Friday, December 23, 2016

Notes from the Home - December 23, 2016

Here in Columbus, Christmas seems a long way off. Beautiful weather will do that. And we've had beautiful weather: chilly mornings, pleasantly cool afternoons. abundant sunshine, gentle breezes. The mornings say it is fall, mid-October. The sun warms, and by afternoon, these late-December afternoons feel more like April. The weatherman is saying it will be partly cloudy on Christmas Day, with a high of 75 with a 10-percent chance of rain. I don't remember Christmas being like that in Ashtabula or Bethel Park.

*                    *                    *

It is Friday morning, just after four o'clock. I have been up for an hour, and I have been awake since one-thirty. I don't understand it. Getting to sleep has not been a problem; getting enough I sleep has. I get in bed most nights between nine-thirty and ten-thirty, quickly fall asleep, and wake up three or four hours later. In no hurry to face the day, I spend an hour-and-a-half trying to get back to sleep. As the body begs for sleep, the mind picks up speed, and like a spoiled child, it demands attention. The only way to shut it up is to get out of bed.

Wednesday, after a string of five nights with less four hours sleep, I found myself in the middle of an argument over taking a sleeping pill, The hydroxyzine Dr. Miller prescribed is good stuff, too good. He wrote the prescription in September when I was having difficulty falling asleep. It helps me get to sleep, then it keeps me asleep longer than necessary, ten hours or more. The body doesn't move well these days and changing positions in bed takes some effort. There is no tossing and turning; once I fall asleep, I don't move until I wake up. Ten hours in one position makes an already stiff and uncooperative body much stiffer and more uncooperative - and achier, too.

The devil at my left ear, who argued that a full night's sleep was worth a few achy joints and stiff muscles in the morning, won. The angel at my other ear, who kept saying, "You'll be sorry," gloated for hours Thursday morning.  After nearly eleven hours sleep, I awoke Thursday morning feeling as though I'd spent Wednesday doing some sort of demanding physical activity. I hurt. And as I slowly got dressed, I struggled to stay awake. That is when I remembered the hydroxyzine always left me feeling more tired after a long night's sleep than I did before I went to bed. My days are never highly productive, but Thursday I broke my record for nonproductivity.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

One Friday in Fall

A crisp, clear Friday morning. The Covenant Woods’ drives and parking lots were covered with leaves, tossed out of the trees by two days of wind and rain. The day looked and felt like the October days I loved in Ashtabula, up there along Lake Erie.

As I circled Covenant Woods on my trusty chariot, the day sparked memories. Walks to Lake Shore Park, where I watched the waves rush to shore and felt the wind that pushed them and the cool Canadian air across the lake.

Memories of raking the leaves that carpeted the yard. Six-year-old Bethany watching my progress from the dining room window. When the pile of leaves reaches a satisfactory size, Beth rushes out. “Let me help,” she yells, diving into the pile and burying herself. She is silent for a moment, then asks, “Where am I, Daddy?” “I don’t know. Where are you?” An explosion of leaves; “Here I am,” Beth shouts triumphantly, wildly waving her arms. Good times, even if I have to rake up the leaves she scatters.

The memories were interrupted by a phone call. Russ said he was going to bring the pictures over. He has been looking into the history of the Harris clan on In his search, he found a man in – or the man found him, I’m not sure which – who had two photo albums that once belonged to my dad’s Uncle Hiram. The man wanted to sell them, Russ wanted to buy them, and now Russ was on his way to show them to me.

Hiram was quite the shutterbug, and his recordkeeping wasn’t bad. Beneath nearly every picture there is a note identifying the people in it and where it was taken. One or two, according to the note below, were taken at Geneva-on-the-Lake. The photographic record spanned the years 1908 until 1919, or so. An enchanting trip through time. The men seemed to always be wearing a white shirt and tie; the women were almost always in ankle-length dresses, even in the summer.

 It was a different world, and most of the people in it died before I came along. My grandfather died in 1943, five years before I was born. But in a way, I did know him. When Dad went into the service, my grandfather kept him informed with a series of wonderful letters, which Dad gave to my grandmother, Nana, after my grandfather died. The letters were often read aloud at family gatherings. My grandfather wrote beautifully, and his sense of humor shined brightly in every letter he wrote.

An hour or two after Russ left, Beth called. She brought me up to date on the grandkids – Hayden and MaKenna – and events of note in the Pratt household out there in Idaho. We talked for a half hour.

I can’t remember when I enjoyed a day as much as I enjoyed that Friday in fall.

My grandfather, Thomas R. Harris, in 1912

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Notes from the Home - November 29, 2016

It took a while, but on November 18, I had the MRI that was originally scheduled for November 11th or, depending whom you believe, November 3rd. You see, on October 28th, I had an appointment with Dr. Verson, a neurologist. Among other things, he said it was time for me to have another MRI of the brain and cortex, and that he wanted to see me again in a few weeks. The appointment concluded, he told Russ and me to wait in the examining room and someone would be along to get things arranged.

While we waited, Russ said he wouldn't be available to chauffeur me on November 11th. A moment later, a woman came in to tell me where I needed to go for the MRI and what to expect when I got there. As she was talking, I noticed the paper in her hand, which indicated the appointment was scheduled for November 11th. "This date won't work for me," I told her. "Then, you'll have to call over there and reschedule it."

On Tuesday, November 1st, I called the folks in the imaging department at St. Francis Hospital and explained the problem. "Mr. Harris, what is your birth date?" the woman asked. I told her, and she said, "Mr. Harris, actually, we show your appointment as being on November 3rd, this Thursday. Will that work?" I said, it would, and then called Russ to make sure.

At 10 am on the morning of the third, Russ took me to the hospital. At the desk in the lobby, a woman handed me a clipboard with several forms on it. "Fill these out. Someone will be with you shortly." About the time I finished, someone was with me, and she led Russ and me to the imagining department, where I was given another clipboard and several more forms to fill out. One of the questions on those forms asked if I had a implanted drug infusion thingy. "Yes, a baclofen pump."

