Notes from the Home - August 1, 2015


   In the event someone noticed my hiatus; I was having computer difficulties. It was taking me places I didn't want to go. Landing on some of the sites elicited stern warnings from Widows. Other times, the computer transported me to harmless sites I had no interest visiting.
     Friday morning, when Russ gave me a lift to Publix. I asked if he would take my computer to Staples and have them look at it. “Next week one day,” he said. “What’s it doing?” I explained the problem as best I could. After he left to deal with the other items on his agenda, I realized I hadn’t given him much of an explanation. To get a better idea of what was going on, I reconnected the WiFi. Voila! The computer did everything it was told. Whether it will continue to mind me is another question. But for the time being at least, I’m back.

     Al has lung trouble. He has been coughing up blood for a couple months. An MRI revealed that he has cancer in the left lung. He hasn’t been himself since, whether because of the cancer or because of the thought of having cancer. There are days when he is weak, tired and disoriented. On other days, not so much.
     Bowel movements continue to dominate many of his conversations. “It was ten inches long. Hell, it was a foot long. I couldn’t see it all. There were probably another two god-damned inches down in the hole.”
     As I was touring the property Thursday morning, four of the guys from A Cut Above, the lawn-care company that tends the Covenant Woods' grounds, were gathered near the employee parking lot. One had an edger, one a lawnmower, one was armed with a leaf blower, and the other guy had a weed whacker. They weren't doing much, but they had all their machinery running, creating a racket.
     When I went by them, my leg tingled. I assumed it was another nerve announcing its departure. After getting a few yards beyond all the noise, I could hear my phone ringing. It was in my pants pocket. Its vibration had caused the tingling.
     "Tom, Al here. I'm having a terrible morning. I don't even know what goddamn day it is. I got up four times to urinate last night. This morning, I had a movement. It just poured out of me, and it was black.
     "I don't want to disturb Penelope. Would you get in touch with her and ask her to give me a call? I want to see Dr. Mecca; maybe she can take me."  
     I went inside and found Penelope in her office. I told her what Al said. She was about to go to a meeting and said she'd call him when it was over.
     I went to see Al. Compared to his usual standards, he looked thoroughly unkempt. He spent the next thirty minutes discussing his excretory functions interspersed with occasional comments about a raging headache and difficulty breathing. I suggested he have one of the nurses' assistants come up and get his vitals. He didn't want to do that. Nor did he want to call 911. He was more responsive to the idea of taking a hydrocodone and lying down for a while. 
     About that time Penelope called. She listened to the Readers' Digest condensed version of Al's condition and told him he ought to take a nap. Al agreed, and a few hours of sleep did wonders for him. At dinner, he looked much better and was more alert than he had been earlier.
     At quarter-past-nine Friday morning, Al called. He didn't want to disturb Penelope, he wasn't even sure she was working Friday, but he needed a ride across the street. Would I try calling her? I would have but Russ showed up, and I had a senior moment and forgot.
     Fortunately, Al went and disturbed Penelope on his own. She took him to the bank, where the staff assured him his retirement pay had been electronically deposited that morning. Al took out money for the weekend and went home a happy man.

     Jim is the chronically unhappy man with whom Al and I share a table at dinner. Friday he spent most dinner fulminating about the preacher who spoke that afternoon at the memorial service for Annaliese, who died earlier in the week. "A memorial service is to honor the deceased, not a chance to preach a goddamned sermon. You don't preach to people at a memorial service. That was totally disrespectful." But angrily telling anyone who would listen, and more than a few who would have preferred not to, that the minister made a mockery of her memorial service is hardly respectful, either.
     When Mo, our server, asked Al what he wanted for dinner, he said the beef stew and the mixed vegetables. 
     "You don't want the noodles or squash?" Mo asked Al.
    Before Al could answer, Jim vigorously waived his hand and said in a stifled yell, "No. No. No. Give him all three sides."
     "Do you want all three?" Mo asked.
     "He always has all three sides," Jim blurted.
     Mo was confused, and Al was beyond confused. I put the menu in front of Al and asked him to show Mo what he wanted. He pointed to the mixed vegetables. "Just the stew and the mixed vegetables?" Mo asked. Al nodded. Jim pouted.
     "I had too many tacos at wine and cheese," Al said. "I shouldn't be eating at all."
     The table where we sit is along the wall that separates the dining room from the hallway that runs from the lobby to the C Building. Above four feet, the wall is a glass partition, allowing the diners to look out and those in the hall to look in. Jim sits with his back to the wall. "That way I don't have to say hi to people."
      Friday evening, Chelsea, a caregiver, came down the hall, tapped lightly on the glass and waved to Al and me. We waived back. A second or two later, Chuck waived as he walked by, and we waved to him.
     "Who the hell was that?" Jim sputtered as he turned around to see what was going on. 
     I would like to find another table, but Jim is retired military, and he and Al have a lot in common. And Al has the advantage of being hard of hearing. Unless he is looking right at Jim and can see his expression, Al doesn't realize Jim is being a horse's ass.
    
     
     
    

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