Tags: Choking Game, Conversation Life, Ron Goralski
BURLINGTON CT – Alex took his last natural breath on October 12, 2013. It was a Saturday night, just before shower time, when the 14-year-old made a critical miscalculation. His mom, Brandi, can painfully recall how she found her son in his bedroom at their home in Burlington, CT: his positioning on the floor; how he must have thought that he would have control; the way he was slouched against his dresser; and the tension of the belt.
It did not immediately seem clear, but it all falls into place now. The signs were there. Alex died while playing the Choking Game, a dangerous practice of tweens and teens in which they self-strangulate in order to achieve a brief high. It is often referred to as the Good Kids’ High.
TYPICAL PROFILE (Taken from the DB Foundation, Inc.) Unlike other risk-taking behaviors, self-choking often occurs across the spectrum of adolescents. 9-16 is the most common age and it is predominantly male participants who are the fatal victims, although younger and older adolescents along with females are involved.
When you lose a child, hindsight can be as vicious as a recurring nightmare. Alex’s mom can remember a mark on his neck that resembled a hickey. “It almost looked like it could have been a scrape caused by the heel of a shoe,” Brandi remembers.”
Alex was an active kid. He played in wooded areas. He played with others on trampolines. Kids collide. Kids get scrapes and bruises. “I did see signs, but I didn’t know they were signs until I read more about this. Then it all made sense… the mark on his neck.” Brandi cannot hold back the tears. “If I had known of these signs, maybe I could have intervened.”
FACTS OF THE CHOKING GAME (Taken from the DB Foundation, Inc.) Youth who might participate range in age from 7-21 and it is especially common in middle school-aged children. Survey data indicate boys and girls are equally likely to participate in groups but boys are more likely to attempt it alone. The goal is a desired ‘floaty’, ‘tingling’, ‘high’ sensation. However, not all participants are seeking a ‘high’; some participate as a pastime, out of curiosity, or because of peer pressure. Many do not perceive a risk when engaging in this practice.
Brandi thinks about the shape of the mark on his neck: Could it have looked like a belt buckle? She thinks about the increased requests for Ibuprofen: Why so many headaches? He was sometimes irritable and crabby: But aren’t most teens? “This was not the first time he had done it,” she says.
Brandi remembers a time when she called Alex from his room for some help. She now believes that she interrupted him in the middle of it. “He came out… and he must have just begun getting that rush to his head because he seemed woozy and dazed. If I had known about this (the Choking Game) back then – even if I didn’t think he was doing it – I could have talked to him about it.”
FACTS OF THE CHOKING GAME (Taken from the DB Foundation, Inc.) The object of the ‘game’ is asphyxiation, to apply pressure restricting oxygen and/or blood flow to the brain. This is accomplished via several methods. Diminishing oxygen to the brain produces a sensation or ‘high’ and the beginning of permanent cell death. When the victim is rendered unconscious, the pressure is released and the secondary ‘high’ of the oxygen/blood rushing to the brain is achieved. If the victim is alone, there is no one to release the pressure upon unconsciousness and the victim’s own body weight continues to tighten the ligature usually resulting in death.
“We talked to Alex about drugs, sex, and alcohol. He didn’t take crazy risks. He was afraid of getting into trouble. He was more risky about being sneaky with things that wouldn’t hurt him, like playing video games and staying out past curfew,” Brandi adds.”
“We had an awesome family dinner. We were laughing and talking about an upcoming Halloween party. He was a funny kid, always making people laugh. He was a good student looking forward to studying Electrical at Oliver Wolcott Tech. He loved to fish and couldn’t wait to move to our new house on the lake.” As she talks, her tears are so heavy that they sometimes miss her face, landing directly on her sweatshirt or the floor. “Sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday, and in another sense it feels like it’s been forever since I’ve seen or heard my sweet Alex.”
METHODS (Taken from the DB Foundation, Inc.) Bear-hug Chest Compression (group), Palms to Chest Compression (group) , Choke-hold neck Compression (group), Hyperventilation combined with any of the previously mentioned (group), Palms to Carotid Neck Compression (group and solo), Hyperventilation with Thumb Blow (solo), Thumb Blow (solo), Ligature (solo).
