Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Notes from the Home - June 17, 2015

     Al spent three nights at St. Francis Hospital and returned to Covenant Woods Friday. While he is loath to admit it, the stay seems to have helped. He is still coughing up blood, though not as much nor as frequently, he is getting around better and appears to be more alert.
     He came home with five or six pictures of his lung being probed. The doctors probably told Al what was going on in the pictures, but he has either forgotten or wasn't paying attentions. He stares at them, gets a disgusted look on his face and asks, "What the hell am I supposed to do with this? God damn doctors don't know what the hell they're doing."
     The highlight of his stay was Wednesday night's visit from Annie and her friend. Annie, who is the assistant activities director here, said they did stay passed the end of visiting hours. Whether they stayed as long as Al claims - two in the morning - or got as rowdy - "I thought they were going to throw us all the hell out the place," - is another story. But Al has enjoyed talking about it.
     Al had two or three conversations with the head nurse on his floor. The fellow had been a warrant officer in the military and was interested in Al's experiences. "I told him some of my stories, and he said I should write about them. I know just the guy to help me," Al said, nodding to me. Alas, getting Al to talk is easy, getting him to stay on topic is another. This morning he said he was going to start writing. He also said he was going out on his porch, smoke a cigar, pour himself a Yuengling, and, a little later, have a marijuana-laced cookie.

     Al and I have been sharing a table at dinner with Jim for the last six months. Jim is more than a few pounds overweight, has thick silver hair and a thick silver beard. During December, he lets the beard get longer and wears a red hat, looking and ho-ho-hoing in a very Santa-like way. And he likes to take pictures, lots of pictures. At Covenant Woods' social events, Jim is always snapping pictures of the residents, any family members who are there, and the staff people in the crowd. Afterward, he hops on his computer and prints all the pictures - at his own expense. A day or two after the shindig, he buzzes around the dining room, the lobby and the hallways giving the residents' the pictures he took of them.
     In those and a few other ways he is a kind and thoughtful man. There are times, however, when he is Scroogeian through and through. One evening, Kathleen came by as we were eating dinner and said hello to me. "No consideration at all," Jim said. "It didn't bother her one bit that she interrupted your dinner." Five minutes later, Bev stood by the table and sang a few bars of "Tomorrow," the song from Annie. Jim was livid. "Absolutely no respect," he said. "Doesn't she know any better?" I resisted the urge to ask, "Better than what?" And I didn't tell him I enjoyed the interruption.
     Fancying himself an efficiency expert, Jim continuously critiques the servers. He sits facing the room, while I sit facing the wall. But I always know what our server is up to. "Damn it. She's talking to Mary. Doesn't she know she hasn't taken our orders yet."Or, "We've got Myka tonight. She's so damn slow."
     His complaints aren't limited to the dining room staff. "Look at Marvin. He's come to dinner wearing a white T-shirt. That's being disrespectful to everyone in here." Hell, there are days Marvin is lucky to find the dining room. And it's not as if Jim gets all spiffed up for dinner.
     Yesterday, Elaine, who is 102, came in late and found her usual seat already taken and the table full. Katy, who was sitting with us, saw an empty seat at a nearby table and pointed Elaine in that direction. "She's so damn confused," Jim said. "I don't know why they let her come down here. She doesn't belong here."
     So, dinner is seldom a pleasant experience. I could find another table. But Jim was an Air Force pilot and he and Al often talk about their time in the military. Al enjoys that. Al also has the advantage of bad hearing: he is unaware of Jim's mumbled whines. My strategy is to keep Al talking as much as possible. Sometimes Al will hear just enough to know Jim said something and pretend to know what Jim said. Al replies with a comment on a random topic; that frustrates Jim and entertains me.

     It has reached the time of year in Columbus when we pay for the South's not-really-all-that-cold, wimpy winters.The forecast for this week and almost every week until late September: Too damn hot. The heat does provide job security for the maintenance men. Every time I see James, Randy or John, there is an air conditioner somewhere demanding their attention. I will say this, last year when my AC died, James quickly revived it, and I was most appreciative.   


My Busy Work

To get my lazy butt moving, I have been starting each day with the MadKane limerick contest and Three Word Wednesday. MadKane’s rhyme word for line 1,2, or 5 this week is “trust.” 3WW’s words for last week were “blemish” “erect” and “lopsided.” The words for this week are “dead” “hungry” and “threaten.”

Me Sin?

