Sunday, November 29, 2015

Notes from the Home - November 29, 2015

     The phone rang at eleven o'clock a couple Monday nights ago. I didn't hear it. Or, maybe I heard it just enough that I was more alert when the phone rang again a half hour later. The ring was muffled, though. I had left the phone in my pants pocket. By the time I'd figured out where the phone was and managed to get to it, it had stopped ringing. The phone was kind enough to inform me that Al had made two calls and that there was a voicemail message awaiting me.
     "Tom, Al here. I need your help. I fell and can't get myself up. I called the desk about three times and nobody answered the goddamned phone. Get your ass up here. Now!"
     I opted to call the desk. Warren answered and said he'd check on Al right away. I thought about going to Al's room. Then I thought a little more: It would take me fifteen minutes or more to put on socks, pants and shoes, by which time Warren would have Al back in bed, and I would disturb him. Or Warren would have called the EMTs, and I would be in the way.
     Al was taken to the emergency room. He had gotten out of bed, stood up, lost his balance and fell. He managed to get the receiver for his cordless phone, and dragged himself across the room to the kitchen area, where there was a light on, and he could see to dial. In the process, he had scraped the skin off a large part of his right hand and wrist. His swollen right hand seemed to indicate that he'd also smacked it against something when he fell. And he had a large bump on the right side of his head.
     The next morning, several of us gathered in Al's room to see how he was doing. He was tired, confused, achy, but anxious to talk about his experiences with the medical professionals.
     "Those people don't know shit. They took me into the emergency room, and I told the goddamned nurses they had an hour to take care of me. If they weren't done in an hour, tough shit, I was going home anyway.
     "They asked me what was wrong. I told them there was only one goddamn thing wrong. They asked, 'What's that?' 'I haven't had an erection in thirty years. That's what's wrong. Now, bandage me up and get me the hell out of here.'"
     Whether because the nurses just slapped something on Al's hand and wrist in order to get rid of the old fart in timely fashion, or because Al had been fussing with the band-aids and gauze for several hours, the dressing needed to be changed in the morning. That job fell to Pat, who works in home health here. As she tended his wound, Al told her about the incompetent emergency room nurses. "I'm almost ninety-two fucking years old. I shouldn't have to put up with that shit."
     A while later, a recently hired secretary came by and asked Al if he had pressed the button yet. "What goddamned button?" "The check-in button." "I don't know what the hell you're talking about. What the hell is a goddamned check-in button?"
     The previous week, Covenant Woods had installed new emergency pull-cords in every apartment: one in each bathroom and one next to each bed. On the pull-cord boxes in the bathrooms there is a button marked "check-in". The residents have been asked to push the check-in button each morning before 10, in order to let the home health people know they are up and about.
     The poor secretary tried hard to explain that to Al. Unfortunately, she couldn't get more than four or five words out before a disgusted look spread over Al's face and he'd interrupt with a, "I can't hear a goddamned word you're saying," or "That's bullshit," or "They're trying to spy on us, aren't they," or "If they want someone to press the goddamned button, tell them to get their asses up here and press the fucking thing themselves."
     "Al," I said, "I'll give you a call every morning and remind you to push the button."
     "OK, but I still don't understand why I'm supposed to push the goddamned thing in the first place."
     The hospice nurse came by in the afternoon. She didn't stay long. Al told her to "get the hell out of here, and don't bother coming back." And she didn't come back for a week. Even then, she returned because Chelsea demanded that she come and take a look at Al's hand and wrist. She also insisted that Al allow the nurse examine his injuries.
     Chelsea is Annie's (the assistant activities director) daughter. She is a private caregiver for one of the Nells - there are a slew of Nells here, it must have been the most popular girls name in the South in the 1920s and 30s - and is studying criminal justice at Columbus Tech.
     I think Al is smitten with her. "That Chelsea is an excellent driver," he says. And that is high praise, indeed, from Al. Normally, he is extremely critical of other people's driving. Before Al gave his car away, he and his old Army buddy, Ken, went out to lunch almost every day. Al drove, of course. These days, Ken has to do the driving, so they go out once a month, if that.
     "I don't know about Ken," Al says after every trip with Ken at the wheel, "the son of a bitch is going to get us killed. He's got dementia - bad!!! - and he can't drive worth a shit anymore."
     More than once, he has told me that Penelope can't drive, that Annie can't drive, that Antoinette can't drive, nor can anyone else who has given him a ride. Chelsea is the sole exception. She says Al does point out her driving deficiencies when she's taking him to the bank or the store. But once they're back at Covenant Woods, it's "that Chelsea is such a wonderful driver."
     Al struggled for a week after the fall. His wrist was a bloody mess for several days, and his head ached. Even when he is the picture of health, Al constantly analyzes his aches, pains and discomforts. The knot on his head was a source of great concern. "I think it did something to my brain. I can't remember shit anymore." Of course, he couldn't remember much before he knocked his head.
     He is improving, not back to normal, but heading in that direction. He tires quickly and is often back in bed when I check on him in the morning. I know Al has been up, because the day's newspaper is on the floor next to his recliner, and he is wearing slacks and a shirt.
     Saturday morning, Al was fast asleep when I went to see him. As I eased the wheelchair toward the bed, his eyes opened ever so slightly. "Tom? Is that you?" he rasped. He raised himself up just a bit to get a better look and mumbled, "Gawd, Tom, you're a damned ugly sight to wake up to."  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tis the Season's Opening Day

