I'm Not Sure What Happened
Congrats, fella! It's a bouncing baby gallbladder.
It's not often that I'm allowed to give birth. Ok, so I'm never allowed to give birth--except to a Bouncing Baby Gallbladder.
For some months, there was this come-and-go condition deep down in my middle parts, just about where spicy tacos traditionally sit waiting for the colon to surrender so the retried beans can take hostages and eventually release them in explosive succession. Only this was much more than a taco attack--it was intestinal declaration of war. Sort of like the Asian, the Spanish, the Polish and the New Jersey flu all in combined forces. I mean I had stuff ... say how much more of this description do you need anyway? Aren't you invading my privacy?
And speaking of invading my privacy
One of the first medical tests they administered to me was a colonoscopy. Not familiar with that procedure? If you've ever had one, you'd be very familiar with it. Does the phrase "where the sun don't shine" bring anything to mind?
Basically it's a procedure that inspects your inside from your outside with a long flexible viewing tube by way of the first available entrance most convenient for the tube. First, of course, they have to make that entrance available by what's deceptively yet very accurately termed a "thorough cleansing." Just take the pills, swallow the water, lots of water, and post the proper signage on the bathroom door. It's not quite Grandma's concept of a thorough cleansing--although she also made you very familiar with a long flexible tube--but the aim is the same. You know as well as I do that the first thing Grandma will ask you when you tell her you've got even as much as a headache is "Have you been to the bathroom today, hon?" Going to the bathroom is the cure for earache and ingrown toenails, too. Believe your Grandma.
The colonoscopy really isn't so bad (some of you who have had it are now shouting "liar").
They knock you out into an amnesia-type state of mind so even if you feel anything you won't remember it--much like a guy I know on his wedding day(s). I only woke up long enough to be able to view the ... tail end ... of the procedure on the camera monitor. Anyway they didn't find anything. OK, anything wrong.
Then I had another episode. This time complicated by an anxiety attack complete with nervous twitching, throwing things, and breaking out in hives. Although I made sure I only threw soft stuff like towels and rolls of toilet paper. My daughter--a trained medical person herself--gave me well-sculpted and carefully thought-out medical advice: "Chill out, Dad."
Went to the ER, got admitted, had my gallbladder removed, felt better, went home, end of story.
Except ... my wife started noting things.
Before I was admitted she noted they were doing an ultrasound on me. "What sex is the baby?" she asked the technician. He thought that was so funny.
When they decided to put me in the hospital, my wife noted that I was being admitted to the women's area of the hospital just up the hall from the nursery.
My wife declared with obvious buoyancy and pride to the admitting nurse and the aides as I was being wheeled into the room that "We're having a bouncing baby gallbladder."
The aides thought that was so funny.
The admitting nurse, as she was going over the list of questions they always ask, asked me with a completely straight face, "Pregnancy or breastfeeding?"
And she paused, waiting for an answer.
"Not tonight," I replied. "I just don't feel up to it."
Everybody thought that was so funny. Uh-huh, I thought, encourage them.
And then the next day my wife made sure I knew that my surgeon was a woman who herself had just recently had a baby and was now going to deliver my gallbladder.
And she made a note of the oddity that I was being cared for by not one, not two, but three nurses who normally worked in pediatrics.
Then, after the ordeal, my wife declared to everybody we know, "We had a bouncing baby gallbladder," and got me a blue balloon emblazoned with "It's a boy."
As I sat in the hospital room contemplating my recovery, I looked at the balloon everybody who came in thought was so funny, looked at my wife and noted, "You know ... it's been exactly nine months and one day since my first gallbladder attack."
She thought that was so funny.
Who needs a stinkin' IQ to take an IQ test?
I once took an IQ test. You know, one of those intelligence-measurement self-trials you take when you feel like insulting yourself.
My score? Not too bad. My score was the legal speed limit. In town. In front of an elementary school. From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Yes, weekdays.
Actually, I find IQ tests unfair. They're filled with impractical, irrelevant questions I wouldn't ask anyone. And there are so many variables to consider.
"Hey, Jim. I haven't seen you in years."
"Oh, yeah? Think about this mentally--no calculators or almanacs--and give me your answer as quickly as possible because speed is a component of your overall score. True or false? Two ducks and two dogs have a total of 14 legs."
"Well, I once had a dog that backed into a running lawn mower. But he got around just like any other dog. You should've seen him bouncing after the neighbor's two-legged cat."
So ... here are some questions I'd ask if I were compiling an IQ test. Now if I could just compile an IQ.
If someone sends you a belated birthday wish, do you wait a couple weeks before sending them a thank-you?
What do you do if there's a "closed" sign hanging in an open shop door?
Should you leave your flashlight on all the time so you can find it when the lights go out?
If you place black tape over the flashlight lens how much longer will the batteries last because the light hasn't as far to travel?
If you put the batteries in backwards in a flashlight does the light shine inside the flashlight instead?
The clock in the living room reads 7:00 and the clock in the kitchen reads five minutes before seven. Is the correct time really 6:57 or three minutes before seven?
When the stylist cuts your hair too short how long will you need to stay in that same chair until the hair grows back and the stylist can try again?
When the stylist cuts your hair too short how far will the stylist need to raise the chair to correct the mistake?
There are 30 days in June, 31 days in May, and 30 days in April. How many days are there in Naomi?
