Sunday, November 30, 2014

Notes from the Home - November 30, 2014

     The autumnal equinox was two months ago, but only this week, the week of Thanksgiving, has fall, or more precisely, something a person who has spent most of his falls in western Pennsylvania and northeast Ohio would recognize as fall, come to west Georgia. How is a Yankee transplant supposed to feel fall in the air when on the day before Halloween the landscaping people filled Covenant Woods' flower beds with pansies in bloom? To the veteran gardener that may be the normal, the proper, the seasonal thing to do. To the horticulturally challenged, however, the pansies look like a variety of petunia and give rise to questions such as, do the kids have Little League tonight?
     The trees have been shedding their leaves ever so slowly for several weeks. While most trees still have nearly all their leaves, there are enough naked ones now to give a fallish cast to things. And most of the remaining leaves are turning. The fall colors are nothing to write home about, but they are sorta colorful and give rise to thoughts of apple cider.
     On Sunday, the last day of November, clad in a short-sleeve shirt, I took an afternoon spin around Covenant Woods. The sun was shining, and the thermometer was flirting with seventy. Down in the duplexes, Millie was sitting on the bench on her front porch.
     "I'm tired." she said.
     "How come?"
     "I just got back home. I went up to Bowling Green, Kentucky, for Thanksgiving. I have two grandsons who live there. That is where they went to college. They fell in love with the area, and they both stayed there."
     "There must have been some great-grandchildren around, too."
     "Of course. I had four children, and they had eight children. I've lost count of how many kids they've had. My one grandson has a little girl who is a year old. I told him, maybe it's time to stop. I hope they don't. All the kids keep me young."

     I spent Thanksgiving with Karen and Russ. They split the cooking duties, with Karen concentrating on the pork loin, and Russ baking the mince pie for dessert. It was all very good, and I enjoyed spending the afternoon at their place. I've also enjoyed the leftovers they sent home with me.
     On the Thursday before Thanksgiving, a group of us from Covenant Woods went to the Columbus Museum's Third Thursday program. I had a hard time sitting through it. The program, which was folk dance music from the 17th and 18th centuries, wasn't what I expected. A pianist, flutist and violinist provided wonderful music. There just wasn't enough of it. Besides the musicians there was also a dance instructor, who walked interested audience members through the dances that went with the music. For each dance, those of us who didn't dance had to sit through ten minutes of instruction in order to hear two minutes of music.
     But that wasn't the problem. Nor was the food. As it does every month, the museum set out a buffet of wonderfully delicious finger foods. No, the problem was my legs. They are always stiff, but Thursday they were cramping up, aching and making me uncomfortable. To ease the discomfort, I went to the upper level, where I could use the railing to pull myself up and lean against as I watched the program.
     The aches and stiffness were back Saturday afternoon, and with them, memories of Thursday's discomfort filled my otherwise empty mind. And I was tired. Thinking it might help, I made a cup of coffee. It might have helped if I hadn't spilled most of it all over me. I had to make a decision: should I go to the Springer Opera House to see Della's Diner for which I'd spent twenty dollars for a ticket, or should I stay home and rest. As with all decisions, I put off making it as long as I could.
     Finally at dinner, as I watched the theater-goers gather in the lobby, I concluded that staying at home was the wiser choice and went to tell Penelope I wouldn't be going. She asked why. I told her. Then she said Elsie and James needed a ticket, would I give them mine. Happy to have the opportunity to be a good-deed doer, I said yes.
      It seemed strange that Elsie and James had purchased only one ticket, but I didn't ask why. Monday I saw Elsie in the dining room, and she told me why. She and James thought the bus was to leave for the Springer at five, and they were in the lobby waiting at quarter of five. A half hour later they asked Sarah, who was working the desk, if they'd missed the bus. "No," Sarah said. "It's supposed to leave at six-thirty."
     James, who has a variety of ailments, was upset. He said he wasn't going to go to the show and went back to their apartment. A few minutes later, Betty wandered into the lobby and said how disappointed she was that she didn't signup for the trip to the Springer. "Here," Elsie said. "I have an extra ticket you can use." Then, as if on cue, James strode into the lobby and told Elsie he'd changed his mind; he was going to the show. At this point the script called for several minutes of hand wringing and the endless mumbling of "Whatever shall we do?" Eventually, with the strains of the Mighty Mouse theme - "Here he comes to save the day..." - echoing in the background, I arrived to save the day.

      A deer with the temerity to wonder around near the Pratt residence met its fate at the end of Beth's rifle. I don't know about such things, but Beth said that westerners would say she got a five-point buck. Hunters in the East, however, would call it a ten-point buck. In any event, she threw down the gauntlet. "Let's see you beat that," she told Ken, or words to that effect.
     They spent a recent weekend butchering the beast. Using every useable part of the buck, they filled their freezer. Their cache includes several gallons of dog food for their canine friends.
     I told Randy about Beth and the buck. "I used to hunt," he said. "Anymore, I just take my pistols - I've got a .40 and a .45 - and go find a tree stand. A few years ago, me and my then wife lived on twenty acres over in Alabama, and I had a tree stand there. I went out one night and drank a bunch of beer. In the morning, four or five squirrels were trying to get up the tree. I got the pistols and started firing away - bam, bam,bam. When I got home, my wife said she'd heard me shooting and asked if I got anything. 'No,' I told her, ' but those damn squirrels won't bother me again.'"