The fiery preacher’s past had a blemish
That became known. And so to replenish
His stock among gullible followers,
Who were such eager, willing swallowers
Of his balderdash, he stood proudly erect,
Quite confident they would never detect
The truth. He claimed the coverage was lopsided;
The press was unfair and should be chided.
His congregation said, “Yes, you are right.”
And he happily bedded some slut that night.

Two American Sentences

Blemish on my nose. I’m lopsided, can’t stand erect. 
It’s a bad day.

My computer is dead. I’m hungry.
I should threaten someone. But who?

Trust You?

Appalled when his wife fumed and fussed,
Shocked Arthur asked why she had cussed.
“You are seeing a tart.
Don’t deny it, dear Art.”
“OK, but don't I deserve your trust?”

Bought and Paid For

The would-be prez will ask your trust,
But his word is mere worthless dust.
That charming young bloke
Has been purchased by Koch,
And will do what he’s told he must.

Fessing Up

You know, so many times I just
Can’t seem to do the things I must.
Sad but true, I ignore
All my chores more and more.
I am no longer one you’d trust.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Series of Unusual Phone Calls

(Al has been coughing up blood, some days more than others, for several weeks. Initially, the doctor thought the cause was a sinus infection and prescribed an antibiotic. The pills haven't helped. Last week, Al went back to the doctor, who did more tests and discovered Al had had a mild case of pneumonia recently. He now thinks that might be causing the bleeding.)

     At ten o'clock Tuesday night, the phone rang. After two nights of very little sleep, I had gone to bed early and was sleeping soundly. So soundly the ringing didn't rouse me, but the beeping and buzzing telling me someone had left a voice mail did. It took me a minute or two to realize the source of the beeping and buzzing had been the phone and not something out of a quickly forgotten dream. On my third attempt I correctly entered the password for my voice mail and was told, "you have one unheard message. First unheard message:
     "Hi, Tom, it's Penelope. Al called me and said he's been coughing up more blood and thinks he needs to go to the hospital. Can you go up and check on him?"
     That woke me up. Getting to Al's apartment in a timely fashion, however, was out of the question. On the best of days, it takes me fifteen minutes or more to get into my socks, shoes and a pair of pants. Rushing only slows me down. I called Al, but he didn't answer.
     Penelope is the Activities Director here. I was Plan B, I hoped. She must have called the desk, but Alisha had been on another line or had been away from the desk. Penelope surely left a message. My task was to make sure the message got through. I called the desk, John answered and said they were aware of the situation, had called 9-1-1, and Alisha had gone to Al's apartment and would stay with Al until the EMTs took him away.
     Alisha answered my call to let Al know I was thinking about him and wished him the best. I could hear him sputtering, stuttering and swearing in the background. A few minutes later, the Columbus Fire Department EMTs pulled up outside the B Building. By 10:30, Al was on his way to St. Francis Hospital.
     This morning, I stopped by the desk and asked if there was any word on Al. They had done a CAT-scan, run several tests and admitted him, Sarah said. I thanked her and went out to enjoy the overcast morning, Halfway through my second lap of the Covenant Wood's complex, the phone rang.
    "Well, good morning, Tom."
    "Good morning, Al. How are you feeling?"
    "I spent an hour-and-a-half in the emergency room. last night. Worst god-damned hour-and-a-half of my whole god-damned life."
     "What happened?"