Three Word Wednesday - 
This week's words: Habitual; Illustrious; Jumbled

Christmas comes but once a year, which is just as well,
although all the retailers would like to have more
so every single week there would be a Black Friday,
with jumbled hordes of crazed shoppers outside the store
at three-ten in the morning, credit cards in hand.
Christmas: a great excuse for a shopping orgy.

The proudly religious also up and orgy
over “Season’s Greetings,” a term they don’t take well.
And “Happy Holidays” gives the devil a hand,
they say. “And we’ll not shop here, not even once more
unless the cash registers in your godless store
tell the clerks to say ‘Merry Christmas’ by Friday.”

That way, when the saved go shopping on Black Friday
they can revel religiously in the orgy
and shop with wild, untamed abandon in the store,
certain that big spending makes God love them so well.
With every smile and proper greeting, they spend more,
and piles of cash go into the store owner’s hand.

“Merry Christmas:” a small price for cash in the hand.
No wonder retailers so enjoy Black Friday
and hope consumer greed will lead to more.
Shoppers spend money they don’t have to fund the orgy,
pulling buckets of cash from the credit-card well,
forgetting that dunning notices are in store.

A timid person faces danger in the store.
A habitual, Type-A shopper might hit him with her purse.
He’ll leave in an ambulance, and she’ll say, “Oh, well.
Wimps should know better than to shop on Black Friday;
you’ve got to be tough to survive this mad orgy.
He’s out of the way now, and I’m going to shop more.”

The retailer is so glad she keeps spending more;
If she’s got money, she’s welcome in his store.
Illustrious economists watch the orgy
to see if it’s giving business a fiscal hand,
or if it’s just another nondescript Friday,
and, despite the madness, the retailers do not fare well.

The annual orgy, set to begin once more.
To get things going well, you must spend big at the store.

Credit cards in hand, go deep into debt on Friday.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Prompt Responses

     The Three Word Wednesday prompt this week is to use the words ragged, threatening and unsightly in a piece of writing.

     With a steady hand on the wheelchair's joy stick, I maneuvered through the dining room of the old folks' home where I live. The management takes offense to the term "old folks home." Their euphemism of choice is "senior retirement community." This place isn't like the old folks homes in the TV commercials of the fifties, where the residents spent countless hours on the veranda discussing their bowels and laxatives. Here, we old folks have those conversations inside in air-conditioned comfort.
     Enough of that. If the management finds out I'm saying such things, I'll get a threatening letter and my rent will be doubled.
    Back to the dining room. Jane waved and said hello, as I approached the table where she was sitting. "What's that?" she asked, pointing to my shirt, I thought. It was a T-shirt with "Beacon's Best 2006" writ large on the front. I started to tell her, the Beacon was the paper for which I once toiled as a sportswriter. The Beacon's Best is an annual softball tournament the paper sponsors. Perhaps she thought the nine-year-old shirt was more than a bit ragged.
     No. Jane reached out, touched my stomach, and said, "I was wondering if it's a boy or girl." Alas, the tummy has become an unsightly expanse.

This week, MadKane's Limerick-Off is asking for limericks using stride as the rhyme word in Line 1, 2, or 5.

Priscilla took it all in stride
When she became young Percy’s bride.
She loved only him,
Until, on a whim,
She took a lover on the side.