Then a woman came by and pushed me into an office. She asked for the forms I had filled out, took a quick look at them, and said, "You know, you will have to have someone restart your pump when you're done here. Do you have someone to do that?" My answer was "No." I told her, Dr. Milton, who manages my pump, is in Atlanta at the Emory Clinic. And, the other time I had an MRI at St. Francis, there was someone here from Medtronics, the company that makes the pump, to make sure it was operating correctly. "We'll have to reschedule your appointment," she said. "Do you have a card for your pump?" she asked. I do, I gave to her, and she went off to call Medtronics. Twenty minutes later, she returned to say the person she needed to talk to was out and wouldn't be back until Monday. "I'll call them next week and see what we can arrange," she told me. With that, Russ and I headed to the parking lot.

Far be it from me to cast aspersions, but I do believe the woman at Dr. Verson's office who put down the wrong date also neglected to tell the people at St. Francis about the pump. You see, Dr. Verson had me get an MRI two or three years ago. That was the first MRI I'd had since the folks at the Cleveland Clinic put the pump in me. I had no idea the MRI might play havoc with the pump until I was sitting in the imaging department's waiting area that day, and a nurse came by to say I might have to stay a while after the MRI was done, because the person from Medtronics, who would make sure the pump was functioning properly, was running a little late. Obviously, someone from the doctor's office told the people at St. Francis about my pump then. Just as obviously, no one bothered to give the hospital that information this time.

On the morning of November 15, Dr. Verson's office called. I assumed the call was to remind me of the follow-up visit with Dr. Verson, scheduled for Friday, November 18. But, no.  The woman said because I had not yet had the MRI, the follow-up visit would have to be rescheduled. Someone from the hospital would call, she said, to reschedule the MRI.

The call from St. Francis came an hour later. The woman said I was to be at the hospital on Friday by eleven o'clock. Russ got me there in a timely manner, and the procedure proceeded without a hitch. It would have been nice, though, if they had kept all the forms I filled out the first time. They didn't, and I had to fill them out again. Like, I have nothing better to do than fill out a bunch of forms. Well, actually, I didn't have anything better to do, but that's not the point.

When the woman operating the MRI tired of looking for my brain, she pulled me out the machine and turned things over to Ed from Medtronics. Ed, who is originally from Maine, said he enjoys the Georgia winters but prefers the Maine summers. "That's how I feel about the weather along the shores of Lake Erie," I told him. From there, the conversation turned to football. We talked about our favorite teams - his is the Patriots; mine is the Steelers - for a few minutes before turning our attention to the Browns for comic relief.

"It's been twenty minutes," Ed said, looking at his watch. "Let's see how the pump is doing." He pulled a sensor and something about the size of an I-Phone out of his case. "Where's your pump?" he asked. I showed him. He put the sensor on it, stared at the display on the device in his hand, and said, "The pump is doing everything it's supposed to. You're good to go." And with Russ pushing, I went.

Now I must wait until December 27 to find out what is going on with my brain, assuming they found it. I know I often have a hard time finding it.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

That's Me

3 Word Wednesday:
Lackadaisical, Harebrained, Idiotic

That’s Me

Alas, I’m lackadaisical
With a head full of thoughts harebrained.
An idiotic spectacle,
This guy so lackadaisical
I’d surely flunk a physical,
And claim body and mind are strained.
That’s me. I’m lackadaisical
With a head full of thoughts harebrained. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Sad Day

Sad Day

Trump wins? Seems far-fetched,
Gamy racist, sexist oaf
Halting the American dream.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Notes from the Home - October 23, 2016

What is a man to complain about when he can't complain about the weather? If the folks at Weather.Com are right, I'll need to find something. A quick look at their prognostications indicates that the low tonight (Saturday, Oct. 22) will be 42, tomorrow's high 80, and the chance of precipitation is 0. That is also the forecast - more or less - until November 4th. For the next not-quite two weeks, we can expect, say the folks at Weather.Com, highs in the low 80s, lows in the 50s, and no more than a 10-percent chance of rain until the first Friday in

*                    *                    *

Georgia was coming in from her walk, as I was going out for my "walk." We talked about the almost-too-good-to-believe weather. She said fall was her favorite season and asked what mine is. I've always looked forward to spring more than fall. 

But fall is gaining fast. It has to do with the weather.  Along the banks of Lake Erie, where winter is winter, and the cold is unrelenting, the snow has to be shoveled almost daily, and TV shows are interrupted nightly by winter weather advisories, there really is nothing so rare as a day in spring. At least it seems that way when the forecast for St. Patrick's Day is another 2-to-4 inches of snow.

On the banks of the Chattahoochee River, however, where from the middle of May until early October, the weather folks tell us daily the high will be in the mid-90s and the low in the low-to-mid -70s, a crisp fall day is heaven. Not that spring isn't welcome here, but fall brings more relief, at least to a Yankee like me.

Once we dispensed with the weather, Georgia told me about the best vacation she ever had.

"Years ago, my husband and I bought a camping trailer, and we went up to Dahlonega [a town in north Georgia; it is the site of America's first gold rush]. Well, we were almost there when we got lost. We figured we were going in the right direction, and we were on a main road, so we decided to follow it until we saw a sign or something. Then the road went down to two lanes, and a few miles later, it went down to one. With the trailer, we couldn't turn around, so we kept going, hoping to find a place where we could turn around and go back.

"I spotted two tall posts. It was like they were the gateway to something. We went through and soon realized we were on top of a mountain. You could see for miles, and the view was beautiful. We took it all in before we started looking around for the way out. We saw a guy and asked him for directions. The guy said he worked there - the mountain was a garbage dump. We told him we felt stupid for getting lost like we did. He said, 'Don't worry about it. I've given directions out of here to eight other people today.'"

Georgia also told me about the pet skunk she had when she was in high school. It was the best pet she ever had. "And she was smart, too. Sometimes she followed me to school. There I was, and the skunk was right behind me. On those days, our principal kept the skunk in a cardboard box until it was time for me to go home."

Friday, October 21, 2016

Outside My Window

The view from my window is not majestic, but it is pretty on a sunny fall morning.

And, the shadows make a pattern on the porch.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Notes from the Home - October 15, 2016

I don't learn something new every day, but I did learn something new this week. On Monday, October 11, I posted a "Notes from the Home" diatribe that dealt with Brenda the Ill-Mannered Server, and Alice's Son the The Apparently Deaf Late Night TV Viewer. Tuesday morning, as I wandered through the parking lots, Amy, who is also a server, stopped on her way to the employee parking lot.

