Saturday, October 30, 2010
Last time I was at the Soldiers Home, I journeyed into a wondrous land of pure Halloween . Today, I crossed into the Twilight Zone.
When I last saw Mike, he was dopey and droopy, then down, then out. Sometime in the last 48 hours, aliens obviously abducted that Mike and replaced him with Chatty Cathy.
Today Mike was in his scooter, jacketed up, blanketed up and decidedly happied up. I brought him new pictures of my son for his bulletin board, and Mike was engaged and thrilled. I selfishly was kind of hoping Mike would want to hang out in his room and watch the Iowa game, but he had places to go and things to do. I happily went along—but in the back of my mind, I kept thinking: What just happened?
Mike talked and talked, all the way over, and as we wound our way through Roosevelt Barracks.
I mentioned I needed to get our dog a present for his 13th birthday, and Mike launched into an animated story. I had heard it before, but I was not about to shut him down.
On the morning of his first anniversary, Mike asked his wife to pick up a bone from the meat market for their dog’s birthday. While Mike was at work, his sister-in-law called to warn him he was in big trouble. He had remembered Dondi the dog’s birthday, but not his own anniversary. When Mike got home, he pulled out the charm (but not a present). “Happy Anniversary,” he told his wife. She told him: “You forgot to finish that sentence. Happy Anniversary, you bastard.”
“She never swore,” Mike told me, “so that’s how mad she was.” But she did eventually laugh. And Mike did now, too.
We made our way outside. A resident asked Mike, “Is that your daughter?” and Mike said I was. I looked at him kind of funny, and he went back and set the record straight. “She’s just a good friend,” he told the resident. To me, he said, “Great. Now he’s going to be pissed off at me for a month.”
I still had no idea what was going on with Mike. Even if aliens hadn’t replaced him, something equally mysterious had occurred.
Then we were at the garage, behind a car, and it hit me. Half a second later, Mike lit a cigarette. I bit my tongue. Mike said, “You should tell me to put this out.” I said, “I’m not saying a word. But now I get why you feel so much better.”
We strolled around quite a while longer, Mike chatting, me smiling and shaking my head at the same time. What an awesome force addiction is. Mike had tried to quit smoking to improve his health, but in the end those deadly cigarettes brought Mike back from the brink.