His love organ, withered and dried,
Robert could no longer keep stride
With folks young and horny.
Though with Sigourney,
The sly geezer certainly tried.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Notes from the Home - October 12, 2015

     Tuesday began at six-thirty. That's when I woke up after eight hours sleep. Eight restful hours, without so much as a bathroom break. By seven o'clock, I had dressed, taken the daily dosages and started the coffee. At eight o'clock, I had finished breakfast, done two crossword puzzles and was ready to figure out what to do with the rest of day.
     At eight-ten, Al called. "Tom? Tom, get up here immediately, if you're able. Please. Please."
     Al's night had not been pleasant. He held up a towel to show me he had been coughing up blood. His stomach was upset, his head was about to explode, and he didn't know where the hell he was or what the fuck was going on. He had called the desk to tell them he was having difficulty. But when Pat, a nurse's assistant, got there, he told her to "get the hell out."
     "Maybe I should just go to the hospital," he said.
     "Do want me to call downstairs and have them call 911?"
     "Call 911?"
     "Hell, I don't want to go to the goddamned hospital. Here, you hold on to this," he said, handing me a wad of twenties.
     Penelope, the activity director, came to check on Al when she got to work. She urged him to go to the hospital. He refused. He was, however, agreeable to notifying hospice.
     Al made the call. A half hour later, Donna, a hospice nurse arrived. She is a small, thin woman full of good humor and endless patience. When Al told her to "just get the hell out of here and leave me alone," which he did frequently, Donna smiled, rolled her eyes and went on about her business. In an effort to calm Al, she took all the white and yellow towels he had been coughing blood on and gave him a some black ones. Al would have none of that. He wanted towels that would show every drop of blood he coughed up.
     Donna did managed to convince him to take a pill for anxiety and a shot of morphine for his pain. It took an hour, but by the time Donna left, Al was alert, aware and asking, "Tom, why the hell didn't you tell me to shut the fuck up?"
     Friday morning, Al said, "Oh hell, you might as well call hospice. I'm not going to go to the goddamned hospital." Louis, a burly fellow with a crew cut, was the nurse sent to see Al.
     "My whole left lung is gone," Al told Louis.
     "What do you mean, gone?"
     "The doctor said it's gone. Cancer."
     I told Louis the lung is still there. Six months ago, when Al started coughing up blood, the doctors put him through a battery of tests. They discovered cancer in his left lung, and that is where the blood he coughs up comes from.
     Not nearly as worked up as he was Tuesday, Al calmed down with the help of a hydrocodone. As Louis was leaving, Annie came in. Annie is the assistant activity director. She and Penelope keep a close eye on Al and his needs. Annie did her best to dispose of the blood-stained towels, make the bed, and get rid of some of Al's clutter. And she told him she was going to get him a few pairs of sweat-pants type things that would be easier to get in and out of.
     Saturday morning, the phone rang. "Tom, Annie's daughter, what's her name?"
     "I didn't hear a goddamned thing you said. This girl, I think, she's Annie's daughter, just showed up with three pairs of pants. They're the ugliest damn things I've ever seen. She said she's going to shorten them and make a hem. I'll never wear the fucking things. They're goddamn ugly. They've got polka dots and shit all over them."
     Sunday afternoon I went to see Al. "See this," he said, pointing to the plaid pants that were a cross between sweat pants and pajama bottoms. Paired with his dark blue shirt, the old guy looked ready for a round of golf.
     "What's her name, Annie's daughter, did this. She cut them off and made a hem. Boy, she's sharp. She did a great job. I really like her."

Monday, September 28, 2015

Notes from the Home - September 28, 2015

     Hayden will be five on Wednesday. The one-pound-eleven-ounce bundle of joy is now in preschool. What a guy.
     From two thousand miles away, Hayden and MaKenna bring so much happiness to my life. Beth calls, tells me what the grandkids have been up to and puts them on the phone.  When they say, "I love you, Grandpa," my heart melts.
      From this distance, Beth and Ken seem to be wonderful parents. They are allowing Hayden to explore and go where his intelligence and curiosity lead him. Who knows what the young fellow will discover along the way. I have a feeling it will be a lot.