Your younger brother talks you into buying 43 oranges. Your older brother talks you into buying 12 dozen minus 15 grapefruit. Your sister-in-law persuades you into buying 81 more oranges. Your other sister-in-law coerces you into buying 4 dozen apples, 19 mangos and 21 minus 6 kiwis. How many nephews and nieces do you have in the school band?
True or false? The phrase "maxed out" can be spelled from the letters in the phrases "Visa," "Master Card," and "American Express."
A man drives seven blocks north, three blocks west, fourteen blocks south, twelve blocks east, seven blocks north again with his wife in the car. How soon will she realize they're obviously lost? A. Three miles; B. Four blocks; C. Before they exit the driveway to leave home.
Which is the better comparison? Surviving the economy is to staying out of debt as reality is to: A. Santa Claus; B. the Tooth Fairy; C. any other fantasy.
Harold's half-uncle on his divorced father's side is Harold's sister Jill's baby's stepbrother. Which is true? A. Jill and Harold are cousins; B. Jill's baby is Harold's cousin; C. It's the Jerry Springer Reunion show; D. Somebody's going to jail; E. All of the above.
Jim buys a motorcycle. Which is the next event in the series? A. Jim goes to the hospital for an extended visit. That's it.
If all Bleekers are Tripzoids and all Dreevers are Bleekers and all Oppos are Tripzoids, what am I talking about anyway?
True or false? The word "BB" is spelled the same backwards as it is forwards.
One of the following numbers equals 750 million: 17, 56, 987, odds of winning the lottery, 6, 908.
Steve got returned to him 25 cents from his $1, and then spent seven dimes and one nickel, getting returned to him three nickels and one dime. He then spent four quarters getting returned to him one nickel and four dimes. Was Steve at the Coke or the Pepsi machine?
You actually consider this a real IQ test of your cognitive reasoning, word association and logical thinking skills and you're been taking it all along.
It's OK, no need to go any further to determine your IQ.
50 years and holding ... holding what?
Those so ponderous millstones ... uh ... festive milestones in life that we hang around our necks ... uh ... gather into our memories.
Mmmmmmmm ... OK, if you really must know I turned 50 years old last week.
I told myself when I was 49--man, was that an eon ago--that I wouldn't write about my age. After all, for many old fogies it seems to be a depressing sort of event as the review of their lives unfolds and they wonder where it all went. For others, 50 is a celebration of making it this far and the assurance of accumulated wisdom and experience guiding them through a productive rest of it. Something like watching your first car's odometer turn over at 100,000 miles. If you were lucky enough to have an old enough first car, the numbers rolled over to all zeros and you had a brand new car again. Change the oil, lube the transmission, and step on it towards 200,000.
Luckily--for the people who planned to do it to me--I was spared the black balloons and the over the hill black icing cake for my 50th birthday party, holdovers from the 40th. However, the inevitable words of wisdom...
My daughter and son-in-law, at the sage ages of 24 and 25, threw their pearls at my swine.
"Don't worry, Dad," she wrote in my birthday card. "Fifty's not old. If you're a tree." I need no reminders of how many rings I carry around my trunk.
My future son-in-law wrote in the same card: "It's not so bad to be half a century old, is it?" So what is it that people who haven't reached 50--yet--have to constantly remind those of us who have that our age is a sum in a total that sounds really ancient? Fifty is five decades, you know. Fifty is half a century, you know. Fifty is a twentieth of a millennium, you know. A twentieth of a millennium?
Someone who doesn't even keep track of my birthday, on my birthday, emailed to my wife some Internet astuteness entitled "Just in case you weren't feeling too old today."
It's a conspiracy. It is.
Among other reminders in the email:
Students starting college this year were born in 1987. So what? I was born in 1957. Anybody remember the '87 Chevy?
The CD was invented the year they were born. So what? They never got to spin their heads in sync with vinyl on a spindle to "Hotel California."
They've always had cable television. Lucky them.
They don't know who Mork was or where he was from. Now, that's really lucky them.
What is all this stuff about turning 50? When God said let there be light, fifty-year-olds weren't there to throw the switch, thank you.
Actually, I sorta enjoy being teased about being an old man. Hey, I qualify for AARP--and they've been sending me applications since I was 35. In some places I get a senior discount. If I show them my fake ID.
When I hear that 50 is now the new 60 or maybe even 65 or 70 I am emboldened. When I hear someone complain or moan or even exhibit anger that they are nearing the 50 mark, I am disheartened ... for them.
In the brilliant late 50s, early 60s television anthology series "The Twilight Zone," character Charles Whitley is a resident of Sunnyvale Rest, a home for the aged. The episode, written by George Clayton Johnson, is called "Kick the Can."
While watching neighborhood kids playing the game in front of the home, Charles yearns for the lost spirit and vanished freedom of childhood. He sees with dismay in his fellow residents an abdication of life and a willing imprisonment to old age.
Charles' argument that life is not over pushes his peers to revive youth, the exuberance and the value of life no matter the age of it. He learns that all his friends crave the same as he does, but are fearful. All but one of his fellow residents follow him into a marvelous spiritual and physical rediscovery, kicking a can into the Twilight Zone.
So whenever I feel sorry for myself like some truly old man, I'll go outside and kick a can. Either that or I'll whine to my wife and she'll just kick my can for me.
A man not cooking? How old fashioned!
