Raisin is sitting atop my recliner, to the left of my head. Somedays she will perch on my shoulder, and as I type this, she just moved down to my chest, and now she’s jumped off and left the room. Silly kitten. Silly kitten and her sandpaper tongue. She chooses what she wants, oblivious to time, to deadlines, to my wants and needs. She’s full of love and only seeks to give it. But to her, what is time? It’s the gaps between feedings, it’s the gaps between head scratches, it’s just really not what it is to Chuck.
Chuck moved out of his home yesterday. When I arrived, he was kicking it on his couch. The hottest day of our summer so far, the thermometer on his porch read 107, but the actual high was only around 100. I believe that somewhere near 35 or 40 celsius. Hot. Stiflingly hot, not a day to have to move if you don’t need to, but there were no alternatives for Chuck.
On a day this hot, the last thing anyone needs is a fever, but yup, you guessed it, Charlotte said ol’ Chuck was running one. He didn’t jump up off the couch when we arrived, he lingered in the cool breeze of his air conditioning. Smart man. Hell, we all lingered in it. His neighbor was in his living room also, didn’t catch her name though. She was there to see him off, Charlotte was sent by the agency to assist with some of the finer details, and me, well I was just Chucks chauffer today.
Chuck resigned himself to rising, and slowly trudged through the living room, on his way to “go take a leak.” I had to remind myself to be patient – we were supposed to have left fifteen minutes ago. You know me – anal about schedules. So I breathed deeply and relaxed, Chuck needed to pee, and I’d expect to be afforded the same courtesy.
Looking around Chucks living room, I realized I’d never see it again. He has a wall that is painted with an aquarium scene, the entire wall a soft yet deep aquatic blue, in which swim a myriad of different fish. It’s mesmerizing and beautiful, never seen a wall painted this way. Very cool. A single lamp sitting on an end table next to his couch illuminated the small space. Drawn curtains would have rendered the room dark had the light been off. In the uncomfortable summer heat, Chucks living room felt cozy, lived in, lived in for many long years.
Chuck finished peeing and slowly walked through the kitchen, ready to head down the stairs and outside, into my company’s van. A wheelchair awaited him for his ride. Charlotte, neighbor and I had to decide how best to assist him down the stairs, hemming and hawing about supporting him here, holding him up there, and ensuring his safe journey down his five stairs and into the wheelchair. Chuck shut us up when he said “I’m a puss, but not a total puss – I can make it.” So we chuckled and stood aside while he carefully stepped down the stairs, turned and lowered himself into the wheelchair.
Neighbor brought a duffel bag of belongings and asked me if I had room on the van for it. Absolutely I had room, in the passenger seat, along with another bag of a few miscellaneous medical supplies. Charlotte asked Chuck if he wanted to hold on to his glasses and his phone, and he said he wouldn’t be able to, so I placed them in the center console of the van. Trivial items? Maybe. Where would some of us be without our glasses, where would all of us be without our phones? Yeah. It would suck, right? Glasses and phone. “Testicles, spectacles, wallet and watch” someone once offered as an amusing checklist of any man’s vital necessities before leaving on a trip.
It’s time to go, Chuck.
Securely seated in the passenger compartment of the van, neighbor and second neighbor both wish Chuck farewell, but not before Chuck asked second neighbor to “crack the window on his pickup just a smidge” because of the heat. “Will do!” he replied, followed by “You take good care, Chuck.”
I wonder if Chuck got to admire the aquarium scene on his wall before he left – I’ll never forget it. He won’t have it to look at anymore. Ever.
The drive to Eugene took about an hour, Chuck drifting in and out of sleep, and our brief conversations included topics ranging from his careers as a mechanic, roofer, and logger to all the dust being generated by the tractors plowing the fields of the farms we were passing as we journeyed towards the home of the Oregon Ducks, and Chucks new home.
Well, we made it, Charlotte pulled in just after me, having followed Chuck and me in the agency’s car. She smiled, checked on Chuck, and made contact with a nurse who said “Hi Chuck, we’re expecting you, your room is all ready!”