     Al had a difficult weekend. He wasn't feeling well Saturday and didn't come down to dinner. The people in the kitchen take good care of him, though. When I went to see him after dinner, he was working on the dinner that they sent up to him. He said it was good, especially the chocolate cake for dessert. Al was delighted that I brought along another piece of cake for him.
     Sunday morning, the phone rang. "Tom, I need you to come up here. I had a hell of a night." Al is an early riser, but when I got to his room, about ten-thirty, he was still in bed. That worried me until he pushed the blankets aside and I saw that he was dressed. At least he had been up for a while earlier.
     "Tom, I don't know what to do. Maybe I should go to the hospital. I don't want to go to St. Francis, though."
     I asked if he wanted me to call 911. "Well, maybe you should. No, I don't want to go to the fucking hospital. I don't know what the hell to do."
     He pondered the situation for a minute and decided I should call hospice, which I did. Ronnie, one of the hospice nurses, asked what the problem was. I told him, Al said he couldn't remember a "goddamned thing," and his side "hurt like hell." Then Ronnie asked if Al had an oxygen tank. Al does, but he wasn't using it. "Well, see if you can get him to use it." It took a few minutes to untangle the tube so it would reach the bed and several more minutes before Al got everything securely in place.
     Ronnie said he had to pull Al's records and would call back once he'd taken a look at them. Fifteen minutes went by, and Ronnie hadn't called back. "Goddamn it! I'm going to call Daniel." Daniel, whom Al has known for twenty years or more, works for hospice in some capacity. More administrative than medical, I believe. Daniel asked if I would give Al a dose of the morphine that is kept in a lock box in Al's closet. He explained the procedure, and I told him I wasn't comfortable with idea. It sounded like a job for a professional, not a guy who often finds it difficult to pour himself a cup of coffee.
     Al said he was feeling a little better. Daniel said he'd talk to Ronnie, and he told Al to call if the pain got worse. Al and I talked for a few minutes and then he said, "Tom, why don't you get the hell out of here?"
     I left, and my Sunday went on uneventfully until eight-thirty, when the phone rang. "Tom, I don't know what the hell I'm doing. Penelope called a few minutes ago, and I don't know what she said or what the hell I told her. She said she'd call me back in fifteen minutes. Get your ass up here so you can talk to her when she calls. I'll leave the door open for you."
     When my ass arrived, Al was hurling imprecations at the thermostat."It's cold in here. Do you think it's cold in here. This goddamn thing [the thermostat] isn't worth a shit. The big number is seventy-two, the little number is sixty-eighty. Goddamn it, I don't know what the hell I'm doing." Then he set about pressing every button and pushing every switch on the thermostat. "Now look at it. The little number is seventy-seven. What the hell is going on? I should just tear the fucking thing off the goddamn wall.
     "Last night, it was so goddamned cold in here, I got up and tried to reset this goddamn piece of shit. I lost my balance and fell against this chair. If it hadn't been there, I'd have fallen on my goddamn ass. Where'd they get this piece of shit? Goddamn it."
       The thermostat in Al's apartment is not the same as the one in mine. And it is a little higher on the wall, which makes it extremely difficult for me to see what's what with it from the wheelchair. Peering hard at the contraption and occasionally getting Al to answer my questions, I realized the "small number," located in the upper right corner of the thermostat, is the setting. The big number, which is in the center of the thermostat and easily read, even by me, is the room temperature.
     Al turned his attention to the small switch below the screen with the big and small numbers. "It's on cool. Now it's on heat. If it's here, the small number is seventy-two. If it's over here, the small number is seventy-eight. Seventy-eight; seventy-two; seventy-eight; seventy-two. Look, if I put it here, the goddamn little number disappears."
     "Leave it there," I said.
     It took ten minutes to convince Al that if the small number disappeared, both the heat and air conditioning were off. The room would probably get warmer overnight, but he said the AC was blowing on him all night long Saturday. Leaving it off would solve that problem.
     "If you say so. But I don't trust the goddamned thing."
     Ignoring another burst of questions, I picked up the tube from the oxygen tank and suggested he put it on. Al sat down and fiddled with the tubing until he got properly placed. Despite his protestations, the oxygen seems to help. It doesn't make him feel like a million bucks, but it does get him feeling better than a buck-ninety-eight. Speaking from the depths of medical ignorance, I think the oxygen makes breathing easier, less of a struggle, and Al is more relaxed when he uses the oxygen.
     We talked for a few minutes. Al came to the conclusion that maybe Penelope hadn't said she'd call back. He asked what I had done all day. I assured him it wasn't much.
     "Thursday is the first, isn't it? That's pay day. I'll have to call the bank and see how much I've got in there."
     Then he said, "You look tired, Tom. Why don't you get out of here? Thanks for coming up."
     "If you need anything, give me a call."
     "Oh, I will, you old rascal." 
     I called Al this morning (Monday). He answered with an upbeat "Hello." He said it did get warm in his apartment, but he'd opened the porch door, and he was more comfortable now. It is cloudy this morning. The weather people think the clouds will hang around all day and they say it won't be terribly hot. A day or two of being able to remain comfortable without fussing with the goddamn thermostat would be a blessing for Al.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Notes from the Home - September 22, 2015