"How you doing?" she asked.

"OK, I guess. Haven't been getting much sleep, lately."

"I know. I read it," she said, giggling as she drove on.

"Read what?" I wondered. Amy didn't know anything about the blog; I didn't think she did, anyway. She never mentioned it if she did, not even one smart-ass comment about a blog post, ever. "Maybe she's just being a smart ass today," I thought. After all, Amy is a good-natured smart ass every day.

A half-hour later, as I was squandering another day, Alisha, the activity director called to ask if I would proofread a few things for her. I couldn't pass up a chance to be useful, and five minutes later I was in her office. Five minutes after that, Annie, the activities assistant, walked in.

"Tom, there you are. Your ears must be burning."


"Everybody is talking about you,"


"The stuff you wrote about Brenda."

Annie correctly interpreted my dazed and confused countenance. The folks in charge here at the old folks home have subscribed to a service which looks for any mention of this establishment on the Internet, she explained. When something is found, the link is emailed to every manager and every employee.

Suddenly, I was a celebrity, and everyone was reading my blog. Well, not everyone, but more people than usual. According to the information Blogspot provides, a piece titled "Trite On," which I posted in August 2010, has the most pageviews, eighty-eight, of the over three hundred items I've posted. In less than a week, the saga of the server has racked up eighty-three pageviews.

I would not have posted that screed had I known the entire staff would be invited to read it. The day before I started writing, I'd talked to Orwin, Brenda's supervisor, about the incident. But, the essay did get Roger, the general manager, involved. Brenda still works here. I've avoided her, but word is, she's more considerate, more pleasant, and less demeaning than she was.

No one is upset with me. I was talking to a few of the servers today, and told them I felt like I'd made an ugly scene. I'd prefer to be a little more discrete. "But it had to be done," one of them told me. "When we tell them about her, they think we're just being mean."

At least one resident thinks Brenda is easier to put up with now. Tony stopped me in the hall, Thursday. Normally, he's loud and jovial, but that day he was more subdued. "Tom, I didn't read what you wrote . . . but thank you . . . thank you."

*                    *                    *

I noticed on Facebook today that Cathy and Linda, my erstwhile sisters-in-laws, are in Rome, looking forward to touring St. Peter's and the Colosseum. That brings back of the day Nancy and I set out on the same itinerary one day in late December 2007. We never made it to the Colosseum.

Our tour of the Vatican went smoothly. Because I was in a wheelchair, Nancy and I got to see more of Vatican than the others in our tour group. The route of the regular tour wasn't completely wheelchair accessible, and Nancy and I got to go down several hallways filled with sculptures and paintings that the other folks never saw.

The trouble began when it was time to leave the Vatican. I forget what it was, but there was something to see on the way out. Unfortunately, that way out wasn't wheelchair accessible. Our bus driver told Nancy and me how to get out and told us where to wait at a particular corner, and he would pick us up there. It might be a few minutes, though, because everyone else had to get back to the bus first. 

We waited on the corner for an hour. The bus never appeared, and we decided our only option was to walk back to the hotel. OK, Nancy would walk and push the wheelchair, I'd ride in comfort. 

Finding our way back wasn't difficult. All we had to do was find the right road, and once we did, it was a straight shot. The road, however, was like the road we told our kids we walked to school on: five miles long and uphill the whole way. There was so much traffic that at times, we moved faster that the cars. 

Along the way, a man jumped out of a car and helped Nancy push me for a short distance. Then he kissed Nancy on both cheeks before getting back in the car. He left us in front of what looked to be a hospital. He must have thought that was where we were headed. That would explain the weird looks he gave us when we passed the car he was in, which was caught in traffic.

It took two hours, but we finally made it back to the hotel, much to the amazement of everyone. The next day, we headed to Assisi. Back in Paris, on the first day of our tour, Franco, the tour guide, told Nancy and me, I would have to stay in the bus while everyone else toured Assisi. To get to Assisi, one had to go up a long, steep hill, and Franco didn't think Nancy would be able to get me up the hill. After hearing about our adventurous trip from the Vatican to the hotel, he thought she might be able to get me up the hill. She did.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Notes from the Home - October 9, 2016

"Life is good at Covenant Woods." That is what the folks who run Covenant Woods say about the place, anyway. For the last four-and-a-half years, I have been in agreement - on occasions,  even hearty agreement - with that motto. Not so, this last week.

Wednesday, I joined Mildred, Ethel, and Ruth for dinner. They are delightful ladies, wonderful dinner partners. Brenda was our server. She is seldom delightful, and she very often falls well short of pleasant.

After taking our orders, Brenda returned with three salads: one each for Mildred, Ethel and me. "May I have a salad?" Ruth asked. "You didn't order a salad," Brenda told her in the manner of an angry, impatient mother speaking to her recalcitrant three-year-old. A month or two ago, she spoke in the same demeaning tone to Anna. That night, when Brenda stopped to pickup some dirty dishes off our table, Ethel, who was too full to finish her dinner, asked for a to-go box. When Brenda returned with the requested box, Anna said, "Oh, can I have one, too?" "Why didn't you ask when I was here?" Brenda demanded in her demeaning, disrespectful manner. Ruth, who is ninety-six and doesn't hear well, said, "Huh?" Then Brenda repeated her question in the same tone of voice as she had asked it the first time.

Back to Wednesday: While she was distributing the plates with our dinners, Brenda got snippy with Ethel. Unable to keep my tongue, I told Brenda that she shouldn't speak to the residents in that manner. Brenda put her arm around Ethel and said, "You know I love you . . . blah . . . blah . . . blah . . ." When Brenda headed back to the kitchen, Ethel shook my hand and said, "Good job, Tom."

A few minutes later, Brenda was back and announced she was taking orders for dessert. "I'd like some butter pecan ice cream," I said. "You are still eating, sir. I'm taking dessert orders from those people who have finished eating." It was true, I was working on the last few bites. Ethel was too, but Brenda took her order. When Brenda returned with the desserts, she said, "What would you like for dessert, sir?" "Butter pecan ice cream." "I'm sorry, sir, we're out of butter pecan." I was tempted to look around to see if another server might be in the area, just to verify that there was no butter pecan. But it was Wednesday, and Mayfield Dairy delivers the ice cream on Thursdays. I know, because the yellow truck goes by my window every Thursday morning. So I asked for strawberry ice cream, instead.

Strange, isn't it. Brenda, who was so put out over having to go back and get a salad for Ruth, went out of her way to make sure she had to make a second trip in order to get my dessert. You don't suppose she was playing games, do you?

Alice is my new next-door neighbor. She moved into Leila's old apartment two weeks ago. With her long, thick, bleach-blond hair and her choice of clothing, Alice looks like someone out of a picture taken at Woodstock. That's not the problem.

When Leila lived here, I never heard her television. Since Alice arrived, I hear the television in that apartment quite a lot. Friday night, as I was getting ready to go to bed about ten o'clock, Alice's TV was very loud, and I could hear the voice of a man speaking louder than the TV. I called the desk, and someone came down to ask them to quiet down. I never heard the guy's voice again, but the TV volume remained the same until one o'clock in the morning.

Alice's TV was on Saturday night, but not nearly as loud, and I had no trouble sleeping. But Sunday . . . I took a hydroxyzine, hoping it would help me sleep. It did, eventually. I could hear Alice's TV when I got into bed. It sounded as if she was watching the Trump-Clinton debate. The night of the first debate, her TV went off about the time the debate was scheduled to end.

Not Sunday. The TV stayed on, and the volume never declined by even so much as a decibel. Around eleven o'clock, Richie, who is my other next-door neighbor turned on his TV. What a racket. Until nearly one-thirty in the morning, I was unable to sleep; Alice's TV to the right of me, and Richie's to the left. Once the TVs went off, about one-thirty, I slept until nearly eight o'clock Monday morning.

At noon, I saw Alice in the hall and asked her to turn the TV down at night. "That's my son. You'll have to tell him," she said. I told her it wasn't my job, but I could ask Roger to handle it. "Who's Roger?" she asked. I told her he is the general manager. "Go ahead," she said. I didn't tell Roger, but I did tell Teresa, who was working at the front desk, to give a heads-up to the person working security tonight. Teresa left him a note, and she left a note for Kerri, the business manager. According to Teresa, in cases like this, Kerri writes a note to the offending party to remind them to think about the comfort of others. Only time will tell.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Notes from the Home - October 7, 2016

Mary was walking her two rat terriers, Chipper and Misty, yesterday afternoon. That's not unusual, but Mary was in an unusually talkative mood. Her husband, who lived at an Alzheimer facility here in Columbus, died several months ago, and Mary has been busy getting ready to move to Dayton, Ohio, to be closer to her daughter and granddaughter. She is nervous about moving and worn out from all the preparation and packing. That probably explains why she talked about the things she did yesterday.

One of Mary's daughters lives in either Georgia or Alabama, but she isn't close enough to Columbus to regularly visit Mary. Her grandson lives closer and could easily drop by to see Mary from time to time. But Mary won't allow that.

"He's a thief," Mary said. "He's been in prison. He used to come see me once in a while, but every time he did, he took something. He'd visit, and a day or two later, I'd realize something was gone, that he'd taken it. So, I told him not to come back."

Mary didn't say if it was that grandson's father, but one of the husband of Mary's daughter, the one who lives down here, met an untimely end.

"The guy was very well off, but he played around a lot," Mary said. "My daughter finally left him and filed for divorce. While they were separated, one of his girl friends sneaked into his place while he was sleeping. She knew where he kept a gun, got it, went into the bedroom and shot him in the head. Killed him."

Mary was out with her dogs around nine o'clock this morning. "This getting ready to move stuff is wearing me out. As soon as I got back from dinner last night, I sat down in my recliner and fell asleep until eleven o'clock. Then I got in bed and didn't get up until a half-hour ago."

*          *          *

Not long after talking with Mary yesterday, I noticed Avis standing near the edge of the drive and nervously looking at Bob, who was coming toward her, continually moving his cane from right to left and left to right, tapping the curb and pavement. "He said he wanted to go for a walk," Avis said.

Bob is totally blind. When I moved to Covenant Woods, in the spring of 2012, he and his wife lived in one of the duplexes. When they came to dinner, it was fascinating to watch Bob maneuver unassisted through the dining room. When I had been here a year or so, Bob's wife died. He moved up to an apartment in the B Building. What an inspiring sight it was to watch him walk through the hallways. He always knew exactly where he was.

Then Bob moved to a different facility. I don't know why he moved, but it didn't keep him away from Covenant Woods. He often came back for the dances and other goings on here. About two months ago he returned to Covenant Woods and now has an apartment in the C Building.

"Be careful, Bob, there's a storm sewer, here" Avis told him. Bob, still moving the cane back and forth, said, "Oh, there it is," and moved a step or two to his left. Avis told him that I was there, and we exchanged pleasantries.

"OK, Bob, we're going to go around the corner to the right here," Avis told him. And off they went.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Notes from the Home - October 5, 2016

Georgia was taking a walk as I cruised the Covenant Woods' parking lots Tuesday evening. She was walking because she's decided she needs the exercise.

"I used to live near a park. There was a path around it that was a half-mile loop. Every time I went around, I picked up a stone or leaf. Then I'd count them when I was done walking, so I'd know how far I'd walk. That was the only way I could do it; I could never remember how many times I went around. I walked five miles most days.

"I haven't done much walking the last few years, but the other night, Anna asked me if I wanted to walk. We walked in the buildings, all over the buildings. We walked up and down all the hallways in the C Building, and then we walked up and down all the halls in the B Building. We must have walked a couple miles. Have you ever seen Anna walk? She's no slowpoke; she keeps those little feet moving. I was beat, and Anna wanted to keep walking. She's ninety-seven, and I'm eighty. That's when I decided I need to do more walking.

"Do you ever watch Erris? She moves right along, too, doesn't she. And when you talk to her, she's so sharp. I hope I'm in that good of shape at 105. Erris and Anna are real inspirations for those of us who are still young.

