Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Few Short Conversations

   “Al, the other night you said you said you were thinking of getting rid of your car and giving up driving. Have you decided yet?” Isabelle asked at dinner, Friday.
   “I went to my heart doctor – he’s my Chinese doctor – yesterday, and he asked me if I was still driving.”
   “What did you say?”
   “I told him I was.”
   “What did he say?”
   “That’s what he told you?”
   “He said, ‘stop.’”
   “What are you going to do?”
   “I told him I’d think about it,” Al said. “I really should stop driving. One of these times I’m going to kill someone. The other day, I was going along and then I couldn’t lift my foot. I almost ran into some guy. And all the idiots out there. I don’t what the hell I’m doing half the time. How am I supposed to figure out what they’re trying to do?”
   “So are you going stop driving?”
   “I probably should.”
   The conversation wended its desultory way through a few uninspiring topics before Al turned toward me and asked, “Do you have something other than that wheelchair to get around in?”
   “I’ve got a manual chair.”
   “Does it fold up?”
   “Yeah. When Russell carts me around, he folds up the chair and puts it in the trunk.”
   “And you can get in and out of the car OK?”
   “More or less.”
   “The wheelchair isn’t difficult to handle, is it?”
   “A couple of years ago, I was able to handle it.”
   “Well, if you need something and Russ can’t take you, why don’t you call me? I could take you.
   “Al, five minutes ago you said you ought to give up driving.”
   “Don’t worry. I wouldn’t do anything crazy with you in the car.”
   Louise fell a couple weeks ago and has had a difficult time getting around since. Wednesday, I saw her in the hall. She was in a wheelchair that was being pushed by her daughter.
   “Louise, it’s so nice to see you. How are you?” I asked.
   “I’m doing well.  I feel pretty good. And the doctor says I’ll be fine”
   “That’s wonderful.”
   “I only say that because otherwise my family would get all concerned and start asking all sorts of questions.”
   I’ve probably seen Catherine every day since I moved into Covenant Woods, but we hadn’t introduced ourselves, I didn’t even know her name until Monday evening, when she stopped me in the hall.
   “Do you ever see William?” she asked.
   “Sometimes, if he’s hanging around Richie’s room.”
   “Well, if you see him, would you ask him to give me a call? He said he’d help me hang some pictures.”
   “I’ll be glad to ask him, but I’m afraid I don’t know your name. I’m sorry.”
   “I’m Catherine. And don’t worry about it. I see you all the time, and I don’t know your name either.”
   “My name is Tom.”
   “It’s so nice to meet you, Tom,” Catherine said, as she bent down and gave me a hug. “I love everyone.”

   “My husband and I bought our duplex when this place was still condominiums,” Eleanor said, as we worked on the menus one evening. “I was president of the condo association. This place had a couple of different owners back then, and I managed to piss them all off. There was a five-acre tract out here one of the owners wanted to sell. That land didn’t belong to the corporation. It belonged to the condo association. We wouldn’t let them sell it. It got to the point they tapped my phone. I could hear it start to record the second someone started talking. I told them to keep their fucking hands off my phone.
   “I cuss too much,” Eleanor said. “My parents didn’t allow smoking, drinking or cussing in their house. I learned to cuss from my husband. He smoked, drank and cussed. I’ve never smoked, I’ve never had a sip of alcohol, but I do cuss. I’m a Christian lady, and I am very honest. I’m not mean, but I tell people what I think. And sometimes when I do, it sounds like I was raised by a bunch of sailors.”

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