What it must be like in a household where the man does most of the cooking.
The menu: Chili and bologna sandwiches on Sunday, barbeque and potato chips on Monday, leftover chili on Tuesday, barbeque and chili-cheese corn chips on Wednesday, hot dogs cooked on the grill and topped with chili on Thursday, chili seasoned with barbeque sauce (puts real variety into mealtime) on Friday and on Saturday go out for barbeque and/or chili at the Chinese restaurant.
Now that's the unfair outdated stereotype, right? You and I know there are plenty men out there who possess culinary skills far beyond the chili pot and the grill. They can actually scramble up delicious eggs as long as they have ample chili powder on hand.
At least you'd think that was the case, considering the reactions when I tell people that I myself do the bulk of the cooking at home. However, I don't normally bake. That's because there's little that's normal about my baking. The only time I bake is when we want to test the smoke alarms. Although I have pulled a distinctive pumpkin pie or two from the kiln, I mean oven. We just tell people that dark on top is chocolate. My own special recipe, try it with lots and lots of whipped topping. Here, a little more topping.
When I tell women I cook, I almost always get a "Really?"
Some of the "Really?s" are wide-eyed and incredulous. I don't think these women ever have seen their man in a kitchen except when he's passing through to the garage. They might see him in the kitchen maybe to do the dishes when there's no other family or friends around to see him do it.
Some of the "Really?s" are brusque and straight to the point like a hacking meat cleaver. "Why do you cook? My husband won't even squirt mustard on his own hamburger." These women have seen their husbands in the kitchen but they just would rather not talk about the circumstances.
Some of the "Really?s" are really "Why are you telling me this?" And you get that silent "that's nice" look. I can't really tell if they covertly respect me for it or just don't want to hear it.
Some of the "Really?s" are "Oh, yeah?s" These are the women always on the outlook for a good recipe no matter the source. And if I'm the source it doesn't really matter.
Some of the "Really?s" are actually nice "So what? So does my husband!s" I feel gratified to know that, even though none of those husbands ever call me up seeking culinary advice or trading recipes.
When I tell men that I do most of the cooking ... well, I never tell other men I do most of the cooking. I'm secure in my manhood but I'm not a fanatic about it. I can discuss chainsaws, too, you know. In fact, I bet I can discuss how chainsaws and cooking are related. So there.
And besides, other men I know just don't seem to want to hear about it. Or maybe they don't want their wives to hear about it.
My wife on the other hand tells everybody. Maybe men especially. She delights in telling the story of how I burned tomato soup indelibly into the bottom of a saucepan when we were first married and it was the only saucepan we owned at the time. Well, I've improved. After 17,098 sauce pans over 27 years, who wouldn't?
We all know that in today's homes many men cook and can feed themselves and others admirably, despite the fast-food commercials. And we know that throughout the ages many men of that particular talent have been regarded as kitchen geniuses. And we know that some men have their own shows on the Food Network.
I don't think these ladies are amazed at a man in the kitchen. They're amazed at Jim Whitaker in the kitchen.
Regardless, remember the one great rule of cooking that I always follow:
If you dump enough red pepper or peanut butter or cheese or sour cream or ketchup or any combination thereof over what you've prepared, very few diners will notice that what you've prepared is not what you intended to prepare.
That's not an original cooking rule. But name any cooking advice that is.
And now for a recipe: Whitaker's Chicken Egg Rolls.
Get a chicken. Shouldn't be a problem unless there's a full moon out. Boil the chicken. In a pot, that works better.
De-bone the chicken. Actually, you're de-meating the chicken, but who wants to split feathers?
Cut up the chicken and dump soy sauce all over it. No measurement of sauce here. Who needs stinkin' measurements? Mix it all up. Just like a tax return, mix it all up. Chop up cabbage, green onions, bean sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, kiwi ... no that's something else, leave out the kiwi. Pour soy sauce all over it and mix with the chicken. Dump in some more soy sauce. Go on; dump it in there. By the way, you are doing this in a bowl, right?
Roll up as much as you want of the mixed ingredients in individual egg roll wrappers and fry in medium hot cooking oil until golden brown.
Now, if this recipe doesn't work for you, there's always leftover chili egg rolls.
Baby sitting--Now there's a contact sport
You'd think they'd know better than to leave behind an 8-month-old baby boy to babysit me.
Wait a minute.
You'd think they'd know better than to leave behind an 8-month-old baby boy for me to babysit.
Well, that sounds better. But I'm not certain how accurate it is.
Anyway, they--my wife, our niece, the baby's older sister--left the then 8-month-old baby of a boy in my arms one Saturday afternoon while they went to the store. They didn't want to take the whining, upset, disagreeable boy to the store with them. And they didn't want to take the baby either. So we both stayed home.
Now when they leave you with a baby to watch, they also leave behind some well-intended reassurances--actually unintentional half-truths. At least the half-truths better be unintentional.
"The baby just ate. But, just in case, there's a full bottle in the refrigerator. So don't worry. Everything will be just fine."
"The baby's diaper was just changed. So don't worry. Everything will be just fine."
"The baby will likely sleep all afternoon. So don't worry. Everything will be just fine."
And the greatest unintentional half-truth?
"Don't worry. Everything will be just fine."
"Now you take care of your Uncle Jim," my wife told the boy as she went out the door.
As the van pulled out of the driveway the baby was, well, smiling at me from his bassinette. He knew what was going on.
