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They don't mean to be mean - The Thin Edge of Dignity

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I spend most of my time at my ALF (Assisted Living Facility).  But when my battery-powered wheelchair is charged, I can be found bouncing along the tree-root rutted, bumpy sidewalks, and at a traffic intersection, frenziedly trying to make the walk  sign before it runs down to zero seconds. Or I might be lucky enough to have a friend load my wheel chair and me into a car or van for a trip to a coffee shop, a movie, or some other latitudinal or longitudinal location away from the lugubrious ALF.

One such spot is my fitness club.  I have a new set of friends who ferry me there, the retiree volunteers who spend their day driving seniors and disabled people to the appointments. My routine is to visit Senior Fitness Centers  that cater to “mature adults” – sexagenarians, septuagenarians, octogenarians, and,  would you believe – a nonagenarian or two…or three… or four; except their membership doesn’t last too long.

Since I’m disabled, I get special treatment from the fitness staff – a personal trainer. He/She loads me on the exercise machines, corrects my imperfections, and counts the reps.

I also get special treatment from two regulars: Horace and Josiah. In a jocular way they insult, deride, ridicule, mock, even twit me.  I have the inner strength to absorb derision, but twitting! How do you foil a twit?

I know their cruelty towards me is not malevolent – it’s all in fun; for laughs.

Horace is stocky…well… heavy-set…well… rotund – and balding. His jolly-old-saint-nick-goatee-bearded face surrounds devilish eyes and wispy eye brows.  A down-to-earth Brooklynite, he lauds being born and bred in that world-famed bite of the “Big Apple.” A strange irony: Horace breathes the “Bronx Bombers,” - the NY Yankees. How can a bombastic Brooklynite be a battler for the – ugh – Yankees, when true Booklynites bolster “dem bums,” the Brooklyn Dodgers?

Josiah cares little about the Yankees or the Dodgers.  He salivates over books. Josiah is a voracious, nay, rapacious, reader.  He’s quite a conversationalist, too, spending much of his workout time strengthening his masseter and temporalis muscles. (He talks a lot.) His slowly disappearing sandy hair, belies the youthful, rebellious, hallucinogenic locks which fell down the middle of his back in the glorious sixties.  So, my verbal attackers are a fanatic fan and an ex-hippie. A confluence of brawn and brain.

The thee of us out rival Dumas’ famous trio.

Dick Weinman is an AARP volunteer and our assisted living guru.

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