Over the summer, I invested most of my time to writing, specifically a series of short stories addressing many aspects of growing older. At the end of this post, please take a few minutes to read one of these stories, called "Time Passes." I'm hoping to get it, along with several others, published. Then Kathy can retire and we can spend all day, every day, together. (Kathy is just ending her second vacation of the summer, and is leaning toward working another year - or 20 - before spending all her time with me)
Just as I was going to snap a pic of Old Orchard Beach, these two gentlemen appeared in very unbeachy clothing. On the left is David of Life on Two Wheels ... the Scoot Comute, on the right is Bob of Riding the Wet Coast. At Bob's left elbow are people dressed more suitably for the beach
Here I am at Krista's going away party, seemingly the focus of attention. Are these people rivited by my intellectual patter? Nope - I'm on the grill, taking orders for burgers, hot dogs, and grilled chicken.
My summer is never complete without a visit from my cousin Paul and his wife, Beth. They live in Nebraska, but they are tied in memory and spirit to the many summers our families enjoyed decades ago at the camp on Sebago Lake
But the highlight of our summer was the cruise around Boston Harbor Kathy and I took with her sister Sylvia and husband Bert, along with their children, grandchildren, and assorted others, who celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary! I was having too much fun to take pictures, other than Old Ironsides (named I think after a Raymond Burr TV show) and the Willards themselves.
by Thomas W Keene
The days and nights blur together, and as time passes, the mornings and evenings merge until one day, you realize the the sun is out and it must be daytime, you don't remember having slept.
There must have been a night, because you're not too tired - you must have slept. Then you seem to recall something about a muffin for breakfast. It must be the weekend, because that's the only time muffins are available in the dining room. How did you know that, you wonder?
If this is a Sunday, you'd have been taken to church, and since you're here and not in church, this must be Saturday.
But what time is it? Maybe the bus to church left and you missed it. Or no one told you that the bus was leaving. It seems that lately, the staff is getting pretty lax in communicating with us. Time to write a letter to the director. But why bother? Nothing ever changes; no one ever listens.
Who's this coming down the hall? It's that perky little blonde from activities. Strange that you knew that. Is that who she is, or is she a nurse?
"Bert, are you ready for your bath?" she asks. These kids have no respect. I'd never call an older person by his first name. We learned manners, respect, in the old days.
"What day is this?" What day do I have a bath, you wonder.
"Thursday," says the girl.
"But I had a muffin for breakfast - it can't be Thursday!" This girl looks puzzled, maybe a bit annoyed.
"It is Thursday," the girl says firmly. "All day, it'll be Thursday."
"What time is it?" I used to have a watch, but I think someone stole it. This place is full of thieves. A regular den of thieves.
"It's bath time, Bert, and I've got three others waiting, so let's hustle - OK?"
These people don't care about me or about any of us. They punch in, complain for eight hours, and punch out. If they hate us so much, why don't they go work someplace they like? Then again, people like them don't like to work at all. All these young people just want to loaf around. They just bitch and moan. It must be wonderful to live with them.
"Take one of the others, then. This isn't my day for a bath anyway."
"Really, Bert - you wanna see the list?" The blonde is about to pout, you think. Or slap you.
That's all you are to them - a name on a list to feed and bathe and put to bed and wake up. Just a name on a list.
Your mind slips back to the days when life meant something to you. Back when getting up in the morning meant that you had something to do until it was time to go to bed.
But what was it? What did you do for work? People ask you that in the dining room and you say, "Oh, a little of this and a little of that."
"Alright, Bert. But you have to tell my supervisor that you refuse to take a bath so I don't get in trouble."
Do you really care if she gets in trouble? Maybe she'll get fired and you'll be rid of her. But what if she has a family to support?
No, she's too young to have a family, and besides, why should I care about this rude girl?
"Do you have any children?"
The girl smiles for the first time, but only briefly. "You know I've got a new baby, Bert. I showed you her pictures."
Well, you can't let her get fired. Not with a new baby. You can put up with rudeness for a baby.
"I'll take my bath now." And the girl rolls your wheelchair down the hall.
How long have you been in a wheelchair? You distinctly remember walking just a day or two ago.
