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 garbage differ. “The C-side is always full of shit. They don’t even bag it. They just throw the dirty diapers down the chute. What’s going on?”
I entered a plea of ignorance. Al used to discuss his bowel movements in graphic detail, but he did his business on the toilet. He did wear a diaper, but that was more for Number 1 than Number 2. When he did “shit in the goddamn diaper,” he would tell us how long he had spent cleaning himself up. I think he always disposed of the diaper properly. I am sure he did. I mean, he did live in the B-building.
*     *     *
Russ had to pick his old man up off the floor Sunday morning. He called at quarter till nine to ask if I needed to get groceries. I did, and he said he’d be over in an hour to take me to Publix.
As the appointed time neared, I made myself presentable, got my wallet and transferred from the motorized wheelchair to the manual chair. Well, not quite. 
The problem is, the manual chair needs a brake job. The chair, which I got late in 2007, carted me – with Nancy pushing most of the time – around Paris, Lucerne, Florence, Rome, Venice, Munich, Amsterdam, and several intermediate points before it was a month old. By the time it made the trip down here to Columbus in March, 2012, it had also been to London, San Antonio, the Grand Canyon, Montreal, San Diego, Boston, and here, there and everywhere in the greater Ashtabula area and Northeast Ohio.
The old chair just ain’t what she used to be. Sitting in the motorized chair, I leaned forward, took a firm hold of arms of the manual chair, counted to five, said, “OK legs, let’s go,” slowly raised my posterior off the seat of the motorized chair, braced myself on the arms of the manual chair, which started moving backwards, and I went ker-plop. A few minutes later Russ arrived and gave me a lift.
That’s my story, and I am sticking to it. I will not mention my balance, which has gone from iffy, to questionable, to doubtful, to if there is nothing solid to hold on to I am likely going to fall on my face. And I refuse to discuss how weak my legs are these days. Nor will I acknowledge that my right leg, which functioned normally until a year or so ago, is now as ornery and uncooperative as its partner on the left.
But, I suppose I ought to mention those things when I visit Dr. Miller, the primary care guy, this week, and Dr. Verson, the neurologist, next week.
*     *     *
 Alas, the legs aren't the only problem.  When I saw Dr. Verson in December, I told him I was ready for a new wheelchair. A few days later, the phone rang. The phone was in my pants pocket. It is so easy to slide the phone into the pants pocket, and, all too often, it is impossible to get the stupid thing out of the pocket before the caller is directed to voicemail. 
When I finally got the phone out of the pocket it told me I had one missed call. A moment later, it told me I had a voicemail message. The message was from Columbus Home Medical Equipment; a gentleman said that they had received an order for a scooter from Dr. Verson, but unfortunately, they are not in network with my Humana insurance. "I have notified Dr. Verson's office, and they should be contacting you," he said. 
Several days went by without a call from the doctor's office, and then a few more. I started to call them one day, then I closed the phone and put it in my pants pocket. "Look," I said to myself, "you're going to have different insurance in January. (I always talk to myself in the second person.) Why don't you wait until after the holidays? By then you'll have all the information, all the numbers they'll need." Sounded good to me.
I called the Columbus Clinic in January, and asked to speak to someone in Dr. Verson's office. The call was transferred to someone who listened as I told her about the call from Columbus Home Medical. My biggest concern wasn't the insurance, my biggest concern was that Dr. Verson's order was for a scooter. "I need a wheelchair, a motorized wheelchair. There's no way I'll be able get on a scooter without falling." I told her. "I will pass this along, and someone will be getting back with you," she said.
No one got back to me. A week later, I called them and went through the same routine and was told that someone would get back to me. Another week or two went by without a call from the doctor's office, so I called again. It was a replay of the other two calls. A few days later, I did get a call from the Columbus Clinic. The information I had given them had been passed along, the caller told me, and someone would contact me soon. Ha!
By this time, giving the subject of a new wheelchair a break seemed to be the wiser course. The wheelchair was working fine. And I am scheduled to see Dr. Verson on March 11th. Better to talk to him face-to-face than try to reach him through a maze of telephone answering people.
What do they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? On the evening of February 11th, after enjoying a meal in the Covenant Wood's dining room, I flipped the wheelchair's on switch, gently pushed the joy stick, and nothing happened. Well, nothing good happened. A message on the control unit said the second motor was disconnected, and when the chair moved, it moved slowly, always circling to the right. Lucas was kind enough to push me and the chair back to the apartment.
The next morning, Russ came to take me shopping. Before we left I had him push me to Al's apartment. Isabelle, who died almost two years ago, told Al she wanted him to have her wheelchair in case he ever needed it. After Isabelle passed, the wheelchair sat in Al's apartment collecting newspapers, magazines and junk mail. "Why don't you use the wheelchair?" people asked Al when he started having trouble walking. "I can't drive that goddamn thing. I'd probably kill someone." And once or twice a week, Al told me I needed to take Isabelle's wheelchair. "I don't need it," I'd tell him. "I already have a wheelchair. Give it to someone who really needs it."
But that morning, I was the one who really needed it. Al was unaware of this last gift to me, but with the blessing of his nephew Harry, I rode away in Isabelle's wheelchair. If all goes well, it will get me where I need to go until I can get a new one.






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