Notes from the Home - September 28, 2015

     Hayden will be five on Wednesday. The one-pound-eleven-ounce bundle of joy is now in preschool. What a guy.
     From two thousand miles away, Hayden and MaKenna bring so much happiness to my life. Beth calls, tells me what the grandkids have been up to and puts them on the phone.  When they say, "I love you, Grandpa," my heart melts.
      From this distance, Beth and Ken seem to be wonderful parents. They are allowing Hayden to explore and go where his intelligence and curiosity lead him. Who knows what the young fellow will discover along the way. I have a feeling it will be a lot.

     Al had a difficult weekend. He wasn't feeling well Saturday and didn't come down to dinner. The people in the kitchen take good care of him, though. When I went to see him after dinner, he was working on the dinner that they sent up to him. He said it was good, especially the chocolate cake for dessert. Al was delighted that I brought along another piece of cake for him.
     Sunday morning, the phone rang. "Tom, I need you to come up here. I had a hell of a night." Al is an early riser, but when I got to his room, about ten-thirty, he was still in bed. That worried me until he pushed the blankets aside and I saw that he was dressed. At least he had been up for a while earlier.
     "Tom, I don't know what to do. Maybe I should go to the hospital. I don't want to go to St. Francis, though."
     I asked if he wanted me to call 911. "Well, maybe you should. No, I don't want to go to the fucking hospital. I don't know what the hell to do."
     He pondered the situation for a minute and decided I should call hospice, which I did. Ronnie, one of the hospice nurses, asked what the problem was. I told him, Al said he couldn't remember a "goddamned thing," and his side "hurt like hell." Then Ronnie asked if Al had an oxygen tank. Al does, but he wasn't using it. "Well, see if you can get him to use it." It took a few minutes to untangle the tube so it would reach the bed and several more minutes before Al got everything securely in place.
     Ronnie said he had to pull Al's records and would call back once he'd taken a look at them. Fifteen minutes went by, and Ronnie hadn't called back. "Goddamn it! I'm going to call Daniel." Daniel, whom Al has known for twenty years or more, works for hospice in some capacity. More administrative than medical, I believe. Daniel asked if I would give Al a dose of the morphine that is kept in a lock box in Al's closet. He explained the procedure, and I told him I wasn't comfortable with idea. It sounded like a job for a professional, not a guy who often finds it difficult to pour himself a cup of coffee.
     Al said he was feeling a little better. Daniel said he'd talk to Ronnie, and he told Al to call if the pain got worse. Al and I talked for a few minutes and then he said, "Tom, why don't you get the hell out of here?"
     I left, and my Sunday went on uneventfully until eight-thirty, when the phone rang. "Tom, I don't know what the hell I'm doing. Penelope called a few minutes ago, and I don't know what she said or what the hell I told her. She said she'd call me back in fifteen minutes. Get your ass up here so you can talk to her when she calls. I'll leave the door open for you."
     When my ass arrived, Al was hurling imprecations at the thermostat."It's cold in here. Do you think it's cold in here. This goddamn thing [the thermostat] isn't worth a shit. The big number is seventy-two, the little number is sixty-eighty. Goddamn it, I don't know what the hell I'm doing." Then he set about pressing every button and pushing every switch on the thermostat. "Now look at it. The little number is seventy-seven. What the hell is going on? I should just tear the fucking thing off the goddamn wall.
     "Last night, it was so goddamned cold in here, I got up and tried to reset this goddamn piece of shit. I lost my balance and fell against this chair. If it hadn't been there, I'd have fallen on my goddamn ass. Where'd they get this piece of shit? Goddamn it."
       The thermostat in Al's apartment is not the same as the one in mine. And it is a little higher on the wall, which makes it extremely difficult for me to see what's what with it from the wheelchair. Peering hard at the contraption and occasionally getting Al to answer my questions, I realized the "small number," located in the upper right corner of the thermostat, is the setting. The big number, which is in the center of the thermostat and easily read, even by me, is the room temperature.
     Al turned his attention to the small switch below the screen with the big and small numbers. "It's on cool. Now it's on heat. If it's here, the small number is seventy-two. If it's over here, the small number is seventy-eight. Seventy-eight; seventy-two; seventy-eight; seventy-two. Look, if I put it here, the goddamn little number disappears."
     "Leave it there," I said.
     "Why?"
     It took ten minutes to convince Al that if the small number disappeared, both the heat and air conditioning were off. The room would probably get warmer overnight, but he said the AC was blowing on him all night long Saturday. Leaving it off would solve that problem.
     "If you say so. But I don't trust the goddamned thing."
     Ignoring another burst of questions, I picked up the tube from the oxygen tank and suggested he put it on. Al sat down and fiddled with the tubing until he got properly placed. Despite his protestations, the oxygen seems to help. It doesn't make him feel like a million bucks, but it does get him feeling better than a buck-ninety-eight. Speaking from the depths of medical ignorance, I think the oxygen makes breathing easier, less of a struggle, and Al is more relaxed when he uses the oxygen.
     We talked for a few minutes. Al came to the conclusion that maybe Penelope hadn't said she'd call back. He asked what I had done all day. I assured him it wasn't much.
     "Thursday is the first, isn't it? That's pay day. I'll have to call the bank and see how much I've got in there."
     Then he said, "You look tired, Tom. Why don't you get out of here? Thanks for coming up."
     "If you need anything, give me a call."
     "Oh, I will, you old rascal." 
     I called Al this morning (Monday). He answered with an upbeat "Hello." He said it did get warm in his apartment, but he'd opened the porch door, and he was more comfortable now. It is cloudy this morning. The weather people think the clouds will hang around all day and they say it won't be terribly hot. A day or two of being able to remain comfortable without fussing with the goddamn thermostat would be a blessing for Al.

    
     
    
     

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