To my credit, I did try to adjust to the incessantly shouting woman. I just couldn’t. I didn’t recognize any of the words that were scattered among the shouts, but they might’ve been in a language that I don’t speak. I’m now sitting in front of the gorgeous, old, stone building that abuts the nursing home itself and sort of acts as a decoy for prospective residents and their loved ones.
I feel ill-at-ease here, but when I leave having helped out in some way - even if only by having a conversation about music - I feel better. When I’ve been away for a while, it’s a much worse feeling - a struggle I dealt with during my week in the North Carolina mountains last week. I had plenty of good times, but after a while, that dark cloud that followed me south 700 miles would find me again, no matter how many times I pivoted east or west.
I’ve been around long enough to recognize that you do have to go through these rough patches sometimes. You can choose to look at it like you’re earning the carefree moments of laying slack-jawed in a field under a morphing sky with a beautiful companion in your arms or mind’s eye. I do sometimes. Other times, I feel like it’s as simple as “some days are mostly good, some days are mostly bad; collect ‘em all, kids.” Lately, I’ve felt like “gimme dem goddamn cheddar puffs and gimme dat gushdang Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk, son.”
But wisdom makes the occasional cameo appearance. Brian Dillon walked onto the screen and reminded me in his way that life itself is not guaranteed and that it might be good if that fact informed my perspective on this new challenge.
I picture Brian and his speech bubble in a not-necessarily-stoned-but-beautiful cloud floating above me while I trudge through the metaphor mud and push the wheelchair, not knowing what I’m pushing it toward. I could just as easily focus on the mud below my feet as the colorful, slowly flanging cloud above me.
You can’t blame the guy for not being at the top of his game. Still, to tell people in a communal room that they should “blow [their] brains out” if they find themselves doing a long-term stay at the facility, not knowing anything of these sweet old people and the trail of years behind them, is a shade of ugly to which I don’t know how to adjust my eyes. This is not the person* who taught me to make the best of difficult situations.
But then there’s a moment like the one where I wheeled him back to the nursing home after taking a stroll around the university and he asked me, “what’s that place?” You can get mad, but you have to realize who you’re getting mad at.
Burn out / fade away? Marcella stood in the ocean off Topsail Island with me in June and checked out in September.
Still, with the help of my family, my girlfriend, and clouds shaped like my friends, I’ll figure out how to navigate these newly muddied waters.
And I will do so with some GODDAMN CHEDDAR PUFFS in my facehole.
*That fella, I suspect was Fred “Mister” Rogers.