     Fall came to Columbus and its environs a few days early. Although, I would not have recognized it as fall before moving here in 2012. In Ashtabula, bright sunshine, gentle breeze, low humidity, high of 85 and low of 67 is a pleasant summer day. It would be a pleasant summer day in Columbus, too, if such a day were to occur between May and earlySeptember. It seldom does. There have been maybe a half dozen such days in the four summers I've been here. And not a one this year.
     Now, when I slide the porch door open at five in the morning, cool air comes in, and it's exhilarating. This morning, I left the porch door open and the air conditioner off until nearly noon. At eight-thirty each morning, when I go out and circle the building, it is comfortably cool in the shade and comfortably warm in the sunlight.
     Tuesday morning, Janet, an English woman who came to America last fall, was sitting in her carport smoking a cigarette when I came along. Our conversation quickly turned to the weather and how nice it has been. Which led me to talk about the Orofino branch of the family.
     "My daughter says they've had lows out there in the thirties," I said.
     "Thirties?" she asked with a what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-this-guy look on her face. Then came the "Oh" and a smile when she realized I was speaking in Fahrenheit, not Celsius.

     Al's nephew Harry is spending a few days with his uncle. Yesterday, they told stories about Al's brother, who must have been a brilliant man. He was an Air Force pilot who was never stationed overseas, because he was always going to school. He finished all the work for his Ph.D except the dissertation. After the Air Force, he taught at NYU, CW Post and two or three other colleges in the New York area.
     The company does Al good. He is always trying to understand what is happening with his body, and having someone there listen to his to his analysis helps. On and on and on he'll go about his bowels, his breathing, his dizziness, his weak legs, his whatever, until he looks at me straight in the face and says, "Tom, why don't you tell me to shut the hell up." When he is by himself, I don't think Al tells himself to tell himself to shut up, and the more he talks to himself about his problems, the more he worries and works himself up.
     The subject of Al moving to the Personal Care (formerly Assisted Living) wing is being discussed. Having people there to monitor his medications would be a good thing. Al's memory being what it is, chances are he is forgetting to take his meds on some days, and on other days forgetting he took them and taking a second or even third dose.
     Al is also experiencing balance issues. He did fall once trying to get in the shower, but that was over a year ago. Still, he is becoming more and more unsteady and frequently complains about weakness in his legs. In PC the staff will help him with showering and other tasks of daily living.
     On the other hand, Al doesn't respond well to others helping him or telling him when it's time to do this or that. Someone from hospice used to come to give Al his meds. After a few days, Al began greeting the hospice worker with a gruff "Get the hell out and stay the hell away from me." Hospice honored his wishes and stopped trying to manage his drugs.
     Al spends much of his time on his porch, feeding the birds, smoking cigars, drinking Yuengling or red wine and either smoking marijuana in his pipe or eating his Alice B. Toklas cookies. The rooms in PC do not have porches. And there is the question of how sympathetic the PC staff will be to Al's choice of relaxation activities.
     He would certainly benefit from the additional help he would receive in PC. Yet, Al is a man who never married, never settled down. "I was a nomad," he tells people. "I've been all over the world, and I've tried it all." How he would respond to being corralled in PC remains to be seen.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Notes from the Home - September 19, 2015

     Wednesday at dinner, Al said he was having difficulty figuring out a few of his bills. Would I come by sometime and give him a hand? Of course.
    He was one ragged-looking ninety-one year old man when I showed up Thursday morning. Al said he got up about six,  laid back a while later and had crawled out of bed just a few minutes before I got there.
     "When I got up just now, I didn't know where the hell I was. That's happening a lot. I don't know what I'm doing." Over the next half hour, he told me five or six times that he had planned to go to Publix on the Covenant Woods' bus, but he slept late. "Now, I don't know why the hell I wanted to go in the first place."
     The bills were easy to deal with; there weren't any. He picked up an envelope, took out its contents. "What the hell is this shit?" he asked as he handed me a bank statement. "I know what these are" Those were his cancelled checks. That the paper he handed me might be his bank statement never occurred to him.
     "What the hell is this?" he asked, handing me a bill from USAA. "They're a bunch of goddamned crooks. Every time I turn around, they want seventy-eight fucking dollars from me. I ought to call them and tell whole damn bunch of them to go to hell."
     The seventy-eight dollars is the annual premium for Al's renters insurance. Al sent USAA a check for that amount in July, when the premium was due. He sent them another check in August. The seventy-eight dollars on the most recent invoice from USAA is a credit balance.
     Sadly, Al is having more and more difficulty physically and mentally. He is still frequently coughing up blood, and he complains of being tired and weak.
     Nonetheless, he continues being Al. Friday afternoon, the folks from hospice disassembled and removed his queen-size bed and replaced it with a hospital bed. While that was going on, he called. "There are six damn people in here taking my bed apart. Get your ass up here." I politely demurred. Six people taking apart one bed and putting together another in Al's studio apartment wouldn't leave much room for a guy in a wheelchair. He reluctantly agreed and said he'd see me at dinner.
     Al always gets to the dining room before I do, but he wasn't there when I rolled in Friday. My call to his room went unanswered, and I went to see if something was wrong. I found Al in his room arguing with Annie. She'd gone to the store to get sheets and pillowcases for the new bed and was now making it up for him. Every few minutes Al would start to get up and say, "Here, let me help you." And Annie would tell him to sit down, she had it under control. "Goddamn it, she won't let me do anything."
     Saturday morning, Al complained at great length about the bed. That is a good sign, a very good sign.

