Dr.Phil has nothing on these seniors
Beaming with the thrill of anticipation and the delicious ache to hurry the remaining hours along, I kept glancing at the Benrus wall clock in the school auditorium. I smiled. I inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly. The emotional impact on the both of us would be something I could only imagine. In just a few more hours, I would see Krissy, my daughter who I haven’t seen in what seems to have been eons. The noontime sunshine had past and tumbling its way west. However, its journey was not fast enough for me. Working with the St. Brendon’s of Riverside Senior Citizens Voluntary Committee, I had offered my truck and my personal services to move several tables where they could be aesthetically arranged for their annual Christmas Bazaar in the school auditorium.
Mrs. Osgood, had deemed herself the table coordinator. She was engaged and lost in conversation which was supplemented with hand gestures intended for Mrs. Wallace who, at best, vaguely understood verbal reminders of “Don’t forget to put Poligrip on your dentures before you leave the house.”
As her efforts seemed futile, Mrs. Osgood shook her head in dismay and directed her attention to Ms. Auger who appeared by her facial expressions, to be quite puzzled about why she rose from the comfort of her bed this morning. The results of Mrs. Osgood’s instructions to her were still in need of some corrective assistance.
“Charles, would you please just place that table over there on an angle so if someone has to go around they won’t trip over the electrical wires?” Mrs. Osgood asked with a wounded look. “I would have asked Mr. Henry to move it, but you know how he gets. Once he begins talking to someone else, we would never get any work done. I’ll just let him continue to do whatever he is doing over there. He does better working alone you know,” she nodded. “The rest of the committee should be here soon,” she added looking at the wall clock. “I bet they stopped off at Rite Aid or CVS. One of them always has a prescription that has to be picked up.And it's a sure bet one of them has a hundred questions to ask the pharmacist as well.”
“No problem.” I chuckled and placed the table to her satisfaction. “I’ll give them a hand with anything that needs to be brought in before I leave.”
As I unloaded the last table from my truck, the remaining cadre of octogenarians arrived. We exchanged pleasantries as they exited their conveyance and although they carried armfuls of decorations, each seemed pleasantly lost in a group conversation that went from the preparation of chateaubriand to the decision of a relative to be receiving upcoming Botox injections.
The authoritative voice of Ms Osgood boomed throughout the auditorium once again that she would like everyone’s attention. She raked her fingers through her hair before making her announcement that she wanted to thank me in front of everyone for my efforts.
“By the way, everyone, just to let you all know, Charles is meeting his daughter tonight at a nearby restaurant who he hasn’t seen in over thirty years so I’m sure I speak for all of us here that we wish you all the best and offer our congratulations.”
I felt my face flush momentarily for a life littered with mistakes of the past; Hopefully a beginning of a new chapter in our lives would now be authored. I could just visually picture warmly embracing one another later today and that was the best feeling in the world.
Mr. Henry was the first to voice a suggestion. "Well, what you do here now Chuck, is go down to Ocean State Job Lot and buy one of those big stuffed Teddy Bears for her. When she walks in and sees you, Bingo, you whip the thing out from behind your back like a giant snake.”
“Oh My God! You’ll frighten the poor dear right outta her skin you do that! Don’t be silly. The girl is not a baby anymore. You’ll embarrass her giving her a stuffed animal,” said Mrs. Calderon clicking her tongue in annoyance. “I think if you give her some flowers like apricot roses or a corsage she’d really like that.”
“He’s not taking her to the Junior Prom, Gladys. And what if she’s got an allergy to flowers? You know the pollen thing? Remember Blanche broke out in those nasty itchy hives and rash all over after getting flowers for Valentine’s Day from her son.” Mrs. Thomas joined in. I took one small step toward the exit door hoping no one noticed.. “No, what you do now Chuck is go to Shaw’s Market and get about 7 or 8 of those colorful helium balloons. Everyone loves balloons,” offered Mrs.Thomas.
"He’s not taking her to a circus, Eleanor. For crying out loud. He’ll look like Bozo the Clown carrying balloons into a restaurant. Where the heck are they gonna put the balloons as they sit down to eat then?" countered Mr.Henry
"No, No, No. First of all you gotta make a good impression on her. Tell her you know somone like the Pope or someone else real important, said Mr. Calvin off handedly." Jacques Cousteau, that French guy who explores the oceans even. Use him like as a character reference," said Mr. Calvin.
"Oh for crying out loud! He's not applying for part time job and submitting a bogus resume for his daughter to decide if he's the right candidate for a position in her life," said Mrs. Remy taping the final strands of gold garland to the main table.
“Don’t pay them any attention, Charles,” offered Mrs. Osgood taking hold of my arm and drawing me back closer to her. “What you do now is go home and make her some pecan brownies or even some sugar cookies with those little M&M’s on them.”
“Oh, for the love of Pete! He’s meeting her at a restaurant. He can’t be bringing in homemade food into a restaurant. And what if she’s on a strict diet and can’t eat them? He hasn't seen her in thirty years. Maybe she has a medical condition you know. What is she “gonna” think of sugar cookies with M&M;’s on it?” asked Mr. Henry placing his hands on his hips.
"Its a tiny cookie.Mr. Henry!" It is not as if he is bringing her a big 6 layered lasagna,” corrected Mrs. Osgood. "Do you think maybe she’d be impressed if brought her a tofu platter assortment or maybe you think some bean dip and Dorritos would be better instead"?
“Who is making making lasagna?" asked Mr. Wallace. " I love Italian food but I have to take an antacid pill 30 minutes before I eat.”.
“Did someone bring in Bean Dip and Doritos”? Mrs. Auger asked.
“He doesn’t have time enough to make big lasagna if he’s meeting her in a few hours. And lasagna is better warmed over anyway. She’d have to take it home. Tofu is supposed to be good for you although I never had it.”
I held my breath and took two larger steps toward the exit as the group circled closer together and the discussion debate became more intense each voicing opinions that contradicted the previous suggestion.
“How about a nice pendant watch with Pumpkin engraved on it?” suggested Mrs. Auger? “I always liked the nickname Pumpkin for a girl.”
“Pumpkin?” “That’s no good. A Pumpkin isn’t cute. They grow crookedly and are odd shaped, large and deformed. There is nothing cute and warm and cuddly about a pumpkin."
I held my breath and was halfway to the escape exit. The noise from my footsteps across the gymnasium floor seemed like tiny bombs echoing throughout the building. I crossed my fingers I wouldn’t be noticed. I quickened my gait as fast as I dared to make good my escape.
“I know what to have for her!” exclaimed Mrs. Dubois raising her hand in complete satisfaction. “Get her a collection edition of CD tapes. Like The complete unabridged unedited TV seasons of The Beverly Hillbillies or Gilligan’s Island!”
“Or even the Greatest hits on a CD of Donna Fargo or Debbie Boone!” someone shouted in triumph.
I closed my eyes tightly had placed both hand on the push bar of the exit door. I dared not look back at the wagon train circling around Mrs Osgood agreeeing conclusively the appropriate course of my action. Gently, but firmly I pushed down as to not make any further unnecessary noise. I breathed a sigh of relief as I opened the door. The pulsating rays of sunshine welcomed my escape. The cheetah may be the fastest animal on earth but this afternoon I would have given that particular animal a close race.