I lowered Chuck down out of the van and maneuvered him and his oxygen tank through the front doors, into a beautiful lobby. Think Colorado ski lodge. Gorgeous. Wood, everywhere. Deep, plush rugs covering wood floors, and oh man, the temperature – cool. Everyone commented on it. This place has GOOD air conditioning. To the left and right of the lobby are visiting areas, well lit by sunlight streaming through large windows, adorned with high quality and extremely comfortable looking furniture. Bookcases full of hardcover books, tables and desks with lush green plants create an environment amenable to sitting for hours and relaxing with friends.
Charlotte, nurse, Chuck and I made our way into Chucks new home. I became aware of the silence – there just isnt a lot of noise here. That’s good. Chuck will benefit from the peace.
Chucks bedroom here is simple, clean and comfortable. A dresser to the left of the door, ample closet space, and a large window letting in the bright sunlight. No aquarium scene, though. I wonder if Chuck will miss it. I would, but hey, maybe he’s tired of it. Thirty some odd years of looking at it, maybe he could care less.
Thirty some odd years in his old home, and today Chuck moved to his new home. He peed just before we left, and asked second neighbor to crack the window on his pickup just a smidge, because of the heat. Chuck isn’t a puss, he came down his steps under his own power, like a man, for the final time.
I guess I was trying to feel what Chuck was feeling as he moved to his new place. I tried to empathize, and maybe for a few seconds during my time with Chuck I felt some of what he was feeling. I felt tired, frustrated, relieved, angry, sad, confused. . . resigned.
Charlotte is Chucks caregiver, and a fine representative of the agency that employs her. She always has a smile on her face and a “can-do” attitude. Yeah, I’d hope the agency would send her to provide me care. She told me Chucks fever had been sitting at 101 degrees for about two weeks now, and well, his symptoms just aren’t improving.
The dresser to the left of his bedroom door is where I set Chucks phone and glasses. A doctor entered the room, sat down near Chuck, and began discussing his fever, and his hiccuping. He didn’t hiccup during the ride, but apparently it’s been an issue, and Doc brought it up.
So, my job is done, and I said “See you later, Chuck”, to which he replied “Thanks for the transport, and get your mechanic to look at the transmission soon.” Chuck had noticed an odd sound coming from the transmission as he rode with me, and his experience as a mechanic gave him reason for concern.
With a final word to Chuck that his glasses and phone were on the dresser, I left the room, walked through the quiet hall to the spacious, beautiful lobby, and found what I desperately needed – the bathroom. After a quick visit, I was back in the van and ready to leave.
Chuck will also leave soon, but not today. Charlotte says it could be just a matter of weeks, perhaps less.
Chuck is resigned, but he’s still holding on to his time. Why shouldn’t he? It’s his to do with as he damn well pleases. If he wants the window on his pickup cracked because of the days heat, well, somebody crack the damn thing, ok? It’s not too much to ask for a neighbor like Chuck!
Chuck wasn’t wearing a watch, maybe he didn’t own one, maybe like many of us, he checked the time by looking at his phone. Time is relative, you can have lots of it, or not. Chuck has had his time, but it’s running out.
Chuck was checked into hospice today, and will die in a beautiful facility with great air conditioning and extravagant furnishings in Eugene, fifty eight miles from the town where he called home since. . . forever.
I knew Chuck for ninety minutes. Ninety minutes of his time, ninety minutes of mine. That’s ninety minutes less for both of us.
Time is a-tickin’ for us. And back in Chucks living room, a myriad of fish swim in beautiful blue water, whether Chuck is there or not.
I wonder if neighbor one or two turned off the light on the end table next to his couch. I hope so. “There’s no point in leaving unnecessary lights on’ dammit!” just sounds like something Chuck would say.
We’ve all got time. Maybe plenty, maybe not. I suppose what we do with it is really all that matters.
See ya later, Chuck. Glad I met you.