Thursday, February 26, 2015

Notes from the Home - February 26, 2015

     I'm no stranger to bad decisions,  but I normally wait until I've had a cup of coffee or two before I go forth and screw up. Saturday, I got right at it, and the moment I was dressed I did something foolish. My mistake? I took a Lexapro.
     Six weeks ago, when I saw Dr. Verson and told him I felt depressed, he gave me a prescription for Lexapro. I followed the directions on the bottle for two days and swore off the stuff. Did the Lexapro help my mood? Who knows. It did, however, make my spasticity worse. I went from being merely stiff and clumsy to being even stiffer and clumsier. I did take another one a few days later, with the same unhappy result. After that, the Lexapro remained untouched until Saturday.
     Why, you wonder, would I down yet another Lexapro? Well, at least in my case, the stuff is an amazingly effective, fast-acting laxative. A crappy reason, I know - a bowl of shredded wheat or raisin bran would have done the trick, though not so quickly. Some rapid rationalization was needed. Let's see: I have an appointment with Dr. Verson, Friday. Maybe I should give the drug one more shot. What the heck? Maybe the problems I experienced while taking Lexapro those few days were unrelated to it. Maybe there was something else going on. Whatever it was, it seemed to have lost its grip, and maybe Lexapro would give me a lift on what promised to be a gray, wet weekend. Maybe I would have a more pleasant, more productive day if I just took one of the little pills.
     "How will you know if you don't take one?" I asked myself. "I guess you're right," I replied. Oops, now the secret is out: I'm crazy. I answer my own questions when I talk to myself. But there was no time to ponder my sanity; I was going to take a Lexapro, and I was going to take it now. Which I did.
     A half hour later, my bowels commended me for bravely swallowing the pill. A few minutes after that, my legs started chanting, "Tommy is a stupid, dummy head," and they kept it up for several days. Monday evening, they gave out as I was trying to get off the toilet and into the wheelchair. I wasn't hurt, but I was embarrassed.
     They have functioned adequately since then, although not without a struggle. Lexapro may or may not have something to do with that, but the main culprit is probably the weather. Lots or rain, very little sunshine and cool temperatures have combined to make this a most uncomfortable week.

     The weather has kept me indoors this week, but it isn't the only reason I've been housebound. The drive wheels on my wheelchair are going to pot faster than I am. The tread on the left tire is shot, and the tread on the right tire is trying hard to keep pace. I called Convalescent Care Monday and was told Nick was on the phone and would call back as soon as he got off. I hurled imprecations at Nick and the folks at Convalescent Care all day Tuesday, Wednesday and until 12:45 Thursday afternoon. The last time I asked Nick a question about the wheelchair, he said, "Run it into the ground." I assumed his lack of response this time was his way of reiterating his previous response.
     As some choice words were going through my mind a few minutes ago, there was a knock at the door. It was a fellow from Convalescent Care. "Nick sent me to look at your chair," he said. He took a picture of the bad tire and got the chair's serial number.
     "I'll give this stuff to Nick and he'll phone it in," the guy said. Among other things, they're going to check to see if I'm due for a new chair. I believe I am; the chair is six-years old. Apparently, getting new wheels will make it more difficult to get a new chair when other things start going wrong. All this is nice to know, and I feel much better. But I still think Nick should have called back on Monday. So there. 

      Janet, who hails from England, was outside with a cigarette one morning as I made my rounds. "How are you?" I asked. She threw her arms up and said, "I'm ecstatic. Customs has finally released my furniture."
     So much for my assumption Janet had come to America as the young bride of a GI. That's how most of the women with foreign accents at Covenant Woods got here. Janet has been here since December. "I had to buy a few things, and my daughter let me borrow some furniture." It was too cold to stand and talk, but now I'm assuming it is Janet's daughter who came to America as the bride of serviceman. Perhaps as the weather warms, we'll have longer conversations and I'll find out just what happened.

     Al seems to be concerned about my love life, specifically, the nonexistence of my love life. Tuesday, Annie, who works in the activities department, came by as Al and I were talking in the hallway. The three of us chatted for a few minutes, then Annie left to do something. As Annie walked away, Al said, "You ought to go after that lady. Get going, catch up with her and start hugging her. It will make you feel good."
     Wednesday, as I was coming back from getting my mail, Al was headed up the hall to get his. He told me he had had to urinate four times during the night, that a woman from hospice had been to see him that morning, and as soon as he got the mail he was going out on his porch, smoke a cigar, have a glass of wine, and get his pipe out and have a toke. Before he went on his way, Al asked if I'd seen Amy, one of the servers.
     "Not in the last day or two," I told him.
     "Well, if you see her, grab her, set her on your lap and take where she wants to go."
     Al does seem to be feeling better these days. Whether it's because he is getting help from hospice or because it looks like he's going to get some money from a real estate group in Savannah that he has been involved with for twenty-some years, is hard to say. Then again, it might be the result of more wine and marijuana. Twice in the last week, Al has spilled wine on his carpet.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Notes from the Home - February 9, 2015

