Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Notes from the Home - May 8, 2013

   Last spring, my first in Columbus, I was surprised that it rained so little. Oh, there was the passing shower and the occasional thunderstorm. But the rain was remarkably efficient; it did what it had to do and got out of the way, allowing the sun to return in a timely fashion.
   A year later, I’m wondering if the rain will ever stop. OK, that’s going too far. The rain hasn’t been constant – not quite. When it isn’t raining, however, it still looks as if it’s about to, which makes me leery about going out for a spin in the wheelchair.
   At seven o’clock Saturday evening, according to the information supplied to Yahoo by the Weather Channel, it was fifty-five and raining in Columbus. Meanwhile, it was seventy-one and partly cloudy in Ashtabula, seventy-five and sunny in Orofino, and sixty-nine and partly cloudy in Pittsburgh. So much for the sunny South.
   A glimmer or two of sunshine in the eastern sky raised my hopes Tuesday morning, and I went for a tour of the grounds. Down in the cottages – seven ranch-style duplexes – Violet was working in her flower bed. She was wearing white pants, a white T-shirt, and an unbuttoned flannel shirt. The pants and T-shirt weren’t just white; they were so white they would have been the whitest of the whiter-whites in the old detergent commercials.
   I told her how nice her flowers looked, and she stood up and came over to chat. I tried hard to listen as she talked about her garden, but I couldn’t help staring at her. Her gloves were caked with dirt, of course, and there was some evidence of discoloration on her knee pads, but her pants and T-shirt were as the driven snow.
   Violet has a reputation for cleanliness, and it goes beyond her wardrobe. On a recent Saturday afternoon, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra held a rehearsal which was open to the public. As we waited for Annie to pull the bus around to take us to the River Center, Jane shared a joke. It seems two towns in England were having a charades competition. It was a spirited battle, and the citizens of one of the towns went into the backroom to discuss their next charade. They came out of the room naked and arranged themselves with the women facing the audience and the men with their backsides toward the audience. The other town was about to give up when one man said, “Wait, I think I know what it is.”
   He looked at the naked men and women one more time and said, “I’ve got it. It’s ‘The William Tell Overture.’”
   “How do you figure that?” one of his fellow citizens asked.
   “Well look: titty-bum, titty-bum, titty-bum-bum-bum. Titty-bum, titty-bum, titty-bum-bum-bum.”
   And when Jane saw that everyone enjoyed her joke, she hastened to add, “This is one we can’t tell Violet.”
   Jane enjoys slightly off-color humor. With only a hint of encouragement will sing a ditty Dusty and Lefty sang in the movie Prairie Home Companion:

      I used to work in Chicago, in a convenience store.
      I used to work in Chicago; I did, but I don’t anymore.
      One day a woman came in, with porcelain skin,
      And I asked what she was there for.
       “Liquor,” she said. And lick her I did,
       And I don’t work there no more.
    That afternoon at the River Center, as the orchestra tuned up, one of the musicians filled the hall with several high-pitched screeches.
   “What’s that?” Jane asked.
   “Maybe the piccolo,” I said.
   “Well, it’s giving me a headache.”
   To be certain that a piccolo player was involved in the day’s activity, I consulted the program. When I found that person’s name, I showed it to Jane.
   “OK, girl, your ass is grass,” Jane said, staring at the program. “I’m putting out a contract on you.”
    Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
       it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
      not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.
                         Billy Collins
   Bev was sitting in the lobby when I came in from my morning constitutional. She was waiting for Dennis, the bus driver, to take her to the doctor. And she was complaining. She was complaining about Rob, who had fallen asleep in the dining room.
   “Are they just going to let him stay there?” she asked. “How are they going to set that table for lunch if he’s sleeping there? Of course, if they wake him up, he’ll come out here, sit down and fall asleep.”
   She complained about the other residents.
   “I won’t say who – the Irish woman – she’s such a snob. She’s a pain in my butt. What’s wrong with all these people? Where do they get them? They’re all nuts.”
   She complained about life at Covenant Woods.
   “I’m bored. Are you bored?”
   She complained about her daughter-in-law.
   “She told me to quit calling my son. She said I’m driving him crazy.”
   Those are standard whines for the denizens of Covenant Woods, but Bev is no run-of-the-mill whiner. She complains with panache; she grumbles with verve; she carps with style. She had me laughing hard enough to draw disapproving stares from the other residents in the lobby. And as she filled the air with pointed barbs, I told myself go back to my apartment the second our conversation ended and write them all down.
   I didn’t.
   When I finally got around to putting the memories of our chat on paper, I found they had, in the words of Billy Collins, “decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,/ to a little fishing village where there are no phones.”
   But, as I sat trying to recall what Bev had said, memories of another conversation surfaced. James and I were talking trash at the dumpster about a month ago. The topic on James’ mind was retirement. He’s in his early fifties, and he’s counting the days.
   “I’d like to unretire,” I told him.
   “Why?” he asked, aghast at the notion.
   I told him had I enjoyed both my jobs. They got me out and about every day, and they appealed to different sides of my personality. All too often at Covenant Woods, getting out among people means going to the lobby and singing “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.”
   “You don’t like sitting around getting old, do you?”
   Helping to keep my dotage at bay, however, is the younger generation. Last night, Russ, Karen and I went to Cheddar’s for dinner. Nothing special, just a couple hours of family. Always a good thing.
   And yesterday, Beth posted this on Facebook:

Hard to believe my little girl is already 2 weeks old! Even harder to believe my baby boy is almost 3! Oh how time flies by... Life is so incredibly good. Hayden is the best big brother, as he is right there the first time baby girl cries, in search of a binky for her. They love each other and I couldn’t be happier. Happy Tuesday!

   Yes, life is so incredibly good.


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