Not Go Gentle into That Good Night

Medford Leas


I’m in the Health Center for my annual memory test. Diane will administer it. She led me through the test last year too.

Draw a clock face with numerals from 1 to 12. Draw the hands so that the clock depicts 10 minutes past eleven:


Listen closely and remember this string of five words. I”ll ask you to repeat them later in the hour.

Listen closely and remember this string of five numbers. I’ll ask you to repeat them later in the hour.

Reproduce the image of a box:


Draw a continuous line connecting the randomly scattered numbers and letters, always connecting number to letter to number; never number to number or letter to letter:

Name these animals:


How do the ear and the nose differ?

In 60 seconds, recite as many words as you can beginning with the letter f:

“Fuck… I’m sorry, It just popped out.”

“No need to apologize,” she said coolly. “ They all say it.”

“farm, firm, form, field, fire, fireman, fraught, friend, friendship, friendless, film, frank, full, fill, fall, fell….”

“Diane, you’d love to flunk me out, wouldn’t you?; dump me into the Assisted Living Extension, into the Alzheimer Wing?

“Don’t be silly. Anyway you passed: 29 out of 30. That’s better than last year”.


5 MAY 2018

coin counter

In 2010, my local bank installed a coin-counting machine in an alcove to the side of the cashier windows. The gaily lit machine emitted a little musical jingle as it digested my coins; then it spat out my receipt. My little hoards totaled from $4.00 to $7.00 every few months. Some customers – merchants and store keepers – emptied bags full of coins into the machine weekly, to a symphony of jingling.

In 2017 I received a postal card from GCG (no other identification) informing me that my name had been joined to a class action law suit which had been brought against the Penny Arcade Company. I need do nothing until the law suit was settled. This was the complete message.

It turned out that The Penny Arcade Company was the owner of the coin-counting machine in my bank, and of those in many other locations. In 2018, I received two checks drawn on the Huntington Bank. We had won the law suit! My check was for nine cents; yes, $0.09. Margie’s check was for seven cents.

Between 2010 and 2017, the coin-counting machines of the Penny Arcade Company had made mistakes, consistently in favor of the company – to the tune of 7.5 million dollars. My share of the settlement was laughable. How much did the lawyers make?

I searched the Internet without success, so I turned to Maria Esche, the reference librarian at the Moorestown Public Library. She called back in fifteen minutes: $1,900,000, shared by eight law firms.

I’ll give my check to my daughter and Margie’s check plus two pennies to my son.

6 APRIL 2018

Two tables away, a daughter and her husband have come to have lunch with her mother, a ninety-five year old, who sits between them in a wheelchair. The daughter is a youthful seventy year old. The son-in-law is a still vigorous at seventy-five. The old woman has been primped up nicely for the visit: fluffed up hair, a flowered blouse, a bright red neckless.

The daughter cuts her mother’s food and pushes a glass of water toward her mottled hand, but it’s the son-in-law who wheedles his mother-in-law. She sits with her head slumped forward, chin nearly on her chest. He does most of the talking, enunciating carefully, speaking more loudly than he needs to.

He leaps up to retrieve her napkin which has slipped to the floor. He offers her a spoonful of creamed spinach, then a dollop of mashed sweet potatoes, extolling their healthful virtues. She clenches her teeth, she closes her eyes

Wouldn’t she be better off dead? Me too: my hands grow stiff, my legs betray me, my mind, my mind – it takes me an hour to write a decent sentence.

Undaunted, he presses a spoonful of Espresso Chocolate Chip Mint ice cream to the old woman’s clenched lips. Her mouth springs open at the touch of icy sweetness, like that of a baby bird. She devours the ice cream; she opens her eyes and she looks around beatifically: all’s well in the world.

ice cream menu
31 JULY 2018

I returned to the Main Building to pick up two books that I had forgotten in its cloakroom earlier in the day. My apartment is a five minute walk away. The books were still on the shelf, in plain view. I’ve left my laptop there more than once, undisturbed.
It was a lovely day, the books weren’t heavy, so I chose the lengthier, prettier route home, along the woods. The path that skirts the woods begins on the far side of the parking lot. I’ve negotiated that corner many times but never while reading the blurb on the flyleaf of a book. I misjudged my stride by a fraction of an inch and my toe caught the edge of the curb. I tripped and went flying through the air.