Brandi has learned a lot about the “Choking Game” since that horrific night five months ago. She has heard from other kids in the area who have also “played” the “game” – some of them knew Alex – and they thank her for talking openly about his death. It has caused some of them to stop. She is sure that there are others in his peer groups who are also taking the same dangerous risks. “A lot of parents I’ve met online – who have lost children from the choking game – had children 13 or 14 (years-old). Many of the circumstances are eerily similar. Many of their death certificates are improperly recorded.”
“I love my son and I miss him so much. I can’t imagine anyone else having to go through this. I’ve met many parents who have lost kids. I belong to a group of a great bunch of mom’s who are unfortunately on the same journey. You don’t realize how many people are living and going through the pain of losing a child… until you are there. Don’t take things for granted. Take in every moment you can with your kids. Just talk to them. They don’t understand consequences. They need to be afraid. They don’t think anything is going to happen to them.”
CONSEQUENCES (Taken from the DB Foundation, Inc.) Unconsciousness can occur in a matter of seconds. Within three minutes of continued strangulation, basic functions such as memory, balance, and the central nervous system start to fail. Death occurs shortly after. Other consequences include bruises and concussions, broken bones, seizures, brain damage, memory loss, retinal hemorrhaging, and stroke.
Brandi hopes that other parents will have conversations with their children about the dangers of the Choking Game. She documents some of her thoughts about life without Alex on her Facebook page: meetings and discussions with other grieving parents; incidences of her one-year-old son kissing and holding pictures of his older brother; and remembrances of her ‘Sweet Angel.”
Brandi delays her tears, “I can picture Alex… saying, ‘Crap, what did I just do? Oh my God, what did I just do? Mom, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to do this. I should have listened to you when you told me to think before I do something.’”
“Do you know what I mean? I could ‘feel’ him saying that to me,” She continues, tears forming again, voice quivering, “‘I’m sorry Mom, I didn’t know.’”
“Your kids may already know about the game and could be talking about it. It’s too late for me, but not for you. I urge parents to educate themselves and know the signs. This is not a game and children need to know the risks. If it can happen to Alex, it can happen to them.”
The Internet has many resources for those wanting more information about the Choking Game. The following links are a good starting point. Please take the time to explore them.
Set up by families of Choking Game victims, G.A.S.P. is a global nonprofit campaign that fights the “game” through education.
The Choking Game: Games Adolescents Shouldn’t Play is G.A.S.P.’s short film that parents and children should watch together.
Operation: PARENTS Turn on the Lights – Choking Game is a video that is disturbing, informative, and shocking. The clips are pulled directly from the web and may be too graphic for minors. The final segment shows a teen explaining how the Choking Game is played.
The DB Foundation Inc, also provides valuable information.
My new home for Conversation Youth Sports (formerly A Sporting Dad’s View) is:
Besides youth sports, I’ll be writing about the little bits and pieces of life that are sometimes overlooked or quickly forgotten.
I hope that you’ll share my column with your friends and family.
Tags: Beatles, Billy Joel, Elton John, Music, Stevie Wonder, Sting, U2
Like every other person in the world, for my 40th birthday, I assembled a list of my 300 favorite songs.
Now, with only nine months until my 50th, it needs to be revamped and probably trimmed a bit. Just glancing at it today I can see 20 or so songs that have lost their magical powers over me.
I’ll give an example of a few songs that will be sent to the song heap: On Bended Knee, Don’t You Want Me, and One in a Million.
I’m always amazed how certain songs, after years of being twisted off the dial by us, can eventually jump onto our laps like an old blanket and seem to cuddle with our auditory senses uninvited. Sometimes we even ask them to stay. One such song for me is, Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads. I hated that song 10 – 20 - 25 years ago.
There are so many interesting trends within my list. One could probably write an indepth analysis of my personality based on it. My darker side is most definealty a product of those songs that have never made it to the radio.
This list is not to be argued with for the mere fact that it is mine. In the intro below, I explained a little about the process and which songs were eligible.
December 31, 2003
My 40th Birthday
While compiling this list of my All-time Favorite Songs, something became very apparent to me. Some of the music is just downright awful. Many of the songs are probably considered as poor examples of American contemporary music. As you will soon see, critical acclaim was not a prerequisite for making this list.