"My mother was active all her life. She lived on a small farm, and when she was seventy, she decided she needed a tractor. So, she bought one. When the guy from Farmall delivered it, she asked him to show her how to work it. He said, he'd only been working at Farmall a days and wasn't familiar with the tractor. So, my mother, who was a small woman, asked him to help her get up on the tractor. He did, and Momma figured it out herself.

"The guy was so impressed, he came back the next day with a welder and a photographer. The welder put something together to make it easier for Momma to get on and off the tractor. The photographer took a bunch of pictures that ended up in Farmall's magazine. They did a three-page spread on her. Then, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer came out, and they did a two-page spread on her."

*          *          *

A two months ago, someone noticed water in the hallway near my apartment. The maintenance crew was called. They found the leak; it was coming from a pipe leading to my toilet. They didn't have any trouble fixing what had to be fixed. But to get at it, they had to knock a hole in the wall behind my toilet - it looks to be a yard long and two feet high. 

Before the wall could be repaired, the area around the hole had to dry. Once the wall dried, the job of repairing it fell to Randy. The morning he came to work on the wall, I was on the toilet. Randy said he'd be back in a few minutes. I told him to take his time; the old bowels don't move often, and when they do, they don't move quickly. Randy never returned to my apartment.

Apparently, my wall isn't the only task Randy has been ignoring. James, another member of the maintenance crew, told me this morning that Randy has been fired. I'll miss him. Randy complained a lot, but he didn't whine. He complained with enthusiasm and humor. Every time he spotted me, he'd yell, "Tom Teeeeee Hall!!!" Then he'd entertain me with stories of all the people who aren't nearly as knowledgeable as he, at least in his opinion.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Notes from the Home - October 3, 2016

Fall fell on Columbus last week. When I opened the sliding door Wednesday morning, cool air rushed in. After a long, hot summer, the mercury finally found its way to the low sixties. That is barely chilly by northeast Ohio standards, but this is my fifth fall in Columbus. I didn't hurriedly shut the sliding door, but I did dig out a long-sleeve shirt and replace the shorts l was wearing with long pants. The afternoons have been hot, but not as hot as they were a week ago. According to the ten-day forecast, sunny skies and cooler temperatures are here to stay, at least for ten days. On Monday, October 10, the friendly meteorologist tells us we can expect a high of 83, a low of 54, and cloudless skies. Hope he is right.

Cooler temperatures are not far away. Mildred said her sister and brother-in-law paid her a visit this weekend. "They called when they got back home and said they had to turn the heat for a bit," Mildred said. "Where do they live?" "Just over the border in South Carolina."

*          *          *

Reminders that I am no longer as young as I once was pop up in the strangest places, like "The Born Loser", the comic strip. The other day, a boy asked his father if he could use the computer to do his homework. The father said he could, and the boy asked, "Did you have your own computer when you were in school?" "Yes," the father said. "It was called a calculator."  

Unless I missed something, there were no calculators when I was in high school. There were adding machines. They were big clunky things; you punched in a number and pulled a handle. If there was a long series of numbers, you kept punching them in and pulling the handle until you got all the numbers in. 

They were called adding machines because that was what they did - they added. They were useless for higher math, like subtraction, multiplication and division. And now after that comic strip, the adding machine seems like something out of bronze age. Damn that Gen-Xer cartoonist, making me feel old.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Notes from the Home - September 6, 2016

The quiet monotony of Tuesday afternoon was disturbed when Leila, my next-door neighbor, yelled, "Lady". Then she yelled it again and again. "She probably means Gidget," I thought. Gidget is Leila's dog, a little, white cutie that must be at least part poodle. Leila is having great difficulty keeping things straight anymore, and I figured "Lady" was a long forgotten dog that had popped into her memory.

I went into the hallway expecting so see Gidget in full-frisky mode, an excited little pooch sniffing under a door, then hurrying across the hall to another. But, except for Leila standing in her doorway, the hall was empty.

"Lady," Leila shouted again."

"What's the matter, Leila?"

"I need help."

"Is there something I can do to help?" I asked as I approached her. Then I stopped. She didn't have pants on and her underwear was down around her ankles. "I'm going to call and ask them to send someone to help you."

"She said she'd be right back,"

"Who said she'd be right back?"

"The lady. She said she'd be right back, but she didn't come back. . . . Oh, there she is."

One of the nurse's assistants from home health was hurrying down the hall. "I forgot to grab some gloves when I came down," she said as she went by me. "Come on, Leila, let's get you in the bathroom."

That was last week. Yesterday, shortly after lunch, Leila, her son, and granddaughter headed to the Magnolia Manor nursing home in  Buena Vista, Georgia, where Leila will receive more care than is available at Covenant Woods. Both David - her son - and Jody - her granddaughter - live near Buena Vista, which will make it easier for them to make daily visits. Although Gidget won't be allowed to live with Leila, she will be allowed to visit during the day. That is important: Leila has said many, many times, "I don't know what I'd do without my Gidget."

David stayed a week with Leila a month or so ago, when she first became disoriented. That week, they discovered that part of Leila's problem was the result of some medication she was taking. The doctor changed her prescription, and Leila became a little more aware. However, David's opinion of Covenant Woods took a turn for the worse.

"You know what they wanted to do?" he asked me. "They wanted to charge me for the six nights I stayed with Mother. Well, I told them what I thought about that. I should be more careful. My mouth landed me in jail once and in more than a few fights."

*          *          *

Leila's departure is another one of those things that make life at Covenant Woods seem like I'm living at a transient center. Sure, people are always coming into and then out of our lives - friends move, co-workers get new jobs, folks die - but all the coming and going happens so fast here.

Every now and again I look over at that table for four in a corner of the dining room. The table at which Isabelle, Ralph, Al and I ate dinner every night. It was a comfortable, convivial gathering; we complained some, talked seriously some, and laughed a lot. Then Ralph died. A year later, Isabelle died, and Al died last February.

It is the same with casual acquaintances, the people you see nearly every day and have a short conversation with once in a while. Then one day, somebody says, "Did you hear Tony passed?"

