Words.

What we hear and what was meant are frequently very different things.

I had the television on the other day, just for background noise and company.

With one ear tuned in, I heard the following:  “The difference has been incredible.  She has her old energy back, she’s more alert and wants to learn new things.”

My second ear perked up at that.  I wanted some of it, whatever it was.  It was truly a “When Harry Met Sally” moment.  Cost was no issue.  Can I Amazon-prime it?

Unfortunately, it was just commercial for Purina.

 

 

Oh Danny Boy, The Pipes, the Pipes are Calling……

 

Suddenly, it seems it’s all about the pipes.  Tending to them.  Making sure they flow freely.  That they stay uncongested.

Pipes are everywhere.  Demanding our attention.  Running our lives.

We have a list of pipe experts available to us, on our personal 911, because there’s rarely a day that we don’t call one of them.

The house has chimney pipes, irrigation pipes, electrical pipes, water pipes, HVAC pipes, septic pipes.

The cars have a mess of pipes, too.   Exhaust, fuel, window-washer, tail.

And then there’s us.

We have so many.   Eustachian, wind, sinus, and many other “pipes” I choose not to mention here.

There’s always a pipe problem somewhere.

I guess it’s always been thus.   I’ve just never thought about it before.

And you might not want to think about it either.

But the next time you beckon the “piper” for what ever his or her specialty is…. be nice.

You’ll be calling again.

Soon.  For something.

I’d put money on it.

Porches

Not long ago, a friend gave me a tea towel, embroidered with the following:  “I’m outdoorsy.  I enjoy cocktails on the porch.”

Okay, so I may not be a fan of the outdoors but I do love porches.  They’re usually protected from bugs, have access to electricity and plumbing, and exude an aura that inspires good conversation and laughter.  All of that works for me.

My Aunt Mary had one that she called her Gin and Tonic porch.  You knew what she’d serve and you knew you’d have fun.

We have friends who have summer homes in Michigan.  Such wonderful memories were made on those big porches, from the first cup of coffee (or three) in the morning to the last Hummer (or four) at night.

A special porch that lingers in my mind was in Dayton, Ohio.  A big porch, screened-in with comfortable furniture, surrounded by giant Oak trees, it was an after-dinner haven for conversation and laughter.

One of the things we did on that porch was to plan our futures.  Far, far in the future when we might not be self-sufficient and might need to live communally.  We were young and the idea of a retirement home was fodder for silliness and laughter.

We designed our ideal residence but, more importantly, we attributed roles to each of the inhabitants.  They would be us, of course, and only us.  We pooled our talents and skills and mapped out a very doable, self-sustained retirement home.

We had a carpenter, a gardener, a cook, an accountant, a plumber, a choir leader, a spiritual guide, a party planner, a lawyer.  Everyone had a role; everyone was needed.

Of course it never happened.  It should have but it didn’t.  We knew it wouldn’t but it didn’t stop us from dreaming.  To this day, I think of all that, the friends who would be there and the fun we’d have.

There was one little hitch.  No one could come up with a job for me.  Happily, they all agreed that I could just BE there.

Oh, if only I could.

 

 

This is not a joke.

This is an actual event.  I was there and besides there’s no way you can make this stuff up.

Not long ago, five friends walked into a restaurant.  They were lunching to celebrate the birthdays of two of them.

The two birthday girls remembered to bring cards for each other.

The three un-birthday girls forgot to bring cards for the two birthday girls.

The card exchange was swift.  Each birthday girl opened her card and thanked the other for remembering her special day.  They then showed their respective cards to one another.  (One could speculate as to why they did that but there’s little to be gained from it.)

One commented that she had especially liked the card she had just given the other and had carefully held it in reserve for this very occasion.

The other one looked at the card she had just given the other and said….and I quote:  “This is a really cute card.  I bought one just exactly like it two days ago.”

Think about it.

Maybe you had to be there.

Or maybe you just need a few more birthday notches on your belt so you could enjoy that (senior) moment as much as we did.

Do I look really look THAT old?

The message from the Bluffton Christmas Parade this year was quite clear.  Yes, indeed I do.  Look that old.  Or maybe older.

I opted not to be in the parade this year.  But, of course, we went to the parade.  It’s just not something you miss. We have a great place to stand and enjoy it.  Right near the judges’ viewing stand so we get to see all the parade entrants do their thing.

We’re also in a great spot to get candy.  Almost everyone in the parade passes out candy.  Some put it right in your hands, or your treat bag if you have one.  Some toss it at you.  Others just throw it on the street and you dive for it.

