Monday, August 18, 2014

Notes from the Home - August 18, 2014

   Friday morning the sun was bright, the birds were singing, the thermometer was in the mid-sixties, and the relative humidity was relatively comfortable for the first time in weeks. The rain has kept me inside all too often this summer. But when the sun does come out, the grass, trees and plants are a lush spring-like green. It was a beautiful sight on a cool August morning.
   Sitting tall in the wheelchair, I made my way through the Covenant Woods’ parking lots. Lou sat in his car, relaxing before punching in for a long day in the kitchen. “Out for your morning stroll?” he asked. “Yes, sir,” I said with more enthusiasm than I felt. On a morning such as this I forget how fortunate I am to have a reliable wheelchair and yearn to get out of it and take a real stroll.
   In the C-building parking lot, a man got out of his pickup and walked toward the building. He wore a battered ball cap; a plaid flannel, button-down shirt he hadn’t bothered to button; a well-worn gray T-shirt; faded blue jeans and work boots. He was a tall, maybe six-foot, and thin. He looked like a man on the verge of old age; mid- to late-seventies, maybe. When I said “Good morning,” he turned toward me and looked older still. His beard scraggly and white; the lines on his face numerous and deep.
   “I’m here to visit my mother,” he said.
   I stifled an astonished gasp and the urge to ask his mother’s age. Instead, I asked, “What’s your mother’s name?” He told me, but the name didn’t ring a bell. He said some family friends would be there soon, and they would spend the day visiting. Looks can be deceiving, and perhaps the man is younger than he appears. Then again, his mother might be one of the spry centenarians here at Covenant Woods. There are several.
   Down in the duplexes, Millie was watering her plants.
   “Enjoying this beautiful weather?” she asked.
   “Yes, ma’am.”
   “This should be a good day to find yourself a girlfriend.”
   Millie claims the only reason I ride around by the duplexes is to find a girlfriend. There are fourteen units down there, most of them occupied by widows.

   Thanks to Amy, our server, Saturday’s dinner discussion was spiced with a dash of salaciousness.  She told us about Rex and Burt at lunch. Rex is seldom on planet Earth. The other night, Francis heard him call me Bob and told him that my name is Tom. Rex apologized to me and said he’d call me Tom from now on. Since then, he’s been calling me Steve. Burt is very much aware of what is going on. His hands, however, shake uncontrollably.
   On Saturdays, the dining room staff puts a banana at each place setting. During lunch, Burt called Amy to tell her Rex had taken his banana. He pointed to the banana on Rex’s lap and said, “I’d take it back myself, but I might grab the wrong banana.”

   I spent Sunday afternoon with Russ and Karen. Young Mr. Harris picked up the elder Mr. Harris shortly after noon. The sun was brightly shining and it was hotter than Hades, as Mom used to say. The first order of business was to get my hair cut. As the young lady in the dark green smock arranged the clippers, scissors and comb, she asked how I wanted my hair cut. When I told her, she started asking questions of a technical nature. Did I want it cut short here and then have her fade it to something on top? Did I want this? Did I want that? I didn’t have the faintest idea and told her to cut it all off. She did, and my hair is now shorter than it has been since my early years at Bethel Memorial School. Well, it was darn short during my stint in the Army, too, but even that was over forty years ago.
   Once my ears were lowered, we headed to Barnes & Noble so I could get a birthday card for Karen. Russ and one of his former colleagues at B&N, a German woman, sprach Deutsch for a moment or two until Russ’ high school German ran out. I managed to throw in an ach du lieber, which I picked up from Mom. I didn’t mention the other German phrase Mom drummed into my brain. Time and time again Mom would say to me or one of my siblings, “You dummer esel.” When we were older Mom told us she didn’t realize dummer esel means pretty much what it sounds like it might mean – dumb ass. I’m not sure if she was being sincere, or if she was trying to see if we really were a bunch of dummer esels.
   After Russ and the woman said auf weidersehen, we went to help Karen mark her birthday. They fed me tacos and some exceptionally delicious cookies they made using a recipe they got from a British cooking show. The cookies consisted of two shortbread cookies, one on top of the other in Oreo fashion, separated by a chocolate and caramel mixture, with more of the mixture drizzled on top.
   But before we ate, we took a look back. At Christmas, Russ’ Uncle John, Debbie’s brother, put a bunch of old home movies on a DVD and sent a copy to Russ, Beth, and their cousins, uncles and aunts on that side of the family. The movies were from several Christmases and Thanksgivings in the 1990s. This was the first time I’d seen the video, and it was a treat.
   It was good to see the old homestead on Myrtle Avenue, where Debbie and I hosted a few Thanksgiving feasts. It was good to see the younger versions of Beth, Russ and their cousins. And it was good to see me sans the gray hair. After watching the video, I concluded that I must be particularly susceptible to the stuff in turkey that makes people sleepy. There were several shots of me on the couch enjoying a post-dinner nap.

   Russ will gather me up in the morning and take me to see Dr. Verson, the neurologist, who will tell me what the EMG, gluten tolerance test and MRI on my brain he ordered have revealed. His nurse called last week to tell me the gluten test indicated my glucose level is high. Not that high, mind you, not high enough that it needs to be treated. Just high enough that I need to be aware of it. And they’ll send the results to Dr. Miller, the GP who recently told me I’m slightly anemic, but not anemic enough that it needs to be treated, just be aware of it. I guess that means I should look for foods higher in iron and lower in sugar.
   I am looking forward to seeing Dr. Verson again. If he suggests anything in terms of what I should or should not be doing to deal with the disease, it will be the first suggestion from a neurologist since I came south. MS is a degenerative disease, I know, and there is nothing out there to keep it from running its course. Still, it is nice when the medical professionals I must see at least pretend to see me as something more than another widget on the healthcare industry’s assembly line.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

At Four A.M.

At four a.m., I lie awake; the world is still.
The body is stiff, won’t toss or turn, my mind churns.
Another day, legs still don’t work, hours to fill.

So many things I cannot do. I brood until
My mind rages, fills with regrets, and then it yearns.
At four a.m., I lie awake; the world is still.

I’d like to walk through a park, maybe climb a hill,
Chase a ball, jump for joy – I’d love to. My mind burns;
Another day, legs still don’t work, hours to fill

Watching TV, surfing the Net. It gives me a chill,
That thought of nothing to do, and my stomach just turns.
At four a.m., I lie awake; the world is still.

It’s strange, how many times I have wished I felt ill
And content with what I cannot do. Weird concerns.
Another day, legs still don’t work, hours to fill.

Damned Multiple Sclerosis, it’s a bitter pill.
Stay positive, they say. I try, but anger returns.
At four a.m., I lie awake, the world is still;
Another day, legs still don’t work, hours to fill.


Alisha, the activities director, asked me to play Reader's Digest editor and condense an article on spring health tips she'd found ...