Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Notes from the Home - April 29, 2015

     April 19 - It is four o'clock Sunday morning, and it is raining. Again. It seems like it has been raining forever. OK, not forever, but it has rained almost every day since St. Patrick's Day or there about. Thursday afternoon, I sat by the window for a half hour, watching the world get a wind-driven shower. The limbs on the trees on the other side of the parking lot were heavy with leaves, a wall of green bordering the asphalt. A jungle was about to swallow up Covenant Woods, or so it seemed.
     According to the Weather Channel, beginning at five-thirty this morning, we can expect thunderstorms and rain throughout the day. The pictogram for tomorrow shows the sun mostly hidden by a cloud. The image for Tuesday is all sun, nothing but glorious sun. I am hoping for week-long string of sunny days. The sun gives me an emotional boost - except in July and August, when the air temperature is ninety-five and well over 150 out in the parking lot, where the heat comes up to roast me as I ride around the building, collecting vitamin D and sunburn.
     More importantly, drier weather does a body - at least this body - good. Getting out of the chair and moving around is always a struggle. On a sunny, dry day, however, the struggle is not quite so great. The legs do not do everything I tell them to do, but they will honor a few more of my requests when the sun shines.
     Now, at seven o'clock Sunday evening, the sun is shining as it nears the western horizon and the sky is clear. Mother Nature took her good old time getting things in order. At ten-thirty this morning, as we were getting pelted with rain, I decided to take a nap. I took my shoes off, got myself on to the bed, laid back, and closed my eyes.They did not stay closed long; it was more of a blink. Somehow, my eyes slamming shut set off the Columbus, Muscogee County Outdoor Warning System siren. I was trying to ignore the wailing, but Sarah got on the intercom to announce that a tornado warning had been issued for the area and residents should either go into their bathrooms and close the door, or go into the hallway. I opted to loiter in the hall until the all-clear was announced a half hour later.

    Beth called the next morning to say she and her entourage had arrived safely in Orofino Sunday night. Amazingly, after driving over five thousand miles, Beth said she was already planning their a return trip to Columbus. As she unpacked, Beth said she was noting what they used while they were here, to be sure they packed it next time. She was also making note of what they didn't use, so they don't bring it along in the future.
      The joy of their visit lives on. People tell me every day what beautiful grandchildren I have. When Beth called Tuesday, she said she'd asked Hayden to look some pictures of the wedding Karen had posted on Facebook. She pointed to each person, and Hayden correctly identified every one.

     This past Sunday, there was a knock at the door soon after I plopped down for my midday nap.
     "Come in."
     "Tom," William said, as he came in. "Did anyone tell you about Al?"
     "What about Al?"
     "They took him to hospice."
     "This morning, I guess. One of nurses' assistants told me they took him to hospice. He'll be there for a while, then he'll go to some other place to live. He won't be coming back here. I'm surprised no one told you."
     It surprised me, too, especially that Al hadn't told me. At least once a week, he reminds me, if anything happens to him, I'm to call his nieces and nephews, and his good friend Ken, who will clean out his apartment when the time comes. And it seemed unlikely that Al would quietly acquiesce to having his life turned upside down.
     I thanked William for the information and told him I wanted to be alone for a few minutes. As soon as he was out the door, I called Al. He answered with a jaunty "hello."
     "How you doing?" I asked.
     "Well, Amy was up here just now. She brought me a dinner, and we talked for a few minutes."
     "Do you mind if I come see you?"
     "No. Get your ass up here and we'll have a beer."
     Five minutes later, Al was playing the thoughtful host. He pulled a can of beer from the refrigerator and asked if I wanted a glass. I told him the can was fine. He pulled a paper towel from the roll by the sink, neatly folded it and handed it to me along with the can of beer. "Just a minute," he said, as he moved a small table next to the wheelchair, so I'd have place to set the beer can.
      Our conversation meandered for a few minutes before I told him what I'd heard from William. Al must not have heard all that I said, but he did pick up on "hospice." The usual litany of complaints about hospice followed. "The only one down there who is worth a damn is Dawn. She's the only one I talk to." There was not, however, a single word about him being told he needed to go to hospice or his being moved to another facility.
     William, who is hard of hearing, almost always drunk, and who prefers jumping to conclusions to listening closely, got the story wrong. Just as I had suspected.