     "I went in there wearing my jeans, a belt and two diapers. They put me in a bed and stuck about seven tubes in my arm - every fucking one of them in my left arm. It swelled up like a balloon; it's still god-damned swelled up. Then they covered me with a bunch of damn sheets. I couldn't move. I told them I had to urinate. They cut off some of my pants and part of the diapers. I still had a bunch of sheets on me, and I could hardly move. Then I couldn't find my penis and ended up pissing all over myself."
     "Sarah told me they admitted you."
     "Yeah, I'm in a room in the new part of the hospital. It took them twenty-five minutes to get me over here. I could have god-damned walked over here in ten. These god-damned doctors, all they want is your money,"
     "Are they treating you all right?"
     "They brought me breakfast earlier. The coffee was cold, the sausage didn't have a god-damned bit of flavor, and the cantaloupe and mush melon were so hard I couldn't chew the fucking things - and I had my new teeth in."
     The conversation continued in this vain for another ten minutes before Al said, "There I go, running my god-damned mouth. Tom, you're supposed to be my mentor. Why don't you tell me to shut the hell up? Penelope said she'd come see me today. Tell her, I want her to get me out of this god-damned place."
     Back inside, I found Penelope at her desk. As I thought she might have, she had gone to check on Al while he was in the emergency room. When I told her Al's opinion of the service, she rolled her eyes. "It turned out, the emergency room doctor he saw is Jim and Tillie's son-in-law. [Jim and Tillie live here.] Once he found out Al is from from Covenant Woods, Al got the VIP treatment."
     At twelve-ten, according to my microwave's clock, as I was searching the refrigerator for a luncheon treat, the phone rang.
     "Well, hello, Tom."
     "Hey, Al, what's going on?"
     "Some god-damned doctor came to see me this morning. You know what he wants to do?"
     "No, but you're going to tell me, aren't you?"
     "Tomorrow morning, he wants to run some god-damned tube down into my left god-damned lung to see what's going on."
     "That's good, isn't it?"
     "The blood isn't coming from my god-damned lung. They took a bunch of fucking pictures of my lung. There was a lot damage to my lung when I got blown all to hell in Vietnam. But the god-damned blood is coming from my god-damned head."
     "How do you know?"
     "Think about it. It's the only place it could be coming from. I'm 91-years-old, and I know my god-damned body. The blood is coming from above my god-damned eye."
     "So, how's everything else going?"
     "Some people came in here this morning and started asking a lot questions. I told them to get the hell out. They don't know what they're doing. I told them I want to go home. Then an orderly brought me lunch. I'm not god-damned hungry. Hell, I just ate two hours ago. Maybe I'll have the soup they gave me, but that's all."
     "Why don't you try to relax?"
     "Relax? What do you think I'm doing? I'm sitting here in a chair with my feet up on the bed."
     "Good. Aren't you supposed to elevate your feet has much as you can?"
     "That's because my god-damned feet swell. I'm just sitting here, not doing a god-damned thing, with my lunch on my lap. I keep telling them I want to go home, but they won't listen."
     "Anything I can do for you?"
     "Tell Penelope to find our what room I'm in. I don't know what god-damned room they've got me in."
     "She said she's going to come see you later. She'll know which room it is when she gets there. Look, I better let you go. You need some rest."
     "Thanks for putting up with me. I'll see you when they let me out of this god-damned place. Take care, you old rascal."


