26 January 2011


He's been telling me for a year now that I care about him more than he does. I have to admit, now, that it's true. That is why, this afternoon, I changed his socks.

Taking a shower today (and any day) is a big deal. Going from being dry and clothed to being wet and bare is a drastic change, and it's hard to handle. It takes a willingness to be vulnerable, to be alone, to confront yourself. Sometimes, it's a painful process, but it's what we do. It's what we all have to do in this world, once in a while. So he did it today, but he couldn't take off his socks.

He walked from the shower, soaking his footprints into the carpet on the way to my office. He has been wearing those three pairs of socks for three months.

"These socks are just fine."

"They're wet. They're going to freeze when you go outside."

"I've been doing it this way all along."

"You'll get frostbite."

"If I take off my socks, my feet will fall apart."

"No, your feet will fall apart if you don't take off your socks."

"I'm not changing them."

And now, because he fears the change of his socks more than he fears frostbite, and resists exposing his feet more than my disapproval, he embarks on a valiant attempt at a filibuster, going on and on about something totally unrelated. And I wait. And I wait.

And he pauses, thinking.

"Just tell me when it's my turn."

And he continues. And I wait.
And now he stops.

And I hold up three pairs of new, thick, black socks. And I say,
"Dean, are you going to do this, or am I?"

He starts to talk again, and chews relentlessly on a handful of cough drops, because he can't bear to acknowledge what he is about to expose. But he moves back in his chair, and lifts his feet.

And one by one, I peel off his tattered, soaking, salt-stained socks.

19 January 2011

And Sew On: The luxury, the importance, and the impact of more time.

I do not have a set schedule or time limit for the visits I have during the day. The amount of time I spend with each individual depends on the needs they present. I have the luxury of determining how I spend the six hours that my office is open for business, and though I am held closely accountable by my co-workers (and those still waiting outside of my door), I see the value in taking extra time from time to time to do some unique activities. Like sewing.

Miss Nettie came in because she needed new boots, because the fabric on hers had ripped up the side. We have very few winter boots available to give out, so I decided it was time to take out the sewing kit. Yes, of course I keep a sewing kit in my office.

Miss Nettie and I each took a needle, some thread, and a boot, and got to work. She had not sewn in years. We talked about all of those non-sewing years, all of the threadless thoughts that occupied her mind. We talked about those boots, their strengths and weaknesses, how they traveled with her through the highs and lows of her days. We brough the seams together with only minor injuries (nothing two band-aids couldn't fix), and Miss Nettie walked away with some pride in those boots, and some more energy in her step.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have 10 minutes to take with Miss Nettie, but I stand by those 10 minutes, and I'll defend them to my co-workers, and those still waiting outside my door.

12 January 2011

2 Vitamins, 2 Cough Drops, 2 Starlite Peppermints

When Jerry walks in, we lay them all in two lines:

2 Vitamins, for preventative health
2 Cough Drops, for sinus health
2 Starlite Peppermints, for breath

Capsule Capsule, Paper Wrapper Paper Wrapper, Cellophane Cellophane

If there's anyone who needs vitamins, it's Jerry. He eats ketchup and tarter sauce. He eats really really thick hot chocolate. He eats nothing. He eats french fries mixed with really really thick hot chocolate. He eats nothing. He needs some minerals. Though he doesn't seem to get sick nearly as much as I do.

If there's anyone who needs vitamins, it's me. I get what Jerry calls the Rhino Virus at least once a month, making me the second most prominent destroyer of Kleenex-producing trees in the Northern Hemisphere. I can't be bothered with vitamins. But Jerry called me a hypocrite, so we decided to keep each other accountable. We take our vitamins in unison, keeping eye contact to make sure neither of us cheats.

It's so much easier to take vitamins with Jerry. There's this strange, other-dimensional connection made when we swallow One-A-Days in unison, like the feeling you get when you're pushing a car out of a snowbank with someone that you don't even know that well--when you are both working really hard toward something great.

We've found common ground in our lack of motivation, and now, in our mineral-rich bloodstreams.

Sometimes, Jerry stays to talk while we administer our cough drops and suffer through our breath medication, but today, Jerry takes them for the road. He's got business today, but knew he'd be worthless without his vitamins.