This year, we stood there for an hour.  Smiles on our faces.  Christmas spirit at the ready.  Not one candy-passer handed us anything, tossed anything at us, even looked at us.  And we weren’t about to dive into the street.  Not even for a Heath Bar.

We weren’t just old.  We were invisible.

But we stuck it out.  Held out hope.  Our patience and persistence were rewarded.  We did not leave empty-handed.  The only problem was that it wasn’t candy we brought home.  It was Chap Stick.

Now don’t misunderstand me.  I like Chap Stick.  A lot.  It’s almost an addiction.  Can’t go to sleep without it.  But I don’t go to the Bluffton Christmas Parade for Chap Stick.  I go for candy.

See, there was a dental office in the parade and they were passing out floss and Chap Stick.  A nice man, dressed up as a tooth, came right up to us and said that we (at our obviously advanced age) probably suffered from dryness and it looked like we could use some Chap Stick.

He was right, of course.  We could.  We do.  But was it really that obvious?

Not one of those candy people even gave us so much as a fare-thee-well but that Chap Stick person honed right in on us.

Old.

Rats.

 

 

Parade image thanks to Blufftontoday.com

Snow Days

A dream for children;  a nightmare for parents.

We could always tell, as we woke up, if there was a promise/threat of a snow day upon us.  It was the quiet.  The peace that falls with the snow.

But we lived in a little town where all the kids could walk to school.  No buses. No public transportation.  Just their feet or a parent willing to drive them to school.  Not for nothing did we pay taxes on a fleet of snow blowers and salt trucks.  The roads and sidewalks were almost always clear and usable by 7:00 am.

The grumbling and griping was expected but manageable as we stirred them from their warm beds.  The entire world, according to them, was sleeping in, drinking warm cocoa, sledding, watching television and having snow fights.  They were going to school.

Darn right they were!

So get a move on.  Find those gloves, boots, hats and scarves.  Slurp down your breakfast.  Chop, chop, don’t be late.  Good boys. Have a nice day.  See you later.  Ta!

And with that, I’d close the door, pour myself a second cup of coffee, gather up a cat or two and a good book.  Walk up the stairs, climb back between the barely cooled sheets, inhale deeply, count to four, exhale slowly.

It was a snow day after all.

 

 

Snowy picture thanks to sheknows.com

Lifetime Appointments

Such appointments are usually regarded as special, unique, admirable.  They might include Saint Hood, a seat on the Supreme Court, Nobel Peace Prize laureate.  All represent hard-earned, meaningful, and extraordinary accomplishments.

Occasionally, however, there are lifetime appointments that come your way that you never wanted, certainly didn’t strive for, and have tried everything possible to get rid of.  All to no avail.

One such appointment would be a spot on the United States of America’s No-Fly List.

The Mister’s brother and his lovely wife have been on that No-Fly list for over fifteen   years now.  Nicer, kinder, more law abiding (senior) citizens you will never meet nor know.

How and why it happened is a mystery.  It may have had something to do with a large railroad spike, which they, as railroad buffs, picked up as a souvenir from an abandoned track in Colorado.  How else to get it home but in your suitcase on your flight back east?  Coincidentally, there had just been a suspicious train derailment, not terribly far from where they’d acquired their new bit of railway memorabilia.

That bit of confusion plunged them into hot water with Homeland Security.  And it has been thus for all these years.

With increased security since nine-eleven, they have been subjected to many hours of detainment and extensive questioning.     Once upon a time, those events were fodder for conversation, reflection, even amusement.

No longer.  Now they are obstacles to the fun and joy of travel, which they, in spite of all that, still love to do.

They have tried, in vain, and through untold numbers of channels, to get the “appointment” un-appointed and have been told by high-ranking officials that “once you’re on that list, you’re on for life.”  Just like a Supreme Court Justice appointment.

Or not.

 

 

 

 

Benign or Malignant

Which one of those options would you prefer?  Benign, obviously.

Malignant’s a whole other ball of wax.

Let’s look at some situations.  Breast lump?  Colon polyps?  Benign or malignant?  Benign wins every time.

Then, there’s language.  Profane language.  I’ve made it clear that I can and do swear like a sailor.   Stub my toe and out comes the S***word.  Break my toe and you’ll hear the F***word.

That’s benign swearing, in my mind.  The only object of my disdain is my own clumsiness and a painful toe.

Malignant swearing is a whole other ball of wax.