He started to gruuuuunt. And smile some more.
I knew that grunt. I knew that smile. I knew plenty of guys in high school who had that same grunt before they went into the restroom and that same smile after they came out.
Where are those diapers we weren't going to need?
Where ... are ... those ... diapers?
Oh, just where they said they'd be.
"OK," I told the smiling leprechaun. "Now I'm going to break my most steadfast rule about babies within 20 feet of me. I'm going to change your poopy diaper."
Holding my breath, I ripped off the offensive Pamper, but it was empty now that it no longer held the baby's rump. I suppose I had forgotten how to distinguish between a baby's fully orchestrated movement and a simple toot from the wind section. Some people can feel around in a still-being-worn diaper and check it out for certain. Me? Not in this lifetime.
"What are you doing? You don't have a diaper on."
Like he didn't know that.
"Are you finished?"
So now I have to pick up the baby and change the bedclothes. Meanwhile, he's just loving being nudie. He's giggling. He's kicking his legs. He's spitting up all over me. I'm trying to hold him, change the sheet and keep his hand away from playing with where he's now free from the diaper.
I finally get him back down on his back, a fresh Pamper ready to Velcro into place. "You better be glad they don't use diaper pins anymore, boy."
So I lift up his legs to clear his behind from the sheet.
This kid doesn't' have legs. He has pump handles. Up, down. Up down. Eureka. I've found the fountain of youth and it's tinkling me in the eye.
The Romans had their shields. I had the Pamper. The trick is to maneuver properly to continue catching the stream as the pressure tapers off. It takes skill. The boy was, after all, making a game out of it.
After he was finished, after he was Pampered (no, I did not put the same diaper on him that I used for a shield, for crying out loud. Wait, don't say that. He might do it.), after he was dressed again, we plopped down on the couch.
Let me interject here that this kid is a delightful, happy baby. He's even tempered--at least when his sister isn't irritating him--and has a baby's natural great sense of humor.
Except when he's hungry. He sees no humor in that.
And, of course, the bottle was not in the refrigerator. (My wife pointed out to me later that it was, but that's beside the point. Isn't it?)
So I showed the boy as I--I mean as he--was spilling dry formula all over the kitchen counter, how to mix the powder into life sustaining nourishment. Yuk.
We went back to the couch and I shoved--gently placed--the bottle into his mouth. After nearly "all afternoon" the baby finally fell asleep in my arms. I gently laid him into his soft, secure, warm bed and tucked the covers around him.
I mean ahhhhhh.
So what words of wisdom do I have for baby sitters out there? Well...
"Now what, boy? It better not be that hungry thing again. I already showed you once how to mix your own formula."
Between you and me he'll probably use that lame excuse about not being able to reach the kitchen sink.
"Just a minute. I'll bring you the stepladder."
I told you they shouldn't have left an 8-month-old baby boy to baby-sit me.
Well, there's something going around, you know.
My family and I are so proud. We just gave birth to our first survival of the season of a full-blown, mega-dose, outright, and determined bout with The Something Going Around.
The Something Going Around went through us, well, like the flu. My daughter had it on Friday and Saturday, my wife had it on Sunday and Monday, and I had it on Monday, with it just lingering in my depths on Tuesday. (I tried to get my daughter to rat on whatever kid at school passed Something Going Around on to her and subsequently on to us. But there were too many suspects for her to narrow a list.)
For some reason, my attack was milder than theirs, both in symptoms and duration. Of course, I did everything I could to avoid The Something Going Around.
When the Nauseous Nemesis first invaded our home by way of our daughter, I started drinking plenty of fluids and taking on-the-every-four-hours doses of non-aspirin pain reliever.
My strategy was simple. I'd negotiate with 'it' and show the little devil germs of its makeup that I was well prepared.
An assault on my stomach and intestines, I'd demonstrate with resolve, would be futile because I already had the weapons down there to drop it in its tracks.
Then when my wife succumbed, I could see the Horrendous Hurler Hastener was intent. Abandoning sanctions and diplomacy, I turned my strategy into one of blockade and counterattack.
I washed my hands every five minutes. I took showers in steam on the hour. I sprayed disinfectant and made my wife sicker from its smell.
Whenever I went near my wife or daughter, I carried our little poodle with me. I figured that if any of the Something Going Around germs were going to jump off my wife or daughter and toward me, I could use the dog's extraordinary perceptions as an animal of the domestic wild to help me detect them and jump out of the way in time.
"Ok," I asked the perception-laden dog as I carried her down the hallway, "any germs floating around?"
She looked at me and sneezed in my face as if to say, "Yes, millions."
Then it happened. The Something Going Around got into me somewhere that was unprotected, apparently didn't like what it saw, and started evacuation procedures.
Our illnesses had, I must admit, short lives. Especially when compared to flu attacks that last for weeks. Although, I'm not so certain I didn't have Something Going Around longer than I thought because carrying a dog around to monitor for germs smacks of delirium.
I'm not very certain why God created the flu. And I'm not certain at all why it hurts some more than others.
After all, we don't need Something Going Around to remind us of our mortality and vulnerability. We have obituary pages and lightning for that.
We don't need Something Going Around to remind us that little things can hurt the most. We have staples and hangnails for that.
Perhaps, just perhaps, God created the flu to give us a chance to practice that sympathetic cliché we all hear when we complain we feel like we're coming down with something.