     For the last month, I've been wondering if the plug on an electrical gizmo is not fully inserted into the socket, does the gizmo draw electricity at a lower rate? The gizmo in question is a medic-alert doodad with a button to hang around my neck. If I fall and can't get to the phone or to the pull cord in the apartment, I can press the button and tell ADT I've fallen and can't get up.
     At dinner one evening a few weeks ago, my phone rang. Seeing it was an 800 number, I opened and shut my flip phone to cut them off. The phone rang again while I was watching Jeopardy. It was from the same number. I didn't answer the phone, but neither did I cut off the call. The caller left a voice mail, which I listened to during the next commercial.
     The call was from ADT. There was a problem with the battery in the base unit in my apartment. Would I please call them immediately. I would have, except Russ called me at that moment. ADT had called him to ask if he knew where I might be and if I was all right. I assured him I was fine and about to give ADT a call.
     When I called, the woman at ADT said their monitors indicated that the battery in my base unit was dangerously low. "Is it plugged in?" she asked. I could see that it was but went over to take a closer look. It was plugged in, although not quite all the way. A quarter-inch, maybe less, of the prongs were visible. I got the plug to snuggle up with the surge protector and told the woman what I'd done. She told me to press the button on the pendant. I did, and she said everything looked good.
     All this seemed strange to me. When the power has gone out, the unit says, "No power detected . . . No power detected . . . No power detected . . . " Which seems like it's expending a great deal of power to tell me there is no power. And when the power comes back on, it says, "Power restored."
     But it didn't say either that day. Which has left me wondering if it was drawing some power, enough to keep it from telling me there wasn't any power. And just enough power that when I pushed the plug in as far as it would go, the machine saw no reason to tell me "Power restored."
     The mysteries of Wi-Fi also had me scratching my head. When the computer started having difficulties, I disconnected the Wi-Fi modem in my room, in order to keep any other bad stuff away from it. Then Russ took the computer to Staples, and a week later he brought it back.
     Alas, when I reconnected the Wi-Fi, the computer was sluggish in the extreme and not very dependable. Russ did some research and discovered that there had been some problems with Firefox. A few days later, he came to take me over to their apartment so I could have dinner with Karen and him. Before we left, though, he set about loading Google Chrome into my computer. It was a slow go, and he decided to take my computer with us and do what needed done while we were there. Back at Covenant Woods, the computer worked with less alacrity than I have when trying to walk.
     "Dad, I think the problem is your internet connection," he said. "When I tried to install Google Chrome here, it said it would take fifty-two minutes for it to download. At our apartment it hardly took any time at all. Call Mediacom and see what they say."
     That was on a Sunday. Early the next morning, I looked at the Wi-Fi thingy, pushed a button or two, played with the wires and went back to see what was happening when I got on the Internet before I called Mediacom. Miracle of miracles; whatever I did solved the problem. Of course, I caused the problem in the first place. But we don't have mention that part.
     Mildred, who lives across the hall, was walking Cully, when I was out circling the building and enjoying the evening air. I had always thought her dog's name was Curly. It seemed appropriate - he has an abundance of poodle-like curly hair. Several weeks ago, however, she corrected me when I asked, "How's Curly?"
     Cully, who is very protective, was the first topic we discussed. Earlier in the day, Mildred had Cully on a leash and was coming out into the hall. As they did, Cully started barking. A small dog, that belongs to a woman down the hall, was running in the hall.
     "I thought Cully was going to pull my arm off," Mildred said. "The woman who owns the other dog was out there, but she didn't have it on a leash. I told her, if Cully had gotten away from me, no telling what might have happened."
     Then the conversation turned to William and Richie and the beer they consume.
    "Someone told me William said the doctor told him if he didn't stop the beer was going to kill him," Mildred said. "Those two drink all day long, don't they. My first husband was like that. He was a nice guy, but he spent all our money on beer. We didn't have anything in the house, because he was always drinking beer. He'd go to a bar and buy everyone it a drink.
     "We were married from '47 to '52. I told him he had to stop drinking. He said he would, but he needed my help. The plan was I'd meet him when he got off work and we'd go home together.
     "Duane [their son] was about twenty-months old, and I put him in the stroller and we walked down to meet my husband. We were waiting outside and a car went by. My husband was in it with a friend of his. He didn't even wave as they passed.
     "Duane and I went back home. I got our stuff together. We lived in Augusta then, and we got on a bus that night and went to Auburn to stay with my parents.
     "I used to worry that Duane would have a drinking problem. But as far as I know he's never even tasted it. One time, he had a real bad cough. We got some peppermint candy and dissolved it in a little whiskey. It's supposed to help your cough. But Duane said if he had to drink it, he'd rather keep coughing."




