Sunday, January 6, 2008

Opal Mountain

One of the first dogs my best friend Starr Ann (hi, Starr Ann) and I took in when we got to Kentucky was a little terrier mix with nursing home certification. Billie was a magical girl who could bring a smile to the most troubled face. Anyway, it was because of Billie's vocation that Starr Ann and I got involved with the Creative Rest and Play Home for Seniors (CRAP HS). And that's how we met Opal Mountain.

This morning on our way to pick up Opal, I said to Starr Ann, "Do you ever think maybe we should bring Opal to the ranch more than just once a month?"

Starr Ann just said, "Ten Second Rule."

"Right." See? Since the nuns raised Starr Ann and me Catholic, we sometimes have to remind each other that guilt is only useful for about ten seconds. That's how long it should take to decide what's causing it, whether or not it requires a change of course, and then dismiss it. Anyway, we give Opal what we can, and we know it.

When we got there, Starr Ann went directly to Opal's room and I went to the main desk to show our papers and sign her out. When I got finished and joined them in the room, Starr Ann already had Opal bundled up for the trip to Happy Hands Ranch, and they were chuckling together about something.

Soon as I swung through the doorway, Opal stopped laughing, her eyes got real wide, and she pointed her finger at me. Then she shrieked, "That's the bitch that stole my purse!"

Dang. It was going to be a stolen purse day with Opal. Now, Opal loves Starr Ann like nothing you ever saw. I mean, no matter how far afield Opal's mind is wandering, her Starr Ann love stays right in place. I'm a different story. Opal does love me, but there are times when she doesn't quite recognize that she does. Anyway, on days like today, I'm a purse snatcher, and nothing on the Goddess's Earth is about to change Opal's mind. So we don't even try.

We got Opal all snugged down in the little buggy we bought just for bringing her home, and set out for the ranch. I drove, because last time I tried to sit in the back with Opal on a purse snatcher day, she all of a sudden had one of her moments and just about kicked me right out of the moving buggy. Nowadays, Starr Ann always rides in back.

It's warm here today, sixty degrees in the middle of January, and Opal loves riding so much, I took the long way. By the time we were home and situated in the living room, Opal had asked about fifty times for her White Russian. Opal loves her some kahlua, and White Russians are her favorite drink.

Now, part of the CRAP HS paperwork we have to sign when we pick up Opal says we won't give her any alcohol. Starr Ann says that's merely a technicality that CRAP HS has to put down for liability purposes, and since we don't live our lives in liability's shadow, we don't have to worry about that. I'm fine with it. And Opal is more than fine with it. Besides, she's 88 and not on any medication except her Metamucil, so what's it going to hurt? Plus, we make her White Russians with Ensure, and Opal can use the calories. If you look at it a certain way, Opal just about needs her White Russians.

Anyway, as I came in carrying her first drink, Opal let out one of those whoops that feels like an icepick through the temple and hollered, "That's the bitch that stole my purse!" Dang, when am I ever going to get used to that? I spilled sticky White Russian all over me and the floor.

The whole day long, Starr Ann stayed cuddled up on one end of the couch, with Opal on the other, laughing and telling stories. Most of the time, I was allowed to be in there with them, since Starr Ann kept telling her I was harmless and Opal believes, at least for a few seconds, anything that comes out of Starr Ann's mouth.

Like always, we ate supper early and started out for CRAP HS in time to get back before dark. We got Opal's teeth put up, and tucked her in bed just in time. She was snoring real loud as we tiptoed from her room. Her favorite aide stopped to talk a minute on our way out, and told us again how much Opal's attitude has improved since last year, when we got permission from her family for these visits.

Here at home later, we were raiding the kitchen for leftovers and Starr Ann said, real serious, "Why can't you leave your hands off that purse?"

I said, "That's it!" and wheeled around, trying to pin Starr Ann's arms.

But she was ready for me and managed to get a slight advantage, then got lucky enough to reach my tickle spot. Dang!

If there's anybody out there who really believes torture is any way to extract legitimate information, all I've got to say is before Starr Ann was done, I not only admitted to stealing Opal's purse, but confessed to a string of other snatchings over the years.