     Isabelle died two weeks ago. She had been living at Muscogee Manor, a rehabilitation facility, for the last month. More than anything, I miss her smile.
     On Saturdays, a banana appears at each place setting in the Covenant Woods' dining room. I almost always have a few bananas in the room, and I would give Isabelle the banana Covenant Woods gave me. Every Saturday I gave Isabelle a banana. This went on for almost two years, and every time I did, Isabelle smiled a great appreciative smile. I don't think she enjoyed the banana half as much as I enjoyed seeing her smile when I reached across the table to hand it to her.
     At dinner one night a few months ago, Amy came up behind me and whispered in my ear. I forget exactly how she phrased it, but the gist was, "Your legs don't work, but can you still get 'it' up?" Amy hurried off tee-heeing, and I tried, without success, to laugh without spraying everyone at the table with the half-chewed salad in my mouth. Isabelle giggled and said, "I bet that had something to do with sex." I told her it did, and she giggled more. When Amy came back, she told Isabelle what she had whispered to me, and Isabelle burst out laughing.
     It must have been two years ago - Ralph, Isabelle's husband, was still alive, and Sharnell was still working here as a server. Anyway, depending on the day, Al is either combing the Harvard Medical Newsletter and the pages of the AARP magazine for the latest medical advance that will make it possible to live forever, or he's lamenting his long life and hoping for an early end. On this night, it was the latter.
     "You know what I'm going to do?" Al said. "I'm going up stairs, drink a glass of wine, get my pipe out and have toke, take some pills and see where it takes me."
     "What if you don't come back?" Isabelle asked.
     "So what?" Al said. "Nobody cares about us old folks anyway."
     The life, the spirit, instantly drained from Isabelle's face. She was, I think, worried that Al was right. I couldn't think of what to say. Then I noticed Sharnell busing tables. "Hey, Sharnell, do you care about these old folks?"
     She came over to the table, said, "Of course I do," and gave Al, Ralph and Isabelle a hug. Isabelle, looking like the little girl on Santa's lap who is about to ask the Jolly Old Elf to bring Daddy home from the war, or to make Mommy's cancer go away, looked up at Sharnell and said, "Do you really care about us old people?" "I care about all the residents," Sharnell said with enough conviction to bring a beaming smile to Isabelle's face.
     I never asked Ralph what made him fall in love with Isabelle. I bet her smile had something to do with it.

     Leon, the fellow who said I look like a "damn Jew," probably isn't the bigot I took him for. He undoubtedly is, however, a loud-mouthed, egotistical, know-it-all Texan, and that's almost as bad. What's worse, like the man in The Man Who Came to Dinner, he joins Al and me for dinner every chance he gets, which is just about every night. I don't look forward to dinner the way I used to.
     One thing I do look forward to these days is helping Penelope with her 100-word story project. My job is to play Mr. Reader's Digest and chop away at the stories until they're down to the word limit. I worked on six of them Wednesday morning, including one of Charlie's, which had to be cut down from four-hundred-some words. Then I ate lunch and took a nap. When I woke up, I took a shower, and, all spiffy and clean, I went for a ride around the parking lots.
     It was such a beautiful day, and I felt so very good riding around in the late-afternoon sunshine, I realized dinner with Leon would only bring me now. A peanut butter sandwich and some tomato soup in my room sounded much better than being in the dining room at a table with Leon. Unfortunately for Al, he ended up having dinner with Leon, one-on-one.Fortunately, we've been able avoid Leon for the last three days.

     The 100-word stories mentioned above will be shared with the other residents on Valentine's Day. The theme, of course, is love, but not necessarily romantic love. Three of my contributions follow. 
     In order to avoid being accused of Brian Williams-like behavior: Bethany asked to have the training wheels removed while she, Debbie and I were on our way home from the store one Saturday. It was easier to stay within the word limit by having us at the breakfast table. 
     It should also be noted, that in a niggling, technical sense, Russell took me to every Indians game we ever went to. Back in those pre-Jacobs Field days, back when the attendance at an Indians game in cavernous Municipal Stadium seldom reached five-figures, the Indians and the Plain Dealer gave away tickets to six or seven games each year to school kids with straight-As or perfect attendance. Russell qualified on both counts. On one occasion, when he was in high school, he treated Debbie, Beth, and I to box-seat accommodations at an Indians game. He was the first caller with the correct answer to some baseball trivia question posed by a local radio personality.

Unremarkable Pleasantness

     The sky has been overcast since Monday. There is no beauty in the overcast. The gray shroud mutes nature’s colors and deadens their sparkle. It is the Plain Jane of weather. But, now and then, the sun breaks through and reminds us of how terribly hot a June day in Georgia can be. And now and then, heavy dark clouds appear beneath the overcast and threaten to unleash their fury.

     But, the overcast holds its own. With neither the beauty of sunlight nor the awe inspiring rage of a storm, the overcast has given us three days of unremarkable pleasantness. 

Bethany Rides

     “Daddy, take the training wheels off my bike,” five-year-old Bethany said at breakfast one Saturday in March. She didn’t have much experience riding the bike even with training wheels. Except for a day or two here and there, the northeast Ohio winter had kept her Christmas present in the garage

     “Please,” Beth said, with a pleading look that trumped the parental-concern faces Debbie and I had donned.
     The training wheels came off, Beth got on and pedaled away as if she’d been cycling for years. “Yes!” I shouted, unable to contain my fatherly pride. 

Take me out to the Ballgame

One summer afternoon when I was eight, I met Dad downtown. He said he was taking me to dinner and the ballgame. 
I’d never been to Forbes Field, never been to a Major League game. Vern Law pitched, Roberto Clemente was in right, Bill Mazeroski at second, Dick Groat at short. Dale Long homered, and the Bucs won 8-5. It was a magical night.

Thirty years later, I took Russell to Cleveland Municipal Stadium to see his first big league game. It was another magical night for me. I think – I hope – it was magical for Russ, too.


To Bed, Perchance to Sleep

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