It was a fine day for cider-making at the residential care facility, cloudy but warm with the full color of fall showing in the trees. About twenty of the residents opted to join Randa, Kevin and me on the patio. Five or six of them rolled out in their wheelchairs and another half-dozen used walkers. Gertrude, who looked to be about eighty-five or so and carried a pound for each year, had maneuvered her wheelchair into the space closest the cider mill. One of the ambulatory folks didn’t like having someone else sit next to her, so she got up and went back inside. Other than that, it appeared that the staff members got everyone arranged in a suitable place. So, we started making cider.
I turned the crank while Kevin dropped in apples, mixing the over-ripe reds with the over-ripe yellows and throwing in an occasional green for a touch of crispness in the flavor. When the slatted oak basket had filled with pulp, we slid it over under the press and Kevin started turning the handle. With a minimum of pressure, the juice started pouring out into the collecting pan in a heavy stream. With a bit more pressure, there was a sudden loud spurting noise and a wad of pummies shot out between the slats.
Most of it landed on the concrete floor but a few bits landed on Gertrude’s white leather shoes. I apologized while I wiped them off with a rag I’d brought along. She just grinned. As Kevin continued pressing the batch, there were a few more blowouts. By the time he’d finished, there were wads of apple mash on many parts of the cider mill and the surrounding area. There were no more human casualties, though. Until the next batch.
Gertrude took another direct hit on her shoes and lower pants legs. I apologized and wiped. She just grinned. At Kevin’s suggestion, I moved one of the big plastic tubs in between her and cider mill. By the third batch, that tub was pretty well covered with pummie shots, proving that we’d picked the right spot for it, I guess. On the fourth and final batch, just about halfway through the press, there was an even louder shot. We looked over and poor Gertrude had taken another hit. This spurt had shot up over the big plastic tub and landed on her face, her shoulder and upper chest. I apologized even more profusely, and wiped rather carefully.
There was a single small chunk of apple a bit farther down on her chest than would have been appropriate for me to wipe. So, I took a short grip on the upper part of her blouse and gave it a tiny jerk. The apple bit popped off. Gertrude just grinned.
Inevitably, some little part of life is going to land somewhere on us where we’d just as soon it didn’t land. Not all of those parts wipe off so easily. But when we can stay calm and grin instead of growling, it sure makes it better for those who are trying to help us through.
By the way, Gertrude loved the cider. In spite of the making.