      Jeopardy's final credits were rolling last night when the phone rang. "Tom, you need to get up here right away. There's a message on my machine, and I can't understand a goddamned word they're saying."
     When Al barks out orders, I obey. Moments later, Al took the phone off the night stand and got it as close to me as the cord would permit. "I hope you can hear this," he said and pressed the button.
     Without bothering to identify herself, the snooty woman inside the caller's computer began, "Tell your provider if you have a fever and have been out of the country in the last thirty days, whether or not you have had diarrhea. This message is for Alton. You have an appointment at St. Francis ENT on Wednesday at 1 pm. If you cannot keep this appointment, please blah, blah, blah." Then, without so much as a pause to take a breath, the snooty lady inside the computer repeated the entire message.
     "What the hell was that all about?"
     "You've got an appointment at St. Francis, Wednesday afternoon."
     "What the hell for?"
     "It said 'ENT.' The ear, nose and throat people, I suppose."
     "I don't have a goddamned appointment," Al said as he stood up, took a moment to make sure his balance was in order, and walked over to a table littered with notes. "Look at all this shit." He read through a list of three or four upcoming appointments, none of which were for Wednesday and said, "See."
     "Apparently, St. Francis thinks you do have an appointment."
     "Why do they want to know if I have diarrhea? I don't have diarrhea."
     "Don't worry about that. That's only for people who have been out of the country in the last thirty days."
     "I haven't been out of the goddamned country."
     "So, don't worry about it."
     "I ought to sell everything I own and move to Fiji."
     "Maybe you should call St. Francis tomorrow and find about this appointment."
     "What's all that shit about diarrhea? I don't have diarrhea. I wished I had diarrhea the other night. I sat on the goddamned toilet for forty-five minutes and nothing happened."
     "Penelope will be in tomorrow, won't she? Why don't you talk to her in the morning?"
     Penelope, the activities director, has been helping Al with a lot of his medical stuff. When possible, she has accompanied him to his appointments, and at other times, she has helped him arrange transportation to them.
     "I'm going to call her right now," Al said, grabbing the phone and a list of numbers. "Here it is - 7-0-6 ..."
     After talking to Penelope for several minutes, Al put the phone down and leaned back in his recliner.
     "She wants me to go down and see her around ten tomorrow," Al said. "She's going to see if Antoinette can take me on Wednesday."
     "It's going to be OK, Al. Try to relax. It will all work out in the end."
     "I'm ninety-one-fucking-years old. Why do I have to put up with this shit?"
     After waiting a moment or two for the answer I didn't have, Al said, "I'm going to get me a cigar and pour me a glass of red wine and go out and sit on the porch."
     "I need to get going," I told him. "I'll give you a call in the morning."
     "Wait a minute. Before I listened to that goddamned message, I was fixing to bring you a few things."
     He went to the refrigerator, pulled out some sausage, pepperoni, cheese and grapes, put it all in a plastic grocery bag, and handed it to me. "Here, this is for you."
     "I don't need all this."
     "Please take it. Antoinette took me to Publix twice last week. Both times, I walked around with a cart and ended up spending over a hundred dollars. If you don't take, it'll go bad before I eat it and I'll have to throw it away."
     "If you're sure," I said, although I was not sure I could eat all in a timely fashion.
     "Do you want some Reese's cups, or some York patties, or some Dove chocolates? The Doves are dark chocolate. They're good for you."
     "No thank you. I really don't need any candy."
     "How 'bout some beer? I've got a case of ding-a-lings [Yuenglings]. You want five or six cans?"
     "Thanks, but I really don't need any beer."
     "What about wine? I've got a bottle of Lake Country red if you want it. It's good stuff. Or, I have some white wine, if you'd rather."
     "No, I don't need any wine, but thank you,"  I said, easing the chair out the door and into the hall. "And thank you for all the pepperoni and stuff. There's enough here for me to eat lunch every day for a month."
     "Are sure you don't need anything else?"
     "I'm sure. You take care and have a good night, Al."
     "You have a good night, too, you old rascal. And come see me tomorrow."



