The Week That Was



   February got off to a sputtering start here at Covenant Woods. Saturday, the first day of the month, dawned cloudy, cool, and damp. It was a morning when a wise person has another cup of coffee and keeps busy inside. Not being a wise person, though occasionally called a wise guy, I opted to saddle up the wheelchair and head to Piggly-Wiggly.
   To get to The Pig, I go down the asphalt path that links a Covenant Woods’ parking lot to the service road next to the store formerly known as K-Mart but now called “Building for Rent.”  At each end of the path, asphalt has been packed in to create a short, steep ramp, to allow wheelchairs to get up onto the path and down from it. The ramps extend just a foot or so from the berm and are too steep to drive straight up – the wheelchair’s footplate gets in the way. They have to be approached at an angle.
   On the morning in question, I made it down the path and did my shopping without incident. The problem arose when I attempted – and “attempted” is the operative word – to get back on the path. I approached the ramp as I always do and started up the incline when the wheelchair, of its own accord, circled sharply to the right. In a trice, the chair was straddling the berm, and neither of the drive wheels was making contact with the ground. I was stuck. But the cell phone – don’t leave home without it – was in my pocket, and I called Covenant Woods and explained the problem.
   Moments later, Cepeda and Cliff, who are both on the kitchen staff, were headed down the path. Cepeda’s brother’s name is Orlando; their father was a big fan of the former major leaguer. Cliff has the height of a basketball center and the build of a defensive tackle. I was in good hands. Cliff got behind the chair, gave it one good tug, and it was on solid ground once again. I did my best to disguise my embarrassment.
   Weatherwise, Tuesday was just as unpleasant as Saturday, but the prospect of going to the Columbus Clinic for a colonoscopy consult made it at least slightly more unpleasant overall. To be fair, much of the unpleasantness was borne by Russ. It was another cold, damp morning, and his old man’s legs were about as stiff as they could be. Russ expended a great deal of energy helping me get in and out of the car.
   Once at the clinic, a nurse led us back to a room where she took my vital signs. My blood pressure was a stellar one-twenty-something over seventy-something; a real surprise given how I was dreading the whole colonoscopy thing. That was followed by a video which explained the procedure. The video included a clip of the probe making its way through somebody’s large intestine. It looked like a coal mine.
   From there, we were taken to the office of a nurse practitioner, who asked bunches of questions about my bowel habits and explained the procedure in more detail. She said they would e-mail – or however they do it these days – three prescriptions to the Publix pharmacy across the street from Covenant Woods. The prescriptions, she said, were for stuff to clean out my system. Then she asked how much trouble I have getting on and off the toilet. I told her I’m stiff and slow in the best of circumstances, and if my brain were to receive messages from my nether regions that a world-class bowel movement was imminent, I would likely end up on the floor buried in it.
   She looked at me with eyes that said, “That’s what I thought.” And she said, “Maybe we ought to call this off.” I was agreeable. She told me to pay close attention to my bowel movements, and if there were any change, or if I noticed blood in them, to let the doctors know; they could put me in the hospital for a night so there would be trained professionals to help me on and off the throne.
   Wednesday morning, the phone rang, and I listened to the recorded message from the Publix pharmacy. They had three prescriptions for me ready to be picked up. When the recording ended, I called the pharmacy and told a real person that I wouldn’t need the prescribed items. He tried his best to be understanding. But it was only a few weeks ago that I had to call and tell them the prescription for blood pressure medication that was ready for pickup should have been sent to my pharmacy benefits manager.
   Thursday was the kind of day I used to hope for back in Ashtabula when the Star Beacon sent me to cover a high school baseball or softball game in early April: cloudless sky, plenty of sunshine, just a hint of a breeze, temperature in the fifties. It was a day for getting outside and touring the Covenant Woods’ parking lots. In my travels, I began to wonder if I was at fault for what had occurred Saturday, or did the wheelchair misbehave.
   On Saturday, I didn’t have any trouble getting on the path at the Covenant Woods’ end. And I didn’t have any difficulty when I tried on Thursday. Then I turned around and went back to the parking lot. The only difference between getting on the path from the parking lot and getting on it from the service road is my approach. In the parking lot, the left front wheel hits the ramp first; on the service road, the right front wheel is the first to make contact with the ramp. Simple enough, I thought, all I have to do is head for the ramp from the other side and see what happens. I did, and what happened is just what happened Saturday. As I sat cursing my fate, a fellow, on his way to visit his grandmother, came by and asked if I needed a hand. I released the wheels, and he pulled the chair and me back far enough to get the drive wheels on the ground again. The rest was easy. I don’t know how he felt, but I thought he timed his visit perfectly.
   Friday, I got an e-mail from Life in Spite of MS, a website. I came across the site several months ago. Life in Spite of MS was looking for poems about MS by people with MS, and I sent them one I had written a few years ago. Friday’s e-mail was to let me know all the poems they received had been collected and published as two e-books – When Life Gives You Challenges, Write a Poem: Book 1 and When Life Gives You Challenges, Write a Poem: Book 2. My poem, “A Short Walk”, is in Book 2. The books are $1.99 each and available through Amazon. There are several days when the books can be had for free. And the Kindle app I needed to download them was also free.
   And that was the week that was.

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