Saturday, July 28, 2012

man's land

He's gone and done it again. Big Dave went clothes-shopping without me. He has been warned never to attempt this activity unless I accompany,  I am the sole manifestation of class and good taste in his little simple life.  I see the Kohl's bags on the floor and I sigh painfully as I take out his newly purchased khaki work pants, what is this awful shiny material?  My husband will look like an Italian pimp when he shows up at the office.

I myself went shopping today. After several years of procrastination I  finally committed to painting the old beat up bench that sits outside my front door. I entered the hardware store with my usual trepidation, the same feeling I get when I talk to a mechanic.  I have entered Man's Land and I don't understand the language or the smells or the lack of color-coordinated decor. Chin up, I am the daughter of a paint store owner, I can do this.

 "Can I help you, ma'am," says the clerk, himself a man, already looking at me like I am a child with chocolate syrup on my face. Yes, I say and I explain the dilemma of the bench, the one with the paint so embedded in the grain that paint stripper has no effect. I'll be scrubbing and sanding the wood, I tell him, sounding totally in charge of my project, just direct me to the proper paint shelf. "And what color are you thinking?"  Something along the line of a burnt sienna orange, I say, and I see his eyes roll ever so slightly as my response  reminds him of my gender or maybe I'm imagining all this. No, I'm not. I have lost all credibility with this man and I am just another silly woman who paints ordinary objects outrageous colors.

For truth to be told the only comfortable commercial setting for me is a bakery, those wonderful warm and aromatic little shops, the promise of sensual fulfillment in the form of a cream-filled, chocolate-covered long john.  There and only there does the world make sense for me.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

a bernard boy at that

I only play classical music in my car because I am the fire-breathing poster child of road rage. The great composers keep me sedated and less likely to hurl obscene epithets and empty fast food containers out the window at stupid drivers.  I cannot tolerate those uncivilized boors who can't seem to pick a lane and stay with it, their cell phones glued to their stupid pointy ears. They should have their bare buttocks caned, all of them, only mideastern disciplinary measures will suffice here.

The Iowa drought continues. Someone with a questionable sense of humor emailed me this picture and it was titled, Iowa's new rain gauge. And you just know that's a Budweiser cap.  Friend James zinged back, "they could also do an Iowa porta potty, an empty beer bottle filled with you know what." And he's an old Bernard boy at that and I tell him, it's a good thing to have classy friends. Once again, the bottle would be Budweiser.

 Our lawns crunch when we walk on them, like tredding on really frozen snow and they would reduce your feet to bloody rubble should you go barefoot. And the only gardens in my neighborhood that look healthy belong to my father. Watering is his new mission, his Ex Calibur, his Holy Grail so to speak. Sonny needs projects, a schedule of regular, unwavering tasks, something he can talk about later. Without this he would be reduced to a dry husk of a man and none of us want to see that.  He planted a ton of hostas on a hillside and now he awakens every morning with only one desire, to have a hose in his hand.  He has built a rather ingenious little fence around the plants not wanting our hired lawn-cutters to mow them down but no one is mowing this grass, the little fellers stopped growing weeks ago.  He has rigged up carefully spaced buckets with holes in specific areas to allow the water to trickle out slowly and not be rushed away to the bottom of the hill. There is a soothing symmetry about the design of his work, a touch of Da Vinci, a mind launched and unfettered. If given enough time and space Sonny could design a cathedral out of Popsicle sticks and rubber bands.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

in my newspaper today

Some guy in Portland, Oregon took a dead rodent out of a stray cat's mouth, a cat with which he had no personal relationship and now he is infected with bubonic plague, the same bacterium that wiped out one third of Europe in the    14th century.  I'm not quite sure why he wanted that putrid mouse but now he's in critical condition, of course he is.  Is anybody besides me scared by the level of stupidity out there? These people drive on the same streets my grandchildren cross and some of them may actually take the time to vote.  We're all going to hell in a teacup, whatever that means.

And then I read about the Flying Wallenda family and they are famous not for their choice of work clothes which would be sequin-studded spandex but their choice of career. For seven generations these kids have been manning trapezes in the circus arena leaping and jumping into each others' arms.  And you wear khakis to your job and stare at a computer screen all day.  There is a downside to this career choice as demonstrated by Grandpa Wally when he fell to his death from that same trapeze. If someone is calling you Grandpa you need a safety net, old fellow. The latest star in the Wallenda sky is young Nik who plans to walk the tight rope across Niagra Falls. And I am grateful I was born into a family that finds fulfillment by refinishing furniture.  We prefer to be close to the ground, boring but essential to continuing good health.

"Being on a tightrope is living. Everything else is waiting," says deceased Grandpa Wallenda.

And now from the Financial Q&A column "My 80-year-old mother had a living trust done years ago specifying that all assets be divided equally among her five children. My sister and a deceased brother got my mother to take out several loans  blah blah blah. . ."  I gotta give this deceased brother credit for proving that not only can you take it with you, you can get even more after you've crossed that great divide. I'm just sayin' . . .