"Well, there's something going around, you know. So stay away from me."
Gravity? Who needs that stuff?
Gravity is the natural force of attraction keeping us all glued to the surface of the spinning Earth so we don't shoot off into space and bump our heads on the moon or Jupiter. And it's the force that makes the moon go round and round the Earth and the force that controls just the entire universe.
Well, is that all? Let the force be with someone else. Who needs it?
Every time I drop something it winds up on the floor or the ground after it smacks my big toe. And I drop a lot of stuff. It's gravity's fault that I drop stuff. If not for gravity, all that stuff would just float right back into my hands.
Am I to blame that the cabinets over the kitchen stove are stuffed with so many canned goods that when I open the cabinet door the can of vegetable soup plops into the pan of hot chicken soup and the hot soup splashes out all over the floor and I can't get it cleaned up before my wife discovers it by slipping on a wet noodle? No, it's gravity's fault.
All those iced-tea stains on the carpet? Don't look at me. It's gravity's fault. If not for gravity, those stains would be on the ceiling where just about nobody would ever notice because just about nobody ever walks up there. Just about nobody.
Am I to blame that my belly overhangs my waistband because I've eaten too much Alfredo pasta and shrimp over the years? It's gravity's fault. If not for gravity, I could gulp down all the delicious shrimp I wanted as often as I wanted--scampi included--because without gravity, no matter how fat ... portly ... I get, I wouldn't weigh anything at all.
And speaking of hefty size jeans. How about middle-school gym class when my chin got stuck over the bar and I almost choked to death because I couldn't perform more than one pull-up? Uh-huh. Gravity almost killed me in fifth grade. Worse than potential death, gravity made my gym shorts fall down around my ankles while I was struggling there. Good thing the elastic in jock straps is a relatively reliable anti-gravity device.
It's not just me, you know. I've heard more than one woman blame gravity for, well, quite a bit.
Let's just ban gravity. We can ban smoking and trans fats, can't we? Just think what a more interesting world this would be without gravity.
Every fly ball would be a homerun. Of course, then there wouldn't be any sacrifice flies. The homerun record would be akin to the national debt under Bush Republicans.
Every Mexican meal would sit lightly in the stomach. Of course, that would lessen the challenge of the Mexican meal.
Everybody could fly on their own. Of course, that would put the airlines out of business and drive Homeland Security nuts trying to regulate it.
Every rubber ball would bounce just once. Of course, kids would be cheated from the childhood ecstasy of banging over and breaking expensive flower vases and/or knocking down family-heirloom picture frames from the walls in the house.
And there's that fond memory from my childhood of precocious age seven. Playing in our back yard adjacent to a busy street, I found this really cool rock about the size of my fist. It was permeated with hypnotic colors and tiny fossils from eons past and mysterious holes. So I threw it into the air.
Gravity smashed the earth rock onto the hood of some innocent guy's passing car like a hot meteorite. Red Chevy paint chips zoomed into the stratosphere. The BAM was heard for 10 blocks and so was what the guy yelled. Son of a something or other.
I hope the driver wasn't on his way to the doctor because Momma always said, "Wear clean underwear to the doctor's." I didn't stay around to check out his underwear. In fact, I pretty much defied gravity getting out of there. Spent three days laughing about it, though.
I know now as a mature adult that what gravity and I conspired to do that day ... just wasn't funny. So I don't really hold that day as a "fond" memory. I don't still laugh about it. Well, not much. As long as I don't think about it anyway.
Let's not ban gravity after all. Gravity is our friend.
The Boy and the fence--Something's gotta give
For years we survived without the luxury of enclosing the back yard with a fence. There was no necessity to keep anything out and we were able to keep vigilance over anything that wanted out, including our daughter when she was a toddler. True, we've tolerated over the years dogs and cats and geese and ducks off and on and chickens more offer and onner than the waterfowl roaming the back yard. And no fence short of prison standard construction was going to keep the daughter at home once she hit her teens.
So we didn't bother with a fence.
Until The Boy.
Thirteen months old, The Boy--our great nephew--when visiting rumbles his way through our house and yard like two-legged Caterpillar heavy equipment always on some mission of adventure. His sister, three years his senior, often paves his way.
We tried to set boundaries for The Boy in the backyard much like we've done for his sister who generally doesn't listen either. He'd waddle near the brush and woods bounding our yard and we'd shout "no" and fetch him back. Soon, of course, it was a game and he was fast developing as its master.
"No," we'd shout.
His turn. He'd cock back his strawberry blond head, laugh, throw his sippie cup, wave his arms and, like a chubby butt Tasmanian devil, speed whatever direction was the furthest direction away from us.
We'd fetch him. "You have to stay close," we'd tell him through his giggles.
He'd play for a few minutes on that Fischer Price thing with the slide and the steps, pushing and/or dragging his sister out of the way. She'd yell, "Fine!" and move off to something else, leaving The Boy to...
Take off for more open spaces, of course.
"No," we'd shout.
His turn. He'd cock back his strawberry blond head, laugh, throw his sippie cup, wave his arms and, like a chubby butt Tasmanian devil, well, you know this part by now.
After 193 rounds of this game, with the score 190 The Boy, 2 us and 1 tie, my wife and I looked at each other and she said "Fence."
I said "OK." I was thinking "Oh, something else."
