Something to Talk About

I was visiting my mother-in-law at the Carillon Assisted Living facility, on the outskirts of Salisbury, when my tenant called. He had said that he would be calling, because “there’s something important that I need to talk with you about.”

He had mentioned a concern on Thursday. “There’s something, something important,” he said.  “We need to talk about it.”

I suspected that perhaps there was something wrong with the house. The living room has a window treatment that seems to be on the edge of breaking. Ahead of time, I was preparing for news that one of his young children had pulled it down. Maybe the dishwasher was on the fritz. The dishwasher conveyed.

– – –

Saturday afternoon, at around four, I was at the Carillon. The Carillion has a lot of rooms, but Rose is confined to one hallway. There is a keypad that secures the door. There’s a man standing behind the door. When you come in, he addresses you with a sincere plea.

“Tell me the code,” he says. “I want to see my wife. She’s on the other side, down there. Please tell me the code.”  It is an Alzheimer’s unit. Visitors can get in, but residents can’t get out.

The “Country Kitchen” is not really cozy, and it is not very country, either. The pads on the wooden chairs seem to stick to the green linoleum.  Although no one has a spouse, the tables are large, as if set for a family on a retreat. There is a stray piano in the corner, jammed up against a light and a walker.

It is quiet when my phone rings. The chairs are empty. The diners are done. The man from the entrance is standing near the refrigerator, pleading with one of the orderlies. “Let me have another cookie,” he says. Though he was plaintive with me, he’s short with the staff.  He wants that cookie. Not later, now.

When we finally connected, he was to the point.

“Thing is,” said my tenant, “we’re going to have to move. Yes, we’re ready to be out now, I’ll stay with my sister, and I suppose I can come and get my stuff next weekend.”

Even through my phone’s poor fidelity,  I could tell that Charles was scared.

“They keyed my truck,” he said. “I like to keep my tools in there. They were trying to get my tools. I don’t want anyone to get my tools.” He had a bunch to say. “And that house across the street, the police told me that it is a gang house.”

I remember that Charles had left his last place for the same reason.

I remind myself to choose my words carefully. I understand that landlords and tenants often don’t get along. This is my turn.

“So,” I offered, “you want to move out, then? Gee, I can’t say that I’m thrilled about that. Sounds like you are pretty upset.”

“See,” he says, “my kids are all that I have. My kids, and my wife, that’s my life. What else is more important than that? I can’t have my kids being near that.”

But then he takes a jab.  “You didn’t tell me that people were walking by there all the time.  You should have let me know about those kids.”

Hmmm.  I’m realizing that I’m not ready to have this conversation. There are so many things to think about. What is a fair resolution?

“Here’s what I think,” he says. “I’ll be out next Saturday.  I’ll pay you seven days of rent. Take any bills out of my deposit.”


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