You could have a big dipper   

Overheard In the Memory Care Unit of Northwoods Retirement Village by Paul Lewellan



Nancy and Carmen the Aide

“Hello.”

“Nancy. It’s time for lunch.”

“Hello.”

“You fell asleep in the chair watching Bewitched. ”

“Hello.”

“Would you like something to eat? It’s been a long time since breakfast.”

“Hello.”

“Let me help you find your seat at the table. There’s corned beef and cabbage, or you could have a hamburger.”

“Hello.”

“If you’re not hungry, we could start with dessert. There’s pie.”

“Hello.”

“Peach or apple?”

“Hello.”

“Apple it is. Have a seat next to Pauline, and I’ll grab a fork.”

Katherine and Irene Discuss the Weather

“The high is supposed to be 32 degrees with a chance of flurries. And tomorrow there’s a 90 percent chance of snow.”

“I remember back in 1942, Lily Krochek, Ester Bauer, and I went up on the train to Minneapolis. It was a bright sunny day and so we wore light coats and no gloves.”

“I don’t go anywhere without my mittens.”

“It wasn’t long after we arrived and started our shopping when the wind came up and the first clouds appeared. Then the snow started. By mid-afternoon it was snowing an inch an hour.”

“Terry Swails the weatherman on Channel six says that it’s been unseasonably warm.”

“There weren’t weather satellites back then or Dopler radar. No one knew the storm was coming. There were no warnings.”

“Flurries today.”

“Hunters who went out at dawn in mild weather got caught in the woods far from home. They died from exposure before they could return to their cars.”

“Spring is around the corner, but it isn’t here yet.”

My girlfriends and I slept on tables in the ballroom of a downtown hotel because there were no rooms left, and we had no money. Even the trains were snowed in.”

“I don’t go anywhere without my mittens.”


Pauline Talks to the Social Worker About Home

“I want to go back to Michigan.”

“I’ve never been to Michigan. Why don’t you tell me about it?”

“I was born there.”

“Where in Michigan?”

“It’s a beautiful place.”

“Where in Michigan were you born?”

“Everyone is friendly there. Not like here.”

“You must miss it–”

“My daughter and her husband said they’d come and get me when they had time, but I want to go now.”

“You could always take a bus. Busses go everywhere.”

“Busses go too many places. I want to go to Michigan.”

“If you save up your money, you could fly.”

“Oh, I have the money. I could go now.”

“Where would you fly to in Michigan?”

“Where I was born….”

“What city is that?”

“Everyone is friendly there. Not like here.”


Darlene Helps Rebecca Search for God

“Dear God, please help me.”

“….”

“Dear God, please help me.”

“….”

“Dear God, please help me.”

“All right. All right. I’ll help you. What do you want?”

“I want to die.”

“Well, good luck with that.”

“But not tonight.”

“Tonight is as good as any night.”

“Dear God, please help me.”

“I’m not God.”

“Dear God, please help me.”

“I’ve told you, I’m not God.”

“Can someone please help me.”

“….”

“Dear God, please help me.”

“I can’t.”

“Can you help me?’

“No. I can’t even help myself.”


Henry and Katherine Discuss Their First Jobs

“Detasseling. That was my first job. Up by 4:30 every morning to catch the 5:30 crew bus, trying to beat the mid-day heat. It would be 50 degrees and damp when we started at 6:00. Ninety degrees by the time we ended. Sometimes hotter. Even in the heat we wore long-sleeved shirts to protect from the sharp leaves. Corn cuts were like paper cuts, only deeper. The salt sweat would get into the wounds. And I’d wear a hat, gloves, and some years a mosquito net. Hot work.”

“For a few weeks every summer I picked raspberries. You might get a pint from one bush. One year the temp got to 102 degrees. We picked rows in pairs. There was a pump at the end of the row. You’d pump your hat full of water, then put in on your head, water and all. The farmer would let us come in during the hottest afternoon hours.”

“I made good money detasseling, but the work never lasted more than three or four weeks. Then I’d go back to working my other summer job, working my mother’s produce stand. I didn’t make as much money, but I got to meet people.”

“Picking raspberries I made $14 a week, plus room and board. That was good money. Twelve kids stayed at the same farm every year. I made friends, boys and girls.”

“Girls on the detasseling crew didn’t smell so good by the end of the shift. The ones who came to our fruit stand smelled like lavender. One girl–Caroline–came to the stand almost every day. She smelled like rose water. I married her.”


Paul Lewellan lives and gardens in Davenport, Iowa, on the banks of the Mississippi River. When the COVID numbers spike, he shelters in place with his wife Pamela, his Shi Tzu Mannie, and their ginger tabby Sunny. He’s recently had work published in The October Hill, Sock Drawer, Erozone, and White Wall Review.

63 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All