Yesterday afternoon, while we were playing Tripoley in the activity room, someone walked by with a balloon emblazoned with “Welcome Home. A little later, I saw Linda, a caregiver who has become very close to Ralph and Isabelle. Before I got the question out, Linda smiled and said, “Ralph is home.” He is home from hospice, where he has spent the last week, and from the hospital, where he had spent the previous week.
“Ralph and Isabelle are special people,” Linda said. “Isabelle looks so much like my grandmother, only taller. And Ralph looks just like my grandfather, only shorter. When I first walked into their apartment two years ago and saw them, I thought, ‘Oh my God.’ I just love them. They’re really good people.”
The feeling is mutual. Isabelle and Ralph call Linda their angel.
Linda’s boyfriend is Randy, one of the maintenance men here. It is a surprising match: Linda is quiet and demure; Randy is loud and boisterous. With his voice, Randy could have been the public address announcer at the Coliseum back in the days when the lions and Christians were doing battle. Perhaps it is a case of opposites attracting, but I’m betting there must be a quieter, more thoughtful Randy at home
Monday evening as we sat around a table in the dining room getting the menus ready for Tuesday, Eleanor, Al and I edged ever closer to rowdiness. Ruth didn’t. The trouble started when Al said he was going to be cremated.
“I don’t care what happens to the ashes,” he said. “They can toss them in the dump, for all I care.”
“It doesn’t matter where your ashes go,” Ruth said. “The important thing is what happens to your soul.”
No one uttered an “amen” in response, least of all Al, who will tell anyone who asks – and anyone who doesn’t ask, for that matter – that he’s an atheist and an agnostic. In fact, Al turned the conversation from the hereafter to what he was going to do when he got back to his apartment. “I’m going sit on the porch, smoke a cigar, drink a glass of wine and have me a toke.”
“You know, it doesn’t matter where your ashes end up, it’s your soul that is important,” Ruth said. Not a soul seemed to care, and Ruth’s look of tolerant bemusement gave way to Puritan disgust.
Al talked for a few minutes about how easy it is to get grass but how difficult it can be to get “good shit.” Then the conversation took a turn and headed toward towns with names of questionable propriety. A journey that quickly took us to Blue Ball and Intercourse. When we got there, Ruth decided it was time to end her social intercourse with us. She stood, uttered a tight-lipped, perfunctory “good bye” and went elsewhere. When and if she’ll rejoin our little menu crew remains to be seen.
A contributing factor to Ruth’s icy demeanor Monday might have been the air conditioning in the dining room, which was in its refrigeration mode. When we finished the menus, I was anxious to get outside, where it would be warm. But it wasn’t, at least not very. It made me wonder if a year and a half in Georgia had turned me into a weather wimp.
Tuesday, shortly before noon, I realized that though I may have lost some of my Nanookian toughness, my idea of cold is still colder than the natives’ idea of cold. I was circling the building, and the clouds moved quickly across the sky. There was a cool breeze that, from time to time, sent fallen leaves scudding along the pavement. The air was cool, pleasantly cool, and when the clouds weren’t in front of the sun, it was pleasantly warm, at least in the opinion of this Yankee. Johnny, the maintenance supervisor, had a different opinion.
“It’s cold out here, you know,” he said when he came by in his Jeep Cherokee.
“It’s not as warm as it has been, but it’s not too bad.”
“Well, be careful and don’t stay out too long. It’s pretty cold.”
Wednesday morning I was disappointed to discover it wasn’t as cool as I thought it would be outside. One of the nurse’s aides, however, was less than delighted to discover that it was as cool as it was.
“I hate this cold weather,” she said with conviction as she dashed across the parking lot to her car.