I began to realize that most of these songs are timeless to me because of the special places they take me whenever I hear them: 186 Surrey Drive and dancing around the living room with my mother, listening to Casey Kasem’s Countdown every New Year’s Eve, or on the way to Moose Meadow for a family camping trip. Still, others serve as markers along the twisting paths that have converged to this very point of my life.
Some of you might think that it is somewhat odd, marking important life events with music. But I know that I’m not alone in this practice. Perhaps some of your own memories occasionally rotate around the inside of your head while a scratchy 45 spins background music.
This list has taken me almost two years to compile and edit. It’s been expanded, deleted, revised, and tweaked over and over again. And yet its body captivates and intrigues me with every viewing.
Why did I choose three-hundred songs? Believe it or not, the list once weighed-in at about 350. Three-hundred became the magic number when the process of eliminating songs began to feel as though I was losing bits and pieces of my musical soul.
Of course this list, much like our own personalities, is always evolving and could inevitably take a slightly different form depending on any number of circumstances. Music is especially unique in its ability to be pleasing one moment and irritating the next.
The only criterion for making this list was that each song had to have been at least a blip on the popular music screen. I didn’t want a list of obscure or unrecognizable songs that only I knew or appreciated. That’s another project for another time. So, check out the list and see if any of my songs would be included with your all-time favorites.
Without further delay, here is the soundtrack of my life.
|I’m Not in Love||10 cc||1975|
|The One That You Love||Air Supply||1980|
|Sweat Dreams||Air Supply||1982|
|Undercover Angel||Alan O’Day||1977|
|Lonely Boy||Andrew Gold||1977|
|Sweet Love||Anita Baker||1986|
|Body & Soul||Anita Baker||1994|
|Only Time Will Tell||Asia||1982|
|Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head||B.J. Thomas||1969|
|How Come, How Long||Babyface & Stevie Wonder||1997|
|I Write The Songs||Barry Manilow||1975|
|This One’s For You||Barry Manilow||1976|
|Let It Be||Beatles||1970|
|The Long And Winding Road||Beatles||1970|
|Love So Right||Bee Gees||1976|
|Night Fever||Bee Gees||1978|
|Too Much Heaven||Bee Gees||1978|
|Stay The Night||Ben Orr||1986|
|Wind Beneath My Wings||Bette Midler||1989|
|She’s Always A Woman||Billy Joel||1977|
|With You I’m Born Again||Billy Preston & Syreeta||1980|
|In the Dark||Billy Squire||1981|
|When I Die||Blood, Sweat & Tears||1969|
|Billy Don’t Be a Hero||Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods||1974|
|Butterfly Kisses||Bob Carlisle||1997|
|Don’t Worry, Be Happy||Bobby McFarrin|
|I Can’t Make You Love Me||Bonnie Raitt||1991|
|On Bended Knee||Boyz II Men||1994|
|Love Is||Brian McKnight/Vanessa Williams||1993|
|The Way It Is||Bruce Hornsby||1986|
|Hungry Heart||Bruce Springsteen||1980|
|Kung-Fu Fighting||Carl Douglas||1974|
|Close To You||Carpenters||1970|
|Wild World||Cat Stevens||1971|
|Oh Very Young||Cat Stevens||1974|
|Through The Fire||Chaka Khan|
|Does Anybody Really Know What Time||Chicago||1970|
|Colour My World||Chicago||1971|
|Fool (If You Think It’s Over)||Chris Rea||1978|
|Time After Time||Cindi Lauper||1984|
|Where The Boys Are||Connie Francis||1961|
|Too Hot||Cool & the Gang||1980|
|Southern Cross||Crosby, Stills & Nash||1982|
|(I Just) Died In Your Arms||Cutting Crew||1987|
|Same Old Lang Syne||Dan Fogelberg||1981|
|Please Come To Boston||Dave Loggins||1974|
|We Just Disagree||Dave Mason||1977|
|You Light Up My Life||Debby Boone||1977|
|Desert Moon||Dennis DeYoung||1984|
