365. Epoxy My Brain Shut

Quite unintentionally it’s been good to be me lately in my marriage. Naturally I think history simply caught up to me; the wave I’ve been ahead of has finally crashed behind me and my prophesies are seen as epochal truths. Of course, this is delusional thinking.  Put simply, my wife recently told me one Saturday morn, “I really like how you have been behaving lately. I wish you could always be like this.”

Such comments are simultaneously both a compliment and a complaint. They contain two parts. Part one is the limited compliment, specific praise for something recent. Part two is the ubiquitous complaint, the history lesson that says you usually, no make that almost always, suck. Days like these are comparable to balmy summer days in Antarctica, serving only to confuse the penguins, seals and walruses who live upside down on the underbelly of the planet. Those poor critters are so confused that they dare not venture north, where it’s warmer.

Well, like a penguin in Miami I did not know what to do with such a statement. I asked for some clarification, hoping I would not ruin this un-Cialis moment. Indisputable examples were given. I pondered further. Finally, since my brain chemistry was under discussion or debate, I leaned back against the stove and made a suggestion. “Honey, here’s what I’m gonna do. Since you like my present mood so much and we’re both pretty sure it will soon fall into a computer screen or television abyss, I am going to epoxy my brain chemistry in place right here in this sweet spot of marital bliss. I can put an epoxy-filled syringe in each ear and squeeze until my brain hardens in place. Then I will be your joy boy forevermore.”

Seasoning her egg sandwich, “Oh, I wish.”

“I’m sure. We’ve been married 36 years now, right?  known one another 41 years, or twice as long as we did not know one another. Which is hard to say. I would not want to translate that sentence into another language, say Moroccan. More coffee?”

“Yes. I don’t care about translations. I just want to understand the original so stop the obscure references. It’s nice to be close to you. I feel complete and secure.”

“Oh, I do too. So often we have stress for one reason or another that just derails us.”

“Usually, by which I mean always, it’s you. I am very stable.”

“Yes, but so is concrete.”

“Are you comparing me to a building product?”

“No! I’m, I’m just saying that you are so much more than stable, you know, sexy and smart and … like, uh, stable is just where you start, baby. Just the foundation of the Honey Pot Nation.”

“No! You’re going to ruin it again! You are so impatient!”

“I’ve never been in-patient.”

“And the puns. They are intolerable.”

“I know. I can’t help it. Aren’t you going to eat the yolk?”

“No, egg yolks are gross. Are you going to eat it?”

“Gulp. Mmmmm. That’s your problem, baby girl. You just don’t get my yolks.”

“Uhhhhhh. Must you?”

“Hey, I did not go bait and switch on you. I was like this when we met in 1974. In fact, I was wearing this same Grateful Dead tee shirt without the holes. Listen:  If I epoxy my brain shut now, are you prepared for bad yolks forevermore?”

“No. Let’s think this through. There has to be something else that preserves a mood.”

“Formaldehyde. Radon. Volcanic ash. Death…”

“NO! Stop. Whose death, yours or mine?”

“Does it matter?  It was yust a yolk, my yittle chickadee.”

“What is in your head that makes you so weird? Is it a fungal infection that got into your synapses?

“Possibly. I contracted athlete’s brain in junior high from the gym showers. Mushrooms grew in the dark stall farthest from the frosted windows. That’s where Jody Riccio…”

“Stop!!! You see? This is why I want to hire a hit man. You start with a loving statement from me and then you go down bunny trails that lead to squirrel tracks that lead to mole holes that lead to ant farms that lead to termite tunnels on other planets!!!”

“Honey, honey. Sweet honey bee. You are surely exaggerating my exaggerations exponentially, even intergalactically. I will not lean here and be compared to insect life on any planet. I have standards.”

“Really?”

“Sometimes you must admit I’ve had a standard, at least once. I have stood beneath a bell curve at least once.”

“Standard deviation.”

“Well, you have to have a standard to have a deviation, right? I am an outlier. You gotta sin to be saved. Sister, come forward and accept God’s Holy Spirit on your tortured soul!!!”

