The Old College Try

The following story is based on the experiences of an actual couple, the parents of a close friend of the author, Ginny Brinkley. The names have been changed.

“In this warmly poignant story, Brinkley gently reveals the layers of this family union where illness has become the crucible by which love and patience are defined and refined. Masterfully, she balances us on the biting knife edge of sadness and regret for the trials being faced by this elderly couple, offset by the determination of the couple to hold on to their independence by working together. The author saves the biggest surprise for the conclusion, and it too is both poignant and inspiring.” Tracy Connors, PhD, author of Baited Trap, the Ambush of Mission 1890.

The Old College Try

I arrived on a Sunday evening, and, not wanting to cause any disruption in their lives, decided to let myself into Walter’s and Evelyn’s apartment.  I had come to stay with Evelyn so Walter could get away for a few days, going to visit a friend.  I found them both so engrossed in a project that neither heard me enter.  I observed quietly before announcing my presence.  They were sitting at the dining room table.

“Now the big white ones,” Walter was saying.  Evelyn picked up a medicine bottle and handed it to him.  He twisted off the top and handed the bottle back to her.

“You need one of these each day,” he said, “so count out seven.”  She tipped the bottle carefully and poured some into her hand.  Only three came out.  She lay them on the table and tipped the bottle again.  This time they spilled out too quickly, landing all over the table.  Evelyn grunted in frustration and threw down the bottle.

“Maybe we should start again,” he urged her gently.  “You can do it.  Just hand me one at a time off the table till we get to seven.”

Evelyn picked up a pill and laid it in his outstretched hand.  He took it with his other hand and said, “OK, that’s one–now give me one more.”

They continued until Walter had seven of the white pills in his hand.  “We need to put one in each little box,” he said, feeling around to find her weekly pill dispenser.  “You’re very good at this part.”

She brightened noticeably at hearing those words, sitting up a little straighter in her chair, ready to do her part.  He handed her a pill.  “Put this in the ‘M’ box.”  She carefully took it and dropped it into the first container.  “Good,” he said.  “Now put this in the ‘T’ box,” handing her Tuesday’s pill.  After they repeated that routine five more times, he said, “Good job.”  She beamed.  “Now we need to put all those extras back in the bottle,” he said.  “You can do this.  Pick up the ones on the table and put them in the open bottle.”

She picked them up one by one and dropped each into the bottle.  “Is that all?” he asked.  “Look around and make sure.”  She found one more and held it up, grunting.  “OK, put it in the bottle,” he said.  “Now check again–see if we missed any.”

Evelyn obediently looked around, even getting down on the floor and patting the carpet.  “No more,” she seemed to say with a few grunts.

“OK, then, let’s move on to the little yellow ones,” Walter said.

About Tracy Connors

Tracy D. Connors graduated from Jacksonville University (AA), University of Florida (BA), the University of Rhode Island (MA), and Capella University (Ph.D. with Distinction, human services management, 2013). Ph.D. (Honorary), Leadership Excellence, Jacksonville University, December, 2013. Designated a “Distinguished Dolphin” by Jacksonville University, Feb. 2, 2010.