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.
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