Over a lifetime, many people enter and leave our lives as if through a revolving door. But here it sometimes seems to be the revolving door on one of those long since gone downtown department stores at the height of the Christmas rush.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Notes from the Home - August 29, 2016

A portion of a recent dinner conversation:
Judy: "Elsie, did you tell me you were raised on a farm?"
Elsie: "No, I didn't grow up on a farm."
Judy: "I thought you said you had. I have a farming question I wanted to ask you."
Elsie: "I wasn't raised on a farm, but some of my relatives were farmers. Sometimes I worked on their farms, so I know a little. Maybe I can help you."
Judy: "Great. [sudden stunned and confused look] Now I can't remember what I wanted to ask."

*          *          *

Leila, my next-door neighbor, hasn't been well. One night as I got into bed, I heard Leila yelling for help. I called the desk, and Warren, the night security guy, came down to check on her. Five hours later, at three-thirty in the morning, Leila was yelling again.

She is often very, very confused. Wednesday evening, wearing only a night gown, she wondered into the hall and knocked on several doors. "When are they coming to get me?" she'd ask. When asked, who was coming to get her, Leila said, "I don't know." And she gave the same answer when asked why were they coming to get her. "Call and find out what's going on," she'd say. But she didn't know who needed to be called.

Her son David lives about forty miles from here, and he has spent more than a few nights with Leila recently. David is reluctant to move his mom to the Personal Care wing here at Covenant Woods, were there would be someone to keep an eye on her 24/7, because Leila wouldn't be able to take Gidget, her little dog, with her. In which case, he worries that the cure might be worse than the disease. He is hoping to move Leila to Magnolia Manor near where he lives, so he and his daughter can spend more time with her.

David and I got to talking one evening. He said he'd bought a laptop and wondered if I'd help him with it. I told him I would, but that he might be better off asking a ten-year-old. "I tried that," he said. "My granddaughter helped me a few times, but she's stopped coming over. She says I'm untrainable."

*          *          *

Mildred talked about her high school basketball career the other day.

"We played outdoors. The school didn't have a gym, so we played out in a field. It wasn't paved or anything, but they leveled it off and packed it down real good.

"Momma and some of the other mothers made our uniforms. We wore shorts; they came to just above the knee. Daddy said no daughter of his was going to go out in public in those shorts. Daddy came to all our games. I don't know if he was watching us play, or watching to make sure no boy looked at my legs."

*          *          *

I wish I could get my sleep pattern back into some semblance of a pattern. Last week, after three or four consecutive nights of two, three, or maybe four hours of sleep, I slept hardly at all Friday night. 

At two-thirty Saturday morning, I got myself out of bed and into socks, shoes, shirt and pants. The rest of the day was unproductive. I dozed off a couple of times in the morning, once while doing a crossword puzzle. At three that afternoon, I turned to Mr. Coffee, put the prescribed amount of Folgers in the proper place, filled the reservoir with water, pushed the on-off switch, and went over to the sliding glass door to enjoy the beautiful, bright, sunshiny day. 

And a very pleasant afternoon it was from inside, where the air conditioner kept the temperature at seventy-four - twenty degrees lower and considerably less humid than the great outdoors. A bird flitted around the dogwood tree; a lizard crawled on to the porch, stopped, looked around as if lost, got his bearings and went on; a squirrel dashed by; and I dozed off.

Slept soundly is more accurate. I was out until six o'clock. It was too late then to get dinner in the dining room, and the coffee that had been sitting on the burner for three hours had no allure. It was easy to say, "Better not have coffee. If I have a cup now, I won't sleep a wink."

A few hours later, at nine o'clock, I crawled into bed, instantly fell asleep, and remained asleep until seven Sunday morning. Ten uninterrupted hours of sleep, and I felt like hell. Besides the grogginess that comes from a long sleep, my legs were as stiff as they've ever been. Once I'm asleep, I don't move much, if at all, and it takes some time and effort to get the legs into pants, and the feet into shoes. Shirts, unless they're button-down, aren't a problem. I do have a problem getting my arms into a button-down shirt without getting the shirt into a tangled mess in the process. Untangling the shirt without having to take it off and starting over is no easy task.

After I was dressed and the grogginess wore off, I felt good. I didn't accomplish much, but I puttered around a lot, stayed sort of busy, and went to bed at ten last night. Sleep came quickly, and when I awoke, the digital display on the clock-radio read "6:02." That's what I thought, anyway. Once I turned on the light, put my glasses on, sat up, and put a sock on my left foot, I glanced at the clock, which now read "2:12."

Dyslexia had struck again. I opted to lie back down. That part was easy. Getting back to sleep wasn't. I got up again and finished dressing at three o'clock. Now I'm sitting at the computer. Who knows, maybe I'll finish this before I fall asleep at the keyboard.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Notes from the Home - August 4, 2016

Monday evening, as I waited for Jeopardy to begin, someone knocked on the door. The knock wasn't the two or three raps that visitors usually make to let me know they want in. This was a light, rhythmic tapping, almost but not quite "shave and a haircut, two bits." When my friendly "Come in," failed to get a response, I went to the door, opened it, and saw a very confused Leila standing there.

"I can't find my next-door neighbor," she said, as Gidget, her small, recently groomed dog, sniffed at my feet.

"I am your next-door neighbor."

"You are?" Leila asked, her face full of doubt.

"Are you looking for Richie?" Richie is my other next-door neighbor, and he sometimes helps Leila with various things.

"l don't know," Leila said. "Am I?"

"Do you need some help?" I asked, easing my wheelchair into the hall.

"I think so."

"What's wrong?"

"I can't get in my apartment."

"Are you locked out?"

"I don't have my keys. What did I do with them?"

Confident I could handle that problem, I set the brakes on Leila's walker, asked her to sit down on it, called the desk and told Teresa that Leila had locked herself out. Teresa said she would have someone come down to help Leila.

"Who's coming to get me?" Leila asked.

"Nobody is coming to get you. Someone will be here in a few minutes to let you in your apartment."

"But, I'm supposed to be going somewhere."


"I don't know?"

"Who's coming to take you?"

"I don't know, but I wish they'd hurry up. Oh, look, somebody's coming."

The somebody was Sherry, a nurse's assistant, who went to Leila's door, turned the knob, and announced, "It wasn't locked."  Sherry helped Leila into her apartment, and I went back to watch Jeopardy. As soon as Sherry left, Leila was back at my door, and before the end of Double Jeopardy, Leila had interrupted Alex and the contestants three times. The first time, she asked, "When are they coming for me?", the next time, she asked, "Where am I supposed to be?", and then "Where am I?"