I said, OK." Well, you probably know what I was thinking.
I had never built a fence on my own. But I had trespassed over and ripped the seat of my pants on enough of them that I was sufficiently confident to try. After all, I was there when they removed my appendix. Surely now I could remove my appendix myself should the need ever arise again.
So, after hours of deliberate logistical consideration, I decided just exactly down to the inch where the fence was to be set up. Then after a couple of seconds listening to where I wanted the fence, my wife told me where it really was going to be set up.
So I measured the perimeter of the back yard, using my own two feet. We don't need no stinkin' tape measure.
Then, after "discussing" with my wife whether I told her I stepped off the yard in yards or feet and after re-measuring the perimeter in feet and re-re-measuring the perimeter in yards, we mini-vanned to the farm and home store.
After bringing back 150 feet of chicken wire--although I swore I said feet and not yards--and the required number of iron fence posts--depending on whether I actually did say feet or yards--I started on construction of the fence.
Gathering my tools, I laid them on a lawn chair and unrolled the chicken wire. The four-year-old rolled the chicken wire back up for me.
"She just wants to help, Uncle Jim," my wife said. So I let her attach the chicken wire to the fence posts with cable ties. Of course, that was boring so she took off after I told her how wonderful a job she was doing.
Soon, though, I noticed my tools were missing from the chair. The Boy. There he was with the hammer, trying to hit a fence post as if to drive it into the ground like Uncle Jim was doing. Aaaaaaah.
He was going to hit himself in the head. Or me in the knee. Either way, I wasn't looking forward to it.
And besides, I was wondering if he was mimicking me or ... taunting me. It was that grin and giggle he threw my way when I took the hammer from him that made me suspicious as he waved his arms and toddled off.
It was so cute, though. The Boy walking around with the tools, me taking the tools away and him running up to the fence and pushing on it. Then returning to his playthings a while. Then running up to another part of the fence and slapping the wire. Then returning to his play. Then pushing his sister's tricycle into the wire at another part of the fence. It was just darling and we all laughed and laughed and...
Remember the movie Jurassic Park? Remember that scene where the hunter says the intelligent dinosaur penned up behind the electric enclosure was "testing the fence?"
Uh-huh. Our little T-Rex was testing the fence.
I should have realized. After all, there are now several torn-away gaps in the plastic child's gate we put up when he comes over to keep him from the hallway and down to the computer room where he loves to pound the keyboard. It took him just under 30 seconds to figure out how to overcome the chair-barricade I took 30 minutes to erect to discourage him from the kitchen.
All's well, though. The fence withstood The Boy. The gate surrendered to him. But it also fell on his head and made him cry. I'll have to work on that. The gate, not making him cry.
Huh? Oh, yeah. He wasn't hurt except for his feelings.
Now the only question I have is "Do we have enough chicken wire left over to do the living room?"
Wrong bat-time, wrong bat-channel
They may be right when they say you can't go back. But I wasn't trying to go back. Not really.
Maybe I thought it was coming back to me, roaring out of the Batcave of my childhood, the car that as a child I knew I would someday drive myself if there could have been justice in Gotham City.
Back to me and the few thousand others who traveled to the Mall a couple of weeks ago to view "live," sort of, The Batmobile. Not that piece of plastic in the later movies, but that absolute symbol of styling--The Batmobile from the '60s television show.
My wife and daughter and I had been planning to see The Mobile since we heard its coming advertised.
Anticipation was building for me but don't think I was acting like some kid about this. My daughter, then a 10-year-old Batman fan to rival the 10-year-old Batman fan I was, got sick and missed school the week ahead of the Day of The Batmobile's Presence. I wouldn't have dragged her to the mall if she had been still sick on the big day. And my wife and I wouldn't have gone without her. Children can divorce their parents these days. Heavy prayer worked and she was fine, fine enough anyway, by Saturday.
So off to the mall the three of us went. We jumped into the van. I turned the engine key, "Turbines to speed," I cried. The four-cylinder whined in and we puttered to Quincy, no fire trailing behind.
Finally arriving inside the mall, I strained for a glimpse of our quarry. I couldn't see it yet. But as we walked toward Sears, there ... a glimpse of black. Then it was. The Batmobile.
I stood facing THE car. So this is what it looks like off the television, huh?
There was The Batmobile. And then again there wasn't The Batmobile.
As I walked down along Robin's side of the car, admiring those beautiful lines, hmmmm, some of the orange trim was cracking and peeling. And wasn't the trim red on television? It was on the scale model I built 25 years previous.
As I moved toward the car's tail, admiring the huge batwing fins, hmmmm, there was a chunk missing from Robin's door. You could see the door was molded from fiberglass, for crying out loud.
As I went behind the car, admiring the screened taillights, I saw it had tailpipes, tailpipes now, two of them, not chromed but rusted and blackened by exhaust. How can you bring turbines to speed and expect two non-chromed tailpipes, rusted and blackened like those of any old plain combustion car, to handle exhaust generated by super power?
And the exhaust port for the engine where the fire of the exhaust was supposed to thunder from was covered with Plexiglas. No melting. I guess they hadn't used that for a while.
As I walked slowly to Batman's side of the car, admiring that symbol of supreme justice, the orange bat emblazoned on his door, hmmmm, his seat was in need of reupholstering.
I came back to the front of the car. All of a sudden, it wasn't The Batmobile anymore. It was just the Batmobile.
