Monday, June 29, 2009

Jerry McB & Me

Jerry is an old high school friend.

The first time I saw Jerry after many years was at the post office in about 1988. He was the customer and I was the window clerk. Whatever transaction he made he wrote a check. I recognized the name and did a double take on him. It was Jerry alright. He aged as we all had but still probably considered good looking. He recognized me too – after I told him. We had a nice quick catching up chat. After all, there were people in line behind him.

Jerry was about two or three years younger than me. When I was a sophomore in high school and he came in as a freshmen the female students of all grades swooned. Seniors girls were flirting with him and hinting to him for a date. He was that good looking.

He was also a good high school athletic. He was humbled, witty, and probably was something of a hell raiser – that is probably how I got to know him.

I remember in high school he had a nice cut-down T-Bird… I think it was red or maybe white. I remember one time on a curvy road near Allatoona Lake he slid on some gravel and turned over.

It has been proven many times that good looking people get preferential treatment and eye-sores like me generally get ignored (how else do you think I became invisible?).
So, I am sure through his life Jerry has enjoyed the benefits of preferential treatment because of his looks. But, as humble and appreciative as he is, I don’t think he expected it.

The next time I saw Jerry after the post office was the past New Year’s Eve at the Strand Theater after the Billy Joe Royal Concert. He was in a wheel chair. I spoke to him and he spoke back and smiled real big, but I realized his speech was limited.

I found out then by that Jerry had a series of strokes and now resided in a rest home.

The next time I saw Jerry was at the Varner’s Reunion. He was awarded a certificate of being Marietta’s Most Famous Lover or something of that effect.

You could tell by his radiant smile and enthusiastic expression when greeting people he was happy to be at the Varner’s Reunion. Paul Roper told me he picked him up at the nursing home he is at and Sandy carried him back.

A couple of months ago my mother-n-law became very ill. She spent several weeks in the hospital. When she was released she was very weak. She had to regain her strength to live normally. She went to a nursing home for physical rehabilitation.

I was telling Paul about my mother-in-law at the nursing home and he said that was the same nursing home Jerry McB was in.

The next day while Anna visited with her mother I tracked down Jerry.

He seemed glad to see me. When I walked into his room he was sitting in a wheel chair very close to his TV watching the news.

He shares a room with an old sour looking fart that never spoke to me when I spoke to him… never smiled…anything. I know the old man can talk. I heard him talking to a nurse before.

Jerry told me very well, using mime motions to tell me he had two strokes which hit half of his body. He can say some words – mostly enough to lead you but it would be an ordeal to speak a paragraph. He had a bulletin board with pictures and newspaper articles all over it. It fact, it overlapped the bulletin board onto the wall…. Like memories overflowing into the present world.

What Jerry can not say, he can mime expressions and hand movements to get across what he wants to say.

He showed me in his storage area maybe 6 to 10 stiff portable bulletin boards he is working on. The whole wall is a work in progress site. Also, in his storage area are many cut out newspaper articles. Below is a poster he is working on.

On a hard surface he had a white sheet of paper he was making a map of Marietta. He or somebody had drawn lines to represent the main thorough-fare streets. At one intersection was a tiny little BIG CHICKEN drawn. Then I knew that was at the northeast corner of Roswell Road and the 4-Lane. In his own way he asked me to label some streets that were there, which I did.

I thought he would probably like a copy on an old map of Marietta, dated about 1965. I have one so I printed him off one. I also printed him off the 1958 aerial photo of downtown Marietta and a bunch of photos of our friends at the Bell Gang Reunion and the Varner’s Reunion.

The next day or so I delivered them to him. When I walked in he had the Marietta Journal spread out on his bed and bent over reading it.

He was very appreciative of the stuff I bought. And we both had an emotional moment. He was very happy and appreciative to receive all the memories I brought and I was happy he was happy.

On one visit I went in and he was not there. I said to the sour old fart, “Jerry not here?” He just looked at me, non expressive. I suppose he could have said, “What do you think?” So, maybe he is nicer than I thought.

As I was leaving the room going back into the hallway Jerry was wheeling towards me in a rush. We visited for a while and he and I went over the pictures I gave him previously.

He was wearing a Bell Gang t-shirt with the Bell Theater on it. He told me his son got it for him.

Then he said he needed to eat. Sure. I figured out after a few visits that he visits a lot with an elderly lady up the hall one door, on the other side. He was dining with her when he saw me walk by.

A little preteen female volunteer came in and asked him what kind of ice cream he wanted. He shook his head, “none”. A few moments later a nurse or an aid came in and said, “Jerry, you OK? You always want ice cream!” He helm-hawed around and I figured the only reason he turned down the ice cream was that he didn’t want to eat in front of me.

I told him I had to go anyway. I should have said, “Well, give it to me then, I hate for that good ice cream go to waste!”

My mother-in-law figured out who Jerry is and said she has seen him several times in the dining room showing the pictures I printed off for him to different older women patients.

About a day after he received the pictures I was there when he showed two different nurses…. Each was very interested and asked questions. The first nurse seemed to have even got a little huffy when she looked at one of the girls Jerry dated in high school… I could tell she was thinking, “What does that gal have I don’t have? Hmmffff!”

From years of experience Jerry is a natural charmer.

Several times as I walked in his room he had the pictures all spread out on his made-up bed and he was trying to arrange them in some kind of order. I think for over a week he was completely focused on those pictures.

Twice when I dropped by he was outside reclined in the nursing home’s little park absorbing the sun. At the top is a picture of one of these moments.

If you know Jerry from your high school days I think he would like to see you again. And if you have any pictures of friends and old Marietta that you would like to share with him, I know he will appreciate it.

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Blogger cbish68 said...

You are a good man with a warm heart, Eddie. Thanks for sharing.

9:53 AM  

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