I called Teresa again and told her what was going on. She said she would call David, Leila's son. An hour later, David arrived. Leila was at dinner last night, but David wasn't with her. I didn't get a chance to talk with her, and I don't know if David is staying with her.

*          *          *

Scrolling through Facebook on Monday, I noticed an item Karen had posted. She waxing ecstatic over the chocolate chip cookies that were waiting for her when she got home from work that afternoon. Russ had spent the afternoon in the kitchen cooking up the surprise.

Russ called Tuesday morning to cancel our shopping date. The weatherman was predicting rain, which makes getting in and out of the car, and going back and forth from the car to the store, damn unpleasant for me and the guy who pushes me around.

"I do have to run to the store for a few things," Russ said. "Do you want me to pick up anything for you?"

"Well, you could get me some bananas. And how about some homemade chocolate chip cookies?" 

"I'll have to ask Karen about the cookies."

An hour later, Russ showed up with a bunch of bananas and four chocolate chip cookies. The cookies were delicious. Next time, he should make a double batch: one for Karen, and one for me.

 Meanwhile, according to a Facebook post from way out west in Idaho, Hayden asked Bethany if they could bake bread. So, I asked Beth if Hayden was permitted to grab and eat bits of dough as it was rising. She said, "Absolutely not," or words to that effect. I was shocked and appalled. Back in the day, when I baked bread every weekend, Beth feasted on dough the whole time it was rising.

She did say, when she makes tuna-noodle, she and Hayden eat a serving or more before the casserole gets into the oven. Again, back in the day, whenever I made tuna-noodle, Beth watched every move I made and ordered me to leave a generous portion of the mixture out of the casserole dish so she could eat it while the rest of it baked.

She also said Hayden is allowed to eat cookie dough before she adds the eggs. Debbie was the cookie baker at our house, so I don't what the cookie rules were. Although, whatever the rules were, I'm pretty sure Beth set them, and I bet she ate the dough with or without eggs.

*          *          * 

I've heard the expression thousands - probably millions - of times. It was used a lot on TV shows in the fifties and sixties, usually by characters who had only recently come to the US from Mexico. And it was almost always used for comedic effect, or so it seemed to me. We Anglos sometimes use the expression, but again more for effect than anything else.

Margarita is from Mexico, and English is definitely her second language. She works in either the food service department or the housecleaning department, depending on where the need is greatest that day. Today, the big need was in housekeeping. At ten-thirty Margarita came to give the apartment its weekly cleaning.

She made the bed, cleaned the bathroom, took out the full garbage bag and replaced it with a new one, dusted, washed the few dirty dishes that were in the sink, and mopped the bathroom and kitchen area. With all that done, she was ready to vacuum. She brought the sweeper in from her cart in and looked for an outlet to plug it in. I tried to direct her to one of the three surge protector strips in the room, but she kept looking for a wall outlet. All the wall outlets in my apartment are inconveniently located behind large pieces of furniture.

"Oh," she said, thinking there had to be an outlet in the kitchen area. One quick glance, however, was all it took for Margarita to realize the outlet in the kitchen is behind the microwave. "Ay caramba," she said. There was no exclamation mark after it. When TV characters said "Ay caramba," there were always three or four exclamation marks. But this "ay caramba" fell from Margarita's lips in the manner of a disgusted "Oh, for Pete's sake." Interesting.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Notes from the Home - July 31, 2016

It has been a great deal more than comfortably warm in Columbus recently. Mae was putting her walker into the trunk of her car when I came by in the wheelchair.

"You're going to get sunstroke," she said.

"No, I'm not."

"You need to get a straw hat. And, where's your water bottle?"

"I don't like wearing hats, I've been drinking water all day, and I'm going around the building just one time. I'll be back in the air-conditioned comfort of my apartment in ten minutes . . . or less."

"It's awfully hot out here; you be careful."

"Yes, ma'am. But if it's so terribly hot, why are you wearing a sweater?"

"There are holes in it," she said, holding out her arm so I could take a closer look.

The long-sleeve sweater was loosely knit. "There are holes," I said, "but it still looks like something to wear on a cold December morning, not on a warm July evening."

"Look, when you get to be a certain age you want to cover up everything. And I'm at that point," Mae said.

*          *          *

When I go check my mail, usually around noon, I go out the back door, ride halfway around the building, and go back in through the main entrance. It's nice to get out of the building for a few minutes and get some fresh air in my lungs.

Being neither a mad dog nor an Englishman, those sojourns in the noonday sun are short. They aren't short enough for Johnny, the maintenance supervisor, however. Twice last week, Johnny stopped his SUV - he was on his way to McDonald's or some such place for lunch - and asked me if I had a bottle of water with me. Both times I admitted I did not, and both times he told me to be careful, to stay out of the sun, "and get yourself a hat. You're going to get sunstroke."

*          *          *

Virginia and I talked for a few minutes one evening when she was walking her little dog, BooBoo. The heat and her sweater were the main topics of conversation.

"I should have taken this stupid sweater off before I came out," she said.

"Why do you have it on?"

"It got real warm in my apartment this afternoon, and I played with the air conditioning. Then I got cold and put on this sweater. I guess I set the thermostat too low. I'll have to reset it when BooBoo is done out here."

*          *          *

A full night's sleep has become a rarity. Monday, with help from an Advil, I slept for nine hours - nine-thirty Monday night until six-thirty Tuesday morning. The small print on the Advil bottle includes this: "Ask your doctor before use if you are pregnant, under a doctor's care for a serious condition, age 60 or over, taking any other drug or have stomach problems." Although  three of the five reasons for asking the doctor apply to me, I haven't asked him about Advil. I am not totally irresponsible in such matters and only occasionally resort to Advil. Having gone over a week on three or four hours of sleep a night, the Advil seemed worth the risk. In the interest of full-disclosure: I have taken Advil on consecutive nights once or twice, but it doesn't do much good sleepwise the second night, nor even when I've tried taking it every other night.

