Shortly after noon Tuesday, the sun appeared and the sky cleared. Exactly one week earlier, at nearly the same hour, my wheelchair came back from Convalescent Care. It had been biding its time there for three weeks, while those folks and the manufacturer bickered over what went wrong with the parts Convalescent Care had installed few weeks earlier and who should pay for the parts that would now replace the replacement parts. I don’t know what they decided other than I am not to be the payer. Life is good … well, not entirely.
Alas, while my wheelchair was up to snuff, the weather was not. The most frustrating part of having a loaner was my fear of wandering around outside. There was nothing on the loaner’s control unit to indicate how the battery was doing. When the power was on an upright rectangle with a bunch of horizontal lines appeared on the screen. Silly me, I assumed the lines would disappear one-by-one as the battery’s power waned. It didn’t work that way. Instead, all the lines disappeared at once, the chair instantly slowed to a crawl, and, if I was out of the apartment, all I could do was hope it would make it back on the electrical equivalent of fumes. Even after they put a new battery in the loaner, I was certain meandering outside would be too much for it, and I’d need to be pushed back to my apartment. So, other than going just outside the door, where I could sit in the sun and read, I stayed inside.
Now, please don’t think I am misrememberating when I say the weather was lovely almost the entire three weeks my chair was in the hospital. There were a few dreary days, rainy days, but there were a bunch of glorious fall days – the autumn days one looked forward to in the early weeks of October when one lived a stone’s throw from Lake Erie’s shore: Cool nights, cold mornings, frost on the pumpkin, bright sun, blue sky, gentle breezes, pleasant temperatures in the afternoon. Days that made sweating through the sweltering heat of summer worth it.
The last of those days was the day before my wheelchair returned. Then the rain came, and the rain stayed. When the sun did make an appearance, it didn’t stay long, just long enough to lure me outside. Then, as if it was old Sol’s idea of a joke, he hid behind a cloud and snickered, knowing my stay outside would be short and hurried, a race to see if I could make it back in before the cloud he’d crouched behind rained on my parade. I never got caught in the rain, but it was close every time.
By one o’clock Tuesday afternoon, however, the sun was shining in a cloudless sky. For the first time in over a month, I went down the asphalt path and motored around The Pig, picking up a few groceries. There was frost on the windshields Wednesday morning, and the Weather Channel was promising several more days of sunshine. It was wonderful.
Covenant Woods’ annual Christmas soiree was Sunday, and Russ and Karen came over to see the old man and indulge in the big feed. They probably wondered why I don’t weigh three or four hundred pounds by now. The dinner was a buffet, and as they went through the line and made up a plate for me, several other people came by and left me plates of goodies.
“It’s a shame you had to eat off such a small plate,” Lucy said as she helped bus tables.
“Yeah, but where four of them,” I said.
And they probably wondered about the people I hang around with. Al was in rare form. He talked about the wine, the beer, the marijuana, the marinol, the hydrocodone and the one or two other drugs he had taken that afternoon. Eventually the lieutenant colonel in him came out, and he took charge of shrimp distribution in buffet line. The dancing took place on the other side of the room, but word is Al cut quite a figure on the dance floor.
Monday at dinner, Al talked about all the people he saw at the party. Whether he actually saw all the people he said he saw is another story.
“Ron, I saw you two or three times last night,” Al said.
“Where were you sitting?” Isabell asked Ron. “I didn’t see you.”
“I didn’t go to the party,” Ron said.
Al argued the point for a minute or two and then said, “Was it this morning I saw you?”
“Yes, down in personal care,” Ron told him.
“I was taking a bag of chocolates down to … What’s her name? She used to live across the hall from you Tom.”
“That’s it. I was taking her some chocolate when I saw Ron.”
But Al wasn’t the only one who had a good time. Monday morning, Randy, one of the maintenance men, was painting the window sills in the hallway.
“Tom T. Hall,” he yelled when he saw me. “I hear your next-door neighbor had quite a time last night.”
“Yeah. I was talking to Warren [the night security guard] this morning,” Randy said. “He said Richie went up front about three o’clock this morning, still lit, and he had his dog – that bulldog – with him. He tells Warren he wants to let Buddy off the leash. Warren tells him he wishes he wouldn’t, but if he does to stay close to Buddy, because you’re not supposed to let an animal run free in the building.
“So, Richie takes the leash off and starts following Buddy. Two, three minutes later, here comes Richie, and he tells Warren he can’t find Buddy. Richie says he’s going to go down by his room to see if Buddy is down there. Warren goes down the hallway toward personal care. He hears grunting – Buddy don’t bark, he grunts – coming from that small storeroom down there. Warren goes in, turns on the light, and there’s Buddy in the corner. Warren says the dog is standing there on three legs and holding one of his back legs out to the side. ‘Was he taking a piss?’ I asked. Warren said, no. Buddy stepped on a mousetrap and was trying to shake it off.”