Notes from the Home - January 10, 2014



   On the final morning of 2013, Randy was emptying one of the conveniently located metal baskets into which dog-owning residents drop their pets’ droppings.
   “A crappy way to end the year, isn’t it?” I asked.
   “It is. But hey, want to know what I saw yesterday? Your neighbor, Richie, was out here with his dog. It was taking a shit. And you know what happened when he was done? Richie reached in his pocket, pulled out a piece of tissue paper, and – get this – he wiped the dog’s ass. Gawd! I wish I got service like that.
   “You know why I’m doing this, don’t you?” he asked, pointing to all the feces-filled plastic bags. “When Terry quit Johnny said, ‘We’re going to need one of you guys to blow the leaves off the drive and pick up litter every morning.’ I said I’d do it. What the hell. I’d have to come in a little earlier, but I’d get to leave a little earlier, too. About a month later, they put up these damn things and added poop patrol to the job description.”
   Then he asked if I had seen her yet. She is a relative of one of the residents. She, according to Randy, is a shapely blond with ample breasts and a proclivity for skin-tight sweaters. He first noticed her a month ago and has been talking about her ever since.
   “On a cold morning like this, I bet those babies are really, really perky,” he said.
   Alas, I’ve never seen the fair maiden and am beginning to think she might be a figment of Randy’s imagination. But, if nothing else, the thought that she might be real gives me another reason to get up and get out in the morning – always a good thing.
  
   By dinnertime that evening, Al claimed to be more than ready for New Year’s Eve.
   “This afternoon, I’ve had a beer or two, some bourbon, a glass of wine and a little brandy,” he told us.
   “And some marijuana and a Marinol?” Isabelle asked.
   “No, but I did have a hydrocodone.”
   Yesterday, Al, Irene, Malinda and I were sitting around a table in the activities room. We had the room to ourselves; an Elvis impersonator was in the dining room providing distraction for the easily distracted.
   “Al, how come you’re shoes don’t match?” Irene asked.
   “See how swollen this is?” Al said as he held up his left leg. “It’s so big I couldn’t even get my shoe on. That’s why I’m wearing this slipper.”
   “You better see a doctor,” Irene said.
   “I called my doctor this morning. He asked if I was taking a water pill. I told him, ‘No. I’m drinking whiskey.’”
  
   I had urinary problems this week. At seven-thirty Tuesday morning, Russ and I went out into the cold. At thirteen degrees, it was easily the coldest day since I arrived here nearly two years ago. Russ said he and Karen had been discussing the matter before he left and couldn’t remember a colder day in their time in Columbus. And they came down in aught-one.
   Russ’ task – and it turned out to be an onerous one – was to take me to the Columbus Clinic for a physical. My legs, stiff and uncooperative in warm, pleasant weather, were beyond incorrigible in the arctic cold, and Russ had to do most of the work getting them in and out of the car.
   Even then his work wasn’t done. We were led back to an examining room, where the nurse took my vital signs and said the doctor would be with me in a moment. Several moments later the doctor showed up, looked at the vital signs recorded by the nurse, asked a few perfunctory questions, and said, “Take off everything but your shorts and get on the table. I don’t think you’ll have any trouble getting up here. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Other doctors have given me those instructions. Those doctors, however, had examining tables they could lower, and I could sit down on and swing my legs up. This doctor’s table lacked that capability, and it took a stellar effort from Russ to get me on it.
   The doctor returned and began the examination. About half way through he asked if I was sexually active. I told him no. He said there were things for that, and I had visions of trying to get comfortable in the wheelchair while experiencing an erection lasting more than four hours. I told him, while I’m not the man I once was, the lack of activity has a lot to do with the lack of a partner.
   He said, “Oh,” had me to turn over on my side, and stuck his finger up my butt. He said my prostrate felt good and my stools were hard. I was glad to hear the former; I could have told him the latter. He put a solution of some sort on the glove he’d used and said there was no sign of blood on it – a very good sign, he said.
   “You can get dressed now. Someone will be with you in a minute,” he said.
   With Russ’ help, I dismounted from the table, put my clothes on, and wondered why I had been told to fast. In a minute, or maybe several, as the doctor had promised, someone was with us. She handed me several forms and a cup.
   “Why the cup?”
   “A urine sample.”
   “Do you have a catheter I could use?”
   “No.”
   And with that, I had a problem, several of them, actually. The first: I have a very difficult time peeing on command. It’s the whole nerve thing with MS. The second: when peeing in a manly fashion, I need both hands available to brace myself against the wall, the toilet, or whatever is available to brace myself against. If I used one hand to hold the cup, the cup and I would likely end up in the commode. The third: it is difficult for me to spread my legs and almost impossible to spread them while sitting on the toilet. If I were to sit and pee without a little rubber hose to carry it to the proper place, very little would get in the cup and a great deal would get on my legs. The forth: because of the above difficulties, I always use a catheter before leaving home so as to avoid them if possible. That morning was no exception. The fifth: because I had drained my bladder that morning, and because I had had nothing to eat or drink since going to bed nearly twelve hours earlier, there wasn’t much there. Getting things started when I really have to go is sometimes a lengthy process, and at that moment, I really didn’t have to go.
   “Do you want to try?” she asked.
   “No.”
   “OK,” she said without enthusiasm, “follow me.”
   And I followed her. Well, Russ pushed me as we followed her to the phlebotomist, who did her job as painlessly as anyone who has ever stuck a needle in my arm. And with that out of the way, Russ and I went to IHOP.

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