After those nine hours in dreamland, my legs were stronger and worked a little better. It wasn't a miraculous difference, just the improvement that comes from being well rested. Standing up was easier; pulling my pants up was still a struggle, but not quite the struggle it usually is.

Staying awake Tuesday, however, was as problematic as ever. At nine o'clock, I made my daily inspection of the Covenant Woods' parking lots. When I came back inside, I hung around the activity room until Byron brought in a tray of fresh-basked muffins. I politely grabbed one and chatted with Marie for a few minutes. Then I went  back to the apartment, did a quick check for emails, and glanced at Facebook, before reclining in the new wheelchair and sleeping til noon. Even that wasn't enough. At two-thirty I fell asleep while I was sitting at the computer.

I didn't get much sleep Tuesday night, and when I got up at four o'clock Wednesday morning, I took an Adderall. It's good stuff. The Adderall somehow settles my mind and helps me concentrate. I think it also makes me a little more sociable.

But Adderall also keeps me awake well into the night and the following morning. So, I seldom take it. How seldom? The one I took Wednesday was the last of a prescription for thirty pills. According to the information on the bottle, the prescription was filled May 15, 2015, and I was to have disposed of any unused pills on May 14, 2016. Oh well, I was only a couple months late getting rid of the stuff.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Notes from the Home - July 15, 2016

Mary was walking her dogs – two rat terriers – Monday, and I was “strolling” through the Covenant Woods’ parking lots. Mary said she needed to be careful; she’d recently fallen a few times. Nothing serious. The falls had been in her apartment, and she was able to get up without assistance each time.

“I have to be very careful out here,” Mary said. “These dogs get so excited when they see something. They’re anxious to see what’s going on, they pull on their leashes, and I have a hard time keeping my balance. And there are people who don’t clean up after their dogs. The other day, the dogs saw a squirrel and started after it. They pulled me around, and I saw a pile on the ground. I almost fell trying to avoid it. I always clean up after my dogs. I wish others would pick up their dogs’ messes, too.”

Wednesday morning, Ethel and Tony were standing near the elevator. “We’re waiting to see why the EMTs are here,” Ethel told me. A few minutes later, the EMTs came by pushing a gurney with Mary on it.

“Are you OK?” Ethel asked.

“Oh, I just fell.”

“Nothing serious, I hope.”

“No. Heck, I’ll be back here in fifteen minutes.”

Friday, Mary was out walking her dogs again. “It’s my ankle,” she said. “The doctors wrapped it to help keep it straight. I just have to be careful. But now my daughter wants me to move closer to her, so when something like this happens again I can call her, and she can come help. I don’t know if I want to do that.”

Frances had a more difficult time. While visiting her sister, who lives in the Atlanta area, she fell and broke her hip. Frances had surgery the next day, and word is she is doing well.

*     *     *

To sleep, perchance to dream; ay, there’s the rub. Falling asleep is seldom a problem. Remaining asleep for the recommended seven to eight hours is. I am in bed by ten, asleep by ten-thirty, and very often awake at two in the morning. Some mornings my bladder rouses me in the wee hours to let me know I’d best go wee-wee. Other days, I wake-up at one-thirty or two just because I do.

Getting to sleep the second time around is never easy, and usually impossible. As I lie in bed, my mind starts wander, picking up speed as it goes, and not infrequently visiting places I’d rather it not visit.

I can’t do much tossing and turning – my muscles. smart-ass teenagers that they are, won’t do as they’re told – and my back gets to aching, and the legs get spastic. By three o’clock I’ve had enough and get up, get dressed, and start the day.

I enjoy being up in the early, early morning. Sliding the porch door open, I can listen to the host of nocturnal creatures buzzing and chirping, accompanied by the rustling of leaves, and sometimes the sound of the falling rain. Once I’m up, my mind settles down, and I can do a crossword puzzle or two, read, write a little, and pour some cereal into a bowl, or scramble a couple eggs.

Then, I’m shot for the rest of the day. I was up, had put on my shoes, socks, and a pair of shorts, and taken care of the bladder’s needs by three o’clock this morning. I did my usual morning things, and at eight, after finishing a bowl of Great Grains and blueberries, along with a banana, I went out and wandered around the Covenant Woods’ grounds for nearly an hour. When I got back to the apartment, I was at least half asleep, and once I got my legs elevated, I was fast asleep for two hours.

The afternoon hasn’t been completely unproductive, nor has it been as productive as it could be. A few times – like eight or ten times – I’ve nodded off while putting these words together. Each time my mind shut down, I had my fingers on the keyboard. Then, when my mind suddenly realized what I was supposed to be doing, I opened my eyes to see row after row, a half page or more of lllllllllllllllllll or ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, or ppppppppppppppppppp on the screen. After some extensive backspacing, I was left with the problem of figuring out where I was and where I was headed when the brain deserted me.

*     *     *
The contractors have been busy for three months or more renovating Covenant Woods inside and out. The carpet in the second-floor hallway has been pulled up, leaving tiny balls of the adhesive that held it down scattered on the exposed plywood.

I was up there Monday doing my laundry, when Betty, who lives on the second floor, wandered by. “I wish they’d get moving on the floor,” she said. “They could at least give it a good, thorough sweeping. My cat goes out in the hall some times. She doesn’t go anywhere; she just looks around a little and comes back in. But now, when she comes back in, she brings those tiny balls of whatever that stuff is in with her, and I have to try to get it all out of her fur.”

The laundry-room floor hadn’t been touched, but the walls had been stripped. Besides the wallpaper, a sign that said a resident should use no more than two washers came down. The sign also directed those doing their laundry to “report any problems to the condo association.” I don’t know when what is now Covenant Woods ceased to be a condominium, but in talking to folks who have been around here for a while, I get the impression it was sometime in the 1990s.

Looking at the spot where the sign was, it appears the person who years ago applied the glue to the sign was from Michigan.

*     *     *

One of the niftiest features of my new wheelchair is that it reclines. As the excited baseball play-by-play guy might say, it goes “way, way, way back,” and the footplate extends outward until my legs are nearly straight. Once I’m reclined, stretched out, and all the blood is rushing to my brain, I must be at something close to a forty-five-degree angle. As a result, things might not be looking up, but I am.

To Bed, Perchance to Sleep

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