“You got the liar part right. Can we focus here?”

“Did you know that Focus means Botox in Japanese. And now I see why. If you get shot up with enough Botox, your face will stay focused for eternity, sort of like the Joker after his weird mouth mishap.”

“I could not endure your happy face forever. It gets scary after a couple of seconds. Stop it! I hate your Jack Nicholson impression. He is so ugly.”

“So the answer is not Botox. How about laser surgery?”

“For what?”

“I read an article in AARP that lasers can melt your wrinkles together and make you look twenty years younger.”

“I knew you twenty years ago. I don’t want that again.”

“I could get my lips done so they are in a forever super model pout. How about this?”

“Don’t make that face. Now you look like Jack Nicholson imitating Angelina Jolie. It’s too freakin’ freaky.”

“Well, in other news, are you going to yoga tonight?”

“Are you?”

“I’m a go.”

“What?”

“No, I changed my mind.”

“What?”

“Nah, I’m a stay.”

“I’m putting on these lime green ear muffs now. I can’t hear you.”

“What’dya say?”

“I said, ‘I can’t hear you.”

“Do you still want me to stay like this?

“What?” Reaching for the epoxy syringe.

“I said, ‘Do you still want me to stay this way?'”

“How about we epoxy your mouth shut?”

“mmmmhmmm aaahummm eeyyoooo”

“Yes, this is lovely. Now Immastay. No, Immago. Immatalk. Youashutup. Yeah, nice.”

“mmmmnnnnoooo  aaaahhhhmmmmm puuuhhhhmmmm arrrrgggg.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

342. Googly Eyes

Years ago, I mean 26-27 years ago, my wife and I took our two daughters out near Pittsburgh to spend a weekend with a couple we’d met through church, our old Catholic church. I’m talking ages ago, since my third and youngest daughter was not even a glint in her parents’ eyes then, and we stopped going to the Catholic church 16 years ago. I can’t even recall the couple’s names today, (Jim and Maryanne?) but they were kind and vibrant people who wanted to share life and their love of family with us. Their children were older, naturally, since they were maybe twenty years older than we were at the time. Still, their house teemed with toys and games and coloring books and left over cool stuff for kids to do. I vividly recall looking out their kitchen window as my girls played on swings and a sliding board. Erin was 7 maybe, and Grace was 2 or 3 years old. Erin was properly modeling safe, older child behaviors while Grace was rushing toward risky excitement, just the way her daughter Leah does today. As Erin carefully climbed the stairs to the tall sliding board, Grace gamboled up the slide like a monkey, holding the rails with her hands. In this one mental snapshot their different personalities are engraved on my father’s heart.

Friends of our hosts came for dinner and a meeting of the Christian Family Movement, I think it was called. They had known each other since the 1960’s and it showed in how they interacted so lovingly with each other. They all had stories of putting faith into practical application. Jim talked about befriending a widow neighbor down the road who had resisted mightily at first. His kids delivered her newspaper and shoveled her driveway and met her needs. Finally the old suspicious widow consented to their invitations to join in life.

That story impressed me so much that I determined to do the same outreach to an elderly couple on our street, the Johnsons, not knowing that Ruth would soon be a widow. I tried to model loving neighborliness to Ruth and Buck while he was still living. I cut their grass, helped stack firewood, shoveled snow, etc. Over the years my girls got some extra grandmothering from Ruth. They would run to her house to show her their latest guinea pig or sing songs with her has she plinked out a tune on an untuned piano. We still have the mechanical angel that sat on her mantel at Christmas that Jessica so admired. Ruth gave it to her before she moved.

But the story is getting ahead of itself. Back to Greensburg, Pa and the good CFM folks. In our lesson one of the men told a story that used props, little fuzzy monsters with googly eyes. I don’t recall the point of it all, but I do know that all the fuzzy monsters with googly eyes were given to my daughters when the lesson concluded. They thought they were in Oz with all the attention and gifts. We drove home in the early November twilight, grateful for the connections made and the model of family love given to our girls.

