Notes from the Home - April 30, 2014



   A week ago, at three-thirty Tuesday morning I was up, dressed and wondering why Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night I slept well and slept well into the following mornings. The extra time in the sack wouldn’t have mattered except I had laundry to do. To get the drop on the slug-a-beds who also have laundry, I like to get the washers agitating by six-thirty.
   Monday evening, as Jeopardy gave way to Wheel of Fortune, I said to myself, “Get thee to the laundry.” A brimming laundry basket on my lap, I pointed the buggy toward the laundry room, which I found to be delightfully deserted. By ten-fifteen, my clothes were washed, dried, folded, and put away.  I crawled into bed a few minutes later, certain I’d quickly fall asleep, which I did. But not for long. I awoke just before midnight, and the sandman, who must have been busy elsewhere, never returned. Which is why, in those most wee of the wee hours, I sat pondering why I slept so well when I had squandered the evenings, and hardly slept at all when I put the evening to good use.

   Karen and Russ had me over for Easter dinner. It was the first time I’ve been to their place since I moved down here. That’s because I couldn’t get into their old apartment. It was on the second floor, and the only way to get there was to climb the steps. I’m no good on steps. But their new place is on the first floor in a much more wheelchair-friendly apartment complex. Russ can push me around with the greatest of ease.
   Karen baked a ham, mashed some potatoes and prepared some vegetables. It was delicious. For dessert, there was ice cream atop a cookie bar topped with chocolate syrup. But the best part was just being able to spend a few hours at their place. I enjoyed myself immensely.

   While he was chauffeuring me about yesterday, Russ talked about moving and leaving the apartment complex where he and Karen have lived since they came south in 2001.
   “I worry about the woman who lives below us,” he said. “She has two dogs, and we walk them for her some times. And we give her a hand with some other things when she needs help. She’s getting up there. She must be in her sixties.”
   Her SIXTIES!!!! It’s wonderful that Russ helps the neighbor lady. And I’m in awe every time he tells me he has sold another cartoon to a national publication. But,  sixties – getting up there? I think not. My poor demented son. I don’t know where he got the idea that people my age are “up there.” Then again, maybe he got it while chauffeuring his old man around on a rainy Saturday morning.
   Russ called while I was at dinner the other day. He asked if I’d be doing anything at six-thirty. I wasn’t, and he came by to give me two magazines: the current issues of The Saturday Evening Post and The American Legion. The editors of both fine publications enhanced their products by including a T. Russell Harris cartoon in them.

   As I made my way around the Covenant Woods’ parking lot the other day, Angie, Jennelle’s daughter, came by in her car and stopped.
   “My mom said if I saw you to be sure to tell you she says hello,” she said. “She’s been having some problems and she’s moved in with me.”
   I was surprised to hear that Jennelle was moving, and even more surprised that she had asked Angie let me know she said hello. Most of our conversations where of the hi-how-are-you variety and occurred when we happened to show up at the mail boxes at the same time, which wasn’t often.
   As it happened, however, I had recently thought about Jennelle. There is a small plot for gardening – about fifteen feet long and five feet wide – behind the C Building parking lot. Last year, Jennelle, Angie and Pete, Jennelle’s gentleman caller, used half the area to grow peppers, tomatoes and a few other things. George, a resident here, had his garden in the other half. One recent sunny, warm, summer-like afternoon, I saw George hard at work out there, and wondered when Jennelle and her crew would start their gardening chores. Now I’m wondering if George is going to double the size of his garden or if another green-thumbed resident will use the space.

   One evening, after we finished the menus, Al said he had to run to the bathroom. Wednesday morning, he called to tell me about it. Fearing he wouldn’t make it to his room, Al used the public restroom down the hall from the dining room.  He went into a stall and saw the commode was plugged up “with shit all the way to the top.” Rather than move to another stall, Al found the plunger and got to work. The urge that sent him to the restroom became more urgent. He dropped his trousers, wrapped his left hand with toilet paper, wielded the plunger with his right hand, and used his left to catch . . . Well, let’s just say, Al’s bowels were working better than the Covenant Woods’ plumbing.

   While I was checking my mail and talking with Annie this morning, Avis came by and said she didn’t know my name. I told her and admitted I didn’t know hers either. Then she spent five minutes telling me what a pleasant fellow I am and commenting on my beautiful smile. Three or four other people have told me the same thing in the last month. “You always look so happy,” they’ll say. “You have the nicest smile, and you’re always smiling.”
   But the truth is I’m not all that happy these days. Maybe my constant frustration and occasional anger with my condition is connected with all the rainy days that have kept me inside so often this spring. Like Greg Kinnear’s character in As Good as it Gets, I have to change my thoughts.
   Ironically, the lousy weather has helped me get some new thoughts – the weather and sister-in-law Susan. Several years ago, when someone asked me about the weather and I said it was beautiful, Susan said, “You say that just like your brother Jim.” She went on to explain that the second syllable in beautiful is not “tee.” The word, she said, is pronounced byoo-tuh-ful, not byoo-tee-ful. Then, this otherwise fine lady from Birmingham, Alabama, had the temerity to instruct us in the pronunciation of Carnegie. “It is pronounced kahr-ni-gee, not Kahr-nay-gee.” As if anybody in western Pennsylvania, where Andrew made his fortune and where there is a town named for him, ever said, “Hey, yenz goin’ over kahr-ni-gee?”
   But Susan never mentioned anything about the devices on police cars, fire trucks, ambulances and other emergency vehicles that produce a loud sound to warn other drivers of their approach. Wednesday morning, the Muscogee County Emergency Warning System activated its warning device to alert citizens to the approach of bad weather. And all day long people were asking, “Did you hear the sigh-reens this morning?”
   Now I’m wondering what the folks in Dixie call the mythological temptresses who lured ship captains to their destruction. Do you think there was an Irene the Sigh-reen?

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