A Yankee Notebook, Columns

With apologies to T.S. Eliot: 

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by Willem Lange

EAST MONTPELIER – Here I am, an old man in a cold month,

waiting for spring, dictating to a young lady.

It’s hard to grasp the difference in perspective between what I was doing happily – living alone at home in the company of a small dog – to being confined to a bed in a nursing home with a view through a half open door, and to know that this view is probably not going to change for at least a month.

One or two of the residents I can remember; they were here when my wife died here almost five years ago. All day long people scurry, shuffle, wheel, and pound past the door on various errands. After 9 o’clock the hall lights go off and things begin to quiet down a little. It’s a long night. My roommate, who can walk a little bit, goes to the john during the night. I, who can’t yet, don’t. As I said, it’s a long night.

Like most establishments of this nature, they’re short-handed. Everybody on the staff runs around at top speed past my door. Some of the nurses are “travelers” with the most delightful deep Southern accents. By the time I leave, I may have some inkling of what they might be saying to each other. Every now and then someone will stick her head in and ask how I’m doing. I have the choice of shaking my head sadly or making the “okay” symbol with my fingers and trying to smile. They don’t need the additional weight of my mood.

When I came in here, I figured that two weeks should do it to heal my broken pelvis. It now appears that estimate was wildly optimistic, founded upon nothing but hope.

I guess the biggest change to which I have to adapt is in the scope of my life. I could go out, climb in the car and go anywhere. On the way back from the grocery store I could see Camels Hump black against the evening sky; in the east, Spruce Mountain. At the moment I can see ten feet to a yellow sheetrock wall. Above me, a suspended ceiling with a fire sprinkler right above my bed. A wall clock with a mesmerizing second hand – one second per click.

There are bright spots. My girlfriend visited me Saturday and brought me lemon bars, her specialty. My daughter visits to type these columns and today brought me homemade boneless pork barbecue ribs. Friends drop by for chats; one of them brought me a big comedic get-well card from my cronies at the coffee shop. And today in the sunroom a friendly nurse slipped me a copy of the alternative menu. She has unleashed a dragon. So, it isn’t all gloom and doom. In the past when I’ve been laid up, I was able to be at home, looked after by my lovely wife and cuddly dog. Not this time, but this time the cuddly dog, at least, can visit.

So I’m thinking, four weeks? I can do that. There are folks here who have done years already and if they can do that, I can do a month more.

An old boss of mine in the Adirondacks used to have trouble with consonants. He was also an insufferable optimist. As he would say, “Fings are wookin’ up! Yup! Wookin’ up!”

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