Woodrow Bell checked his watch, although he had no place to be. Nursing homes always made him feel that time was passing unusually fast.
The big man damn-near filled the cramped visitors’ foyer as he surveyed the dreary day room of the Old Miners Home. The sun was going down. It was Sunday, and the two nurses were elsewhere. Pale September twilight swathed the cheerless room as white-haired shadows silently drifted in for dinner, like dust that hadn’t yet been blown away.
Now past seventy, Bell knew he, too, was closer to the end than the beginning. It haunted him.
It wasn’t just the drabness of the Old Miners Home, with its dog-eared furniture, folding dinner tables, or the giant craft-paper calendar on the bulletin board that was utterly empty. It was the stiff knees … the hard mornings … the shrinking social circle … caring less and less about more and more … not remembering if it was the first time or the last time … getting up twice a night to pee a thimbleful … the AARP junk mail … the unreliable pecker … the fear you can’t finish the Sunday crosswords because you must have Alzheimer’s … the daughter who never calls … the mystery of why you ever voted for Democrats … already knowing which suit you’ll be buried in ... and being invisible to the rest of the world.
It all pissed him off most days.
And today was one of those days. After months of making excuses, he’d been tricked by his closest friend, Father Bert Clancy, into visiting the Old Miners Home. It wasn’t because a priest lied, not even because a friend lied, but because Bell didn’t immediately realize he was being played. He especially hated that.
In truth, the St. Barnabas Senior Center hadn’t been the Old Miners Home since the Nixon Administration, but everybody in the trifling mountain village of Midnight, Colorado, still called it the Old Miners Home. Good or bad, small towns seldom quit on a memory.