Friday, April 17, 2015

Three Unforgettable Days

     The SUV's arrival in Columbus, Monday afternoon, signaled the start of three of the  most wonderful days of my life. Beth was at the wheel of the rig, as she called the vehicle, Hayden and MaKenna were snug in their car seats, and Debbie was the copilot.
     The only time I had seen Hayden was in March 2011, when Nancy and I went west for a few days, joining up with Karen and Russ along the way. Hayden was six months old; a tiny little guy, who had been born three months prematurely and had spent most of his life to that point in the hospital. These days, Hayden is a typical four-and-a-half-year old, except he is much better looking and far more intelligent. OK, the looks are a matter of taste, and some people with very questionable taste might think Hayden is less handsome than I do. I am confident, though, that once he starts school his performance on the standardized tests will place him comfortably in the upper percentiles. Seriously. The kid is bright.
     MaKenna, now a week shy of her second birthday, is a sweetheart. She is even more adorable in person than she is in the pictures Beth posts on Facebook. Despite having been on the road since - as a former colleague in the Star Beacon sports department used to say - the butt crack of dawn Friday, neither Hayden nor MaKenna exhibited even the smallest hint of crankiness Monday afternoon and evening. Wow.
     Debbie is the happy grandma. Sitting in Russ and Karen's living room, she'd say "Hayden" and tap her leg a few times with her hand. Hayden would go over and get on her lap for some grandmotherly loving.  After a few minutes, he'd squirm until she let him down. Looking around, Debbie would find MaKenna and repeat the process.
     Beth is a force of nature. If I had to choose between getting in her way or getting in the way of a speeding locomotive, I'd opt for the locomotive. While she was here, Beth got an email from someone to let her know a person with whom she and Ken had some business dealings had done them wrong. Beth didn't spend much time huffing, puffing and swearing. But it was obvious she was doing what she could from 2,400 miles away to get her ducks in a row and prepare for the battle that is sure to take place.
     Tuesday, Beth and the kids spent a few hours with me at Covenant Woods. As he had done at Karen and Russ' place and in all the motel rooms along the way, Hayden located the fire alarm, smoke detector and heating vents in my apartment. After lunch, Hayden and MaKenna both had a grilled cheese sandwich, we went outside to enjoy the sunshine.  We ambled over toward the C Building, where Hayden found a plastic pumpkin under some shrubs. It was piece of the Halloween decoration that had been overlooked in the putting-things-back phase.
     In a very informal ceremony in their apartment, Karen and Russ were married Wednesday afternoon. There was a nice little crowd in the living room. Penny and Mitch, Karen's mother and stepfather. Mitch, a Rabbi, conducted the service. Dan, Karen's father, and her sister Colleen, were there, too. Besides Russ' parents, sister, niece and nephew, his Uncle Jim and Aunt Susan were there from Birmingham. A good time was had by all. And to reinforce my belief that he's a young man of unusual intelligence, Hayden somehow managed to keep all the names straight. No easy thing in a room full of strangers.
     Then it was over, and Thursday morning Idaho delegation headed west. What wonderful memories they left behind, along with promise to come to Georgia at least once, possibly twice, a year from now on.
     Before they return, I must bolster my resolve to not dwell on those things I cannot do. That had never been a big problem until I watched Russ get down on the floor and roll around with Hayden and MaKenna. I wanted so much to be down there too. And I wanted to be able to lift them up spin around several times.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Notes from the Home - March 21, 2015

