Saturday evening, listening to A Prairie Home Companion, I waxed Keilloresque:
It’s been a quiet week in Covenant Woods, my retirement community, here on banks of the Chattahoochee. Spring dropped by today. The rain, which has been with us most of the week, finally stopped. The sky cleared, the sun shone brightly, and the temperature rose. By afternoon a man going out for a walk could leave his jacket in the closet. The pansies, which had been beaten down by days of endless rain and cold, where suddenly perky again. The trees are sporting branches thick with buds, and the fruit trees seem anxious to burst beautifully into blossom. In the hallway, Vera and Millie stopped to look out the window and admire the daffodils and azaleas. Whenever two people passed on the sidewalk, one of them was sure to ask, “Enjoying this beautiful weather?” And the other would answer, “I’ve been waiting all winter for a day like this.”
And that’s the news from Covenant Woods, where all the women are old, all the men are senile, and all their grandchildren are above average.
Earlier in the week, when the weather was not so nice, I began to wonder what people here think of me; I mean really think of me. Monday morning it rained; all morning, it rained. It drizzled for a while, it misted for a while, it showered for a while and it poured for a while. There was never a moment without precipitation.
Early in the afternoon, I went up front to get my rent statement. Sarah was working at the desk, and as she thumbed through the statements to find mine she asked if I had been outside riding around earlier. I told her no. She shot me a skeptical glance, like the one Mom used when she suspected, but couldn’t prove, that I was being untruthful. A look that had liar, liar, pants on fire written all over it.
“Are you sure?” Sarah asked.
“Yes,” I said and retired to my apartment to write a check.
I was back in the lobby a few minutes later, on my way to the business office drop box to rid myself of the funds that had been cluttering my checking account. Before I could get there, Johnny, the maintenance supervisor, appeared.
“Did you go out this morning?” he asked.
“No, too wet.”
“You sure?” he asked, putting on the face he had borrowed from Sarah. “You be careful. We don’t want you getting sick.”
It was then I realized, nobody at Covenant Woods thinks this Yankee has enough sense to come in out of the rain.
Two weeks ago, Penelope asked Al if he would mind being interviewed by a man with a video recorder. Al said he’d be glad to talk to the gentleman. Then he began to fret profusely. I don’t know how well Penelope explained the purpose of the interview and how it was to be conducted. And I don’t know how much of Penelope’s explanation Al didn’t hear, didn’t understand or simply ignored. In any event, Al would have been a rich man had someone given him a nickel every time he said, “I wish I knew what they are after.”
On Monday Penelope told Al the interview would take place in his room at two o’clock Wednesday afternoon. More than once, heck, more than a half dozen times, Al interrupted the flow of Tuesday’s dinner conversation to announce, “Tom, I need you to be there with me while I’m being interviewed.” He called me later that evening and again at noon on Wednesday to remind me to be there at two.
When I reported, as ordered, to Al’s room, Anita, the interviewer, was already there. A 2013 graduate of Columbus State University and now working for the National Civil War Naval Museum here in Columbus, she was busy setting up the camera and lighting. Al was only one of the items on her interviewing agenda. That same afternoon she was scheduled to talk to Jim, another Covenant Woods’ resident, who is retired from the Air Force, and she will interview several more veterans from the Columbus area in the next week or two.
Anita explained that the gentleman Penelope told Al about is Tim Maggart, a local singer and songwriter. He is producing a show called A Link in the Chain of Freedom, which will be presented at the Springer Opera House over the Memorial Day weekend. Mr. Maggart will perform live, and between songs snippets of the various taped interviews will be shown.
Al had trouble with the interview. He couldn’t collect his thoughts, and when he collected them he had a difficult time expressing them. Anita tried to help him focus but soon gave up and let him ramble. He was having trouble breathing and occasionally blamed me for the whole thing. “Damn it, Tom, you’re the one who found that stuff about me on the Internet,” he said. “That’s what got me started.”
Anita looked at her watch, said she had to go see Jim and turned off the camera and light. While she gathered her equipment, Al continued to talk, suddenly coherent and making sense. Al has told me about the times he had to deliver talks in an auditorium full of senior officers. On those occasions, his voice had to fill the hall, his diction had to be perfect and he had to cover the subject completely. He always makes them sound as if they were just like any other day in Army, but I wonder if some of that long forgotten pressure for perfection returned for Wednesday’s interview.