|Missing You||Diana Ross||1985|
|Walk On By||Dionne Warwick||1964|
|Dirty Laundry||Don Henley||1982|
|Boys Of Summer||Don Henley||1985|
|Sunset Grill||Don Henley||1985|
|The Day The Music Died||Don McLean||1971|
|What A Beautiful World (IGY)||Donald Fagen||1982|
|Minute By Minute||Doobie Brothers||1979|
|A Little Bit More||Dr. Hook||1976|
|Reasons||Earth, Wind & Fire||1975|
|Fantasy||Earth, Wind & Fire||1977|
|After The Love Has Gone||Earth, Wind & Fire||1979|
|Let’s Groove||Earth, Wind & Fire||1981|
|Can’t Get It Out Of My Head||ELO||1975|
|Mr. Blue Sky||ELO||1977|
|Your Song||Elton John||1971|
|Goodbye Yellow Brick Road||Elton John||1973|
|Blue Eyes||Elton John||1982|
|Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)||Elton John||1982|
|I Believe In Love||Elton John||1995|
|In The Ghetto||Elvis||1969|
|After The Lovin’||Engelbert Humperdinck||1976|
|Love Is The Answer||England Dan & John Ford Coley||1979|
|Tears in Heaven||Eric Clapton|
|(Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep||Fifth Dimension||1972|
|Stand Or Fall||Fixx||1982|
|Hold Me||Fleetwood Mac||1982|
|Waiting For A Girl Like You||Foreigner||1981|
|Walk Like A Man||Four Seasons||1963|
|Rag Doll||Four Seasons||1964|
|It Was A Very Good Year||Frank Sinatra||1965|
|That’s Life||Frank Sinatra||1966|
|Sweetheart||Frankie & The Knockouts||1981|
|My Eyes Adored You||Frankie Valli||1975|
|I’ve Found Someone Of My Own||Free Movement||1971|
|Lonely Man On The Corner||Genesis|
|This Masquerade||George Benson||1976|
|Alone Again (Naturally)||Gilbert O’Sullivan||1972|
|Midnight Train to Georgia||Gladys Knight||1973|
|Neither One Of Us||Gladys Knight||1973|
|The Way We Were||Gladys Knight||1975|
|Cuts Both Ways||Gloria Estafan||1989|
|Just The Two Of Us||Grover Washington Jr.||1981|
|Sara Smile||Hall & Oates||1976|
|Adult Education||Hall & Oates||1984|
|She’s Gone||Hall & Oates||1976|
|Taxi Driver||Harry Chapin||1972|
|Cats In The Cradle||Harry Chapin||1974|
|You And Me Against The World||Helen Reddy||1974|
|Don’t You Want Me||Human League||1982|
|Centerfold||J. Giels Band||1981|
|I’ll Be There||Jackson Five||1970|
|Just Once||James Ingram||1981|
|One Hundred Ways||James Ingram||1982|
|Fire And Rain||James Taylor||1970|
|Thunder Island||Jay Ferguson||1977|
|Do What You Do||Jermaine Jackson||1985|
|Baker Street||Jerry Raferty||1978|
|Is She Really Going Out With Him||Joe Jackson||1979|
|Breakin’ Us In Two||Joe Jackson||1982|
|Life’s Been Good||Joe Walsh||1978|
|Starting Over||John Lennon||1980|
|Nobody Told Me||John Lennon||1984|
|Welcome Back||John Sebastian||1976|
|Just Another Day||John Secada||1992|
|I Ain’t Missing You||John Waite||1984|
|Chances Are||Johnny Mathis||1957|
|Wonderful! Wonderful!||Johnny Mathis||1957|
|Too Much, Too Little, Too Late||Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams||1978|
|Light My Fire||Jose Feliciano||1968|
|Who’s Crying Now||Journey||1981|
|World’s Apart (Seperate Ways)||Journey||1983|
|Carry On Wayward Son||Kansas||1977|
|Dust In The Wind||Kansas||1978|
|Constant Craving||kd lang||1992|
|Return To Pooh Corner||Kenny Loggins & Amy Grant||1994|
|She Believes in Me||Kenny Rogers||1979|
|Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer||Kenny Rogers & Kim Carnes||1980|
|I Was Made For Loving You||Kiss||1979|
|One In A Million||Larry Graham||1980|
|Stairway To Heaven||Led Zeppelin||1970|
|When I Need You||Leo Sayer||1977|
|Somewhere Out There||Linda Ronstadt & James Ingram||1987|
|All Night Long||Lionel Richie||1983|
|Happy Anniversary||Little River Band||1978|
|Reminicing||Little River Band||1978|
|What A Wonderful World||Louis Armstrong||1968|
|Superstar/Until You Come Back To Me||Luther Vandross||1983|
|Don’t Want To Be A Fool||Luther Vandross||1991|
|California Dreamin’||Mamas and The Papas||1966|