Erin and Grace played with their new toys over the next few days and nights. Erin in safe, older child mode. Grace, uh, not so much. The googly eyes became separated from the fuzzy monsters rather quickly, but these were still fun to stick on the end of a finger and wiggle so the “pupil” rolled around the white area. It was all fun and games until, well you know, until someone loses an eye.

I think it was a Thursday night. My wife was at some work related meeting and I had put the girls to bed, Erin quietly and effortlessly; Grace with more maintenance and direction and a billion more words. I settled into the pink corduroy chair in the living room to read the thin local newspaper. I had not finished page one when Grace came down the hallway. She had a finger in her nose.

“Daddy, I have a googly in my nose.”

“Honey, that’s disgusting. Don’t pick your nose. Now let’s get back to bed. I told Mommy that I’d have you guys asleep by now.”

I walked her back to her bedroom and told her to stay in bed.

“But Daddy, googly eye. I have a  googly eye.”

“No buts, Gracer. You get to sleep.”

No sooner had I sat down again and picked up the paper than Grace toddled down the hall again, a little more animated. “Daddy, googly eye nose”, she said with her finger  two knuckles up her nostril as she wrinkled her nose and made a face of worry.

“Gracie, I told you not to pick your nose. Now you have to go to sleep. Now! No more…”

Then she emphatically shouted, “No, no, Dadddy. Googly eye nose”, and pointed up her left nostril.

Fear came over me as I drew her into the light of the reading lamp and tilted her little head back. Impossibly high up in her nasal cavity a googly eye stared back at me, mocking my parental ineptitude. More than any other consequence I dreaded my wife’s wrath… “You did what?” while imagining a scene from the emergency room with child services employees ready to take my three year old into protective custody.

“Oh, no. Gracie, blow.”

She sniffed.

“No, no, no. Like this.” I got a tissue out and demonstrated blowing into it.

What would happen if she sucked the googly eye into her brain? What horrible surgeries would she have to undergo because I had failed so miserably to protect her from fuzzy monster toys with googly eyes?

Finally after multiple blow demonstrations, Grace blew out the dreaded, almost fatal googly eye. It stared back at me in the wrinkly tissue like a dead fish eye.

I thanked God for this minor miracle and hugged her with relief. I would have to tell her mom about it eventually but not tonight. It was just too raw and mucousy for discussion. I put Grace to bed for the last time and gathered up all the fuzzy monsters with and without googly eyes and put them in the trash. Truly, no good deed goes unpunished. Nor do endearing memories ever fail to stab at my old heart.

 

 

 

 

177. Pay it Forward, no, wait…uh, okay

So this morning was Coffee Nation. Gene was already there when I arrived early at 8 a.m. Pastor Kyle was in his corner whispering in tongues about the Detroit Lions. The new barrista Jim was on duty, solo for the first time without supervision. He’s a literalist, I think. Jim not Kyle. He combined an earth science undergraduate degree with a master’s in divinity so that he can do disaster relief work, i.e., a cross between an evangelist and a weatherman, or a preacher in a tornado… whereas Kyle is a water spout wrapped in a preacher’s skin, kinda like a wet burrito. In any event he did not know about the Coffee Nation and I did not take the time to educate him, again, Jim not Kyle. I simply said, “Jim, can you run a tab for me and my crew? We get together on Thursday mornings and I put it on my tab.” He assured me that he could do this as I handed him a twenty dollar bill.

Image result for pay it forward pictures“Oh sure.” I pointed to Gene and said hello to the guy behind me, a peripheral personality whose name I have forgotten. I got my coffee and sat across from Gene. We started chatting. About five minutes later the familiar dude whose name I’ve forgotten called my name, “Hey, thanks.” I looked at him and noted Jim’s smile and nod at me. In a millisecond I figured it out– Jim thought that No Name was with my crew. “Oh you’re welcome.” I smiled to myself. ‘I’m an accidental nice guy this morning… funny thing.’

