We’ve all heard the urban legends of men refusing to stop and ask directions, preferring instead to drive around all day in hopes of happening upon their destination. In fact, neither gender likes to think it is lost; it’s all just fear-mongering -along with sex, the problem actually disappears with age: even if they let you out, it’s hard to get lost in a walker. And anyway, it is the days that cause us trouble.
Not the names, of course –there are only, what, seven of them and they each end in ‘day’ so they’re pretty easy to remember. No, it’s just that they’re all homozygotes and dress so similarly, even their mother would be hard pressed to identify them. I used to be a whiz at days –even before iPhones or those watches with the answer written in tiny letters whenever you press the correct knob twice in a row. Sundays were especially easy for me: they always followed Hockey Night in Canada. And on Mondays there were usually people in the office… Long weekends were a problem, though, I have to admit.
But once I retired, things just sort of wandered out of order. Because I wasn’t going in to work, I realized I couldn’t even decide which socks to put on (I always used to save the clean ones for the office in case I was in an accident, and had to undress in the Emergency Department, or something). Rituals that had hitherto seemed day-bound and important, vanished along with the morning commute. Driving expletives slipped from my vocabulary leaving only pap to suffice for those rare occasions when I was honked at for walking on the road on my way to the store.
I am currently working on a system, though, and I thought I would try it out on my friends when I met them for coffee. Unfortunately, what with their medical appointments, physiotherapy bookings, and dietary restrictions, our visits were as yet unpredictable. Sometimes the excuse was that they were fasting for a test, or waiting for their refurbished dentures; sometimes they were dizzy on their new pills, or their driver’s licence had been confiscated –there was always something!
Eventually, though, I managed to hammer out a sort of tradition with those that survived and were still allowed out on their own. I suggested we avoid weekends because there are never any tables -same with Fridays for some reason. And because there always seemed to be some long-weekend or other that none of us could name, let alone predict, I suggested we nail down Wednesdays. Except for the occasional Christmas and New Years stuff, Wednesdays are generally free.
Of course, therein lies the original problem, doesn’t it? How do those of us without partners, find Wednesday in the rustle of days on either side? I suppose some of the lucky ones have those pill-reminder boxes that are labelled with the days of the week, but the rest of us are still left guessing about the socks.
I suspect I’m making these meetings sound like weekly conventions, but mildew -having whittled down the number left after eliminating those confined to bed, on chemo, or institutionalized- left us only three… and one of them sometimes had ‘spells’ after which his wife claimed he couldn’t speak for days.
George, however, seemed as healthy as me, and only rarely forgot to show. He became the obvious –and only- target for my system.
“George,” I said, as soon as he’d sat down and placed his wobbly coffee safely on the table. “We’ve got to find a bullet-proof way to identify Wednesdays in the otherwise endless string of days.”
He looked at me for a moment, unsure whether I was making fun of him or not. “Wednesday comes every week,” he finally said, having thought it over carefully. “They always fit right in the middle of the pack.”
“Then why did you forget to come last Wednesday?”
George shrugged and dressed his face in his best wry smile. “I was here; where were you?”
“That’s what I mean, George. We need to agree on what day is actually Wednesday and which one is just pretending, don’t you think?”
I could see the wheels turning furiously behind his furrowed brow as he tried to pick the logic apart. It was clear that at least one of us had counted wrong and he couldn’t convince himself that it was him. “They all kind of look the same when you wake up, don’t they?” he finally conceded so I wouldn’t lose face in front of him.
“Exactly my point, George. Fish in a bowl, right?” He nodded, but warily, in case I was trying to trap him into taking the blame for last Wednesday. “So I’ve got an idea…”
One eyebrow stretched lazily and he blinked –curiously I thought. “I’m listening…”
“Well…” I stretched it out for effect. “We both live nearby, right?” He nodded. “And if it’s Wednesday, you’ll be here, right?” He nodded again, but with more emphasis this time. “So… if I walk past and you’re here, I’ll know it’s Wednesday…” I knighted him briefly with my eyes. “And if you walk by and see me here…”
George is a smart man –he got it immediately and smiled. The logic was irrefutable. And it was win-win. “We’ll always, know,” he mumbled with admiration.
Yup, we’ll always know, I thought, proud of my idea. Even when we’re in cognitive decline, Wednesdays will still stand out like pills on the counter…