|Monday Monday||Mamas and The Papas||1966|
|Blinded By The Light||Manfred Mann||1977|
|Let’s Just Kiss and Say Goodbye||Manhattans||1976|
|Sexual Healing||Marvin Gaye|
|Morning After||Maureen McGovern||1973|
|Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad||Meatloaf||1978|
|Don’t Cry Out Loud||Melissa Manchester||1979|
|Who Can It Be Now||Men At Work||1982|
|Got To Be There||Michael Jackson||1971|
|Bluer Than Blue||Michael Johnson||1978|
|Keep Forgettin’||Michael McDonald||1982|
|Taken In||Mike + The Mechanics||1985|
|Lovin’ You||Minnie Ripperton||1975|
|Tuesday Afternoon||Moody Blues||1967|
|Nights In White Satin||Moody Blues||1972|
|Only The Lonely||Motels||1983|
|Broken Wings||Mr. Mister||1985|
|Southern Man||Neil Young||1970|
|Old Man||Neil Young||1972|
|Mr. Bojangles||Nitty Gritty Dirt Band||1971|
|Don’t Speak||No Doubt||1996|
|Use Ta Be My Little Girl||O’Jays||1978|
|Get Here||Oleta Adams||1991|
|The Night Chicago Died||Paper Lace||1974|
|Come To Me||Patti Austin & James Ingram||1983|
|Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey||Paul McCartney||1971|
|Band On The Run||Paul McCartney||1974|
|Let Em In||Paul McCartney||1976|
|Silly Love Songs||Paul McCartney||1976|
|Still Crazy||Paul Simon||1975|
|Can You Stop The Rain||Peabo Bryson||1991|
|Next Time I Fall in Love||Peter Cetera & Amy Grant||1986|
|Puff The Magic Dragon||Peter, Paul & Mary||1963|
|In The Air||Phil Collins||1981|
|Wish You Were Here||Pink Floyd||1975|
|King Of Pain||Police||1983|
|I’ll Stand By You||Pretenders||1994|
|Around The World In A Day||Prince||1985|
|Diamonds and Pearls||Prince||1992|
|Somebody To Love||Queen||1977|
|Another One Bites The Dust||Queen||1980|
|Short People||Randy Newman||1978|
|Just When I Needed You Most||Randy Vanwarmer||1979|
|Jack And Jill||Raydio||1978|
|Scar Tissue||Red Hot Chili Peppers||1999|
|Take Me All The Way||Red Hot Chili Peppers|
|If I Could||Regina Belle|
|Garden Party||Ricky Nelson||1972|
|Rock and Roll Heaven||Righteous Brothers||1974|
|Big Log||Robert Plant|
|Killing Me Softly||Roberta Flack||1973|
|The Closer I Get To You||Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway||1972|
|Where Is The Love?||Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway||1972|
|Maggie May||Rod Stewart||1971|
|Tonight’s The Night||Rod Stewart||1976|
|Young Turks||Rod Stewart||1981|
|The Last Farewell||Roger Wittaker|
|Emotional Rescue||Rolling Stones||1980|
|Waiting on a Friend||Rolling Stones||1982|
|Sympathy For The Devil||Rolling Stones|
|Ain’t Nobody||Rufus With Chaka Khan|
|Escape (The Pina Colada Song)||Rupert Holmes||1979|
|A Change is Gonna Come||Sam Cooke|
|I’ve Gotta Be Me||Sammy Davis Jr.||1969|
|Candy Man||Sammy Davis Jr.||1972|
|Never Gonna Let You Go||Sergio Mendez|
|Tainted Love||Soft Cell||1982|
|Could it be I’m Falling in Love||Spinners||1973|
|Afternoon Delight||Starland Vocal Band||1976|
|Dirty Work||Steely Dan||1972|
|Rikki Don’t Lose That Number||Steely Dan||1974|
|Deacon Blues||Steely Dan||1977|
|Oh, Sherrie||Steve Perry||1984|
|Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around||Stevie Nicks With Tom Petty||1981|
|Leather and Lace||Stevie Nicks/Don Henley||1981|
|Living For The City||Stevie Wonder||1973|
|Sir Duke||Stevie Wonder||1976|
|That Girl||Stevie Wonder||1982|
|These Three Words||Stevie Wonder||1991|
|If You Really Love Me||Stevie Wonder||1971|
|Fortress Around Your Heart||Sting||1985|
|You Are Everything||Stylistics||1971|
|You Make Me Feel Brand New||Stylistics||1974|
|Best of Times||Styx||1981|
|Come Sail Away||Styx|
|The Logical Song||Supertramp||1979|
|Seasons in the Sun||Terri Jacks||1974|
|Voices Carry||‘Til Tuesday||1985|
|Private Dancer||Tina Turner||1985|
|Jenny 867-5309||Tommy Tutone||1982|
|Tie A Yellow Ribbon||Tony Orlando & Dawn||1973|
