Tuesday, August 6, 2013

On This Date in 1998

The first two days in Warren were hazy and humid, but today is perfect beach weather with a warming sun and a cooling breeze. Taking advantage of this great weather, Barb and the boys and I are hanging out at Kinzua Dam. Due to the lack of rain for much of the summer here, the water level is low, which has reduced the areas marked off for swimming, but it’s a sparse turnout so there’s plenty of room for everybody. I bought a Frisbee prior to our departure, which Andy is now using to collect stones.

I didn’t wear my watch this afternoon, so I don’t have any idea what time it is. The boys have been in the water much of the time. Some kids lent them rubber tubs to float around on, so they are enjoying themselves right now. Andy and I brought along our gloves and a ball and played catch for awhile. You’d think he’d be sick of baseball by now.

We ended up spending four hours at Kinzua Beach. I should have swum lengths while the boys were playing but preferred to be lazy and stretch out on the blanket Barb brought along. I talked with Barb about Dad, as his mental deterioration is much more noticeable now than it was in March. She says he’s “out of it” pretty much all of the time now. Sometimes he can’t find his way to the bathroom. One evening at dinner, he looked at Mom and asked, “Who are you?” Mom replied, “I’m your wife, Carl. We’ve been married 53 years.” “I don’t believe you,” he said. Last night while some of us were still at the dinner table and others were in the living room watching TV, I heard Mom say, “You can’t take your clothes off here.” At first I thought she was talking to Eddie because I could see where Andy was. W hat happened though was that Dad had unbuttoned his shirt and was ready to undo his pants. According to Barb, this is a regular occurrence. While Mom finished cleaning the kitchen, Dad stood in the bathroom in his undershirt and pants. After a long interval, he asked where his glasses were. He accused Mom of taking them. While she was leading him to his bed, I heard her call out, “Carl, stop doing that! Stop doing that, Carl!” He was trying to hit her, but in his enfeebled state wasn’t able to do that. I got up from where I was sitting in the living room – the boys were upstairs taking a bath at this time – and walked to the threshold of the kitchen. I felt so helpless. I didn’t need to intercede, of course, but this scene, most of which I had only heard, filled me with the strangest sensation.

Mom filled me in on Barb’s prospects yesterday during a late-afternoon conversation. She’ll be providing child care for a couple who own a restaurant downtown three days a week, three hours a day. S he may have an option for more extended employment in the fall, assisting a woman who is recovering from a serious car accident. Mom, of course, would like to see Barb get a “real” job, i.e. one with health coverage, specifically. “We’re not going to be around to take care of her forever,” she said. I think she’s more concerned about Barb’s long-term prospects than she lets on.

I should have added one important piece of information about Dad’s undressing. I don’t think Mom mentioned this in any of her letters this summer. Dad recently had a bad case of shingles. According to Barb’s more detailed description, almost the entire left side of his body was covered with a very painful rash. Fortunately, the medication his doctor prescribes for him worked quickly and effectively. But while he was suffering from shingles, I’m sure his clothes were mostly an unwanted irritation.

After too many stays at the Warren County Jail, Dale seems to have experienced a true reformation. Outside of his passion for cars, his life is solitary. Watching TV in his bedroom serves as his only recreational activity. Otherwise, he’s at Shultz, or in the garage, working on cars, an activity at which he is indisputably the master. At least he found his calling. Wait until you see the picture of a 1984 Monte Carol he rebuilt. Its bright whiteness gleams like a vain Hollywood star’s smile. He’s talking about selling the car – for Dale, there’s always another junker to rehabilitate – and if I had the money and a protective storage space, I’d be first in line. If he ever charged for the time he puts into remaking these vehicles, he could retire. But a life of leisure is not his goal.

No comments: