Tuesday, January 12, 2016

of mouse and man 2

Our campaign to eradicate the invader of our home began with Mary going to the local armory (otherwise known as ACE HARDWARE ) to load up on the necessary supplies. According to the ACE man all we needed was a supply of little bitty mouse traps for a little bitty mouse.  He loaded her up with six of the gadgets that were guaranteed to smite the critter or whack the tips of your fingers off if you weren’t careful.  He assured her that the bazooka and flamethrower she asked for was a bit of overkill in this particular instance.

Once home we again went over the plan of action.  First order of business was to figure out where to set or guaranteed mouse eradicater traps.  After lengthy debate that included a powerpoint presentation, indelible markers on charts with arrows pointing every which way, and an actual “X” to mark the chosen spots where we planned to ambush the unsuspecting rodent, we turned our attention to learning how to arm our arsenal. The “ACE helpful hardware man” had shown Mary how to set the traps, but he was, of course, an old and highly experienced hand at this.  He made it look so easy.  Mary should have noticed that he was without 3 fingers on his left and most vulnerable hand.  That might have given us pause as we prepared for the scary task we thought would be so easy.

We are reasonably intelligent people generally capable of following directions. But the printed instructions on the packaging were indecipherable to nonUrdu speaking mouse hunters.  The drawings that illustrated the printed instructions were smudged beyond comprehension and appeared to be created by a gang of monkeys wielding crayons.
No matter how I manipulated the supposedly simple-to-use gadget, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to bait the trap and get it armed with that little bar that went over the killing bar and into the slot on the other side where the irresistible morsel of peanut butter (low fat peanut butter, of course.  We reasoned that if the intrepid mouse somehow defeated the trap and walked away unharmed, we didn’t want to be responsible for his getting fat and having high cholesterol) beckoned our unloved and unwanted guest.  After my blood pressure spiked to 220/109 I gave in and did what no real man would ever do.  I asked for help.

We are very lucky to have moved into a condo next door to a real live testosterol oozing manly man whose middle initials are DIY.  He was clearly nearly orgasmic at being asked to show me how those damn traps are supposed to go together.  His nimble fingers made short work of arming our weaponry.  But then he ignored the well laid plans that we had worked so hard on.  He ignored the arrows and all the meticulously drawn and placed “X”s when he showed me were HE would put the traps to provide maximum killing power.  Of course, my suggested placement was totally wrong and couldn’t possibly yield a single rodent.  I shed my pride and did it his way.  I simply planned to change the traps back to their proper place according to my plan once he left. Egos are fragile things and I had sublimated my substantial ego when I asked him for help.  There is only so much ego bashing that I can be expected to tolerate.

The vexing thing that has us worried is that a long lasting war with a legion of mice has just begun.  Everyone says, that “where there is one there are a hundred more.”  His invasion was only a recon sortie.  What our little innocent looking, even cute ball of fur was looking for was the right hidey hole for his extended family and friends.  Well, bring ‘em on.  I can still go back and get that bazooka and flamethrower. We would have to wait until the morning hours to determine the effectiveness of our battle plan. I was reasonably confident that the little would-be hero of his cohort would meet his demise sometime in the wee hours of the night. Mary claimed to hear him skittering around, opening doors and staking his claim. She was doing the hallucinating now.  I had to constantly reassure her that we would be rid of him in no time, and that she didn’t have to take that machete to bed with her.  Her apprehension was like a fog that permeated the condo.  With such an atmosphere tainting our existence, I, with my perverse sense of humor, couldn’t be expected to ignore the opportunity to scare the living hell out of her while in her fragile state of mind.  I know I’m taking one more giant step toward the hell she claims I deserve for all those other transgressions she has jotted down in her “Bob’s Behavior Book and Compendium of Sins. But it was just too easy a setup for me to not take advantage of it, too obvious, despite the major sin that would be jotted down in her book, for me to pass up.

It went like this:  You know that lint that accumulates in your clothes dryer vent that you’re supposed to clean out periodically? A little ball of that lint bears a remarkable resemblance to a little mouse.  You know where I’m going with this.  I hurried up the stairs from the downstairs battle ground, urgently calling to her to “Look what I got!”   
I didn’t get to within ten feet of her before she spotted the erzatz “mouse” in my hand.
The fire works were spectacular. I had no idea she could jump so far or screech that loudly.  She was hyperventilating while the screams continued unabated.  She was hurling epithets and condemning me to that special place in hell reserved just for me.
I calmly asked what she was getting so excited about.  I showed her the ball of lint in my hand and told her I was just showing her that I cleaned the dryer vent as I had promised her I would  do one of these days.  Mary was not amused.  And when Mary is not amused I can expect some difficulty getting back into her good graces.  I’m still working on that and suspect it will take a bit more time.  But it was worth it.

Morning arrived.  Mary refused to get out of bed until I had inspected the traps.  I ventured into the basement hoping that there would be a casualty to remove.  My hopes were rewarded.  The daring little critter met his demise in the trap set behind a stack of boards. He just couldn’t resist the peanut butter.  I know that I will never eat peanut butter again without thinking of that intrepid little rodent.

Friday, January 08, 2016

of mouse and man

We were just stepping inside the kitchen from the garage, having returned from a visit to my doctor, when just from the corner of my eye I thought I saw something skittering across the kitchen floor.  I was unsure if I really saw something or if I was hallucinating, being still somewhat sedated from that earlier encounter with my doctor. Mary saw nothing since she was behind me.  Then suddenly it happened again.  On the one hand I was relieved that I wasn’t hallucinating, but on the other hand I was pissed off that now I would have to hunt down that intrepid little mouse who dared to invade my home.

But first I had to deal with Mary.  I knew what her reaction would be to having a mouse as a house pet, so I adopted my calmest, most zenlike state of enlightenment, softened my voice to nearly a whisper, and prayed that the expected seismic disturbance wouldn’t drain the lake. 

“Uh, dear, I think we have a visitor sharing sharing the warmth of our home.” I broke the news to her as gently as possible. 

“ What do you mean, a visitor?” She was giving me only half of her attention, thinking that I meant a big fly or a moth or some other winged nuisance that had managed to survive the cold outside and had found a way into the warmth of our house.

“What?  What do you mean?” she repeated, a note of apprehension in her voice. 

“It’s actually a mouse.  I just saw him again in the kitchen.” It felt so good to have some important, consequence laden, honest news to lay in her lap that I wasn’t involved in or responsible for.  I didn’t have to lie at all.

 Her brain hadn’t quite kicked in yet to the possibility of the visitor being, in fact ,a “critter” from outdoors who managed to to get itself indoors where it could cause all kinds of problems, not the least of which was eating everything in sight and leaving the resultant excremental evidence of its comings and goings. The idea that a wild thing that is usually found only outside, was in fact, inside, was gradually beginning to snap those brain synapses that deal with mice into place.

“I mean, I just saw a little bitty mouse scoot across the kitchen and head into the dining room.”  I stayed calm and undisturbed, hoping she would feed off my calm and not go ballistic upon hearing the news. “ Don’t worry. He’s harmless.  The poor little thing is more scared of you than you are of him.”

Then, despite all my prayers and hopes that she would simply delegate the job of evicting our own Mickey to me, the feared eruption began, not with any kind of preliminary huffing and puffing, but with full blown fear and indignation.
“Eeeeek!!!”  She exploded. (her screams did actually sound like eeeeek) “You get that thing out of here right now.” She nearly choked on the words as she leaped up onto the nearest chair.  “How can you be so calm!?”  She acted as if I had personally gone out and recruited a suicidal mouse to live with us for the evening.  “ I am not going to live in this place unless you get rid of him. Now!  I’m staying in a motel as long as that rodent is in here,”  she hysterically informed me. “What if there’s more than one?  What if he gets in my bed ? (notice she didn’t say our bed.  That’s when I knew I was in deep mousey dodo) “How did he get in here?  You must have left the door open like you always do. “  (Notice how it is becoming all my fault.)  “You have to do something or I’m moving out! “ I was going to offer to pack her bags, but reasoned that that would only make it worse. 

And wouldn’t you know it, just then little Mick decided to make a run for it.  He careened full speed around the corner from the livingroom and made a mad dash for the basement stairs, squeessing his tiny tush under the closed door and disappearing as quickly as he had arrived. 

That’s when Mary finally calmed down enough to realize that this wasn’t the end of civilization as we know it.  As long as she was reasonably certain that the cute little adventurer would remain downstairs and not violate the upstairs/downstairs boundary, she would be content to wait until morning for my mandated killing rampage to begin.

You will have to wait to learn the outcome of my battle with the mouse that nearly brought us to the brink of insanity.  If you don’t hear from me again you can assume the worst.   Getting fitted for your mouse ears at that point might be a good idea.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

mary's ordeal

By now you all know that Mary has been going through a very difficult recovery after her gallbladder surgery. She is still in the hospital, now due to an infection that has lodged itself in there somewhere and is causing her considerable pain.
If any of you have gone through something like this, then you know the helpless feeling that beats down on you while you watch your loved one suffer. You know that you wouldn't hesitate to change places with her if that were only possible.
You want to attack anything that's related to her pain. You want to scream at the doctors who are obviously not doing what they are supposedly trained to do, that is cure her, or at least mitigate her suffering. When you visit her you see all the nurses busy with other patients and you want to shove them into her room because she deserves all the attention. And then you feel so terribly guilty when you get to walk out of the hospital, get in your car, and drive home to your comfortable existence, while the hurting, the pain and the despair continue unabated in that hospital room. It is hard not to rail at the God that we want to believe is beneficent and loving, and question why He allows this suffering to happen to so many.
In the past when we have been hit with some illness or other misfortune, we have always used the rationale, to make us feel better, that there is always someone out there in the world who is worse off than we are. But that only works for the minor setbacks that come along. This time we are so tuned in to our plight that thinking that there is someone else suffering doesn't help us to cope. I don't want to think that there is anyone else out there who is suffering worse than this. That seems too cruel to contemplate.
For me, coping with the realities of what we are going through, would be nearly impossible if I had to go it alone. I'm not whining or uttering woe is me. In the best of times I have some difficulty coping with the physicality of daily life due to my many skirmishes in the war against Parkinsons Disease. So when you pile on the unusual circumstances of a severe illness of a loved one and all the many changes that brings to bear on someone who requires a daily routine as a coping mechanism, you have someone who also needs a lot of care and attention. I am very fortunate to have friends and neighbors who have stepped up and lent a hand whenever I've needed it. There are times when I simply can't drive a car safely
and friends have generously hauled me around to where I needed to go. Every one I talk to has offered any kind of assistance I might need. Those people have saved me and helped me hold it together. But no one has done more to care for me and to help me to lead a normal life while all this is dragging me down than my daughter, Carrie.
Carrie showed up abruptly and quite unexpectedly last Tuesday with her 4 year old, Ezra in tow. We had expected a visit from her later in the summer, but because of her very busy and somewhat unusual lifestyle we didn't know exactly when that would be. One week she'll be home in Oakland with husband Jeremy, then she will be off to Princeton to do some research, then she will be in Africa doing field research for several weeks (with Ezra following in her wake and learning, learning, learning), then attending a conference of some sort somewhere, and then back home for a short while to recharge her batteries before the next round of activity. This past week she was supposed to be at a conference of some scientific sort in Atlanta, but she blew them off so that she could come here now when we most needed her help. And has she helped! We are most certainly the only people in the world who have a veterinarian research scientist with PhD playing housekeeper and nursemaid to her overwhelmed parents.
Carrie stepped right into the fray, got herself and Ezra settled in, organized and took inventory of the depleted pantry, bought a lot of what she claims is food, and pronounced that from now on she would see to it that I ate properly, took my meds on time on a regular schedule monitored by her, and that she would brook no arguments from me. So there! And she has acted as interpreter of much of the medical jargon and procedures that were thrown at us by haughty doctors who tended to talk down to us. All I have left to do while she is here is worry about Mary. And do my best to spoil Ezra and teach him naughty stuff that only a grandpa (or Papa as he calls me) can get away with.
Having my exceptionally bright, inquisitive, and endlessly curious four year old here has been an unexplainable joy. When he walked into Mary's hospital room that first time and surprised her, she nearly jumped out of bed to hug and squeeze him to make sure he was real and not fevered apparition. That was the first time in a long time that Mary looked happy. I can't wait to see that look on her face again. That will mean she really is getting better.

our best idea ever

It all began with the seed of an idea.....
Somewhere along the way to wherever, we planted that seed and, each in our own way,

nurtured it until it broke through the last of the fertile deliberations we had supplied. Mary was the first to broach the subject, being the sentimental one in our relationship. I surprised even myself when I didn't immediately dismissing the notion out of hand, since I don't usually abide such potentially emotional quagmires. I might have been influenced by Jim Christus and his wife, Barbara, who did it when on vacation in Hawaii recently. Jim, it's all your fault. Of course, I'm talking about renewing our wedding vows.
For whatever reason we both felt that this vacation would be an excellent opportunity to do it, since we were meeting our new/old friends from last year's vacation, who were returning here for another round of raucous jocularity and ribald conversations with us, but didn't make the final decision to go ahead with it until we were on the plane heading south and even then the final decision was contingent on our friend, Dawn Mays, agreeing to officiate at the the ceremony. Dawn is a Baptist minister and bishop in New Jersey. We met Dawn and her husband Bill, 1/3 of the group we call the rental gang, last year when we all vacationed at this same place and agreed to meet here again this year to continue our fledgling friendship. Of course we never considered her not accepting our proposal, and when she said she would be honored to play her role in our little drama we were committed. There was no turning back. When the second third of the rental gang, Jay and Maggie, who hail from upstate New York near Saratoga, arrived to share their vacation with us again the die was cast.
The final third of the gang is, of course, ourselves, Bob and Mary, the principles around whom all the hoopla revolved. We decided that Thursday would be the ideal time to seal the deal. We planned to have a little foodish get together just for the 6 of us (although everyone in the area was aware of the impending ceremony, and if they had attended it, we would have needed a truckload of chow to satisfy them) after the formalities were dispensed with and made sure to have a good supply of wine of various vintages on hand to calm everyone's nerves. No big deal. We frequently do the same thing at happy hour, but without the ceremony preceding the wine drinking and food eating.
What was far more difficult for both Mary and me was the need to write something to say about each other at the appointed time in the ceremony. I dashed my tribute off in a 2 hour burst of creative energy. It was easy because there is so much good I can say about my Better Half that the process was more an exercise in editing. If I were to cover all the attributes of my wife/best friend/lover/cheerleader/critic/caretaker/maid/financial manager/companion I would still be writing and everyone would have gone home, leaving me there talking to myself. Mary, I'm sure, had a much more difficult time fulfilling her obligation to find anything acceptable to say about me. She was working on the treatise right up to the moment we took our places facing the Reverend Mays. The thought that we might be heading to divorce court after this ceremony instead of partaking in the party goodies, crossed my mind more than once. Since she had the chance to enumerate all my faults and idiosyncrasies while searching for positive things to say, I figured I had no chance of coming out of her research with a glowing report. I was certain she would feel that I wasn't worth the effort it would take to keep me around anymore. But she surprised me by making up a bunch of good stuff that nobody questioned.
Dawn did a wonderful job with the ceremony she wrote for us. She lent a certain dignity and solemnity to the ceremony that touched us deeply. I was as nervous during this go around as I was at our wedding 46 years ago. I knew when the time came for me to speak my piece, I would
be too emotional to speak, too nervous to remember what I wanted to say. Parkinsons Disease plays a strong role in my emotional state. I now wear my emotions on my sleeve, easily brought to tears for the most mundane reasons. There is something in my brain that says it's ok to cry for any and all reasons that I encounter during the typical day. So I wasn't surprised when I choked up, looking into Mary's eyes, and had such a difficult time getting the words to make sense as they tumbled out of my mouth. Somehow everyone seemed to understand or at least get the drift of what I was trying to say. Or they faked it just to be nice.
When Mary's turn came to speak she performed admirably as she always does. She found enough good to attribute to me that I was reassured that we will most likely stay together for a while longer. After Dawn was finished with us and we officially stuck with each other again, it was time to party. This is where it gets a little weird. You'll have to wait for that chapter of Bob and Mary's Excellent Adventure until I have more time.......so to be continued. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

puppet love

The other evening we were just relaxing, watching some nonsense on TV when Mary said, “You know they are not together anymore.”
Her conversation can leave me bewildered at times because her segues, or lack of same, don’t always register as the words pass through my brain scanning synapses.

I glanced up, first at her to make sure she had actually spoken to me (I have very selective hearing), and then up at the TV to confirm in my mind that the comment she just made was rooted in what was happening there. 

“You know they were never really ‘together.’  She was always more into him than he was into her.”  I responded with little enthusiasm.  I’m not one to analyze and critisize  anyone else’s life choices.

“No you’re wrong.” I must have pushed her fight mode button because she was suddenly all combative over this trivial matter.  “She always loved him and he was a jerk for trying to avoid her.” 

“So you admit that they were never a couple because he was always trying to stay out of her clutches.” 

“Well they would have been a very happy couple if he had only cooperated.” She could sense the argument tilting in my direction. I delivered the coup de gras by pointing out to her that they were not real. 

“You know, of course, that they are puppets, don’t you?” I twisted the knife just a bit by adding that he had once been someone’s green sock and she was a concoction of pink foam rubber. 

“Are the Brewers playing?”  She asked as a way of confusing me and thus claiming victory in our little skirmish.  Remember what I said about her segues.  Mary considers any argument won if she can change the subject on the fly, leaving me scratching my head, wondering how we got to this point.  

I was left with the realization that we are really pathetic, relying on the love life  of a couple of Muppets for conversation.

Friday, December 18, 2015

excerpt 5

It doesn’t matter the season, Mary will always find a reason to shop.  And if she has a coupon it would take a small army of ninjas to keep her out of the store.  So when she says we are going to Kohls because “I have a coupon for 30% off and a store credit for $10, and I think I might get another 10% if I use another charge card,” you know it’s going to be a long day.

I sometimes will wait in the car, napping, while she seeks out the treasures  the magic coupons’ promise.  But this time I felt brave and courageous and decided to test my tolerance for “shopping,” which means I would have to find some way to amuse myself by playing a game much like “hide and seek” but with no actual hiding and no serious seeking.  It goes like this:  she says “I am going to the kids toys department.”  That simple declaration is both a command for me to follow and a challenge for me to see how quickly and unobtrusively I can disappear before she notices that I have once again slipped away.  I can generally manage a good ten minutes of freedom before she realizes that I am not nipping at her heels like a little puppy. This is the “hiding” part of our game.  Then she pulls out her Annoying Immature “Husband Finder,” otherwise known as a cellphone, and calls me to determine, first, my whereabouts and then the proper punishment for this latest offense. I think the use of the cellphone is cheating, but since I am the only one playing, I can’t complain to the refs.

“ Where are you now? “ Her voice had that certain threatening edge to it, so I know I’m losing points rapidly.  “You were supposed to be helping me in the kids’ toys department but as usual , you wandered off and got lost.”

“I’m not lost. I know exactly where I am.” I had wandered into the kitchen area and was enjoying lusting after the shiny Cuisenarts and Keuregs and all the optional accessories that went with them.  I love kitchen stores, almost as much as a good hardware store with all the doodads and gizmos on display that you didn’t know you needed but now can’t live without.

“Well, try not to get lost on your way to the toy department.  I need your help carrying this stuff.”  She wasn’t scolding me yet.  She was a clever opponent, waiting until I was loaded down with packages before ripping me a new one. I took my time getting to where I was supposed to be, browsing through the personal electronics but stopped short of making the right turn down the aisle that would take me to the kids toys.  I hesitated because walking down that aisle involved walking past the Ladies Lingerie Department on my left side with the kids’ toys on my right.  I get vaguely uneasy when passing ladies lingerie, feeling as though I’m a peeping pervert invading the privacy of all the women who will buy and wear all those lacy and frilly foofoos to cover up their hoohas.  Since the lingerie was in such close proximity to the little boy’s toys, I like to think of that area as the Big Boys’ Toys Department.

When I arrived  at the designated department, Mary had a bunch of the usual plastic junk gathered in a pile in one corner.  She says she wanted my opinion on which stuff I liked best (as if I’m going to play with that junk).  I just sort of pointed a finger in the general direction of the plastic wasteland and mumbled dire predictions that my  grandchildren would end up being buried under that slag heap. 

After Mary tied me to the leash she carries with her for those times when I show signs of wandering off, we loaded up the cart with a rather precarious pile of soon to be junk and headed for the elevator, nearly taking out 4 feet of hanging foofoos as we tried to get there. While waiting for the slowest elevator in the western hemisphere to travel all of 12’ between floors, we started a conversation with another glassy- eyed pair of worn out grandparents who were inspecting the haul in our cart and recommending other toys that they had purchased somewhere along the way.  Critiques and reports on the varying quality of our choices followed.  As loaded to the ceiling as we were, they matched us box for box. We bowed to their supremacy in the “Grandparents as Spoilers Of Their Grandkids” contest.  We should have handicapped the contest, however, since they had numerous grandkids to help pump up their score, while we had the two little girls and one big boy to do battle with.  Of course, if you figured in the Cuteness and Smartness categories, we would have humiliated them, walking away with the coveted trophy.

Did I mention that we were on the slowest elevator in the western hemisphere?  Actually, it wasn’t the elevator’s fault. Once we got on the elevator it was a good 5 minutes before any one of the four of us present in that cramped space thought to push the button with the upward pointing arrow.  So if seniors like us were using the elevator to ferry seniors from one floor to the next all day, and if you figure in the typical length of the conversations that took place in said elevator, my quick calculations had us as the third users of the elevator that day.  It was near 3:30 PM.  That elevator had one cushy job.

Leaving Kohls, Mary had the bright idea that we ought to stop at Barnes and Nobel to look for some books for you know who. I was good with that idea because I love bookstores, and I love my grandkids. That was a match made in heaven.  For the next hour I was totally absorbed in looking at all those books and practicing my disappearing skills.  There was no way she was going to drag me out of there before I had my fill of words collected into sentences, then paragraphs and chapters and finally books. So many books, so few eyes. That rejuvenating visit to a bibliophile’s version of heaven
gave me the strength I needed to get us home after a long and tiring day.  By the time we turned into the condo complex we call home, it was fully dark outside. But that was perfect.  Or so we thought. You see, we were both looking forward to driving into our driveway while admiring all those Christmas lights I had worked so hard on.  Before we knew it we had driven totally around the circle drive without seeing our lights. We drove right past our place with no light display to ooh and aah over. 

“ Didn’t you turn on the lights this morning like we discussed?”

“I thought you did,” I responded.

“And I thought you did,” she answered. 

It took two more attempts to find our condo in the dark, but eventually we succeeded.  

A natural conclusion to a typical day in the continuing saga of “Bob and Mary’s excellent adventure.

excerpt 4

The saga continues with this excerpt from the next chapter of Bob and Mary’s Excellent Adventure.
With all the running around we’ve been doing, there comes a time to replenish the fuel in the car or risk the embarrassing walk to the gas station with that red container that fairly shouts, “this fool can’t be trusted to remember that the gas gauge on the dashboard ain’t kidding.” and knowing that everyone driving by knows what a shmuck you are for running out of gas. So rather than suffer that ignominy, I headed for the nearest gas station for the necessary fill up.
By now we all know how deficient I am when it comes to dealing with any kind of tech torture devised by man. But come on, a gas pump hardly qualifies as first tier technology meant to thwart every attempt by man to use it -that is, a normal man. But this is me holding the hose and wondering why the pump isn’t cooperating. I tried everything I could think of to prod that pump into performing its only function. And,yes, I put the credit card in the slot the right way. Rather than asking Mary what was wrong (talk about embarrassing; no manly man would ever stoop so low as to ask his wife how to operate a gas pump) I decided to go to the source and deal man to man with the station attendant.
I knew immediately upon entering that this might be a more difficult process than I originally thought. The odor inside was decidedly not of this part of the world, but something that might be considered etherial over there. I have a very bad sense of smell, but even I was overwhelmed. But the incense fouling the atmosphere was only the first clue that communication might be problematic. The turban on the attendant’s head was a dead give away that some delicate international diplomacy was going to be required.
“Can you turn pump 4 on for me? I can’t get it to work.” I started the communication dance rolling.
“You want receipt?” (supply your own indecipherable accent here)
“ No, I don’t need a receipt since I haven’t bought anything yet.” I tried to keep the sarcasm out of my voice, but I was having some difficulty doing so.
“I give you receipt.” He handed over a receipt for $12, figuring that I would be satisfied with someone else’s receipt.

“No, no, i don’t want a receipt, especially not someone else’s. What I would really like is for you to turn the pump on so I can pump some gas and thereby qualify for one of your wonderful receipts.” The exasperation I was feeling was gradually bubbling to the surface and would soon come spewing out, uncontrolled by my increasing lack of patience.

“Yes,Yes, you qualify. I give you receipt.” He was nearly jumping for joy at solving my problem.

What I wanted to say at that point to that moron, Mary won’t allow me to print here.
I just threw up my hands, turned toward the exit door, and headed for the relative safety of the real world outside. As I approached the end of my Twilight Zone episode, I was mumbling imprecations aimed at Middle Eastern oil.
We were so traumatized by the experience (at least I was. Mary tends to laugh at me when I teeter on the edge sanity.) that we put requiring fuel on the bottom of the list, figuring there were at least 4 more gas stations along the way that would certainly accept my credit card and spit out a receipt without my having to deal with another gas station attendant.
The only thing that would make me recover and feel good again was some shopping. Yeah, I like to shop with Mary. Especially when I know that if I behave myself, she will reward my good behavior with something I want. I don’t have to beg much for it either.

We headed for Kohls.

excerpt 3

Another excerpt from the saga known as Bob and Mary's Excellent Adventure
So after Mary giving me another lesson on technology and its use, I finally realized that for your phone to work as intended by the manufacturer, you have to turn it on. Who knew?
Our itinerary (or was it my stomach) called for lunch, but we had to make a very important stop first to take care of some financial hooha that Mary insisted was crucial to our continued solvency. She tried to tell me what she was intending to do, but typical for me, the message barely made it to my ears before it disappeared in the fog of numbers involved. All I know 
Is that the transaction involved some kind of balance between 2 accounts that had to resolved. Mary has always handled the family finances and has done a great job, so I just keep my nose out of it. The more numbers involved, the less interested I become. So when she told me that the money transfer from one account to another was for all of 35 cents, I didn't really care. As long as I get fed somewhere along the way, she can make as many transfers as she wants.
After working up an appetite handling all that high finance, we headed for one of favorite restaurants. However, we couldn't get anywhere near the place. The parking lot was jammed. All those old Buicks, Chevys, and other old cheap domestic cars that were scraping against each other, made me certain that in that restaurant that was supposed to feed me some good food, was a hustler trying to feed a bunch of baloney to a packed house of Seniors. Give them a free meal and they will listen to anything.
We opted for the Olive Garden instead, not because we could get a free meal there without having to listen to a sales pitch, but because we still had some money left on a gift card we got from someone somewhere. We were halfway through our salad when a long parade of very long young men appeared, all dressed alike and heading for the room right behind us. Being the quick and clever guy I am, I realized that we were going to share the remainder of our lunch with a basketball team. I picked out one of the passing giants and inquired where they from and what they were doing here. The fine young gentleman addressed me as "Sir" and then identified his cohort as the Grambling State basketball team here to play Marquette later that day. I replied that I could wish them luck, but I wouldn't mean it. He smiled politely as he eased away from any further contact with me.
Meanwhile, at the table next to us, an elderly man was talking on his phone, asking whoever was on the other end of the call what college team has a big "G" on its uniform. Mary, who was not eavesdropping on his conversation (she claims), told him which team it was and then set about having a ten minute conversation with him. He was a retired teacher, so you know how that went. In those ten minutes she learned his entire life story and gained another friend.
It was an interesting lunch which was about to get more interesting. We were ready to pay the check, having given our waiter the gift card that brought us there. He returned with the card with a sad and embarrassed look and informed us that the card was no good anymore, but not because it had run out of money, but because the Olive Garden restaurant had been recently sold and they were no longer honoring the former owners gift cards. Well, that was unacceptable to Mary, so she sought an audience with the manager, got her to accept the card and got her to honor the remaining $7 on the card as our waiter's tip.
Mary does stuff like that all the time. She's a good one to take to lunch if you're hoping to scare up a free meal.
As we were leaving the restaurant, I, wearing my UW cap and jacket, stuck my head in the door to the Grambling State's lunch room, tipped my hat and said loudly enough so at least some of them could hear, "GO BADGERS!" I heard a few halfhearted boos in return.
Now let's go do some shopping.

excerpt 2

We shall continue with excerpts from the next chapter in the saga known as "Bob and Mary's Excellent Adventure.' The previous post got us started on this road to try to understand what the hell is going on with us.
Wednesdays are typically spent going to appointments, running errands, shopping, taking care of business that keeps a middle class existence humming along. Unfortunately, Mary and i seem to be living in an alternate universe where the life lines are sometimes twisted or knotted and the timelines are skewed a fraction off center so that there can be no parallel lines converging on that dot on the horizon, causing us to constantly view a lopsided version of the real world. If there is an unusual happening floating through the ether looking for a place to land, it will variably latch onto our unsuspecting alternate universe, making us ask the question, "Why us?"
This past Wednesday started out with the case of the missing trash can and went further sideways with each passing minute. Wednesday is the day we head to the "big city" to take care of most of the week's away-from-home chores as well as admit a couple of our hedonistic activities. I get my weekly massage, and Mary gets her hair done. That sounds simple enough on the surface, but accomplishing those two simple tasks can take an inordinate amount of time, planning, and cooperation among Mary's hair stylist, my massage therapist, and the both of us. Complicating the planning is the fact that we are only using one car to get from here to there and back to here and there.
So, we have to time it so Mary can drop me off (she usually drives) at the massage therapist's (I hate it when someone refers to it as the massage "parlor." It just sounds too creepy and somehow illegitimate and possibly illegal) and still get to her beauty "parlor" (doesn't the use of parlor in this instance bring back memories of the fifties and early sixties when women actually went there expecting to get beautiful as the name implies?). Now they go to a stylist who works on them in a salon. That means that I generally have 15-20 minutes to kill before I get therapies and a half hour or more to wait after I'm finished being tenderized. Mary and I stay in touch by texting or calling throughout these activities so we both know when she will pick me up. Cell phones are great, aren't they? What would we do without them?
I'll tell you what we would do without all that technology bulging in our pockets. We would spend the rest of the day wondering where she or he has gotten off to without checking in with the worried spouse. Or maybe we would just not pick up the phone when it rings or chirps or sings the Hallelujah Chorus. Maybe we misunderstood the time that she who was driving said she would be there to get me. There was no excuse for her making me wait longer than expected, and she did say she would text me when she was on her way. So, I waited patiently in the "quiet room" in that damned massage parlor, wondering if she forgot about me and went shopping. "Out of sight, out of mind" is her operating mantra. I'm sitting there in a soft marshmellowy rocking chair, trying to stay awake so I could be angry with her for ignoring me if I ever saw her again.
Just when I was about to dig my cell phone out of my pocket (you can ask why didn't I call or text her during that time - -uh, she said she was going to text me, no me text her. I always obey the rules), she strolled into my hideout in the "quiet room" looking for me and ruining a perfectly good dream about a gang of nymphs who had kidnapped and hauled me off into their lavishly appointed lair in the deep dark woods and were about to have their way with me.
Of course here first instinct was to blame me for not coming out to greet her when she arrived. "Why didn't you answer my text when I told you that I was on the way. I even tried emailing and calling you to let you know I was coming."
"I was waiting for your text, but you forgot about me." I was whining and trying to appear put out by her being late, but oh those nymphs were getting warmed up. I hate to be ill mannered when nymphs are involved.
I didn't forget about you. I even got there early and was waiting out in the parking lot for the past 15 minutes, wondering what was taking you so long." She wasn't being overly nasty with me as she had every right to be. Maybe she was having a dream of her own while waiting for me. I bet her dream involved...no I won't go there. her dreams probably have too much PG stuff anyways to be be interesting.
"Let me see your phone for a second." She asked politely so I had to give it to her. "You dummy! No wonder you didn't my messages. Your phone is turned off." She didn't seem particularly surprised by that fact because she knows that i don't know how to turn the damn thing on or off. It just happens that way sometimes. Shit happens, especially when it involves technology and my ignorance of all things that ooze out of that particular hole in my alternate universe, making my stepping into a puddle of the sticky, sinking stuff inevitable. No good can come from technology stuff. Use it your own risk.

Now let's go get some lunch...

Monday, December 14, 2015

excerpt 1

excerpts from the latest chapter of the continuing saga known as Bob and Mary’s Excellent Adventure......................................

Mary is easily spooked by things that go bump in the night.  So when she came back into the bedroom early the other morning on tiptoes, gliding as silently as the fog outside, and whispered in her best stage whisper, I knew that  something had triggered her into spooked mode.

“Bob, wake up.  Wake up. I think someone stole our trash can.  I can’t see it at the end of the driveway.”  

Wednesday is our trash pickup day so we put the 2 containers at the end of the drive on Tuesday evening so the collection agent ( they hate being called garbage collectors) can hoist them with the robotic arms on his truck into the truck’s holding tank, and then deposit the plastic bin back in its place at the curb.  Our hardworking Supervisor of Detritus Removal ( they hate being called garbage collectors) always arrives very early in the morning, so one of Mary’s self assigned tasks on Wednesday morning is to check the fullness (pessimist) or emptyness (optimist) status of those bins and then take the appropriate action of either taking them back to their hiding place in the garage or spend the rest of the morning wondering why the lazy SOB didn’t do his job the way she expected.

I pulled the bedcovers over my head hoping that would make her disappear in the resultant darkness.  No such luck.  I was trapped into a response by her sense of urgency. 

My first question for her was, “why are you sneaking around and whispering?
If the thief absconded with one of our garbage bins, he’s not likely to be hanging around hoping we’ll fill it up for him again before he leaves.”

“I don’t know why.  It just seemed to be the thing to do. Now stop being such a lazy scaredy cat and find the guy and make him give us or trash bin back.” She hissed at me. 

So as I reluctantly rolled over with great sighing and gasping, making as big a show of my displeasure as I cold so she would know that I really didn’t care if we  were now one can short of a load, I had an epithany.  I knew where the disappearing bin was.

“Did you actually go out to look if the bin was there, or did you rely on your limited view of the driveway from the kitchen window to determine if the bin was indeed missing or just hiding from your view?” I was grumbling doing my best Old-Man- Who- Was- Just --Awakened- For- No- Good- Reason act.

“Well, no. I’m not about to go out there alone in case he’s still there cleaning out the garage while we sit in here letting him take whatever he wants.”
I pressed on, “Has it occurred to you that just because you can’t see it, it is not there?
This one of those times when you have to rely on faith to carry you through.”

While this conversation was going on, we were making slow but steady progress, she huddled close to my back hiding as best she could in case there was any shooting, toward the door that would lead us outside and to the logical explanation for this vexing

Once we got outside where we cold survey the entire crime scene, it was obvious what had happened.   Mary was forced to apologize for her hasty conclusion that something bad had happened.  More importantly she had to apologize for not remembering that we have some of the finest neighbors anyone could hope for.  Neighbors who routinely go out of their way to help you.  I don’t know for certain that this is what happened, but my gut reaction is that Arlene, one of those neighbors who will always take the opportunity to do the little kindnesses without any fanfare whenever there is something that needs to be done, was out early walking her little dog, Sam, as she does every morning, when she encountered our trash bin either blocking the sidewalk or perhaps out in the street, and simply pulled it out of harms way, and dragged it back to our garage, where it was out of sight from our kitchen window.

I went back to bed to retrieve my lost sleep and when I woke later I wasn’t sure that I hadn’t dreamt the whole thing.  I actually had to go out to the garage to convince myself that I wasn’t dreaming.

Monday, December 07, 2015

small town America

Ah, small town America. Is there anything more wholesome, healthy (mind wise, that is) and corny than a small town celebration for whatever reason the the Chamber of  Commerce committee can conjure up.  You know there has to be a committee, which is usually headed by the wife of the mayor, or some such local poohbah whom everybody knows and likes and with whom everyone can feel important when given the chance to stand next her or him, preferably on a stage with a microphone in hand. I want to be both all inclusive and politically correct here here which means that in this new era of legal gay marriage, the wife of the mayor or the poohbah chosen to head the committee could very well be a man or woman. That’s surprisingly progressive for a small town, since around here, gays and other minorities and ethnicities are fairly rare and are generally looked upon as exotic creatures until you get to know them and realize they are as into life in small town America as you are.

But I digress.  The whole point of this exercise is to laud the organizers of this year’s Midnight Madness here in the stereotypical small town America we mentioned at the top of this treatise. 
It seems that every suggested outdoor and indoor activity that anyone had ever heard about or seen at similar events in other small towns was given serious consideration before being given serious inclusion in the evening’s program. Even second or third hand  knowledge of the event, without actual first hand knowledge of how the event was staged was worthy of a pat on the back.  For those unable to convince the committee that theirs was a winner that citizens would flock to and relive the results repeatedly until next year's reiteration of the experience  got only an” attaboy”and “nice try” and “see you next year.”

So what we're all the activities that drew the happy crowds of fun seekers to this small town for the festivities?  Normally, since the Midnight Madness event is held at this time year, there is the reasonable expectation of snow. Many of the fun activities are snow dependent and the lack of snow required an adjustment. The horse drawn sleigh rides became wagon rides. The sled dog pull had the dogs slogging through mud. The lake as of now is unfrozen so the ice skating area was unavailable. Somehow the decorated sled contest seemed out of place with no snow to glide on. But even though this would have been more fun with the snow, nobody seemed to mind being outside and not freezing their butts off.

Santa was, of course, on hand to make it an official Christmas celebration. But he dampened the spirit of the occasion by allowing only professional photos to be taken.  By one of his elves naturally.  I think old Santa had a nice little lucrative racket going there. He did do the obligatory Santa wave during the parade though so the kids were happy.

No one who wandered around town went home without gaining a few extra pounds. Every restaurant and bar pushed food at anyone within reach. Even the staunchest dieter would have to give in to the smorgasbord arrayed before them. You can resume dieting tomorrow. Tonight enjoy.
The marketplace craft fair was the perfect place to pick up the usual trotchkes that you would only give to your least favorite aunt or cousin. The sellers were doing a brisk business, so there must be a lot of disliked relatives out there who will be disappointed again this year.

What would a civic celebration be without fireworks.  I know, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.  But there is something about seeing your town’s fireworks that makes all those oohs and ahs genuine and prideful. The fireworks only lasted for 10 minutes (that stuff is expensive), but they were sufficiently loud and bright that we could see them from our condo across the lake. 

Ok, so you caught me.  How could I see the fireworks from my condo across the lake if I was in town participating in the festivities?  Even though we were enjoying a string of unseasonably warm temperatures, it was still too cold for my skinny butt to be out there, so I made it all up.

she's back

That huge boulder that has been on our shoulders, holding us down and making our lives miserable for the past 6 months or more, has become nothing more than gravel beneath our feet after Mary's visit to her cardiologist on Thursday. Last March Mary saw that same cardiologist for her yearly follow up after having open heart surgery--a bypass of a blocked artery-- 5 or so years ago. At that March visit the doc ordered a stress test to make sure that nothing new had developed. Of course that stress test showed some kind of abnormality, so he decided she should undergo a catheterization to find out what that abnormality was. That stress test was the catalyst for all that happened afterwards.
The evening of the day that she had the stress test, she began having vertigo attacks that became so severe that I had to call for an ambulance to take her to the emergency room. At the emergency room, instead of vertigo, she was diagnosed with a gallbladder that was severely compromised and would have to be removed. So on Thursday, May 19th, her birthday, she had her gallbladder removed. Then the complications started. Her gallbladder had caused an infection to take hold In her pancreas. The resulting pancreatitis was sever enough to kill her if it wasn't controlled. Mary was one very sick patient. She remained in the hospital for the whole month of June until the infection was controlled and they sent her home for the rest of her recovery.
She was still very sick for the month of July and I had to take a more active roll in her recovery at home, while she struggled to get past the pain. I was flushing the drain tubes she still had in her abdomen daily and trying to keep both our spirits up. The toughest thing I had to do for her was get her to eat. She had absolutely no interest in any kind of food. I couldn't tempt her with anything. Not even her absolute favorite bad-for-you food, a chili dog, could get her appetite up. Having lost over 30lbs during her illness, she had to start eating solid food regularly to help regain some of that weight and by doing so, regain some of her strength, or the doctor was going to put her back in the hospital and feed her intravenously. She certainly didn't want that to happen, so gradually she began eating another bite or two each day.

The lost summer was only one of the depressing things that we were coping with. My health was problematic during this whole ordeal. Coping with PD is difficult enough under normal conditions, but very difficult when a load of stress is thrown into the mix. Add the anxiety that I was feeling about our future and you have the perfect storm.

Though it felt at times that we would never feel healthy and normal again, gradually, day by day, we saw tangible improvement--one day the drain tubes came out, then she was able to walk a little farther and get up and down the stairs, she started eating more and regained some of her strength. When she started communicating again with friends we knew she was mostly back.
But, hold on, remember that stress test that started this downward slide back in May? Mary still had that heart issue to deal with. Knowing that she still had another medical issue ahead, kept us from getting too excited about her day to day recovery from pancreatitis. Mary has always had heart concerns. She was not looking forward to the catheterization because the last time the doctor told her that he was just going to look around inside her, he found that he would have to install a stent to keep one of her arteries open. It would be no big deal, but when he got a look at the stent site he found that a stent wouldn't be possible and instead he would have to open her chest and take vein from her upper chest and move it in place so that it would bypass the blockage. That was a lot more than she bargained for. And though successful, she did not want to go through that trauma again. So it was with no small amount of trepidation that she approached her scheduled catheterization on Thursday morning. Her worst fear was that she

would have to undergo an open heart bypass again because of what the doctor as going to see with his scope. We were very scared of having to start another recovery just when she was nearing the end of the first recovery. We felt she was strong enough to handle the physical aspect of another procedure, but the emotional drain on both of us was nearly more than we could bear. The stress was making us treat each other badly, constantly sniping at each other and arguing incessantly over the merest transgression. Our realistic hope was that she would need a stent and the doctor would take care of that during the catheterization. If a stent was necessary, she would have to stay the night in the hospital. If no stent was necessary and he found nothing else that required further action, she could go home that same day.
Her cardiologist is a positive, sometimes overly cheerful, surgeon who always emphasizes the good that can happen and doesn't dwell on the possible adverse reactions in any medical procedure. So when he came bounding into the recovery room to tell me what had transpired and what the medical prognosis was, I knew it was good news just by his demeanor. He was fairly jumping up and down, clapping his hands and smiling broadly. He was so happy to say that there were no complications and nothing further needed to be done for her. No stent, no new meds. His only prescription for her was more exercise. Her heart is strong. She is back.