That's not to say I wasn't impressed. But something was missing. I complained to my wife who just shrugged. Why was she, who watched the television series like me and all the other kids then, satisfied?
My wife, who's usually more perceptive about me than me, said it simply.
"You were expecting the Batmobile you saw as a kid on television and you were disappointed," she told me. "I was expecting a 25-year old car and I got it."
My daughter and every other kid there seemed satisfied with what they got, too. What a car, what a thrill to see it, they knew.
If I had looked at the car as if I were a 10-year-old today, instead of as an adult remembering being 10, I would've forgiven and understood the blemishes.
You know I was more thrilled than dismayed now that I think about it.
After all, that wasn't the batmobile; that was The Batmobile.
Reincarnation, parrots and female fishermen
When I was a kid I thought reincarnation was when you returned the evaporated milk can to the store and they refilled it. Come to think of it, reincarnation is something like that.
Reincarnation is the belief that when you die your body decomposes but your soul, spirit, essence, psyche--all right, whatever you consider you have--lives on. Then you are reborn in another body or form. If you've lived a wicked or at least non-exemplary life, you may return as a slug in a salt mine, a hopelessly tone-deaf wannabe on American Idol "performing" in front of Simon, or some other unenviable creation suffering in just retribution for your previous life indiscretions. That'll learn you. If you've been first-rate, though, you get the reward of coming back in a higher status of life. Maybe you'll be Simon. That'll learn you, too.
So I got to thinking--now there's something that'll weaken the nation. A lot of people tell me what I am, but I wondered what I supposedly have been. Funny, I don't remember any previous lives, just some of this one. Between you and me, I can barely remember what happened yesterday or even this morning.
What was I writing about just now anyway?
In fact, researchers say, very few people overtly remember their past lives at all. Recollections of earlier experiences have to be coaxed out of them under hypnosis. Which makes me ask the question: If you can't remember in your present life the lessons you learned in a past life to help you do better in this life and a future life, what's the point of living the past life? There's a sentence with a past life all its own.
Regardless, I wanted to know--without the hypnosis, thank you--so I used an online past life analysis generator. Hey, that's what they call the thing.
You type in the date you were born. Then you hit the "Press for Diagnosis" button. Sooooo...
I was female. That's OK, except I was born in 1650 in the territory of modern Central Russia. Somehow being a female 357 years ago in Russia isn't very appealing. No offense intended to females or Russians. It's just not my part of the world and too far on the other side of the 19th Amendment.
On the brighter side, uh-huh, I was a warrior, a hunter, a fisherman or an executor of sacrifices. I'm either killing people or I'm gutting fish all day long. Who could ask for more? Offense intended to executors of sacrifices.
Not liking the diagnosis, I surfed to another site. This one gave me a "mirror." Instructions told me to gaze into the mirror and say "Mirror, mirror in front of me, what is it that you see? Tell me who I was before, was I rich or poor? I'm..." That's enough; you get the drift.
Then comes a warning: If you don't say those words to the mirror, your reading may not be accurate. Why do I think that whoever is on the other side of that mirror is having a real good laugh? I'd never say those words.
"Are you talking to your computer again?"
Anyway, I clicked the mirror.
Hey, I used to be the University of Phoenix online.
Oh, something to look at while I'm waiting.
Here we go. I "may have" used to be a politician, leading and fighting for the rights of others. What? No graft? No payoffs? No kickbacks? No interns? That's enough of that website.
Perhaps, I decided, I'd get more satisfying results pursuing a future life. What will I be next time?
This assessment asks a series of questions such as how you treat people, are you likable, how vain you are, how social you are, how you react to criticism, if you return what you borrow from neighbors, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Perhaps it was the question about borrowing from neighbors. I answered that I never borrow from neighbors until after dark while their dog is asleep.
A parrot. According to the test results, I'm going to be a parrot.
A regurgitating vain birdbrain fit for a cage and bombarding old newspapers. What an insult. Those people who set up this analysis? Why, I'll hunt them down and I'll fight them. I'll gut them like a fish. I'll...
Oh, excuse me, I must have been thinking about something from a past life.
Submit to spam, you know you want to
Let's see. Do I want a $500 gift card from Wal-Mart? Or a $500 gift card from Home Depot? Or free pizza--up to $500--for a year? Free pizza? Hey, no contest.
I'll take the Wal-Mart card.
After diligently working 24 hours a day for 52 weeks to rid our computer of spam mail, we still got an email the other day that guaranteed one of the three above "rewards absolutely free" if one of us would take an "easy online survey designed to measure consumer preferences." The email assured us that the survey would take "no time at all to complete."
Now normally I don't take surveys, especially for free-lunch rewards. I did once consider taking up smoking so I could earn a big screen TV after 12 years or so of collecting points. If I lived that long. And I didn't forget where I stashed the coupons off the cartons. And never mind that the big screen TV would be obsolete by the time I gathered the points and had my lungs removed. Surveys, though, ask too many personal questions like what brand of soap I use. (It's Zest if you really must know. Refreshing vanilla bean almond and kiwi. Ahhhh, what a delightful way to bring out the macho in a man first thing every morning. Actually, it was just on sale.)
But you know ... $500 from Wal-Mart would be a big chunk toward buying a relatively big-screen TV. Perhaps that amount would be enough to buy a 32-inch set and I could bribe some stock boy at Wal-Mart out of an empty big-screen TV box so I could set it outside for a day or two and let the neighbors think what they want.
