Archive for December, 2011

Count your blessings

It started out like most Mondays.  Kiss Sweetie good-bye, hop into the truck, get some gas and pull into the Help of Ojai lot.  As usual, it was cold and damp.  Not just outside, but inside Little House where the aging heating system can’t keep up with the drafts and takes its toll on the fragile ones toiling at their desks.

Eyeballing the bus manifest revealed a pretty full morning.  Most of the riders were regulars but a sprinkling of new names promised a welcome diversion.  My first pickup was Shirley, a spry 82-year-old and accomplished pianist living in a mobile home park.  “And you are?” Shirley said as I opened the automatic door and went to help her up the steps.  The reason Shirley asked who I am is not because she has memory problems.  She is blind.  Living alone, she and I have been bus pals for several years. No complainer she,  I look forward to her bus trips. Bright and bubbly, she makes me ashamed of what a whiner I can be.

We arrived before Kristy’s Nails opened.  I helped Shirley find the donut shop next door where she was warmly welcomed and offered the delicacies of the house while she waited for Kristy’s to begin its day.

Rarely do I get two clients going to Kristy’s on the same day.  But my next rider, Myrna, was headed there too.  A pedicure was in the offing as she can no longer personally handle that chore.  Arriving at St. Joseph’s I once again stared at the open area where majestic oaks once held sway.  Having been cut down before they could injure anyone, I’m anxiously awaiting some miracle that will accelerate the growth of the saplings planted a couple of years ago.  Maybe St. Joes is the right place for that miracle.

Myrna needed the lift to get aboard.  After setting her walker where neither she nor I could be impaled, we got to know each other a bit better.  “I’m 91 and my husband is 90.”  A cradle robber, I said.  “He had a stroke about eight months ago.  I live in the cottage over there and he is in the nursing building just across the road.”  Noting her English accent, she volunteered that she was born in England where she served in the RAF as an ambulance driver.  Visions of a Hemingway novel flashed through my head.

“I was worried last night and this morning that you might not be able to get this big bus and the lift into the parking lot at Kristy’s.  Didn’t want to cause you any inconvenience.  I assured Myrna that it was my solemn mission to get her nails done.

On to At Home in Ojai where I got my first wheelchair client of the day.  Margie, who professes to be at least older than my bus, arrived with an aide.  Fastening the chair in the catbird spot in the van, I asked if everything was OK.  I meant the positioning of the safety belt but Margie had a somewhat broader interpretation of my question.  “I’ve been better.”  All in all, a mild response for someone plagued by any number of old-age maladies.

Cliff was in the usual spot, leaning on his walker at the Gables.  Pushing 90 and one of the youngest pilots in World War Two, he had fallen a few months ago and was still trying to regain his old stamina.  A regular at Swanner PT, he works out a couple of times a week.  My hearing is not as good as it used to be and the squeaking and drafts of the old bus make it even harder to hear what my clients have to say.  Bless his heart, Cliff rattles on regardless of my ability to understand what he is saying.  My occasional uh-huh keeps him motivated.  Arriving at Swanner, Cliff, his cane and his walker descend from the bus and he offers his usual “Thanks so much.  I’ll call when I’m done.  Drive carefully and fasten your seatbelt.”

Toward noon I retrieved Shirley from Kristy’s and began what is affectionately known as the “lunch bunch” pickups.  Isabel, who at 94 is one of the most loving and ripest of my clients, sat down next to Shirley.  Able to climb the steps of the bus without assistance, Isabel suffers from extreme hearing loss.  Shirley, who is blind, spent the better part of two minutes trying to relate this fact to Isabel.  Having successfully communicated, Isabel both apologized for her hearing loss and offered her heartfelt sympathy for Jeanette’s blindness.  And so it went.

The bus was filled to capacity as we arrived at Help’s West Campus.  My clients clambered down the steps.  Each said thanks and wished me a Merry Christmas.  It already was.

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I’ve seen enough

OK, I admit it.  I didn’t watch Saturday’s debate.  Too busy watching the Food Channel’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and folks who shove greasy burgers, fat-laden chili-fries and lots of bacon into their mouths.  Yummy.

I think I’ve seen three of the debates going back to the time when Rick Perry was still the Republican savior.  Now he’s demoted himself to junior savior status and is currently running ads that remind us that he is a devout Christian, that gays should remain in the closet, and isn’t it a God-awful shame that kids can’t pray in school instead of learning what the legal voting age is and  how many Supreme Court justices there are.

I’ve always felt that I should know what the opposition is up to.  Even to the point of  occasionally listening to Rush Limbaugh.  It used to drive Sweetie nuts.  “How can you listen to that ignorant blowhard.  Haven’t you got better things to do.  Like picking up your clothes?”  So that’s why I watch the debates, that in some cases are more exciting than watching the Broncos’ Tim Tebow genuflect after gaining yardage, thanking God for letting his team beat those godless bastards and reminding us that only devout Christians will go to heaven…while me and my ilk baste in the fires of hell.  But that’s another story.

Poor Mitt is stuck in second gear while the Newt is laughing his way to the nomination.  Pretty good for a guy who, not long ago, was left for dead at the Tiffany counter.  I used to think about running for public office, never seriously but sort of in a day-dreamy kind of way.  But I’d quickly dismiss it when I remembered the various immoral acts that might be uncovered during my campaign.  Starting with cheating on various Latin exams in Mrs. Beck’s class, lying to my mother when she asked if I went to Hebrew school today, and setting fire to the vacant lot in Albany Park while roasting potatoes with my friends.

But if Newt is any example, the sky’s the limit.  Abandoning two previous spouses (one suffering with cancer) while diddling with others…and all the while promoting the impeachment of a fellow lothario…appear to be forgivable sins.  Playing fast and loose while Speaker of the House resulting in a few hours of standing the corner can be best classified as boyish enthusiasm.  His “Contract with America” should be retitled a “Contract on America” given the regulatory and financial disasters that it gave rise to.

To know him is to love him apparently does not apply in Newt’s case.  As Maureen Dowd noted in her NY Times column…Joe Scarborough, one of the House plotters against Speaker Gingrich back in 1997, quipped, “Let me just say, if Newt Gingrich is the smartest guy in the room, leave that room.”  Or as Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, who worked with Newt in the House, noted, “He’s a guy of 1,000 ideas and the attention span of a 1-year-old.”  Congressman Peter King of New York told CNN’s Erin Burnett that Newt’s “inflammatory” statements, his “erratic” and “self-centered” behavior, and his “Armageddon language” wear people out.   And those three guys are all Republicans.

Which neatly summarize Newt’s qualifications to be President of the United States.  He’s a quick-draw smart-aleck who’s a legend in his own mind.  And it seems to me that we had one of those for eight years not too far back.  And we are still trying to pull ourselves up from the abyss he created.   Are we ignorant or what?  Maybe it’s no wonder that the polls of likely Republican voters show Newt leading the pack by substantial margins.

And if that isn’t enough,  Thesaurus.com defines Newt as a cold-blooded vertebrate.  Where’s the Snow Queen when you need her?


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