It was still raining in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. The rain had started early Tuesday, stopping only occasionally. It was not a hard rain, more than a mist but not a storm. I could hear the gentle drumming as it fell. But I hardly noticed it. The sound of the rain became like the sound of the refrigerator: I noticed it when it stopped. The sky was the worst part. The heavy gray clouds shortened the already short November day. Looking outside at three in the afternoon, I had the feeling that it was almost bedtime.
But Tuesday had its bright spots despite the clouds and rain. Judy, one of the cleaning ladies, came by shortly after she got to work and said she would be around a little later to give my apartment its fortnightly cleaning. All the vacuuming, mopping, bed changing, dusting and toilet cleaning in my abode usually takes place on Thursday. But this is Covenant Woods not Wal-Mart, and Judy wasn’t scheduled to work on Thanksgiving.
“This is your lucky day,” I said.
“Why is that?”
“You won’t have to change my bed.”
“But I will have to make it,” she said, peeking around the corner and seeing that I hadn’t yet.
You see, Tuesday is the day Covenant Woods will wash a resident’s bed linens and towels if he gathers them up and puts them outside his door before ten o’clock. Judy last changed my bed the week before last. If one or both of my more prominent character flaws – forgetfulness and laziness – hadn’t interfered, I would have put the stuff outside my door last Tuesday and there wouldn’t have been a problem. As it happened, however, I had put the basket of sheets and towels outside my door just shortly before Judy came by to say she’d be back in an hour or two.
At eleven, Judy did come back and set to work making my bed. As soon as she had finished, as if on cue, Malinda, another member of the housekeeping staff, walked in with my laundry basket full of clean sheets and towels. Judy was kind enough and well-mannered enough not to turn the air blue, she didn’t even swear under her breath while she stripped the bed she’d just made and put the clean sheets on it.
“They’re still warm from the dryer,” she said.
Tuesday afternoon also had a bright spot. Two weeks ago to the day, Nick from Convalescent Care had taken my wheelchair away and left a loaner. And I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, “I might have this back to you tomorrow.” He didn’t, and the batteries in the loaner couldn’t hold a charge any better than I can hold my tongue after a few beers. Tuesday morning I decided the time had come to find out what was going on. The truth is, I decided the time had come Monday, but when I called I ended up on hold longer than I could hold it. Nick was closer to the phone Tuesday morning, and he said, “Well, we had to order a part, but we’re not sure, and it could be, and maybe it’s something else, blah, blah, blah, blah … early next week. Maybe.”
It was time then to bring up another problem: the loaner’s anemic battery. “I’ll send somebody over with a new battery this afternoon,” he said. As it turned out, when the knock on the door came, Nick was the knocker. He put a new battery in the loaner and now I can do more than go to the dining room and back before I have to put the chair on the charger. I was even able to do my laundry – Covenant Woods charges a hefty fee to do a resident’s personal laundry, and I was running short on my personals – after putting it off, lest the chair prove unable to get me to the laundry room and back. The loaner does not have anything to indicate how charged the battery is, so I’ve resisted the urge to wonder around the Covenant Woods’ parking lots and find out how long a charge might last.
Long about ten Wednesday morning, the clouds slowly drifted away and the sun came out. As I sat in the apartment that afternoon looking out at the cloudless sky, I called Beth. She wasn’t at home, but Grandma was there babysitting.
“Do you want to talk to Hayden?” Debbie said.
“Just a minute,” she said, and I heard her moving around, then she said, “Say hi, Grandpa.”
“Hi, Grandpa,” a little voice said, and my holiday season was made.
The holiday delight continued on Thanksgiving Day, when I thanked Karen, her sister Colleen, and Russ for the delicious dinner they prepared. They, in this case, is the operative word. Karen roasted the turkey, made the mashed potatoes and green beans. Colleen made the cranberry sauce, even throwing some blueberries into the mix. And Russ made the rolls and apple pie.
Russ, it seems, is becoming quite familiar with the kitchen, and he was full of gastronomical advice. As we were eating the apple pie, which was excellent, Karen said, “I can’t believe how thin you cut the apples.”
“You want to have them a quarter of an inch thick,” Russ said. “If they are any thinner, they turn to mush. But if they are too thick, the filling doesn’t set up right.”
Besides getting the apples to the correct thickness, Russ also managed to avoid the embarrassment of having a soggy bottom crust. The rolls were exceptionally good, too, but Russ ended up being hoisted on his own petard. A few decades ago, back in Ashtabula, when Russ was a young whippersnapper aspiring to become a wise guy, Debbie picked up a package of Just Like Home cookies at the store.
“Why didn’t you just make cookies?” Russ asked.
“Look,” Debbie said, “it says they’re Just Like Home.”
“No they’re not,” Russell said. “They don’t have black bottoms.”
Well, Russ’ rolls, like his mother’s cookies, had black bottoms.