There Ain’t No More Lead In The Pencil

While rummaging through the attic of my memories last week, I stumbled across another long-lost treasure.

Most residents in the nursing home where I worked during college had long since given up on any more hanky-panky and directed their remaining physical and mental energies toward more fundamental aspects of survival, such as chewing slowly without choking and making sure they didn’t throw off their pacemakers by getting a little too close to the microwave.

But there were a few who were hanging on tight and had a reputation for being real pistols. Especially that retired banker who use to “make his rounds” each day as he slowly pushed his walker from one nurse’s station to another. It didn’t matter if you were a male or female employee, you really had to watch his hands. He was an equal opportunity grabber.

But not Ol’ John Turner. He was 95-years-old and had been faithful as the day is long to his wife Mamie. They’d been married for 70 years and she was barely 87 herself–talk about robbing the cradle. The two of them shared a room together, Ricky and Lucy-style, and he was often on my assignment list, so I got to know him and their story well.

I got the impression that they had created a wonderful life together, and judging from steady stream of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren that flowed through their room on a near-daily basis, they’d gotten busy early and left their mark.

But there wasn’t a lot of conversation these days between the two of them. While Ol’ John was spry and fit as a very-worn-but-still-playable fiddle, Mamie had Alzheimer’s. He would spend his days sitting beside her bed, feeding her meals, carrying on various monologues about what was going on in the room next door or about that summer vacation to Myrtle Beach with the kids back in ’23. Every now and then when I walked in, he would be gently brushing her long, soft hair which always gleamed white and bright like a halo.

One day I was picking up their trays when Mr. Turner grabbed me by the lapels of my uniform and pulled me close. I could tell by the serious look on his wrinkled face and the gravity of his stare that he had something very important to tell me. I was once again about to be on the receiving end of The Wisdom of the Ages.

“Mamie called out to me last night,” he whispered conspiratorially while pointing over his shoulder toward his wife. “She wanted me to come over there and get in bed with her.”

I had not heard Mamie say a single word the entire time I had known her, so this came as a surprise to me. I was intrigued.

“So, what did you do?” I asked, setting the breakfast tray back down on his bedside table.

“Well, I didn’t do anything,” he replied.

“Why not?”

With a glint in his graying eyes, he looked at me sternly and said, “Well, son, when you get to be my age, you look down there and you realize that there ain’t no more lead in the pencil!”

He then broke into a broad, mischievous grin, slapped his knees a couple of times and went into such a fit of wheezing laughter that I thought I was going to have to call a Code Blue.

That old geezer. He really got me, didn’t he?

There ain’t no more lead in the pencil.

There’s no telling what might have happened had Ol’ John lived long enough to see the rise of Viagra.

  1. Donna

    I love it! I needed that smile this morning.

  2. Hal

    That’s funny. It reminds me of an old George Burns quote, “Sex at 90 is like shooting pool with a rope.”

  3. Mike the Eyeguy

    Donna–Glad to be there for you on a Monday morning. Oh wait, it’s Tuesday!

    Hal–Heh. Thanks for that way-too-vivid image which will now be stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

  4. Brady

    It’s interesting that this particular story was rattling around in your brain. So I just gotta ask the question:

    You been feeling okay?

  5. Mike the Eyeguy

    Fitter than a 95-year-old fiddle.

  6. Mike the Eyeguy

    Ah, somebody caught the double entendre.

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