• Last modified 279 days ago (Sept. 7, 2023)


Another Day in the Country

That little bit extra

© Another Day in the Country

I’ve been listening to a book on Audible called “The Thursday Murder Club.” It’s delightful. The author has a gift for adding that little bit extra in the story, whether it’s a dash of humor or pushing the boundaries you’d anticipate in a book about seniors. 

Listening to interactions of main characters almost makes you wish you could afford to live in the book’s setting, a retirement community where interesting people always are around, restaurants and coffee shops are close by, and someone else is taking care of the yard.

My daughter recommended the book. It took me a while to get around to choosing it.

I had some innate resistance to “facilities,” perhaps. Then, it took a bit to get into the story and appreciate the Audible reader.

Good readers are so important. They give that “little extra” in their voice interpretation.

If you love being read to, I recommend this book to you! 

A murder club reminded me of a group of seniors I knew 30 years ago. I dubbed them the Domino Club.

Through the years, you may recall me mentioning an old friend of mine, Dr. Horace Shaw.

He’d love the fact that his name is appearing in the newspaper twenty-some years after his death.

He’d been a professor of speech and religion at a university in Michigan where my husband had done graduate work.

I took a class from him when I was in my early 20s and met him again when I returned in my mid-40s to speak at the college.

He didn’t remember me, but I remembered him — this flamboyant, quirky, tall, funny, lovely, old-fashioned (he wore spats), elegant gentleman.

He and his wife always were the talk of the campus — an unconventional couple in a conservative environment.

Long story short, on this second meeting, me well into my 40s and he in his 70s, we became friends.

He had cared for his wife in various stages of Alzheimer’s for 10 long years.  When we met again, she had just been admitted to a care facility.

He was a little lost, in need of a friend. I also was a little lost but didn’t realize it at the time.

I called him Shawzee. “Dr. Shaw” seemed too formal. “Horace” seemed too intimate. What an odd pairing! We were soul mates on some level. We loved words. We became pen pals.

This was good for me because he wrote the most interesting letters, and I’ve always loved receiving letters. These days I still love letters, dislike emails, and only tolerate texts.

Shawzee had no children — lots of casual friends but no family living nearby. Eventually, I became a caretaker for him — first long distance and then nearby, when he moved from Michigan to a retirement facility he insisted on calling the “motel” near me in Napa Valley.

At the “motel,” he met four friends with whom he played dominoes.

Most afternoons, I’d find them in the lounge playing dominoes. It was interesting because of the members. Charlotte had early-stage Alzheimer’s. Mable had short-term memory loss. Andy was a card shark. And Shawzee still maintained his clergy license.

All except Andy wore hearing aids. When he’d seriously mix the dominoes, they’d move back from the table, wincing at the clatter.

For special occasions, like Shawzee’s birthday, my sister and I (being event planners) would plan an event for the club.

Shawzee loved events. In his work life, he starred at making any hum-drum occasion into an event.

“It’s the little things,” he’d say to me. “That little bit extra makes all the difference.”

We were going to take them out to a restaurant and told them to dress up.

We brought fancy hats for the ladies and rented an antique Chrysler convertible to drive them.

“Let’s go to the A&W for lunch,” one of them suggested.

“The way you guys look, it’s got to be fancier than that,” I told them. “We’re going to Don Giovanni’s,” my favorite restaurant in Napa Valley.

Once we got them inside the restaurant and seated, it became apparent that our “little extra” was a “little much” for our clientele.

They had trouble with the menu for starters.

Andy, who had once owned a bar and grill, finally settled on filet mignon, when what he really would have been happier with was a hamburger at A&W.

When it came, it was a raw, very thin, slice of meat with a dab of potato on a fancy plate.

Andy was surprised and embarrassed, but he’d make do.

“Do you have A-1 sauce?” he wanted to know, and the shocked waiter shook his head. 

Jess came to his rescue and said, “I think Andy needs the meat at least heated. This is raw!”

“But that will kill it,” said the waiter, apoplectic at the idea of returning it to the chef.

“I think that’s the general idea,” Jess added, handing him the plate with a polite smile.

Here we were, trying to do something extra for this quartet of oldsters, when simplicity would have made their day.

Oh well, it’s another day in the country. Live and learn.

Last modified Sept. 7, 2023