Sara’s passing seems to have lightened his load.
   Ed, a retired Army colonel, and Lynn, a retired English teacher, didn’t live together, but they were an item. Two octogenarians who walked through the halls holding hands like a couple of high school kids. One evening, Lynn was reading the list of the day’s activities on the dry erase board in the lobby, which was crowded with hungry residents waiting for the dining room to open. Lynn turned and grinned.
   “I erased an apostrophe that didn’t belong there,” she said. “I shouldn’t do things like that, but I can’t help myself.”
   Ed died a few months ago, and Lynn hasn’t been the same. She has moved from independent living into assisted living. When you see her these days, she is almost always accompanied by someone from personal care. Only occasionally does a glimmer of recognition flash across her face.
   Guided by an aide, Lynn came to bingo one day when I was the caller. She just sat with two cards in front of her and never responded to any of the numbers I called.
   “I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do,” she said.
   The aide tried to help her, but Lynn never caught on. She seemed to enjoy being there and among a group of people, although she seldom spoke and remained oblivious to the game. When Ed died, part of Lynn seemed to go with him.

No Good Words

The assignment was to take the number of pets you or someone you know has times twenty-five, go to that page in the dictionary, count down to the seventeenth entry in the left-hand column and write a poem on the word you find there. It turned out to be more challenging than I thought.


  I guess I thought with two dictionaries
   Finding a very appropriate word
   Based on the number of dogs, canaries,
   Kittens or gerbils I have in my herd
   Would not cause fear, strain, stress, dread, or fuss.
   It sounded so easy, a piece of cake.
   But it’s made me one quivering cuss.
   My brow is furrowed and my gray cells ache.
   The truth is, I have no animal friends,
   But Beth and Ken and Hayden do have three
   And so rather than try to make amends
   For ignoring the assignment, you see,
   I would do just as Suzanne suggested –
   Take their three canines times five and twenty
   And then as I my big meal digested
   Find the right page among words aplenty,
   Down the left column, counting seventeen.
   In the American Heritage book
   I had an experience unforeseen.
   Aghast, appalled I took another long look
   But my eyes though old had not been deceived.
   Three hours later, still deeply in shock,
   I looked once more and had not misconceived.
   That word, O, alas it rhymed with “a sock.”
   Could be a hat worn atilt and jaunty
   Or a gun trigger, pulled, ready to fire
   But some prudes might deem the word quite naughty,
   And pummel me with prudish ire.
   I sensed my spare book of definitions
   Would have a nicer word correctly placed.
   But they’re never right, my premonitions,
   And the word I found was in such bad taste
   That, astounded, I just threw up my hands
   When I spotted the nasty “battle-ax:”
   “A domineering old woman.” My lands.
    I don’t know any. And them’s the facts.
   Or at least the facts to which I’ll admit,
   Surrounded by gals here old and older,
   Who hate “battle-ax” and will throw fit
   Should I say it. But wait till I get bolder.


Alisha, the activities director, asked me to play Reader's Digest editor and condense an article on spring health tips she'd found ...