I said I’d stay away from politics in this blog.  But our president’s use of profanity this week, referring to certain people and their countries, was truly malignant.  A lot more is at stake than his toe.  His platform’s a lot bigger than mine. I try to be careful and I wish he would, too.

I wrote about my breast cancer once and I’m writing about  “S***hole” now.  Both malignancies rocked my world and caused me to worry, to be deeply concerned about my life as I know it and my future well being.

And that’s that.

Ghosts. Past and Present.

It’s been some time since our regular, known, and accepted ghosts have paid us a visit.  I think we both miss them at some level.  If we stop to think about it.  Which we don’t very often.

But, lo and behold, a new presence has entered our lives.

Normal ghosts (is that an oxymoron?), don’t present themselves to more than one person at a time.  So, a certain level of trust has to come into play when a new one appears (or seems to appear) on the horizon.  We’ve had a fair amount of experience with ghosts but each time things are a little more circumspect than the time before.

The iffiness of it all seems more likely.  Are you sure it wasn’t a cat?  Maybe you’re just hearing things?  Were you having a bad dream?  Don’t those old floors creak anyway?  Maybe it was just a branch hitting the house in the wind.

We’re pretty sure that there is some thing, or some one, new in the house.  The spectral presentation of this one is distinctly different from the others.  We’ll need to get our minds around it as best we can.

We’re good ghost hosts.  I think we successfully encouraged the others to go “home.”  That would explain their absence.  Ghosts need to go home.  To find peace.  To join those who love them.

So, whoever you are.  You’ve come to the right place.  We’ll take good care of you until you’re ready to leave.

Of course, we’d love to know who you are. But all things in good time.  We’re in no rush.

 

 

 

 

Christmas Dinner. 2017.

Ten of us.  The Mister and Me.   Two of our sons and their wives.   Four grandchildren, ages 17 to 21.

Our sons, their wives and children don’t see each other all that often.  Distance, work and school get in the way.

So this year, the Mister posed a question to the table to spark conversation.  To learn what’s on people’s minds.  To search for things we have in common other than a last name.

The question he asked was:  “What intrigues you?”

As Dr. Seuss might say:  Oh, the places we went with that one.

As we went round the table, we learned that one is intrigued by net-neutrality; another by bitcoins.

One wondered about the source of happiness; another is deeply concerned by the loss  of children’s national insurance and its repercussions.

One wants to know more about the sub-atomic universe; another is engaged by the concept of short-form.

One asked how, as an actor, he can best evoke emotions in audiences; another is curious about strong female role-models and where they may be found.

Remember, “intrigue” doesn’t necessarily imply knowledge.  It just indicates a compelling interest, a curiosity and desire to know more.

So, when it was finally my turn to respond to the question, my answer was very simple:  “You.  This family.  You all intrigue me.”

 

 

Image thanks to Pinterest

Traditions

How long does it take for something to make that giant step from repetition to tradition?   A year?  Ten years?

Well, I’ve decided that three years is a fine number of years in which to create a tradition so here, on this Christmas Eve, is the third printing of a Christmas memory.

Our family wishes you and yours the best in the new year.

The Christmas Spirit

The year was 1961.  I was working in Boston at the New England Conservatory of Music as a receptionist. It was, in all respects, a wonderful year.  I was in love (still am) and was surrounded by talented, generous and joyful people.

But Christmas was always hard for me.  What to give to my parents?  My father never wore anything but a suit, had enough ties to last several life times, bought his own socks and had no hobbies.  My mother was choosy about the things she wore and the things she had in the house.  I always had great angst about what to give them. That year I found a little Japanese porcelain dish which I hoped they would like, but it cost more than my small salary could comfortably bear. Still, I bought it.  There wasn’t any joy in the purchase, however.  I was worried and poorer…not a good combination.

The Conservatory was, back then, in a less than desirable part of town.  It was surrounded by poverty level housing and people.  There was a drug store right across the street that I visited on my lunch hour to pick up necessary items.

One day, near Christmas, I was at the drug store, mindlessly purchasing some stuff, not giving it any thought as I stood in line to pay for my items. An older woman was in front of me.  She wasn’t dressed warmly enough for the cold Boston December day.  It did strike me that she most likely didn’t have a warmer coat, but the thought was fleeting.

And then something happened that I will never forget.  As my arms were carelessly full of stuff, I realized she was buying  a single box of tissues.  And I heard her say to the clerk:  “This is for my friend for Christmas. She’ll really like it.”

I find myself as speechless now as I did then. And still a little close to tears.  It was a hard reality.  She was delighted with her choice of a gift for her friend, confident that it would be given, received and used with love and affection.