I landed on my hands and knees, luckily, on the thickly mulched border between the curb and the macadam walk. I sprang to my feet, to show that I wasn’t hurt, just in case someone had seen me fall.

“Are you all right?, a voice called out from across the lot.

“Yes, thank you.” I didn’t recognize her. A new employee?

“Did you hit your head?”

Definitely a new employee. “No, I did not.” I brushed off my knees, retrieved the books, and holding them by my side, I resumed my walk. I got home in well under ten minutes and I sat down to finish reading the blurb on the book jacket. A knock at my door. It was Linda, the First Aid nurse, dragging her wheeled duffel emblazoned with a red cross.

Firstaid bag“Are you okay Mr. Perrone?”’

“ Why shouldn’t I be?” I played dumb, feigning surprise at her spontaneous appearance at my door.

“Someone saw you fall and the Front Desk alerted me. Did you hit your head?”

“No, Linda, I did not hit my head, thank you.” I closed the door gently.

How did they get my name? The young woman who saw me fall didn’t know it, for she was a recent hire; but well indoctrinated, she had gone immediately to the Front Desk to tell Nora – a pal of mine – what she had seen:

“A short man, white hair, eyeglasses; he was reading a book.”

Nora picked up the Medical Emergency phone: “Linda, please check on Mr. Perrone in Apartment 15.”

17 MAY 2018

I joined Ruth S. who was sitting with two or three other residents at a table in the Coffee Shop. I hadn’t seen her recently because my cold and then my infected sinuses had lingered on and on. I was lightheaded and dizzy.

“Ruth,” I said, “I think I’m going to faint,” And I did. Ruth was aghast. She said my head fell back, my mouth agape, my sightless eyes rolled upward, showing whites only. “He’s dead!”

I wakened to a ring of concerned faces looking down at me. Dr. Terri was kneeling beside me: “You’ll be all right,” she said. “I think you’re dehydrated.” I tried to rise but she held me down: my fate had been sealed.

If you faint at Medford Leas, or if you fall and bump your head, you must go to the hospital: the emergency wagon was on its way. I was lightheaded, lying in a pool of piss, with a circle of rapt faces looming over me. “I want them to check out your heart,” said Terri. “And you bumped your head.”

EMT loading ambulance

The emergency wagon is a frequent visitor here, sometimes for the final act:

“Wilson?” What a shame.” “Gracie! I saw her yesterday, she seemed fine.” “He smiled up at me.” “I was the last person to see her alive.”

I spent a most uncomfortable night at the hospital, hooked up to two machines, one that dripped a saline solution into my vein, the other attached to electrodes monitoring my heart. ER had taken MRIs of my skull when I first arrived at the hospital. My room mate – our beds separated by a curtain – groaned loudly all night long, maybe because I stank mightily. They had removed my piss-sodden undershorts and pants but they hadn’t washed me.

In early morning, the cardiologist appeared briefly at the door to say my heart was fine. I felt OK, but I remained hooked up:

“For another day,” said the technician.

“Never,” I said.

“Doctors’ orders,” he said, waving a checklist at me.

I phoned my son. He said, “Just walk out.”.

“You will NEVER again be admitted to THIS hospital!”


27 OCTOBER, 2018
linden trees

The Norse Goddess of Married Love favors the linden tree. In season, its canopy harbors birds and bees and its flowers make a sweet, aromatic tea. Some linden trees live a thousand years.

Next spring I will plant two linden trees near the slope where we scattered Margie’s ashes. Her valley has become a state park: inviolable. My linden trees will be planted side by side. Their roots will mingle, their limbs will intertwine.