Monday, I awoke to the sound of the falling rain; an all too familiar sound, lately. I suppose the rain was the price we paid for Sunday’s sunshine, which was our reward for Saturday’s torrential rain. Until Sunday, I hadn’t realized there is a creek in the woods along the entry road to the plaza across the street. And even then, I had a hard time seeing it through the trees and undergrowth. But I could hear it, as the runoff from Saturday’s rain rushed toward the Chattahoochee River a few miles to the west.
I shouldn’t complain about the rain. There hasn’t been much of it until the last month or so. Apparently, this region has been in a ten-year drought, and it will take several more months like February to get the water table back to where it should be. But the damp air makes me stiff, and the rain keeps me indoors, so complain I will.
For those who are saying, “I wish he’d stop his whining,” I do have something to whine about. According to an article in the February 26th edition of the Ledger-Enquirer, 10.5 inches of rain had fallen on Columbus in February. So, with two days left in the month, the old February record – 9.4 inches – was under more than an inch of water. December 2009, when 13.4 inches of rain fell, is the wettest month in Columbus history.
From the Department of Isn’t That a Co-inky-dink: Last Monday, I sent a few humorous poems – humorous in my opinion, anyway – to Spider, a magazine that targets six-to-nine-year-olds. Wednesday, Russ took me to Target. Along the way, in our discussion of what we were doing to stay busy, Russ said he was trying to drum up some work as an illustrator. One of publications he is sending some samples to is Spider.
I spent some time Tuesday at the West Georgia Eye Care Center, where the doctor looked into my eyes to check on the state of my macular degeneration. (Note: I have Multiple Sclerosis, which is a degenerative disease, and macular degeneration. Apparently, I’m on my way to becoming a complete degenerate, the fate Mom predicted if I didn’t straighten up.) My macular hasn’t degenerated since my last visit, and the doctor said it wouldn’t be necessary to stick a needle in my eye. Always a good thing.
After a few visits to both the West Georgia Eye Care Center and the Emory Clinic, I’m beginning to think that Southern hospitality, at least as it applies to the medical community, is vastly overrated. I suppose I was just a number to the folks at the Cleveland Clinic and Vitreo-Retinal Consultants in Mentor, but at least they made me feel like more than a digit, and they smiled from time to time.
The waiting room at the Eye Care Center is full of chairs, so full of chairs it’s almost impossible to navigate in a wheelchair. A couple – they looked to be in their seventies – helped me by moving some of the chairs. No one from the staff did.
Al stopped in this morning.
“Annie gave me this,” he said, handing me a small plastic dish containing some hard candy, a small package of peanuts and a package of trail mix; the standard birthday gift pack Covenant Woods gives its residents. “She said it’s because my birthday is in February. Look at all those nuts. I can’t eat the goddamn things.”
Then something in the bowl caught his eye. He pulled it out, looked it over and said, “What the hell is this?”
It was a five-dollar Walmart gift card.
“Oh hell, you can have that, too,” he said.
“I never go to Walmart.”
“Well, I suppose I could take it and buy something.”
The bowl of goodies was only an excuse to come see me. Al came to talk. Al is different: he is an agnostic in the Bible belt, and his sexual orientation is ambiguous – “Don’t worry, Tom, I haven’t had an erection in twenty years.”
He doesn’t have many regrets. “I never hurt anyone,” he said. “All my life all I ever wanted to do is help people.” And he doesn’t feel that he was lead down the primrose path by some evil force. “It’s natural. It’s what I am.”
But why is he different? That’s what he’s trying so hard to figure out. For him, I think, it is an intellectual exercise. Is it genetics? Is it birth order? Is it nature? Is it nurture?
“You think I’m crazy, don’t you?” he asks.
No, I don’t. In fact, in a community where certainty and smug self-satisfaction is rampant, those who, like Guy Noir, are still looking for the answers to life’s persistent questions are as refreshing as an oasis in the Sahara.
Wednesday night, I stood up and started to pull the bed covers down and lost my balance. Even as I was falling, I was confident I would land in the wheelchair. When there is nothing for me to hang on to when I stand, I try to stay directly in front of the wheelchair, so if I fall backward, I fall into the seat. And I did. But, I was farther from the wheelchair than I thought, and only a very small portion of my ample posterior hit the chair. I was able to hold on to the chair’s arms and keep myself from falling. But I couldn’t generate enough oomph to get my entire butt on the chair. And with my arms busy holding me up, I couldn’t use them to maneuver my legs in order to get some leverage.
After a short struggle, I eased myself, butt and all, on to the floor. Squeezed between the wheelchair and the bed, I was unable to get up. I called the desk, and two aides were dispatched to slide me from beneath the bed and sling me into the sack. It was embarrassing, but, in the eleven months I’ve been here, it was the first time I’ve had to call for help.