For the next hour I chatted with Gene about this and that. I stood up to settle my bill with Jim. A nice lady was waiting for Jim to finish making her several fru-fru coffees. When she moved to pay him, he said “Ma’am, I have four dollars here to go toward your coffees…thanks to this nice gentleman.” I was stuck in a cognitive revolving door. I smiled my stupid guy smile again. She thanked me as Jim explained that I had started a pay-it-forward chain, and that over the past hour many customers had continued to pay for the next customer’s coffee. I was speechless and penniless. Again, I smiled like a monkey that had missed a vine and fallen 100 feet face first onto the jungle floor.

“So, Jim. We’re good?”

“Oh yeah, I just love it when folks do that. It’s inspiring.”

“Okay, well two thumbs up then. Pay it forward, Man.” I walked out into the cold rainy morning. In four years of Coffee Nation that had never happened, which has saved me a lot of money, come to think of it. I had to laugh at the untold story. Correcting the mistake would have taken longer than it was worth. It’s only four parking tickets, I thought. I can afford it.

Cryptically, as I sauntered over to my office, I remembered the story of David Brinkley, the old co-anchor of the Huntley-Brinkley News Report from the old, old days of black and white television. He was rushing through an airport when a fan stopped him. “Oh, you’re Chet Huntley”, the fan insisted. As Brinkley told the story, he had in that moment to decide between journalistic integrity or personal expediency. He chose the latter, realizing if he took the time to correct this fan, he’d miss his plane. So he agreed with her mistake for personal expediency.

“Yes, Ma’am, I’m Chet Huntley, and I’ve got to catch my plane.”

She replied, “Oh, good. I can’t stand that David Brinkley fellow.”

Oh Blogwads, we rip what we sew…and reap what we have sown.

Oh, Irony, why dost thou plague me? No one ever said this, but I wanted a dramatic segue to a third vignette. The problem is that I don’t have a nifty third vignette that somehow loosely connects to the previous two, no matter how tenuous the thread of connection. Dang it! I’ve written myself into a corner… which demands extreme creativity to make it appear that this was my destination all along. Plus I can edit to make it seem that way.

In a dark corner near the bathrooms I heard strange syllables being uttered by a man in a caffeinated stupor. “Our year…it’s our year.”
“Verlander. Cabrera. Prince. No, no.” It was Pastor Kyle in a brief psychotic episode driven by sports grief. His Tigers had gone down in flames to Big Papi and the Red Sox during the ACLS playoffs. He had the all too familiar 1,000 yard stare of a multi-tour war veteran. He held his head up with both hands at his throbbing temporal lobes. Foam was forming at the corners of his mouth. I could not tell if this was residual macchiato foam or if he was self frothing. The situation was dire. I sprang into action.

“We’ve got a man down here! I need some help.” I threw Kyle down and loosened the top button of his shirt. I splashed cold water on his delirious face as he continued stammering, “It’s going, going, gone. Big Papi has cleared the bases with one swing.”

Jim noticed the commotion and recognized the unrelieved disaster. He jumped over the bar with one leap and sprinted the 30 feet back to where Kyle lay. All of his training kicked in. He was seeing things in slow motion. He pushed me out of the way and announced, “I’m a professional. Stand back.” I complied gladly. Not knowing where this might end and whose liability it was anyway.

Jim expertly cleared Kyle’s airway and began CPR. Three compressions, one breath. Kyle came back quickly. “Ewww. Why are slobbering on me? What happened? What’s going on?”

I stepped in to try to explain. “Kyle, this is Jim. He is a weatherman preacher. His hands are registered with the Red Cross. He noticed your sports disaster and jumped in to help resuscitate you. He may have saved your fantasy football season. You were choking and gasping. We had to do something.”

Still confused and dysphoric, Kyle said, “Why? Why did you save my sports life if all I’ve got to look forward to is more suffering and loss? I’m a Detroit fan.”

Calmly I put my hand on his trembling shoulder. “Kyle, I needed a third vignette to close my blog, man. You’re paying it forward. It’s all good.”