|Hold The Line||Toto||1978|
|I Won’t Hold You Back||Toto||1983|
|Drops Of Jupiter||Train||2001|
|Don’t Want To Wait Anymore||Tubes|
|New Year’s Day||U2||1983|
|Sunday Bloody Sunday||U2||1983|
|In The Name Of Love||U2||1984|
|Greatest Love Of All||Whitney Houston||1986|
|Always On My Mind||Willie Nelson||1982|
|Owner of a Lonely Heart||Yes||1983|
|Born to Run||Bruce Springsteen|
Tags: A Sporting Dad's View, Coffee, Ron Goralski
I was doing Joe’s laundry. He’s on the fourth floor. The laundry room is located on the first floor. It was my first time. Not my first time doing laundry – just my first time doing Joe’s laundry.
I was already jacked on caffeine from my own water bottle full of coffee (I put my coffee in a water bottle when I’m in motion) and then the cup that he had forced me to get while picking up his breakfast.
Yeah, I was jItTeRy – just a bit.
The laundry room was huge – lots of room to place a basket, jug of laundry soap, and small box of dryer sheets while the machines did their washing and drying. I put the jug and the box inside the small round basket and placed them on the long table-shelf towards the back of the room.
Joe was still on his way down. We were on our way to Dunkin Donuts because Joe likes to watch the people there. It didn’t take me long to figure out that it was mostly the female people he enjoyed watching. I was taught never to argue with my elders so I watched them as well.
Joe wanted to get me another cup of coffee. He wanted me to have a large one. So we drank our coffees and we watched people. I watched all of them – both sexes – I swear I did. I used the bathroom four times in between. Damn you peer pressure.
For a 76-year-old with thick lenses, Joe could follow the movement of a body for a good quarter-mile before it disappeared into a building. He was damn good.
Finally it was time to get back to the laundry. It was a short ride and a short walk to the elevator. Joe was tired out though. He sat on a bench on the first floor while I went to get the laundry.
Even before opening the laundry room door I could see that the basket, and the jug, and the little box where no longer on the table-shelf. Being wasted on caffeine and on my way to losing my mind as it is, I figured maybe – just maybe I’d taken them back up.
First I looked inside every recycling bin in the room – about six of them. I checked the trash as well because old people can hold grudges. Maybe Joe had cut one of them off on the way to a washer one morning. Maybe that person had waited for months until a new guy slipped up and left the goods out in the open. It happens more than you’d think.
I took his laundry out, folded it, and headed out to find him. He was gone. Jesus, I was hoping they hadn’t kidnapped him as well. Old people have gangs too. And they might not remember to take their meds but they’ll remember being disrespected in a laundry room.
So he was either gagged and bound in the back of a van on the way to Trenton or he was waiting for me up to the fourth floor.
The elevator door opened and a woman with a walker cut me off to get the spot near the buttons. I like pushing the buttons too but have become more and more aware of the bacteria that they carry so I didn’t throw any elbows.
But on the little bench of her walker was a round basket. It was filled with a jug of laundry soap and a small box of dryer sheets. Inside the basket was also her change purse and a plastic cup of water.
I said, “I must be losing my mind. I went to do laundry and now my basket, my jug of laundry soap, and box of dryer sheets are missing.” And I looked down at her basket. My first instinct was to kick the walker out from under her and grab Joe’s things. But she was from the 3rd floor. Her gang of stealing thugs could have been waiting for her.
