Saturday, September 28, 2013

My Slough of Despair

 OK, of course you’re right; I should not be airing,
   discussing, talking about, or loudly blaring
   the many complaints I’ve been silently bearing.
   But it is my intention to do some baring
   of my countless gripes and hope that you are caring
   enough not to act as though you are chairing
   the meeting and pounding your gavel and daring
   me to risk your wrath by going on. Am I erring?
   Please listen to the saga of how I’m faring,
   without disgusted looks or your temper flairing.
   The injustices I will relate are glaring.
   Please, in all of this there is not one red herring;
   pay heed and you’ll find all these peeves are impairing
   my functionality function. Overbearing,
   that’s what they have become. They’re in need of paring,
   although, I think they would rather do some pairing
   of a reproductive kind. They seem to be raring
   to multiply, behaving lewdly, staring
   provocatively. And you know that is scaring
   me. It is driving me mad, and I am tearing
   my hair out. This narration will be unsparing,
   and will no doubt leave you extremely uncaring.
   In fact, I’m finding this whole thing is just wearing
   me down. And if I don’t stop, I’ll soon start swearing.
   Then again, a foul tongue helps when I’m declaring,
   “Woe is me,” while doing my very best at snaring
   others’sympathy. But your disgust is glaring,
   and poor, sad, unhappy me, I am despairing.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I'm so Embarrassed

   You want me to talk about my most embarrassing moment? Have you been spending your afternoons watching talk shows? Is that where that question came from? My most embarrassing moment; you must think I’ve spent a lifetime ranking my embarrassing moments, that I’ve got all my embarrassing moments neatly catalogued and categorized from least to most in a well-maintained file in my brain. Now I am embarrassed. I’ve done no such thing.
   And how could I? Oh, I suppose if I had just a few embarrassing moments it would be easy to keep a Lettermanesque Top Ten list. But I’m awash in embarrassing moments. In fact, there is hardly a moment of my life that hasn’t been embarrassing.
   See, even now I’m embarrassed. I misspoke in the last sentence, and I’m embarrassed all over again. I don’t like the word “misspoke.” Let’s face it, when a person says, “I misspoke,” what he or she is really saying is “I lied.” And I did lie. “There is hardly a moment of my life that hasn’t been embarrassing.” Ha! Ha! Ha! The truth is every moment of my existence has been embarrassing. There, I said it.
   And now I’m embarrassed again. All this embarrassment is my problem, not yours. I shouldn’t be bothering you with my embarrassing problems. But look at me, I’m just running my mouth and acting as if you’re interested. Oh, it’s so embarrassing. What if you are interested in what embarrasses me, and I’m just pooh-poohing your concern?  Now I’m embarrassed. I really hate it when I project my feelings on others. You know, when I assume you react to my running my mouth the same way I react when you’re running yours and I’m thinking, “when will you ever shut up,” and at the same time I’m trying to look concerned and interested.
   Boy, that’s embarrassing. I bet you really are interested in what I have to say. I bet you are really are concerned. And there I went and told the embarrassing truth about myself. I will never be able to look you in the eye again. The moment I enter your esteemed presence, I’ll cower in embarrassment, knowing that you know I wish you’d just be quiet and let me talk.
   God, this is embarrassing. “Esteemed presence,” where in the hell did that come from? Let’s be honest. Oh, I’m sorry. The only person who, to my knowledge, is being less than frank is the embarrassed, red-faced moi. See that? Before I could explain why saying “esteemed presence” embarrassed me, I further embarrassed myself by saying moi. What is moi besides a highfaluting, frenchified way of saying “me”? Why did I say moi? To make myself seem worldly, which means experienced, knowing, sophisticated. I’m embarrassed to say I had to look up worldly. I was sure it meant experienced, knowing, sophisticated. But more often than not, the surer I am about something, the greater the odds are I’m wrong. I’m embarrassed to admit I was worried that worldly might be a synonym for earthy: coarse or unrefined. Of course, I can be coarse and unrefined, but I’d be so embarrassed if you were to know that. But now I’ve told you, and I’m embarrassed yet again. And why am I embarrassed? Because I wanted you to think I’ve got savoir faire. But I’m not sure what savoir faire is. I’m so embarrassed.
   Now what was I talking about? Oh, your esteemed presence. I get so embarrassed when I use terms like that. You know, just throw them in to make you think I esteem you. It’s not that I don’t hold you in esteem. I do, more or less. Why did I just say “more or less?” You don’t need to know there are times I esteem you less than others. No wonder I’m so embarrassed all the time.
   Wait a minute! Hold the presses! Oh, for Pete’s sake, how embarrassing is that? Nobody shouts “Hold the presses” these days. I might as well have “I’m a geezer” tattooed across my forehead. There must be some Gen X equivalent for “hold the presses,” but, I’m embarrassed to say, I don’t what it is.
   And now I’m embarrassed because I can’t remember why I yelled, “hold the presses!” I mean, I know I had something cogent to say, but I can’t remember what it was. Does that ever happen to you? Does whatever it is that’s right on the tip of your tongue fall into the abyss a microsecond before you speak? Embarrassing isn’t it. But maybe that doesn’t happen to you. Maybe I’m embarrassing myself by assuming you’re as incompetent as I am. Like I said, it embarrasses me when I do that.
   Maybe I ought to stop now. But what if I haven’t made myself clear? It would be so embarrassing to stop now and leave you wondering, “What the hell is that idiot talking about?” Do you have an extra minute or two? I’m sure, given a few minutes, I can make everything clear. You don’t mind, do you? Yes, you do. I can tell by that look on your face. I’m really embarrassed, thinking you have nothing better to do than listen to me embarrass myself. But maybe you’re pressed for time. I’d be so embarrassed if I found out you had something important to do and that you’re going to be late because of all my yammering.
   Why don’t you tell me to shut up? Now I’ve embarrassed myself again, suggesting that you would tell someone to shut up. You’re too polite for that. Listen to me, did you ever hear anyone go on and on like this?
   I’m so embarrassed.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Notes from the Home - September 22, 2013

