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.   


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