Showing posts from February, 2016

Notes from the Home - February 29, 2016

The always curious Randy had a question Saturday: “Why is it the C-side garbage is always full of shit, and the B-side’s isn’t?” By shit, Randy meant shit, feces, excrement, crap, poop, doo-doo and the like. Randy is one of the maintenance men. During the week, James gets the large cart that sits beneath the garbage chute in the C-building, pushes it outside and throws its contents into the dumpster. John, the third maintenance man, does the same thing with the B-building garbage. While James and John are dealing with the garbage, Randy circles Covenant Woods in a golf cart, picking up scraps of paper and whatever other trash is spoiling the beauty of the place, firing up the leaf blower when necessary and tending to the doggy-doo collection cans. The the three maintenance take turns coming in on Saturdays, when only one of them works. That man starts the morning by doing all the garbage chores. Thus, every third Saturday, Randy carefully observes how B-building garbage and C-building …

You Out There, Al?

Al has been gone a week, and to my great regret, I never taped him fulminating about whatever or whomever upset him at that moment. Al had a gentle, understanding side, of course, but it was his ability to combine anger, disgust, common sense, humor and an endless supply of expletives into marvelously pithy, off-color diatribes that made him such an unforgettable character. 
     Covenant Woods is filled with whiners and complainers whose bellyaching is beyond boring. Al, however, did his griping with brio, elan, dash, and spirit. He was never boring. But in those moments when I am bored, I would love to be able to press a button and listen to Al lambasting the fools du jour.  
     Al also had a very analytical mind. He was always searching for meaning in life. "What are we here for? What are we supposed to be doing?" he would ask. As a teenager, Al read Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, and he told me I should, too. I never did. 
     On a more concrete level, Al analyze…

Good-bye, Al

Al turned ninety-two on Friday. Early Sunday morning, he died.

He had had a difficult week. Except to use the toilet, Al  stayed in bed nearly twenty-four hours a day. From time to time he would mumble, "Goddamn, I hurt. Why do I have to put up with this shit?" One morning Donna and Amanda, both hospice nurses, were there. Donna was getting Al's vitals, while Amanda clipped his nails. A year ago, Al would have been either telling the nurses to "get the hell out of here," or suggesting they get in the bed and roll around with him. That day, however, all he said was, "They're cleaning me up."

Saturday morning, Penelope, Al's nephew Harry, who came down from New York, and I spoke with the nurse from Columbus Hospice in order to get Al on to their rolls and off Hospice Advantage's. The problem with Hospice Advantage had nothing to do with the nurses and others from there who visited Covenant Woods to tend to Al's needs. But the facilities an…

Notes from the Home - February 7, 2016

Al has been sleeping almost constantly for the last two weeks. Most of the time he looks nearly dead, lying on his back, his mouth open, his face blank. Saturday, though, he was on his side and had the look of a crusty old man thinking about all the people who had pissed him off lately. That's the Al I know, and that's the Al I want to remember. And should he recover and find out I took this picture, I'll be one of the people who pisses off the crusty old man. "God damn it, Tom. Why the hell did you take this fucking picture. I look like shit," he'll say. 

     Al is slowly fading away. His ninety-second birthday is a few days away, and he has no desire to be around for it. "I'm almost ninety-two," he says. "Why do I have to put up with this shit?"
     One morning a little over a week ago, I found Al on the floor when I brought him his morning muffins and coffee. He mumbled something about not knowing how he got there and not knowing …

Had My Fill of Phil

Yes, old Phil in Punxsutawney             Will rise early on Groundhog Day,             Though why we care is beyond me.             Yes, old Phil in Punxsutawney             Thinks he’s smart, but he’s just scrawny,             And ain’t no weatherman, anyway.             Yes, old Phil in Punxsutawney             Will rise early on Groundhog Day.
            I mean, Phil is just a rodent             Without predictive ability.             A silly guess, it’s not cogent.             I mean, Phil is just a rodent,             Only his smell is really potent,             He has no creditability.             I mean, Phil is just a rodent             Without predictive ability.
Tom Harris
                February 1, 2016