She looked at me and said in her Italian accent, “Wella. I tella everybody that the backa shelfa is fora anybody to take-ah. Ita meansa thata you do not want it.”
“Oh, I said,” thinking that I could probably fight off a gang of old people if she wanted to get tough about it. “But I didn’t know about that rule. I’m new here. I didn’t see a sign. Why is there not a sign?”
She continued, “Ima very sorry. Everyone knowsa the rulesa here.”
“You need a sign or something,” I said as the door opened at the 3rd floor. There was nobody in sight. She was working alone. Then she gave in, “Ima sorry. Here you are-ah. Justa remember the rules-ah.
She took her water and purse and pushed her walker out of the door.
Joe was sitting on the bench in front of me as the door opened again on the 4th floor. I plopped the basket down next to him – flustered – sweating caffeine.
“Joe, you will not believe this story.” I explained it to him. About the basket, the table-shelf, and the old lady with the walker.
“Ohhh yeahhhh. Sure,” Joe said. “I’ve gotten some great stuff off that table. I got some cans of soup, a radio, and some nice clothes. It’s the rule. If you don’t want something you put it on the table for anyone else to take.”
“But a sign,” I said. “There is no sign. Why is there not a sign? And besides, it was a laundry basket, in a laundry room. It was filled with laundry equipment. The dryer was still running.”
Joe laughed, “I should have told you about the rule. And I am going to go down there later and ask to have a sign put up.”
So, just a warning to the uninitiated: Beware the rules of the common areas.
Tags: Coffee, Dementia, World War
While just as fascinating as it is complicated – the human body was designed to kill us and it eventually will.
How else to explain a pump that can stop at any moment – with only a slim chance of being restarted? Or the mind that flits so far astay it can never find its way back?
How else to explain a skull not thick enough to survive a windshield or a mind not strong enough to will it away from a drink before that ride?
And how else to explain an oxygen-rich river on the verge of bursting its weak vessel wall – or a mutant cell hiding and then exploding into the body like a poisonous grenade?
Yet sometimes the body and mind will take its owner on a long journey – far away from birth. Sometimes luck, or God, or a hundred other dips and turns lead it past ninety – and lead it well.
Sal’s body and mind has led him past his 94th birthday.
There’s been some luck involved, like making it out of a World War alive. His body and his mind held up famously through it all. He is a bit disappointed that it took his country and his state so long to thank him with a small ceremony, certificate, and picture with a politician.
He wishes it had been sooner so that those who weren’t lucky enough to make it into their late-80’s could have also enjoyed the extra attention. But it’s a lovely picture because even at this stage of his life, Sal has a smile that flickers in your mind for the entire day.
His wife isn’t quite as lucky as Sal though. He kept her at home for as long as possible. He finally had to give her up to a place that could tend to her day and night. Alzheimer’s can be as sneaky as a gray hair – sparse at first – even unnoticeable until one morning the whole cluster gangs up on you and changes the view you were once used to.
Sal can do almost everything on his own although he is a bit unsteady and has only been out of the hospital one full weekend after six weeks of treatment for a heart issue. He was lucky at the time of the episode that he was near his phone.
I was lucky on this bright Monday morning when Sal pulled an eighty-year-old Universal coffee percolator from the back of the counter. His mother-in-law once worked at the New Britain company that made them. He scoffed at the sight of the new Keureg that sparkled fancy and new across the counter. We were going to have a real man’s cup of coffee.
Sal is an Italian guy who grew up in a Polish neighborhood. He learned early on that everyone is basically the same inside so he doesn’t care much about the differences on the outside. He said the Japanese soldiers, all those years before, weren’t much different from him or his buddies. They were following orders. The enemy wanted to be back with family – safe and sound just as they did.
He doesn’t think a two-party political system will ever solve our problems – too much gridlock. He doesn’t need a cell phone or a computer either. He’s gotten this far without them. The house is equipped with Wi-Fi for his son and daughter-in-law but she’s also a jigsaw puzzle fanatic and he seems to appreciate the balance between high-tech and no-tech.
Sal cannot wait until I’m back to see him again. I’m anxious for my return visit as well. We were both in need of each other at exactly the same time. And somehow we were matched-up together. Just lucky I guess.