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.
"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."
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