     What's well begun is only half done, they say. Whether or not the following was well begun is for others to determine, but it never got  beyond half done. Spring fever set in and I was overtaken by ennui. I like ennui, the word, that is. I learned from my mother. I first saw the word as I was looking over her shoulder while she did  a crossword puzzle.
     "You made a mistake."
     "Right there. E-N-N-U-I isn't a word."
     "It most certainly is," she said in a tone of voice that made me think I was the only person in the English-speaking world unfamiliar with the word ennui.
     What I really like about the word, however, is its euphemistic quality. I feel so much better about myself when I can write, "I was overcome by ennui," instead of the literal truth, which is, I have been as lazy as hell, as inert as dirt for three weeks.
      At ten-thirty on the morning of Thursday, March 19, a fellow from Convalescent Care rode away in my wheelchair. At noon, he was back with the chair, which now had new tires on the drive wheels. I might not have been ecstatic - of, relating to, or characterized by ecstasy or a state of sudden, intense, overpowering emotion - in the technical sense. I don't think I was in a state of sudden, intense, overpowering emotion. Although, I would have been had he told me they needed to keep the wheelchair for a week or two. Then again, that wouldn't have been sudden, intense, overpowering emotion of an ecstatic kind. It would have been more of the "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" variety.
     The new tires make it possible for me to resume going outside and wending my way around Covenant Woods' drives and parking lots, which I hadn't been able to do for nearly a month. Those jaunts are often the most enjoyable moments of my day. And now that spring has arrived in Georgia, the trees have blossomed and everything is greening up. It is beautiful.
     Friday morning I stopped to talk to James, who was on his way to repair an air conditioner. He was full of memories. Thursday afternoon, Isaiah Crowell, the Cleveland Browns  running back and son of Debbie Crowell, the director of Personal Care at Covenant Woods, spent a couple hours here. He was accompanied by a local media guy, whose name meant nothing to me. But it did to James.
     "We went through junior high and high school together," James said. "And we were on the football and basketball teams the whole way through. He was a hell of  an athlete. He played in the NFL for a year or two."
     One of the residents asked Isaiah when he realized, "hey, I'm really playing in the NFL."
     "The first game of the season; we played Pittsburgh. Early in the game, I got the ball, ran a few yards and got hit hard. As I got up, I turned to see who'd hit me. It was Troy Polamalu, That's when I knew."
     It was music to this Steelers fan's ear.
     James can talk for hours about playing for Carver High School and all the notable athletes, like Isaiah, who have graduated from there. But he had work to do. I steered the chair toward the duplexes. Janet, who came to this country from England a few months ago, was outside for her morning smoke. The last time I'd talked to her, she said her furniture had cleared customs and was on its way to Columbus.
     "It got here. The problem was finding a place for it all. See that?" she said,asked, pointing toward several large boxes in the carport. "They're going to my daughter's. Now I'll have a bedroom of my own when I visit her. I won't have to kick my grandson out of his bed."
     A few doors down, Sandi was busy putting packages in her car.
     "I found somebody," she said. "We're getting married in a few weeks. He lives in Alabama, in a cottage. His parents built it in the early fifties. It's a cottage. They built it so they could get away on the weekends. There isn't a closet in the place. That'll make it tough for this woman. But, I'm looking forward to it."
     Back by the main buildings, I was making my way through the parking lots when Amy, one of the dining room servers on her way to work, drove up behind me and laid on the horn. She drives a Chrysler convertible with a silver body and black top. It could be the Oakland Raidermobile, and I tell her she drives the way Jack Tatum played football.
     "Who's Jack Tatum?"
     "He played for the Raiders, back in the day. They called him The Assassin."
     "Hey, I like that."
     A very pleasant start to the day made possible by the wheelchair's new tires.







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