     A woman walking through the dining room to pick up her mother's dinner, sparked the following conversation today:
     Ron: "Was that a man or a woman?"
     Burt: "With those boobs, it better be a woman."
     Ron: "Well, then she's the ugliest god damned woman I've ever seen."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Notes from the Home - November 16, 2014

     Monday, after a week-long stay at Columbus Hospice, Isabelle returned to Covenant Woods. She has congenital heart problems along with some respiratory issues. She also has brittle bones, which I didn't know until the other day.
     "They're afraid I might fall," she said when I called her. "When Ralph and I were moving in, I fell and broke my wrist and hit my head. They took X-rays or did a scan or something of my head to see if I hurt anything. That's when they found out I have an aneurysm in my brain. About two weeks after I got the cast off my wrist, I fell and broke my other wrist."
     For the time being, Isabelle is back in the two-bedroom apartment she and Ralph, who died last November, moved into a few months before I got here. She is on the waiting list for a room in Personal Care, the area formerly known as Assisted Living. Until a room becomes available, Isabelle will have a caregiver with her twenty-four hours a day.
     Friday morning, I went to see her. As I walked in, she held her hands high above her head and said, "See!" I responded with a quizzical look "See!" she said. "I see you are beautiful," I said. "No. Look, I have my clothes on." Once I got done laughing, Isabelle told me she had spent the week in nightgowns and her robe. Friday was the first day she was dressed to go out, although she wasn't planning to go anywhere. Isabelle did come down to dinner later. For the first time in two weeks, Al, Ron, Isabelle and I were in our places for dinner, and things seemed to be back to normal,

     Wednesday, as I was Skyping with our little writers' group back in Kingsville, Nona, who is half of the Covenant Woods' marketing force, came knocking at my door."The property inspection people will be here Friday," she said. "They come once a year. They're going to look at two apartments in each building. Do you mind if we show them yours?"
      While not appalled, I was shocked. Two weeks ago when I went off on William in the dining room, Nona, unbeknowst to me, was having lunch with two perspective residents. It seemed to impress Candice, one of the servers, who said, "Tom, I didn't know you had it you." But I couldn't imagine that my little outburst, justified though it was, scored any points with Nona. Weirder yet, she handed me a note that said in part, "This is a routine event but we would like to show your beautiful apartment on that day."
     My apartment, beautiful? I think not. Spartan, perhaps, Spartan dishabille, might the home decorator's term.To make matters worse, Nona was seeing the apartment at its very best. Tee, one of the housekeepers, had been in a half hour earlier to give the place its weekly cleaning. Nona went on to say she likes studio apartments because they are so open. I didn't have the nerve to tell her that mine wasn't so open looking before Tee got rid of the clutter. "And I love the view on this side of the building," Nona said. The view is of the parking lot, for Pete's sake. There are plenty of trees around the parking lot, but mostly the view is of the parking lot.
     As I mumbled to Nona, "I guess it would be OK," the onus of having to keep the apartment in its just-cleaned condition for two whole days settled uncomfortably on my shoulders. Friday morning, I washed the dishes, hid the clutter as best I could, properly disposed of my accumulated garbage, and went about my business. At noon, that business took me to the dining room to work on the menus. An hour-and-a-half later I returned to the room. On my way to dinner, Johnny, the maintenance supervisor, stopped to tell me the inspectors had inspected my apartment while I was out. There was nothing in his demeanor to indicate that Covenant Woods was, or that I should be. embarrassed by the state of my humble abode. Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief that was.
     The scuttlebutt is, Covenant Woods has revised its employees' handbook and the strictures against employees becoming too familiar with the residents are stronger than ever. The powers that be have their reasons, and some of them might even be valid. It is probably a good thing, however, the same standards do not apply to the residents.
     Dinner is at noon on Sundays. Neither Isabelle or Al came down, so Burt joined me today. A few minutes later, our server, Amy, came along to greet us and take our orders:
     "Mr. Young, how'ya doing?"
     "Everybody I can," Burt said. "Has anyone done you lately?"
     When our dinners arrived, Burt spent several minutes looking at the carrots on his plate. They were the type you see in plastic bags in the produce department. The ones that look like they have been machined into one-inch cylinders. Burt smiled and asked Amy to come over.
     "You know what that looks like?" he asked, pointing at one of the carrots.
     "I don't know. It looks like a carrot."
     "No," Burt said. "It's a small man's erection."


