Wednesday, April 16, 2014

naked catholics

I waited a full twenty minutes after the two women left the pool. This should have given them ample time to shower and vamoose from the premises.  I would then have privacy in that horribly open shower. But they are still lingering and talking about some dive that sells the best beer-battered cod this Lenten season. Who wants to shower with naked Catholics? Not me.

I creep to the far end of the locker room but then, "Dawn!" Yes, I was forced to introduce myself one day. "You are an incredible swimmer! Just how old are you?"  Christ, am I now in this category? People ask my ninety-ish father this all the time. They are astounded that he has lived this long and is still functioning. In early youth and in great age we have the ability to astound people if we can still perform mundane tasks. Two-year-olds are praised if they can skip or use the potty.

"I'll be 62 this month," I sigh, attempting to shield myself with a very small bath towel. Curses, why didn't I pack the beach towel?
"Awesome! You don't look THAT old." What I hear: 62 is really old. And I would like to add that I never use the word "awesome" to describe anything, except maybe God.

"Oh," gushes the thirtysomething girl in pink leopard panties. "You are my idol! I want to be swimming just like you when I'm that old." How do I exit this conversation with some semblance of dignity? How do I keep from punching her in the stomach?

It's funny. Leopard pantie girl and I actually have the same name. First, middle and last. I always knew there was another woman in this two-bit town with my moniker. I spied her once in the police column of the local newspaper. I waited all night for family and friends to call asking about the published offense but no one did. I guess they totally believed I did indeed steal those Marlboros and beef jerky from the local Oky Doky mart.

And then there was the time I picked up a prescription at the local medicine place. I was tired, just off work, needing to be home on my couch with my friend, Mr. Kessler. I silently paid for the large bagged box knowing  I had only ordered a small tube of anti-itch skin cream. When it was all unbagged I found a diaphragm for chrissake and friends, that ship left the dock a long time ago. The doorbell rings and the pharmacist is red-faced and stammering on my welcome mat, anti-itch skin tube in hand, probably worrying about a federal lawsuit. Just hand it over, buddy, I have better things to do than shiver in my doorway. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

the losing side

I am at yet another sixth grade basketball game and as usual my grandson is on the losing side. This has been a recurring theme in my life and I don't know why.

Why are our boys always on the losing side, I asked my daughter one spring evening as I watched the opponent whip around the bases followed by two more of his teammates. It's not that my prodigy jinx the game process or are weak and incapable athletes. They just end up on the wrong team. Every single time.

I don't take losing well. I avoided all competitive sports in my academic years. I was short and stubby like a cigar butt and was always the second to the last kid to get picked for a team. And the last kid was Betty Rae who had polio and wore this awfully thick brace on her skinny leg and she couldn't bend that leg at the knee. Watching her run was a terrible process, the braced leg swinging outward in an arc like an out-of-control helicopter blade.  I preferred to sit under our cottonwood tree and read. Go play with your friends, my mother would say. Why?

I started thinking it was my presence that was poisoning the boys' efforts. I started experimenting. I would go to the bathroom, buy some popcorn, go watch the miniature golfers whenever a grandson went to bat. If I wasn't there watching him, it would be all right. There was something in my cosmic make-up that caused him to miss the ball, drop the ball, run the wrong way, whatever. Sometimes I would just miss the entire game, take my negative force out of the arena but to no avail. They would almost always lose and I would be left with a double heaviness on my heart, my boy's and my own grief.

Did I mention there are a disproportionate number of tall kids on the successful team? There always is. Losing builds character, says one of the winning kids' parents, that annoying little half smile lingering on her lips.  Fuck you, I think, losing breeds self-contempt and hopelessness and I secretly long for her tall kid's neon yellow shoe lace to unravel and cause him to fall backwards on the hard floor shattering his skull and all her hopes. I'm still picturing the pinkish-colored brain material seeping onto the floor when, "Dawn, ready to go?" That's the husband.

I don't ask for much, just a little fairness in the midst of all this eleven-year-old angst.