And, you know, a $500 gift card from Home Depot would get a really nice, sturdy, banana wood stand to put that TV on.
And, you know, you have to have at least $500 worth of pizza if you have a new big-screen TV to watch.
So, feeling like I'd be set for life--set for life for at least the next six months or so--I went for all three gift cards. Ha!
Let's get that Wal-Mart treasure.
Click on the link in the email: Wait for Internet Explorer. Wait for Internet Explorer. There we go.
"Please choose which gift card you prefer." I prefer all three but the computer's too stupid to know that. So click on the Wal-Mart button.
"So we can send you your free $500 Wal-Mart gift card we need the following information: Email address. Verify email address. Re-verify email address. Alternate email address. Verify alternate email address. Do you have any other email addresses?"
They also ask for trivial information like your name and shipping address somewhere along the fourth page of the information form.
"Click the submit button."
"Sorry. Invalid email address(es).
Well, I didn't get by with that.
Replace the addresses. Submit.
"Sorry. We cannot process your request. Please make sure the highlighted fields are completed."
"Thank you. Now please select at least three of the Silver Offers listed below."
I want Silver Offers about as much as a werewolf. I want the 32-inch TV and the empty box so the neighbors can think whatever they want.
OK. This one, this one, that one.
Submit. Where's my card?
Now all of a sudden I'm at a page for applying for a credit card. I don't want a credit card. I want the gift card. If I buy the TV and bribe for the empty box with a credit card I have to pay it back at an interest rate comparable to the average price of gasoline. In Europe.
OK. I apply for the card because the web page won't let me out until I do.
"Please choose two more Silver Offers."
I still don't see my Wal-Mart card. I choose two more Silver Offers.
My absolutely free gift card is within reach.
Now I'm choosing magazines for convenient home delivery.
Now I'm getting seven DVD's for the price of one, a price which is really the same price as seven DVDs bought just about anywhere else.
"Thank you. Now please select at least three of the Gold Offers listed below."
"Thank you. Now please select at least three of the Platinum Offers listed below."
"Thank you. Now please select at least three of the Titanium ... the Aluminum ... the Brass ... the Pot Metal Offers listed below."
Submit. Submit. Submit. Submit. @#$#$^%! Submit. Submit.
Big dog, little dog ... still a dog
I don't know if I'd want to be a big outside dog or a little inside dog.
If I were a big outside dog, I'd chase rabbits all day, jump fences, dash through fields of burs and brush, coming home at dusk exhausted and panting.
And my master would say "Ah, there you are. Been chasing rabbits? Good boy. Get that exercise."
If I were a little inside dog, I'd be allowed outside for 5-minute intervals, maybe taking one or two rolls in the grass, romping a few seconds with the outside dog, then lying down for a nap on the front steps to take a nap.
And my master would say "Hurry up and do your business."
If I were a big outside dog, I'd bark at every movement, every sound, every potential enemy, real and imagined, while protecting my great and expansive territory.
And my master would say, "Great watchdog."
If I were a little inside dog, I'd bark every time the outside dog barked.
And my master would say: "Shut up, SHUT UP, I can't hear the television. It's just the wind. What are you protecting, the kitchen?"
If I were a big outside dog, I'd follow my master around wherever he went.
And my master would say "Ah, a dog at my heels."
If I were a little inside dog, I'd sit on the floor at my master's feet and get stepped on and react accordingly.
And my master would say: "Don't you snap at me. It's your own fault. How would you like to live outside?"
If I were a big outside dog, I'd ride in the truck bed or in the cab with my head outside the window, looking rather stupid but enjoying myself.
And my master would say, "Having a good time, boy?"
If I were a little inside dog, I'd have to ride in the back seat, expected to take a nap perhaps.
And my master would say, "Stop sticking your head out the window before you get it knocked off."
But on the other paw...
If I were a big outside dog, I'd probably get into a lot of fights with other big outside dogs and come home bleeding.
And my master would say, "Will you look at that? Another vet bill."
If I were a little inside dog, I'd run to the front door when I saw some strange dog coming, bark my head off at the front door, be let into safety, then bark my head off at the stranger-dog from behind glass and walls.
And my master would say, "Oh, how cute. Our brave little doggie."
If I were a big outside dog, I'd probably relieve myself wherever likely for it to be stepped in.
And my master would say, "Oh, look at that. Nasty big dog, nasty big dog."
If I were a little inside dog, I could come along after the big dog.
And my master would say, "What, again? Nasty big dog, nasty big dog."
If I were a big outside dog, I wouldn't be able to read.
And my master would say, "Here, boy. This dog food was on sale. You're going to like it."
If I were a little inside dog, I wouldn't have to be able to read.
And my master would say, "Now, why aren't you eating that? All right, let me cut up some ham in little bitty pieces so you won't choke on it."
If I were a big outside dog, I'd be expected to be an outside dog.
And my master would say, "What are doing, you lazy. Get up and go chase some rabbits."
If I were a little inside dog, I could fake it.
And my master would say, "Oh, how cute. Look at how he sleeps with his little paws up in the air."
Wait a minute.
Come to think of it, it seems to me that when you're a dog it's sorta darned if you do and darned if you don't.
So, instead, do I want to be an African elephant or an Indian elephant?