Friday, September 11, 2015

Notes from the Home - September 11, 2015

          I awoke full of resolve this morning. This would be the day I resumed writing on a regular, daily basis. OK, on any basis at all. I hopped out of bed into the wheelchair and, within seconds, knocked over the paper shredder. Whether or not promptly cleaning up the resulting mess is a sign of my new resolve remains to be seen.
     (The above was written two days ago, and I haven't done squat since. The items that follow are old news. But, since I've been idle for six weeks or more, you wouldn't know that. Kicks in the ass will be greatly appreciated.)

A ferocious alligator, which appeared after a recent storm, yawns as it relaxes behind the C Building.

     Al has had more than his share of difficulty lately. Mostly, he is having respiratory problems. Six weeks ago, the doctor ran some tests on his lungs and discovered cancer in the left one. That is what is causing him to cough up blood.
     He was back in the hospital for two days during the first week of August. That Tuesday at dinner, Al recited the litany of his ailments five or six times. And with each repetition he seemed to get worse. If one more person would have asked Al how he was doing, he probably would have stroked out before he finished the saga. He asked me to follow him to his room, in case something should happen, which he never done before.
     Al seemed a little better when we talked that Wednesday morning. On my way to dinner that afternoon, Helen, Al's next door neighbor, told me they had taken him to the hospital a few minutes earlier. Penelope, who spent several hours in the hospital with Al, called around eight. The big concern, she said, was Al's racing heart. If the doctors could get his heart rate down, they would send him home.
     Al called the next morning, said his heart was beating at an acceptable rate, and he would be on his way to Covenant Woods as soon as the damn doctor showed up and did whatever the hell he had to do to get him the hell out of the goddamned hospital. Unfortunately, by the time the doctor came by to see Al, the ticker was ticking much too rapidly.
     Friday afternoon, with the help of hospice, Al signed himself out of the hospital. Whether or not he was ready to come home was the topic of lively debate for several days. Even Al wasn't all that sure he made the right decision, but he was absolutely certain he wasn't going back to that goddamned hospital.
     The years and ailments are catching up with Al. Every thing is more difficult for him now, and he says more often than ever before that he'd like to go to bed and never get up. But Al is still Al. He knocked on my door one day last week.
     "Antoinette took me to Publix this morning, and I bought seventy-five dollars worth of shit. You've got take some of this stuff. If you don't, I'll end up throwing it away," he said as he handed me some strawberries, blueberries, pepperoni, kielbasa and a few other things. "I had a hell of a movement earlier. I was sitting in my chair reading the paper, and it happened. I went into the bathroom and dropped my pants. I could see it coming out of the diapers. I said, 'Holy shit!' Then I spent forty-five minutes cleaning my ass."

     A woman, whose name, unfortunately, I don't know, maintains an impressively brisk pace on her evening walks. We're seldom out at the same time, but we were one recent evening and talked for a few minutes. 
     "How many laps do you do?" I asked.
     "This time of year, usually three. Once in a while four, if it isn't too hot, but always at least three."
     "That's about a mile-and-a-half, isn't it?"
     "Something like that. I used to walk five miles every day, but when I turned ninety, I decided I didn't have to go that far."

     Janet was smoking a cigarette when I was out Tuesday morning. We talked about the weather, and she told me about her back problems, while keeping an eye on the goings on up the street.
     "I'm being nosy. Jane got a new dog, a little terrier of some sort. Dorthy said it's really cute, and I'm trying to get a look at it. Wait a minute - I'm not nosy, I'm curious. My kids think I'm nosy. When I ask a question, they always say, 'Mum, you're being nosy again.' But I tell them, I'm just curious."



Saturday, August 1, 2015

Notes from the Home - August 1, 2015

   In the event someone noticed my hiatus; I was having computer difficulties. It was taking me places I didn't want to go. Landing on some of the sites elicited stern warnings from Widows. Other times, the computer transported me to harmless sites I had no interest visiting.
     Friday morning, when Russ gave me a lift to Publix. I asked if he would take my computer to Staples and have them look at it. “Next week one day,” he said. “What’s it doing?” I explained the problem as best I could. After he left to deal with the other items on his agenda, I realized I hadn’t given him much of an explanation. To get a better idea of what was going on, I reconnected the WiFi. Voila! The computer did everything it was told. Whether it will continue to mind me is another question. But for the time being at least, I’m back.