   Isabelle smiled proudly as she sat in the lobby early Wednesday afternoon.
   “I went to the doctor by myself; it’s the first time,” she said.
   Ralph, her husband, recently hung up the car keys for good. Linda, one of the caregivers, has been able drive Isabelle and Ralph to their more distant appointments. But this one was in town, and Linda wasn’t available, so Isabelle took the Covenant Woods’ bus to and from her appointment. She hadn’t used the bus for her medical commutes before and was relieved that it went smoothly. And further relieved by what the doctor said.
   “It was my heart doctor, my cardiologist. It’s been a long time – too long – since I’ve seen him,” she said. “But he said nothing has changed. He looked at the medications I’m taking and said they look fine. The only thing he said was I should start taking baby aspirin. I still have blockages, but they haven’t gotten any worse, and otherwise he said everything looks good.”
   Al had his own medical adventures that day.
   “I got my hearing checked,” he said. “They said I have a fifty-percent loss in my left ear and forty percent in my right ear. I asked them what I should do about it. They said hearing aids run from about nineteen hundred dollars to sixty-seven hundred. I told them I could live with my hearing the way it is.
   “Then I went to see Zhen, my Chinese doctor. He gave me new prescriptions for Marinol and Hydrocodone. I’ve still got most of the pills left from the last prescriptions. People are going to start thinking I’m selling the stuff.
   “But I can’t even give it away,” he told Marvin. “I keep trying to give some to Tom, but he won’t take it.”
   Ralph and Isabelle have been married sixty-six years. If there are matches made in heaven, theirs is surely one. Whatever disagreements they had along the way have been forgotten, and each day their appreciation for each other seems to deepen. Lately, Ralph has been having difficulty getting his hands and arms to do what he wants them to do, and at dinner one night, Isabelle helped him cut his chicken.
   “It’s funny,” she said. “It used to be Ralph had to help me all the time, now I have to help him. I had five cancer surgeries. They cut me from my navel all the way down. I should have had a zipper. Ralph learned to clean the incisions; he took care of me and took care of the things I couldn’t take care of when I was sick.
   “Our daughter started going to the orthodontist when we were at Fort Leonard Wood. Then Ralph’s unit was sent to Okinawa, and we went with him. The Army didn’t have an orthodontist on Okinawa, and every week my daughter and I had to fly to Taiwan to see the orthodontist there. That was hard on me, and several times Ralph arranged his schedule so he could take Jean.
   “When Ralph retired from the Army, I went to school to become a nurse. I stopped when I became an LPN. I could have gone on, but I wasn’t sure I could handle the classes. Pharmacology almost killed me. We had to learn to spell the names of all those drugs. I asked Ralph to help me. He said he couldn’t even pronounce the names of the drugs. But he helped me get through it.”
   Ralph didn’t come down to dinner last night. Isabelle said he had been very tired and hadn’t gotten out of bed until early afternoon. He seemed to feel a little better as the day went on, she said, but didn’t want to get dressed and come to dinner.
   “Years ago I made Ralph promise he’d let me die before he did,” Isabelle said. “I reminded him of that this morning.”
   Roz stopped me one morning as I wended my way through the Covenant Woods’ parking lots.
   “Catherine is here today, and you were the first person she asked about,” Roz said.
   Catherine used to live here, but she found more affordable digs last fall and moved out. I used to eat dinner with her, Sue and Corrine. Roz is a private caregiver who works with Corrine, and who did and may still work with Catherine. At least, she still has Catherine’s cell phone number. I know that, because Roz immediately called Catherine to tell her she was talking to me.
   “She’s in the beauty shop,” Roz told me, while keeping the phone line open. “You go on in and go right back there and say, ‘hello.’” Then Roz put to her ear and said to Catherine, “Tom is on his way back there to see you. And remember, when you get ready to leave, you call me.”
   “Geez, you bark orders to everyone, don’t you?” I said to Roz.
   “It comes from twenty-seven years of marriage. I figure if I can tell my husband what to do, I can tell everybody what to do.”
   In the early, not-yet-bright hours of the morning, when the sun is still well east of Columbus, I am an ace meteorologist. Without the aid of a thermometer, barometer, weather vane, anemometer, radar – Doppler, or otherwise – and without so much as a peek at the Weather Channel, I predict west Georgia’s weather. Today we will be in the path of a high-pressure system, the sun will rise in a cloudless sky, and though the thermometer will push towards ninety this afternoon – this is Georgia in September, after all – the humidity will remain comfortably low. These predictions are based on the relative ease with which I dressed myself this morning. My methods won’t get me the American Meteorological Society Seal of Approval, but it you’re a betting man, you’d be wise not to bet against me.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