The newspaper would be a lot more interesting if that Calvin & Hobbes guy hadn't retired.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

i'm still not done with the hair issue

"Quit arguing, you two," I admonish the two quarreling immatures at my dinner table and I'm not talking about my grandsons.  Sonny and Big Dave are at it again trying to outdo the other on some useless topic and it's not easy sharing a meal with two alpha males. These two are so alike they rarely agree on anything and I'm stuck listening to endless masculine drivel that is really just a pissing contest in a very weak disguise.

I try to hide in my kitchen but the townhouse is small and the voices carry and I really don't want to look at all these dirty dishes.  I am an unorganized chef and by meal's end almost all of my kitchenware is in various levels of greasiness.  Soon you will be in the pool, I chant, soon you will be in the pool.

And now I have left the mess and the dickering relatives and I am driving to my pool with the air conditioning blasting as loudly as my crappy hometown radio station. They generally play U2 and Fleetwood Mac with a smattering of Tom Petty, I suppose things could be worse, it could be Billy Joel and John Mellancamp, gawd. My car is ten years old and it boasts a tape deck, no CDs in this old gal. I only have one old Meatloaf tape but that's not counting the Christmas music.

And it is hot, yes it is, heat indexes are at 106 and what is this, I notice outside my car window. Men, all sizes, shapes and ages are walking down the steamy street with their t shirts in their hands. Men! All of you! Put your shirts back on!  You, officer driving by me, arrest these varmints, they are guilty of scenery violation. There should be a law that states no man over the age of twenty can go shirtless. We do not wish to view errant body hair trailing from your armpits and swirling up your back and claiming your neckline only to meet with that little fringe around your scalp. We live in barbaric times when this kind of thing is allowed.

And now I am paddling on my back watching a lone eagle and two pelicans follow me down the lap lane. I am not food, I remind them silently, I am not food.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

two years

It always bothered me that my mother died when I wasn't in the room.  Some well-meaning people told me she purposely waited for me to leave but in the scheme of things I don't think she had any opinion in the whole sad business.  My mother had been sick and sweating and asleep for three days and there had been no conscious energy being communicated to those of us waiting bedside.  She just left.

Like most of my family I was in firm and silent denial about her deteriorating health.  My brother thought with enough physical therapy she would again walk those steps up to her bedroom and sleep with her husband.  I knew that was a scam and it fueled my belief I was infallibly right, she would survive renal failure and diabetes and all the endless diagnoses she harbored in those last few months.  Christ, how much can one small body endure.

I was with her when her hearing was tested, one short week before her death. She wanted the burgundy hearing aid, and I said no, get the ivory, it is the better deal.  And she let out this endless sigh, a small soft wind wafting towards me.  I forgot that choice was what she needed, that one last stab at independence and I took it away.  We did go for a ride in the country that same day and she ate chocolate ice cream. "I can go home anytime you're ready," she said.  She would never say, I'm fucking exhausted, get me home.

I left her for the last time while she was still breathing to buy groceries.  My sons were coming from Michigan and Colorado and that means food to a mother, she would approve.

Left behind in that hospital room were my brother David, her champion golden child, a lyricist of funny bone and plain innocent fun, the blond son that challenged all genetic information.  She needed him as we all did to divert the dark German culture prevalent in our blood.  My sister Amy.  There was turbulance in their early connections and then these women finally carved out a benevolant compromise, they were the younger darker daughters hunkering in the shadow of older domineering sisters.  And my brother's wife, Sheri, her caregiver in those last messy days. She was forgiving and undaunted by a dying woman's last fluid emissions and epistles, not all of us can do that.
I am indebted to you all.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

you just might wanna skip this one

I prefer to swim early.  If I wait until later fat Hispanic boys will be cannonballing all around me. An achy virus has snagged me but the exercise gurus say the only medical issue that should keep me from my athletic routine is a fever.  I'm adding explosive diarrhea to that list out of social deference for my fellow swimmers.  Nothing clears a pool faster than a floating turd.

Three large men are water walking on the other side of my lane and I am trying to keep my eyes off their hairy backs but you know how human nature is.  We can't help staring at circus freaks, roadkill splashes and the overly obese lady when she bends over.

And it was just last night Sonny and I had a lively discussion on body hair.  We talk about everything at supper from whale blubber recipes to Japanese torture techniques in prisoner of war camps, topics that cause my high strung husband to flee the dinner table.  My father is explaining how he no longer has hair under his arms and I struggle to look interested while slurping up spaghetti.

 Sonny is a skinny dude with scant body hair but his forearms boast major clumps of fuzziness and I remember sitting across from him in the back seat of a car. I felt little ticklings on my arm and what is this, a lonely flea attempting to make contact?  And then I realize it is one of my father's arm hairs stretched in the billowing breeze almost a foot away doing a staccato dance on my skin.  I swear this really happened and I tell him all this.

 Sometimes I question the practicality of living so close to an elderly parent. I am privy to every detail, why the bread pudding didn't gel and how he got the odor out of  a bad-smelling cabinet and unfortunately why he buys sanitary napkins.

I am sauteing peppers and onions when Sonny comes through the door. He displays his arms under my nose and I am wondering why I need to look at this age-spotted skin and then I see it.  Oh! Oh! He trimmed back the offending arm hair and I let him know it is a wonderful thing he has done. Somebody get me a life, please.