And I was worried about an expensive porcelain dish for my parents who needed nothing and would most likely put the dish in a drawer anyway?  Not a Christmas goes by that I don’t think about that moment.

Sometimes, I wish our family could just exchange boxes of tissues, carefully choosing one that might appeal…they come in such jazzy colors and designs these days. Wouldn’t that be fun?  We could wrap them up fancifully with pretty paper and ribbons, confident they would be used and appreciated.

Now, I know we can’t….and would never want to…deny our families the joy of Christmas morning and presents under the tree.  Santa Claus does exist.

But, for me, perhaps, a box of tissues has become a symbol of friendship and love,  of a longed-for simple Christmas season, of joy, of an opportunity to share with others less fortunate, and, of course, in its own way, the true meaning of  Christmas.

December 14, 2014

How Cats Think

He always does this when we’ve been gone for one or more nights.  We ask ourselves: “Why?”  “Why does he bury (most of) himself under the hall runner?”

We’ve decided it’s his message to us: “You left me here in this house all by myself.  Yes, you arranged for me to be fed and watered.  But you were far away and unavailable for loving, petting, cooing.  All the things I value.”

But since he can’t pack his bags, walk out the door and leave us as we do him, he burrows under the rug and becomes unavailable for loving, petting, cooing.  All the things we value.

Wretched being.

And all the more loved for his cunning and very feline behavior.

‘Tis the Season

We’re in full shopping mode at this point.  It slowly creeps up on us and then takes over.  I weary of it and I don’t think I’m alone.

Our families and friends are so fortunate.  Our well-being doesn’t depend on those things we don’t have.  We’re blessed that way.

Still, we feel the pressure, the urge, and yes, the fun and joy of giving at this time of year.  Even if it’s something small, we want to give a gift to those we care about.    And yet….

A friend and poet, Thelma Naylor, wrote something a while ago that found its way into my “frequent reading folder.” With her permission, I’ll share that poem:

Please, don’t give me anything

I’ll have to recycle its packaging

Decide on its appropriate setting

Take care of it, clean it, move it

Determine its fair market price

And give you something nice

 

Please, don’t give me anything

Just your touch

 

How lovely.  Just that small, beautiful gift of friendship.  I can’t think of anything I’d rather have.

 

 

Image thanks to Babam Media

Coulda Shoulda Woulda ?

I should have written a check.

I would have written a check.

I could have written a check but I pay on-line.

It’s so much easier to do it that way.  Just a couple of clicks and it’s done.  Think of the paper I save.  No long lines at the post office to buy increasingly expensive stamps.   No trips to Staples to buy envelopes or order checks.

It’s all just great until the on-line people decide it’s time to verify I’m who I say I am.

Shouldn’t they warn me I’m about to be subjected to the dreaded “challenge questions?”

They, those inaccessible and inscrutable people, already know the answers to those questions and if my answers don’t match theirs, there will be a shut-down and I will be denied access to my hard-earned money.

I’m a good person, albeit not technically inclined.  I’m also not inclined to remember obscure answers when they were just that to begin with.

Happily, I still have lots of stamps, boxes of envelopes, years’ worth of blank checks and I quite love my writing instruments.

Am I to be ecologically incorrect or suffer at the hands of impersonal machinery?

What an absurd riddle.

 

 

 

Image thanks to bankrate.com

Priority Mail

 

Gotta love Amazon Prime.  When it works, it’s wonderful.  Reliable, fast, next-day delivery.

Not always the case where we live, however.

Our main thoroughfare (all two lanes of it) is frequently blocked.  No one can get in. Or, in our case, out.   And it’s blocked for the most delightful of reasons.

Our town has street fairs for just about every occasion you can imagine.  Orange no-parking cones go up, tents arrive, food is cooked and people throng.

We celebrate all the normal holidays:  Easter, Christmas, Veterans Day.  Parades fill the streets.  People come from all over to join in.

Those parades are just the beginning.  We also have Farmer’s Markets, Book Fairs, Art shows, Craft shows, Seafood festivals, BBQ cook-offs, Art and Wine strolls, Boiled Peanut festivals, pop-up fundraisers.  The list goes on.  No cars, golf carts, trucks or vans allowed during any of those things.  Only people on foot.  And dogs, of course.

So, sometimes we don’t always get our next-day delivery.  Or any delivery for that matter.

I actually find it quite charming that our little town successfully foils Amazon and the United States Postal Service.

We show them a thing or two about priorities.

 

 

 

Photo thanks to Jeramey Lende/shutterstock.com