Outside enjoying the sunshine and cool temperatures Wednesday afternoon, I came upon Annie, who was parking the Covenant Woods’ car after playing chauffer for one of the residents. As we were talking, she noticed a fellow pushing a walker and heading off around the building. She yelled to get his attention, but he didn’t hear her.
“Are you going that way?” she asked, pointing toward the man.
“Can you check on him as you go past?”
I said I would, but as I set out, I was pretty sure it was nothing more than a case of Annie being overly concerned. The old codger looked to be stepping out smartly, so I moved slowly, staying well behind him. But the gap narrowed when he started up the little hill toward the C Building. He stopped a couple times to catch his breath, and we exchanged pleasantries. When we got to the top of the hill, he realized he wasn’t where he wanted to be. He was looking for the B Building.
“Well, it’s just down there around the corner,” he said.
“Not exactly,” I said. “You’re not even halfway there yet.”
A new resident, unfamiliar with the layout, but brimming with the pride and can-do spirit of a retired military man, he was determined to get to the B Building, which he knew was “just down there.”
“Let’s go in here,” I said.
“That’s not the B Building. I live in the B Building.”
“You can get to the B Building if you go inside here.”
“And it is a shorter walk.”
That convinced him, and he followed me to the door, which I couldn’t open. I have often wondered if the key that gets me into the B Building would also get me into the C Building. It won’t. I pressed the call button and started knocking. The man must have been ready to get inside; he knocked with more gusto than I did. Malinda, one of the cleaning women, heard us not so gently rapping at the C Building door and let us in. The man followed me up the hall until he spotted the dining room.
“I’m going to sit for a few minutes,” he said, plopping down on a bench.
“Do you know where you are now?”
“That’s the mess hall over there and the main lobby is just down that hallway. You go on. I’ll be fine.”
I did, and he was.
Back in the Covenant Woods’ parking lots, I was accosted by Randy, who was anxious to share the news that he’d be off for the rest of the week.
“I’m going down to my cousin’s place and do some hunting, fishing and beer drinking,” Randy said. “Wait. Let me rephrase that: I’m going to do some beer drinking, and then some more beer drinking, and then some hunting and fishing if there’s any time left.
“When I get up in a tree stand, I need three arms,” he said. “One to shoot with, one to drink with and to use when I piss. Most of the time I don’t even take a rifle up with me. I go up with two pistols and a cooler full of beer. One time I was up in a tree with a cooler of beer and my .40 on this hip and my .45 over here. Then all the squirrels started chattering and running around the base of the tree. You know how squirrels are in the fall. Then four of them started climbing the tree. I pulled out the pistols and started shooting at them. I was firing away like mad, but I didn’t hit a damn one of them. I scared them though. They didn’t bother me after that.”
“Ralph had a bad day. I think we’re losing him,” Isabelle said the other day.
She has said that several times these last few weeks. There have been a few days when she has told us that Ralph seemed to be doing better, but most days he’s been “about the same,” or “not so good.” On the “not so good” days, Isabelle is sometimes a little weepy, which has drawn the attention of a few of the other women. They seem to think Isabelle isn’t strong enough, that Ralph is ninety and his death inevitable. I heard one woman say, “She’s disgusting.”
Maybe I’m a sappy, weak-kneed, sniveling wimp, but I don’t get it. I think Isabelle is holding up extremely well. And I can’t imagine watching the life slowly fade from the person with whom you’ve shared your life for sixty-six year and not shedding a tear now and then.
Eleanor went to the eye doctor a week ago. He dilated her eyes and gave her a prescription, which turned out to be a bad combination. After picking up the prescription, Eleanor missed a step on her way out of the drug store, fell and shattered her hip. She was in the hospital for a few days and is now in a rehab facility, where she will remain for two or three months. The hip is so badly shattered the doctors have to wait for it to start healing naturally before they can do anything, or so I’ve been told. And Eleanor is diabetic, which puts limits on what the medical people can do. As Grandma said, “It’s hell getting old.”
Poor Al, the doctor put him on a regimen of antibiotics and told him he couldn’t drink while he was taking the medication. He was willing to play along until this morning when he read all information that came with the medication.
“The doctors probably never read that stuff,” he said. “How could they? If they did, they’d never tell you to take it. They all say, ‘May cause dizziness, nausea or constipation.’ Hell, I’m dizzy, nauseous and constipated all the damn time. It’s got me so upset. I’ve been worrying about it all morning. I’m going to go upstairs, smoke a cigar, have a glass of wine, a beer and have toke.”