Russ came to my door recently with a gift: a copy of The Saturday Evening Post Special Humor Issue. According to the cover, the Special Humor Issue contains “300 Funniest, laugh-out-loud cartoons ever published.” Three of Russ’ cartoons are among them, which means, my son, the cartoonist, is responsible for one percent – the top one percent, in one man’s humble opinion – of the funniest, laugh-out-loud cartoons ever published. Not bad for a kid who just turned thirty-five.
It is a sign, I suppose, that these seventeen months in Dixie have had an effect on my system. Sunday evening, I heard the weatherman say it would be sixty-six in Columbus, Monday morning. And I wondered if I should get a sweatshirt out just in case.
Along with the cooler temperatures, the meteorologist promised sunshine and omitted any mention of rain. There have been buckets of it this summer. This is my second summer here, so I’m in no position to pass judgment on what is normal for west Georgia, but even the natives are commenting on all the rain.
I can say, however, that it was unusually warm in the first-floor hallway. To say that the first-floor hall was unusually warm is not to say that it was uncomfortably warm. The hall is usually quite cool, cool to the point that you wouldn’t want to be stranded in it without a sweater. But for a few days last week, it was cooler in my room than it was in the hallway. I figured someone had complained about the hall being cold all the time. But when I asked Johnny, the maintenance supervisor, he said that one of the air-conditioning units was down. A day or two later the unit was back up and the temperature in the hall was back down.
Happening guy that I am, I did what all the really happening guys do on Saturday evening. I did my laundry. Judging from the crowd in the laundry room, I am the only happening soul in the building. Jim did come by, survey the situation, tell me he had a hamper full of dirty clothes and would be back in twenty minutes or so. When my washers stopped spinning, I put the clothes in a dryer, and went to my apartment to do that other happening-guy-on-Saturday-night thing: wash the dishes. After allowing forty-five minutes for the clothes to dry, I returned to the laundry room. Jim had apparently found better thing to do.
Bud died a week ago. A Command Sargent Major in his younger days, he was, at ninety-one, a shrunken, hunched, completely bald man. He had a scooter that he rode to dinner. He parked it next to the table, then, with great effort, he got up and moved to a chair. Bud seldom spoke, but when he did it was obvious he had been following the conversation, that he was aware of what was going on around him.
Bud’s son, Chris, an optometrist, visited his dad every day. Around five-thirty, he would come into the dining room and sit with his father. When Bud finished his dinner, he and Chris went back to Bud’s apartment. I don’t eat lunch in the dining room, but according to Eleanor, Chris often dropped in to see his dad at lunch time, too.
A couple days after Bud died, Chris was filling the trunk of his car with his dad’s belongings. “He was ninety-one, so it wasn’t completely unexpected,” Chris said. “In many ways it was a blessing. His cancer was starting to come back. He died peacefully. He didn’t suffer; he wasn’t in any pain. We’re going to have his service here. This is where most of his friends are.”
Elsie slowly shuffled behind her walker as she made her way up the lengthy hallway to the mailboxes.
“It’s a long climb up this mountain, isn’t it?” I said.
“Yes it is. And the doctor told me yesterday I shouldn’t do it anymore. Here it is, the next day, and I’m doing it again. But I get tired of sitting in the apartment all day looking at the same four walls. I bet you do too.”
Dennis, the new bus driver with the same first name as the old driver, has apparently been doing some research. And in his research, he has discovered that mine is the only wheelchair with all the necessary brackets to be properly strapped down. Dennis said he wants to use me and my wheelchair in a demonstration of how to tie down a wheelchair on the bus. I don’t think the demonstration will draw much of a crowd. Penelope and Annie are the only other staff people who drive the bus.
Be that as it may, I’m sure Dennis had me properly strapped down this morning, when five of us departed in the bus for appointments with doctors around town. I was the first to be dropped off, arriving at the West Georgia Eye Care Center at twenty-of-nine for my nine-thirty appointment. My concerns about having to spend forty-five minutes cooling my heels in the waiting room were quickly dispelled when a woman with a file folder in hand said, “Mr. Harris.”
She led me to a room, where she asked some questions, had me try my luck with an eye chart and asked me look straight ahead and tell her how many fingers she was holding up, in order to assess my peripheral vision. Then she led me to another room, where another woman took pictures of my eyes and then led me to the examining to await the doctor. The doctor peered into my eyes, examined the pictures the woman had taken, said there was no need to stick a needle in my eye and told me come back in six months. The woman at the desk handed me the card for my next appointment at nine-forty, a mere ten minutes after the scheduled time for my appointment.
I went outside, found a shady spot and called Dennis to tell him I was ready to go. He was on his way back to Covenant Woods to pick up a few more residents with appointments and said it would be a while. I waited until eleven o’clock. But it was a pleasant wait: clear sky, gentle breeze and a parade of people. So pleasant, in fact, I didn’t realize how warm it had gotten until I got on the air-conditioned bus.
The other morning, I noticed Melvin jogging. At least he appeared to be jogging. Melvin is wiry, has full head of unkempt gray hair and wears wire rim glasses. Watching him trot reminds me of Warren, the Star Beacon’s crack photographer.
“I usually run from here to that driveway over there,” Melvin said when I saw him the next morning. “It’s about a hundred yards or so.”
“How old are you?”
“Seventy,” Melvin said.
Perhaps vanity made him say that; maybe it was senility, but I’m convinced Melvin shaved a decade or more off of his age. He is a wise man, however.
“You have to keep doing it to be able to keep doing it,” he said.