“I’m glad it’s Friday,” Randy said as he tossed garbage bags into the dumpster.
“No overtime this weekend?”
“No. But I’ve got an outside job.”
“Yeah. We’re going to sign the contract, and I’ll get some upfront money to buy supplies. A few years ago you couldn’t find a painting job anywhere. That’s why I ended up here. Now people call me all the time. ‘Hey, I’ve got a job for you.’ The money is nice, but all the work doesn’t leave much time for beer.
“Years ago, I worked for this guy who did a lot of work out at Fort Benning. One day we went fishing out on one of the lakes there. We were catching fish like crazy. Finally this guy yells, ‘Damn it’ and throws his rod down. I asked what was wrong. He said we were catching too many fish and there wasn’t any time to drink beer.”
Further along in my morning wanderings, I saw Mary, Louise’s daughter, and her husband. Louise lived down the hall from me until she fell a couple months ago and moved back to what used to be called assisted living, but is now known as personal care. Seeing Louise in the hall was always a treat. She did wonders for my ego, telling me I had the most wonderful smile.
“You’re always smiling,” she’d tell me. “You’re a real inspiration.”
But she was the inspiration. To get from hither to yon, she pushed a walker. The only thing I pushed was the wheelchair’s joystick. I asked how Louise was doing.
“Not so good,” Mary said. “She’s fallen three times since we moved her. And the dementia is getting worse.”
A while later, Mae called. She had run into Isabelle, who had asked her say hello if she saw me. Ralph came home Tuesday after his stay in hospice and the hospital. I hadn’t seen them. They have been eating in their apartment, and I have been reluctant to call, not knowing what sort of situation I might be interrupting. But after talking to Mae, a phone call to Ralph and Isabelle seemed in order.
Isabelle sounded almost chipper. “I really slept good last night,” she said. “The night before, I hardly slept at all, but last night I slept the whole night through.”
She said Ralph is still weak and spends most of the day in bed. He is, however, more aware and alert than he had been for a few weeks.
“Did you hear that?” Isabelle asked me. “Linda is in here; she wants Ralph to sit in his chair for a while. Ralph said he doesn’t want to. So, Linda asked him if he has any bedsores; Ralph said no. And Linda said, ‘And you’re not going to get any on my watch. Let’s get you in the chair.’”
Isabelle enjoyed the moment, and from the way she talked, Linda, and more importantly, Ralph enjoyed it too.
About one o’clock, I went upstairs to pester Al. He has had a couple of empty hours in his days this week, and he’s getting antsy. Most days, Al goes out to lunch with Ken, a retired Army colonel, who bought Al’s house when Al moved here nine years ago. Ken had a colonoscopy earlier in the week and hasn’t been interested in going to lunch.
The upset routine isn’t the only thing bothering Al. He will be ninety in February, and he is becoming more and more aware that he isn’t as young as he once was. In a few days, Ken will be ready to go out to lunch again, but Al isn’t sure how much longer he’ll be able to keep driving.
“I’ve promised a friend of mine that I’d give him the car when I stop driving,” Al says from time to time. “And I am going to stop. Next week, I’m taking the car in to have them go over it and make sure there aren’t any problems. Then I’m going to give the damn thing away.”
Next week has been months in the making, but, as of yesterday, it had still not arrived. Drugs, both licit and illicit, are also frustrating Al.
“I got my pipe out today and something bad happened,” Al said a few days ago. “Usually, I go out on the porch and have toke, and it mellows things out. It takes me somewhere pleasant. But today, I felt awful all afternoon. I had a headache, and I had a hard time getting around. I felt like if I stood up at the railing I’d fall right off the porch. I’ve still got some marijuana upstairs, but I’m going to throw it away. I have to stop before I hurt myself.”
Yesterday, Al was more concerned with the drugs he had obtained through prescriptions.
“I went to the proctologist this morning,” he said. “He wanted to give me some pills. I told him I didn’t want them. Every time I see a doctor, they give me prescriptions. I’ve got pills all over the place. I don’t know what most of them are or what they’re for, and I’ve quit taking all of them. They don’t do anything anyway. If they did, with all the pills I’ve taken, I should be the healthiest man alive.”
At dinner, Al announced that he hadn’t thrown his marijuana out. “I decided I needed to find out what would happen if I took another toke. It was just like the other day. I’m going to throw the rest of the shit away.”
According to a news item on the radio yesterday, an Ohio man cannot get a driver’s license because he has been declared legally dead. But that’s not the weird part. “The trouble started years ago,” the woman reading the news said, “when the man left his wife and turned to alcohol.” Whether he became to ethyl or methyl, she didn’t say.