He was one ragged-looking ninety-one year old man when I showed up Thursday morning. Al said he got up about six, laid back a while later and had crawled out of bed just a few minutes before I got there.
"When I got up just now, I didn't know where the hell I was. That's happening a lot. I don't know what I'm doing." Over the next half hour, he told me five or six times that he had planned to go to Publix on the Covenant Woods' bus, but he slept late. "Now, I don't know why the hell I wanted to go in the first place."
The bills were easy to deal with; there weren't any. He picked up an envelope, took out its contents. "What the hell is this shit?" he asked as he handed me a bank statement. "I know what these are" Those were his cancelled checks. That the paper he handed me might be his bank statement never occurred to him.
"What the hell is this?" he asked, handing me a bill from USAA. "They're a bunch of goddamned crooks. Every time I turn around, they want seventy-eight fucking dollars from me. I ought to call them and tell whole damn bunch of them to go to hell."
The seventy-eight dollars is the annual premium for Al's renters insurance. Al sent USAA a check for that amount in July, when the premium was due. He sent them another check in August. The seventy-eight dollars on the most recent invoice from USAA is a credit balance.
Sadly, Al is having more and more difficulty physically and mentally. He is still frequently coughing up blood, and he complains of being tired and weak.
Nonetheless, he continues being Al. Friday afternoon, the folks from hospice disassembled and removed his queen-size bed and replaced it with a hospital bed. While that was going on, he called. "There are six damn people in here taking my bed apart. Get your ass up here." I politely demurred. Six people taking apart one bed and putting together another in Al's studio apartment wouldn't leave much room for a guy in a wheelchair. He reluctantly agreed and said he'd see me at dinner.
Al always gets to the dining room before I do, but he wasn't there when I rolled in Friday. My call to his room went unanswered, and I went to see if something was wrong. I found Al in his room arguing with Annie. She'd gone to the store to get sheets and pillowcases for the new bed and was now making it up for him. Every few minutes Al would start to get up and say, "Here, let me help you." And Annie would tell him to sit down, she had it under control. "Goddamn it, she won't let me do anything."
Saturday morning, Al complained at great length about the bed. That is a good sign, a very good sign.
For the last month, I've been wondering if the plug on an electrical gizmo is not fully inserted into the socket, does the gizmo draw electricity at a lower rate? The gizmo in question is a medic-alert doodad with a button to hang around my neck. If I fall and can't get to the phone or to the pull cord in the apartment, I can press the button and tell ADT I've fallen and can't get up.
At dinner one evening a few weeks ago, my phone rang. Seeing it was an 800 number, I opened and shut my flip phone to cut them off. The phone rang again while I was watching Jeopardy. It was from the same number. I didn't answer the phone, but neither did I cut off the call. The caller left a voice mail, which I listened to during the next commercial.
The call was from ADT. There was a problem with the battery in the base unit in my apartment. Would I please call them immediately. I would have, except Russ called me at that moment. ADT had called him to ask if he knew where I might be and if I was all right. I assured him I was fine and about to give ADT a call.
When I called, the woman at ADT said their monitors indicated that the battery in my base unit was dangerously low. "Is it plugged in?" she asked. I could see that it was but went over to take a closer look. It was plugged in, although not quite all the way. A quarter-inch, maybe less, of the prongs were visible. I got the plug to snuggle up with the surge protector and told the woman what I'd done. She told me to press the button on the pendant. I did, and she said everything looked good.
All this seemed strange to me. When the power has gone out, the unit says, "No power detected . . . No power detected . . . No power detected . . . " Which seems like it's expending a great deal of power to tell me there is no power. And when the power comes back on, it says, "Power restored."
But it didn't say either that day. Which has left me wondering if it was drawing some power, enough to keep it from telling me there wasn't any power. And just enough power that when I pushed the plug in as far as it would go, the machine saw no reason to tell me "Power restored."
The mysteries of Wi-Fi also had me scratching my head. When the computer started having difficulties, I disconnected the Wi-Fi modem in my room, in order to keep any other bad stuff away from it. Then Russ took the computer to Staples, and a week later he brought it back.
Alas, when I reconnected the Wi-Fi, the computer was sluggish in the extreme and not very dependable. Russ did some research and discovered that there had been some problems with Firefox. A few days later, he came to take me over to their apartment so I could have dinner with Karen and him. Before we left, though, he set about loading Google Chrome into my computer. It was a slow go, and he decided to take my computer with us and do what needed done while we were there. Back at Covenant Woods, the computer worked with less alacrity than I have when trying to walk.
"Dad, I think the problem is your internet connection," he said. "When I tried to install Google Chrome here, it said it would take fifty-two minutes for it to download. At our apartment it hardly took any time at all. Call Mediacom and see what they say."
That was on a Sunday. Early the next morning, I looked at the Wi-Fi thingy, pushed a button or two, played with the wires and went back to see what was happening when I got on the Internet before I called Mediacom. Miracle of miracles; whatever I did solved the problem. Of course, I caused the problem in the first place. But we don't have mention that part.
Mildred, who lives across the hall, was walking Cully, when I was out circling the building and enjoying the evening air. I had always thought her dog's name was Curly. It seemed appropriate - he has an abundance of poodle-like curly hair. Several weeks ago, however, she corrected me when I asked, "How's Curly?"
Cully, who is very protective, was the first topic we discussed. Earlier in the day, Mildred had Cully on a leash and was coming out into the hall. As they did, Cully started barking. A small dog, that belongs to a woman down the hall, was running in the hall.
"I thought Cully was going to pull my arm off," Mildred said. "The woman who owns the other dog was out there, but she didn't have it on a leash. I told her, if Cully had gotten away from me, no telling what might have happened."
Then the conversation turned to William and Richie and the beer they consume.
"Someone told me William said the doctor told him if he didn't stop the beer was going to kill him," Mildred said. "Those two drink all day long, don't they. My first husband was like that. He was a nice guy, but he spent all our money on beer. We didn't have anything in the house, because he was always drinking beer. He'd go to a bar and buy everyone it a drink.
"We were married from '47 to '52. I told him he had to stop drinking. He said he would, but he needed my help. The plan was I'd meet him when he got off work and we'd go home together.
"Duane [their son] was about twenty-months old, and I put him in the stroller and we walked down to meet my husband. We were waiting outside and a car went by. My husband was in it with a friend of his. He didn't even wave as they passed.
"Duane and I went back home. I got our stuff together. We lived in Augusta then, and we got on a bus that night and went to Auburn to stay with my parents.
"I used to worry that Duane would have a drinking problem. But as far as I know he's never even tasted it. One time, he had a real bad cough. We got some peppermint candy and dissolved it in a little whiskey. It's supposed to help your cough. But Duane said if he had to drink it, he'd rather keep coughing."