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Notes from the Home - November 9, 2014

   For two weeks, maybe longer, the weather in Columbus has been nearly perfect: plentiful sunshine, low humidity, cool mornings, pleasantly warm afternoons and cool evenings. I wouldn't mind 365 days a year like these. Well, maybe 350 days. Two weeks of less than ideal weather each year should be enough to keep me from getting bored with meteorological perfection.
    Every morning, weather permitting, I make three laps around the Covenant Woods' grounds - just a shade under two miles according to the wheelchair's odometer. On most of those mornings, James is busy tossing the accumulated garbage from C Building into the dumpster. He gives me the morning sports report: all the news that is news about Georgia, Auburn and Alabama. James knows I am a Steelers fan, and last Monday he gave me a detailed summary of Big Ben's performance against the Ravens. I'm not looking forward to tomorrow's report on the Black and Gold's showing in New York today.
   Randy, also a member of the maintenance crew, is often out and about in the morning. Randy is a whiner. But his whines are fine whines: spirited denunciations sparkling with colorful language. He complains about the people who run Covenant Woods - "the dumb sons of bitches" - but he never complains about them the same way twice. He can spend a week whining about his boss, the stupid bastard, who bought some cheap-assed item in order to save a buck or two. "You get what you  pay for," Randy tells me, "and I've been trying to fix the god damned thing for three days." But each day's whine is unique. It never gets boring.
   Randy recently hit a crater on the bumpy road of love. "Me and Linda broke up," he told me the other day. "She said the only thing I think about is sex. I told her that wasn't true. I also think about food and beer. I guess she doesn't feel that makes me a well-rounded person."
   When the need arises, Randy also does a shift or two as the night security man. When he does, gossip often ensues. For instance, one night a neighbor complained about the noise coming from Charlie's apartment. Randy went to see what was going on and got an eyeful. Charlie was watching porn on his computer. He had his earphones on, but they weren't plugged into the computer. The neighbors were hearing every, "Oh, baby, that feels so good. Don't stop."

   As I headed up the hall to check my mail, Saturday, Annie was coming the other way. A moment later, along came Annie's daughter Chelsea carrying her daughter Christie, who is a couple months younger than MaKenna. I didn't ask, but Chelsea must have seen something in my eyes that looked like "please, please, please let me hold Christie."
   For the next ten minutes, Christie sat on my lap. She never even whimpered. But she kept her eye on Chelsea and seldom looked at the strange guy with gray hair on whose lap she was sitting. She did pay attention, however, when I showed her how to make the wheelchair move by pushing the joy stick.
   Then, all too quickly, Chelsea, who had given Annie a ride to work, had to get back home. I thanked her for letting me hold Christie and asked that she bring her back often. Hayden and MaKenna will be visiting in April and I need to hone my grandpa skills.

   At four o'clock Tuesday morning, I awakened to the sound of Richie and William having a discussion next door. They are both hard of hearing, and both speak loud enough that the other can hear him, and so can the guy in apartment next door. When they converse, they sound like two guys who have spent the day sucking on beer cans, which in fact, is how they spend their days.         
   Tuesday's conversation went on and on. I crawled out of bed at quarter of five. That is not particularly early for me, but there was no peaceful silence to enjoy that morning. William and Richie yakked with gusto until nearly seven o'clock.
   At lunchtime, as William walked through the dining room, he yelled, "Hey, Tom!" from across the not-so-crowded room.
   "Hey, William! If you and Richie are going to spend the night together, do you think you could keep it down a little?"
   "It's OK," William said. "It's OK."
   "No, it isn't. I had to put up with you guys spouting nonsense for three hours."
   "I'll take care of it," William said.
   Taking care of it apparently entailed talking to Richie, who crossed my path an hour or two later. "I wasn't even here last night. I didn't get home until almost noon today. William must have been talking on the phone." I told Richie I didn't believe him and went on my way.
   Thursday, as I was doing the menus after lunch, William pulled up a chair. "You get over your little snit yet?" he asked. No, I hadn't. I told him it was extremely inconsiderate to carry on loud conversations in the middle of the night.
   "We live in tight quarters here," William said. "We have to learn to put up with each other."
   "That's true. From eight in the morning until nine, maybe ten, at night, I put up with two obnoxious drunks. At night, you put up with my wanting to sleep. Why don't you have Richie up to your room once in a while?"
   "He called me that night and asked me to come down. We talked about aircraft carriers."
   I told William I'd had enough and didn't want to talk about it any more. I didn't bother to tell him that, according to Richie, Richie wasn't home that night.
   While Richie has been making quite a show of not talking to me, I saw another side of William yesterday. He pulled up a chair while I was doing the menus after lunch, and I thought, "Here we go again."
   "Do you remember the time you fell and I had to pick you up?" he asked.
    One Sunday morning about a year ago, I lost my balance and fell in my apartment. I called the desk, and a few minutes later Sherrie, a nurse's assistant, was at my door. A small, thin woman, Sherrie found William along the way and brought him along for muscle. I was lying next to the stove, and as William picked me up he noticed that one of the burners was on. Since then, he has periodically told me that I shouldn't cook, that I shouldn't even get close to the stove. I quickly tired of his concern, but this time he added a few details.
   "I've seen what those burners can do to your hands," he said. "It happened to my sister. My mother held her hands on the burner. She went to jail for it, but my sister has had to live with it ever since." Then, with a tear in his eye, he said, "Be careful," and left.


The Resident Journal

This is the current issue of The Resident Journal, minus the pictures. Chuck Baston, a Covenant Woods' resident, came up with the idea...