The family grew a little Thursday with the birth of MaKenna Lynn Pratt. My lovely granddaughter checked in at nineteen inches long and weighing six pounds, six ounces.
For me, Multiple Sclerosis is a disease of frustration, and at times like this the greatest frustration is the inability to hop on a train, plane or automobile at a moment’s notice and head for Idaho. And that’s followed by the knowledge that if I got there, I’d be in the way at a time when Beth and Ken have far more important things to tend to. But this is an age of technology, and Ken texted a photograph of McKenna not long after her birth and others have followed on Facebook.
The greatest comfort a grandfather can have is the knowledge his grandchildren are being raised in a loving and caring home. I have that comfort.
If Ruth were caught in a torrential downpour just before she stepped on a scale, she might weigh ninety pounds. If she stood up straight and had shoes on, Ruth might be five-feet tall. But when she is out and about, Ruth is bent over pushing her walker. When she meets someone in the hall, she stops and seems to look up at them through the gap between her eye brows and her glasses. She spotted me in the laundry room Sunday and came in.
“You inspire me,” she said.
“Sometimes I think I should have someone do my laundry for me,” she said. “Then I see you in here, and I think: If he can do it, I can do it.”
Then I told Ruth how much she inspires me. Every evening she can be found pushing her walker up and down the hallway. Ruth doesn’t stroll, neither does she lollygag. She moves out smartly and with determination. And she does it with a smile. She is a wonderfully powerful inspiration. I told her that.
“I’m not sure that’s true,” she said. “But thank you.”
“It is absolutely true,” I said. “You go, girl!”
Bobbie uses a walker, too. She stands five-seven or so and walks tall, giving the impression that her walker is more of a security blanket than a necessity. She is a feisty dame. A few months ago, the fire alarm went off, and Bobbie assured everyone around her that all would be well. Then she added:
“I tell my daughter that all the time. And she says, ‘I know, Mom, everything will be fine.’ And then I tell her, ‘If you know it, then goddamn it why don’t you act like it?’”
She is the old person I want to grow up to be.
Thursday afternoon as I wended my way through the parking lots, I spotted Bobbie. She looked puzzled.
“I’m confused,” she said. “I don’t know where I’m supposed to go to get in.”
She went on to give me a street address, but it wasn’t Covenant Woods’ address. I walked with her to the door,
“Oh, now I remember,” she said. “I go in here, go around to the elevator, take it to the third floor and that’s where my apartment is. Thank you for your help.”
It was a shock to discover that Bobbie didn’t quite have it all together. But I was in for a bigger shock when I asked Penelope if Bobbie was starting to lose it.
“Well, she is ninety-nine,” Penelope said.
“Ninety-nine. Hard to believe, isn’t it.”
Should I live that long, I hope to have Bobbie’s acid tongue and youthful looks.
A month or two ago, Lucy, the food service director, told me she was worried that I wasn’t eating enough and whenever she saw my order, she made sure I got a heaping helping. I suspected Lucy had something to do with all the food on my plate the other night. My suspicions were confirmed a little later as I circled Covenant Woods.
“Did you eat all that food I piled on your plate?” Lucy asked as she drove by.
“Every bite,” I said.
The next morning, Al dropped by with a couple of Piggly-Wiggly bags in hand.
“Tom, you’re getting fat,” he said. “We’ve got to do something about that.”
He went on to give a not entirely positive assessment of my girth, followed by:
“Over at The Pig, I bought a blueberry pie. I’ll never eat the damn thing. Will you take half of it?”
He also left a gingerbread man.
Friday morning I was at Piggly-Wiggly. William was there, too, laying in the day’s supply of Coors. He was on his way to checkout when I saw him. After I got the things I was after, checked out and left the store, I spotted William standing outside Dollar General sampling his purchase. It was quarter after eight.
At dinner that evening, Al vented.
“You weren’t at happy hour,” he said. “You didn’t miss anything. The Marine was drunk and never shut up. There were five of us at that table, and he did all the talking.”
A little later, about twelve hours after I saw William outside Dollar General, I passed him in the hall.
“Getting your exercise, eh?” he said as he stumbled by.
Saturday morning, I overheard Richie telling someone, “He fell in the hallway last night.” I didn’t hear the name of the person who fell, but I have my suspicions.