But you didn't realize that you were sitting in a wheelchair. It seemed like just a chair. And you're still not completely certain that it's Thursday. Why would you remember a muffin - blueberry, it was a blueberry muffin - if this wasn't a weekend?
"I had a blueberry muffin for breakfast. It was good, but I didn't get enough butter."
In a voice much too weary for a young girl, she said, "You can't have butter. You know that."
"But I had a muffin. I know I had a muffin today."
Even more wearily, she said, "So what if you had a muffin? Everybody had a muffin."
You've got her, you think triumphantly. She claims it's Thursday, but everybody had a muffin.
"So, if you say I had a muffin, that we all had a muffin, how can this be Thursday?"
"Christ, Bert - What the hell does Thursday have to do with goddamn muffins?"
What a mouth! Your daughter would never use language like that. Do you have a daughter? Do you have children? Were you ever married?
"We only have muffins on Saturday and Sunday, so this can't be Thursday," you tell the impudent girl with great pleasure.
"My God - that was when Rick was the cook. He hated to bake anything, so you got muffins when Andy cooked, on weekends. Now Tony's the cook, and he loves to make muffins everyday." The girl sounded less weary but there's a hint of disgust in her voice now.
"That was what - a year and a half ago - where the hell have you been, Bert?"
That's not possible, you think. But then again, some things have been a bit fuzzy lately, so maybe she's right. You'd hate that, having a girl that young, and with a baby - probably not married, though - being right about something about something you should have known.
"How long have you been married? What's your husband's name? What's your name?"
Now the girl abruptly stops push the wheelchair. She steps around to the front and kneels down in front of you and glares at you.
"Lucy is my name! And you know goddamn well my husband Bobby was killed in Iraq!" She has tears in her eyes, but her face is angry, not sad. Lucy returns to the back of the wheelchair and begins to slowly wheel you down the hall.
Did you know that? Think! Did you know her name was Lucy? Did you you her husband was dead? How could you have forgotten something like that?
How could anyone forget something like that? No. You would have remembered that. She must be lying to cover up the fact that she's an unwed mother.
But still, that's a pretty specific lie, just to save face. Maybe her husband really is dead. Maybe she isn't as young as you think.
"How old are you - Lucy?"
Lucy smiles again, and from behind you she says, Why? You want to take care of me and my little girl? You've got enough money, you miserable rich bastard." Her words were mean, but her tone was light-hearted.
You're rich? What did you do for a living? How did you get rich? How much money do you have?
But Lucy decides to answer your question. "I'm 23 years old, Bert. I turned 23 last week. You came to my party and ate my cake, and you even played 'Happy Birthday' for me on the piano." She smiled and shook her head. "You haven't lost your touch on the piano, Bert. I can see why you were so famous!"
Do you remember being able to play the piano? Do you remember even liking music? Didn't you ask someone to turn off the radio a while back because you couldn't stand the noise?
"Who am I," you ask the girl - is it Lucy?
"You are Mr. Berton C. Walsh."
"Why am I here?"
"You just got old, Bert. You just got too old to stay at home after your wife died, and your children brought you here," said Lucy, with her eyes locked on the floor in front of you and in a tone of voice that suggests that she's answered that question a lot.
How old are you? "How old am I?"
"Jesus, Bert. You're 91 years old. You're the oldest man here, and people say you were once the greatest pianist in the world!" There wasn't a hint of respect for you or your life in her statement. It was simply a recitation of a few pertinent facts, memorized and spit out when needed.
But maybe this mystery was close to being solved. If you can hold on to this new information - just think - you once were famous, and had money, and a wife, and children. As you drift off to sleep, you're happy for the first time you can remember.
As Lucy punches her timecard, Belinda is punching in. "How's the floor," asks the incoming aide.
"Bert was the last one into bed - again," answers Lucy. "Last thing he said was, 'See you tomorrow, Lucy. I'll play something pretty for you."
Belinda laughs sadly. "Poor Bert. Tomorrow, he won't know me or you, or which end of the piano to play. Do you ever wonder what goes through their minds?"
"Sad, aint't it? says Lucy. "I hope my girl pushes me into traffic if I ever get like that!"
© 2013 Thomas W Keene