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Notes from the Home - June 6, 2015

      At six-thirty Monday morning, as I nursed a cup of joe and did a crossword puzzle on-line, there came a tapping, a gentle rapping at my door. My first thought on opening the door and seeing William was that he had intended to do his tapping on Richie's door. William gets the wrong door now and then when he is under the influence of Coor's Lite, which is most of the time.
     "Did you hear him last night?" he asked while making a series of anything but discreet cranial twitches toward Richie's apartment.
     "I could hear him upstairs in my room. You didn't hear him? He was pretty damn loud."
     "I was awfully tired last night. I must have slept through it."
     "Just wanted to check on you, make sure you're all right. And remember, I wasn't over there last night."
     "I wasn't down here. You got that, right?" William said as he walked away.
     I got that, but that was about all I got. Richie is my next-door neighbor; William's apartment is two floors above mine. My hearing is in the normal range; William's isn't - isn't even close. Yet, he heard the alleged ruckus, and I didn't. And William and Richie are supposed to be best friends? Very strange, indeed. I might be wrong, I have been once or twice before, but I'm betting William had a beer-induced vision.
     Then again, maybe William was trying to pull a Richie and liar his way out of any trouble in the event I complained to the management. Several months ago, I was roused at four in the morning by the loud conversation the pair was having next door. Getting up wasn't the problem; I'm usually up by four-thirty, anyway. The hours before sunrise are so wonderfully peaceful: pleasant, unobtrusive music playing on the radio, which is set on low; the early birds chirping when they're not busy eating worms; a gentle breeze rustles the leaves; and some mornings there is the sound of gently falling rain.
     I didn't hear those soothing sounds that morning. They were drowned out by the voices of the beer-guzzling duo. I have no idea what they were talking about - neither did they, I'm sure - but they talked about it until seven o'clock.
     Around noon that day, I was in the lobby when William let out a "Hey, Tom," loud enough to be heard throughout Covenant Woods. It was a good time to let him know my feelings on his predawn tete-a-tete with Richie. And I did. William kept saying, "OK, OK; OK" and making keep-it-down gestures with his hands, but he never answered the charges.
     He did, however, run and tell Richie. And when Richie saw me after dinner that night, he said, "I wasn't there. I didn't get home until noon. William must have been talking to someone on the phone. OK?"
     "What's that mean."
     "That means, I don't believe you, but I'm not going to argue with you. Have a good night."
     I didn't believe him because there were two voices coming from his room that morning. One had the accent and tone of someone hurling imprecations at an umpire at Fenway Park. Richie's voice is the only one here that fits that description.
     All of which leads me to think William stopped by Monday morning to deny being there before Richie had a chance to.
     Al has been battling through some rough patches. The doctor recently gave him several new prescriptions. As he always does, Al read each list of possible side effects. Every one included the phrase "may cause dizziness."  At first, I thought the power of suggestion was the cause. But, I don't know, he's been talking about giving up marijuana. "I've been using the shit for thirty years. No telling what it has done to my brain."
     There are other possible culprits, too. "Look at all this," he said, waving his hand across the table where he keeps a variety of boxed and canned foods, some healthy, some not so healthy. "Read those packages. Everything on this table is loaded with vitamins and minerals. No one knows what all those vitamins and minerals are doing to our brains. I'm going to quit eating all this shit. The only things I'm going to eat are cake and ice cream, some candy and lots of chocolate."
     He was feeling much better Thursday. Antoinette, who does all sorts of odd jobs for the residents, took him to the bank, "I had to move some money around." Then they went grocery shopping.
     At one o'clock, my phone rang. "Tom, Al here. If you have a few minutes, come on up."
     I have far too many minutes these days and was at Al's door in a trice.
     "Tom, I did it again. I bought more shit than I need. I'm going to give some of it to you."
     "But . . . "
     "You've got to take some. If you don't, I'll end up throwing stuff away," he said as he handed me a package of salami, a package of pepperoni, a package of small sausages, a half pound of cheddar cheese, a pear, a large plum, a peach and some strawberries.
     "Now, do you need anything else? How about some blueberry muffins? Look at all this shit. I've got some Nutty Buddies. Don't you want some? I've been eating them since I was a kid. How about some Doves? It's dark chocolate, the stuff that's good for you. Some York patties? Some these little Reese's Pieces? Goddam it, I can't even give this shit away.
      "You know what the problem is, don't you? Antoinette, she's the problem. We're going through the store, and she starts putting things in the cart. 'Oh, you need this,' she says. I don't need all that shit."
     I thanked Al for the bag of foodstuffs on my lap, and headed to my apartment. Antoinette was in the laundry room, laughed when she saw me go by with the bag on my lap.
     "You're coming from Al's, aren't you?"
     "Yeah. He said you're the reason he always buys too much when he goes to the store."
     "Me? Al picks up everything he sees. I try to grab the stuff he doesn't need and put it back. But I have to be careful. If he catches me taking things out of the cart, he gets mad."

     Last week, Beth posted a picture of Hayden on Facebook. My four-year-old grandson was standing precariously on top of some sort of plastic easel with his hand on a smoke detector above a doorway in their house. It got me wondering if the Geneva hospital had somehow switched Debbie and my daughter with the daughter of another couple.
     It is said, we all grow up to be our parents. Well, I can't believe either Debbie or I, seeing Russ or Beth standing there as Hayden was, would have remained calm and snapped a picture before screaming, "Get down before you fall and break your neck!" I put the question to Russ, but he was no help. "I wouldn't have gotten up there in the first place," he said. Me either, if you want the truth.
     One of the delights of talking to Beth is hearing how she and Ken are allowing Hayden and MaKenna to be curious and find their own interests. Hayden has a lively interest in bugs. He often goes outside to look for them. When he finds them, he puts them in his pocket and takes them inside. Beth doesn't welcome the bugs in the house. But, at least when Hayden brings some in while we're talking on the phone, she doesn't get worked up about it, tell Hayden he'll die if one of the bugs bites him, or that all the bugs are going to make the house unlivable.
     Last week, Beth told me Hayden knows spiders aren't insects; they are arachnids. Someone, probably his parents, must be helping him turn his curiosity into knowledge. It makes me so very proud of Beth.
     Proud grandpa that I am, it pains me to say, Hayden doesn't know every thing. Not yet, anyway. Beth tells me Hayden has developed quite an interest in the moon. With that in mind, Beth found some pictures of the moon taken by the Lunar Rover. Hayden looked at the rocky lunar landscape and said, "Mom, that isn't the moon. The moon is made of cheese."     


To Bed, Perchance to Sleep

According to an article on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's website, a person with MS is up to three times more likely to exper...