It's News to Him

   Mel Melvin was at his desk in the newsroom of the Monotony Falls Jejune-Gazette, talking on the phone with his wife Melva, who was at police headquarters, where she worked as a dispatcher.
   “Nothing much,” he said. “Just waiting for some news to break, which probably won’t happen. How ’bout you?”
   “Oh, you know, today is the same as yesterday, and tomorrow won’t be any different, nor will the next day, for that matter,” she said.
   “Look, I just called to tell you I’ll be home at the regular time.”
   “I hate to break this to you, but you’re supposed to call when you are going to be late, not when you’ll be home on time.”
   “But I’m never late,” he said.
   “That’s because you’re a reporter for the paper in a town where nothing happens,” Melva said.
   “Yeah, even police dispatcher is a low-stress job in Monotony Falls.”
   “True, I haven’t dispatched anyone in over a week.”
   “Uh, oh,” Mel said. “Ed the ed is giving me the eye. I better try to look busy.”
   Ed Edwards, editor of Jejune-Gazette, approached Mel’s desk.
   “Got a story for me, Ace?” Ed asked.
   “What do you mean, nope?”
   “I mean nope, no, N-O, not today.”
   “But I need a story,” Ed said.
   “So do I. It isn’t easy being a newshound in a town without news.”
   “You’re the reporter,” Ed said. “If you don’t report something by deadline, there won’t be a single local story in tomorrow’s paper.”
   “So?” Mel asked.
   “So, I’ll get fired if there isn’t at least one.”
   “Well, if you get fired, I can write that story for Thursday’s paper.” Mel said. “Come on, Ed, take one for the team.”
   “If you don’t have a story for me in forty-five minutes you won’t be around when I get fired,” Ed said. “Now start writing.”
   “But there is nothing going on in this town.”
   “Make some phone calls.”
   “I was just talking to Melva. She said the cops are more bored than we are. Face it, Ed, this isn’t a slow-news day, it’s a no-news day in a no-news town.”
   “Well, there better be some news by deadline, or this paper is going to be down one reporter. Understand?”
   Mel made calls to three of his better contacts, but when asked for news they snickered and said, “In this burg? You’re kidding, right?” Then he was down to a half hour. He cracked his knuckles and started to type, slowly at first and then a little less slowly. Five minutes before deadline, Mel yelled, “My story is in.”
   “What’s it slugged?” Ed asked.
   “Does it matter? It’s the only story in the local queue.”
   “Oh, yeah,” Ed said as he turned to his computer and called up Mel’s story:
    The people of Monotony Falls won’t be surprised by the announcement scheduled to be made this afternoon in Minot, N.D. They will, however, be delighted to know that the rest of the country now knows and appreciates what Monotonians have known for years.
     The Society of the Wearisome, Humdrum and Tedious (SO WHAT) will wrap up its convention in Minot by announcing this year’s Most Boring rankings. According to several SO WHAT officials, Monotony Falls will be named the nation’s most boring city.
   “Your fair city – and I’m using fair in the so-so sense here – has been close so many times,” SO WHAT spokesman Bob N. Weaver said. “It’s nice to see Monotony Falls finally reach the top spot, if that’s the right term.”
   Weaver said SO WHAT has been conducting the annual boring rankings since 1992, and Monotony Falls has placed among the top five cities every year. But never until this year has the Monotony Falls taken top honors. To win, Monotony Falls knocked off three-time defending champion Boredman, Ohio.
   “Boredman’s bad luck was your good fortune,” Weaver said. “They looked to have a lock on a fourth straight title. But two days before the end of the ranking period, the Boredman Fire Department was called out to rescue a cat that had scampered up a tree.”
   According to Weaver, two people watched as the firemen rescued the cat, and one of the firemen sprained an ankle during the rescue.
   “That was just too much excitement,” Weaver said. “You folks were so close all year, and then Boredman had that cat incident. Nothing anywhere near that exciting happened in Monotony Falls, so you guys surged into the lead with just seconds remaining, so to speak.”

        “Hey, this story doesn’t suck, Mel. But what if people start asking questions and wondering about the award presentation?” Ed asked.
        “Not a problem,” Mel said. “If that happens, I’ll write another story. One about the award being withdrawn because it stirred up too much excitement. You can’t be the most boring town in the country if everyone is excited and clamoring to see the boring award ceremony.”
   “Well, if you’re sure, we’ll run with it.”
   Then Mel went home, where he eventually fell asleep watching television.


Alisha, the activities director, asked me to play Reader's Digest editor and condense an article on spring health tips she'd found ...