     Al has lung trouble. He has been coughing up blood for a couple months. An MRI revealed that he has cancer in the left lung. He hasn’t been himself since, whether because of the cancer or because of the thought of having cancer. There are days when he is weak, tired and disoriented. On other days, not so much.
     Bowel movements continue to dominate many of his conversations. “It was ten inches long. Hell, it was a foot long. I couldn’t see it all. There were probably another two god-damned inches down in the hole.”
     As I was touring the property Thursday morning, four of the guys from A Cut Above, the lawn-care company that tends the Covenant Woods' grounds, were gathered near the employee parking lot. One had an edger, one a lawnmower, one was armed with a leaf blower, and the other guy had a weed whacker. They weren't doing much, but they had all their machinery running, creating a racket.
     When I went by them, my leg tingled. I assumed it was another nerve announcing its departure. After getting a few yards beyond all the noise, I could hear my phone ringing. It was in my pants pocket. Its vibration had caused the tingling.
     "Tom, Al here. I'm having a terrible morning. I don't even know what goddamn day it is. I got up four times to urinate last night. This morning, I had a movement. It just poured out of me, and it was black.
     "I don't want to disturb Penelope. Would you get in touch with her and ask her to give me a call? I want to see Dr. Mecca; maybe she can take me."  
     I went inside and found Penelope in her office. I told her what Al said. She was about to go to a meeting and said she'd call him when it was over.
     I went to see Al. Compared to his usual standards, he looked thoroughly unkempt. He spent the next thirty minutes discussing his excretory functions interspersed with occasional comments about a raging headache and difficulty breathing. I suggested he have one of the nurses' assistants come up and get his vitals. He didn't want to do that. Nor did he want to call 911. He was more responsive to the idea of taking a hydrocodone and lying down for a while. 
     About that time Penelope called. She listened to the Readers' Digest condensed version of Al's condition and told him he ought to take a nap. Al agreed, and a few hours of sleep did wonders for him. At dinner, he looked much better and was more alert than he had been earlier.
     At quarter-past-nine Friday morning, Al called. He didn't want to disturb Penelope, he wasn't even sure she was working Friday, but he needed a ride across the street. Would I try calling her? I would have but Russ showed up, and I had a senior moment and forgot.
     Fortunately, Al went and disturbed Penelope on his own. She took him to the bank, where the staff assured him his retirement pay had been electronically deposited that morning. Al took out money for the weekend and went home a happy man.

     Jim is the chronically unhappy man with whom Al and I share a table at dinner. Friday he spent most dinner fulminating about the preacher who spoke that afternoon at the memorial service for Annaliese, who died earlier in the week. "A memorial service is to honor the deceased, not a chance to preach a goddamned sermon. You don't preach to people at a memorial service. That was totally disrespectful." But angrily telling anyone who would listen, and more than a few who would have preferred not to, that the minister made a mockery of her memorial service is hardly respectful, either.
     When Mo, our server, asked Al what he wanted for dinner, he said the beef stew and the mixed vegetables. 
     "You don't want the noodles or squash?" Mo asked Al.
    Before Al could answer, Jim vigorously waived his hand and said in a stifled yell, "No. No. No. Give him all three sides."
     "Do you want all three?" Mo asked.
     "He always has all three sides," Jim blurted.
     Mo was confused, and Al was beyond confused. I put the menu in front of Al and asked him to show Mo what he wanted. He pointed to the mixed vegetables. "Just the stew and the mixed vegetables?" Mo asked. Al nodded. Jim pouted.
     "I had too many tacos at wine and cheese," Al said. "I shouldn't be eating at all."
     The table where we sit is along the wall that separates the dining room from the hallway that runs from the lobby to the C Building. Above four feet, the wall is a glass partition, allowing the diners to look out and those in the hall to look in. Jim sits with his back to the wall. "That way I don't have to say hi to people."
      Friday evening, Chelsea, a caregiver, came down the hall, tapped lightly on the glass and waved to Al and me. We waived back. A second or two later, Chuck waived as he walked by, and we waved to him.
     "Who the hell was that?" Jim sputtered as he turned around to see what was going on. 
     I would like to find another table, but Jim is retired military, and he and Al have a lot in common. And Al has the advantage of being hard of hearing. Unless he is looking right at Jim and can see his expression, Al doesn't realize Jim is being a horse's ass.

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...