About a dozen years ago, I was watching my gymnast nieces jumping on a very large trampoline at a family party. It looked easy and fun. So I crawled in and lost all control. I was floundering and flopping around trying to get my footing, finding it difficult to even crawl to the exit as the other jumpers were knocking me off balance. Everyone up on the deck was laughing hysterically and I heard my wife say, “One thing I’ve always loved about Geoff is that he has never been afraid to make a fool of himself.” Much as I love any sentence that begins with a premise of what someone loves about Geoff, this came as a shock. I never felt I was unafraid of making a fool of myself. I assumed everyone was afraid of that. I was always going for looking cool. Maybe a wacky funny cool, but cool. I did not climb on that trampoline thinking I might make a fool of myself. I envisioned doing somersaults and my nieces squealing, “Uncle Geoff is amazing!” Reflecting on my wife’s words, I realized I may have occasionally missed the subtle difference between “laughing with me” and “laughing at me.” Since “things anyone loves about Geoff” are extremely rare, I decided to embrace and own the quality of not being afraid to make a fool of myself. I have worked very hard at it over the last decade. My blogging obsession is a good example of this philosophy.
I do not know why death is billed as so certain. Death is actually the rarest of events, much less inevitable than taxes. My Dad over prepared for everything. He would plant his own water on the course before running a Marathon, apparently feeling that aid stations two miles apart might not be sufficient. Yet when he died at age 80, he had made no arrangements for a burial site. He was wealthy enough to purchase several alternatives. This was so unlike him that I could not comprehend it until my brother explained, “He didn’t think he was going to die.” This was such an epiphany for me. I do not think I am going to die either. Sure, I pay lip service to the specter of death. But every day for over 25,000 days, I wake up alive and live another day. My Dad beat death 29,291-1. In other words, life rounds off to a 100.00% certainty. The rarity of death is just another well guarded secret of cemetery and funeral home businesses and my Dad was way too smart to be taken in by their scams.
While reading the dictionary this morning, I discovered that the Brussels sprout has a capital “B” and an “s” at the end of Brussel. Discoveries like this are chipping away ever so slowly at my massive ignorance. My brother scratched at this same ignorance when we had him over for a dinner while his family was out of town awhile back. When he was satisfied that my wife and I were not pranking him by serving Brussels sprouts, he informed us that while he does not like vegetables in general, Brussels sprouts were his absolute least favorite. I am not sure whether he pluralized the hated vegetable or pronounced it with a capital “B” but I think I know why he hates them so much. The summer he turned nine, I ate twenty of them at a family dinner and for once he could not compete with me and I basked alone in the attention I crave. Or maybe he has the TAS2R38 gene that enhances the bitterness and sulfuric smell of the sprouts. My own gene deficiency may explain why my family record has stood for almost sixty years. Actually I cannot remember anyone even wanting to challenge for my title of Brussels Sprout Butthead.
My reader asked me if I ever wake up and panic that I don’t have anything interesting to write about that day. Apparently I have been paying my reader for nothing as she is not even reading my nonsense. If I had anything interesting to say, wouldn’t I already be putting it in my blog? Why would I be posting all this other gibberish instead? I have learned that fresh ideas are rare but that the unoriginal and mundane are infinite. So rest assured I have enough material to be posting two or three times a day. It takes some skill to be the restaurant with high quality tiny food but anyone can run an all you can eat establishment.
Fortunately, I will miss the Presidential Debate tonight because Brandin Cooks, my Fantasy Football wide receiver, is playing on Monday Night Football. Besides, I have seen the leaked scripts Anthony Weiner has been been texting to my wife. Hillary denies altering her birth certificate to make her look ten years younger and claims “Putin is behind this conspiracy to embarrass me.” The Donald replies, “Even my great friend Vladimir couldn’t make that old bag look ten years younger.” Trump maintains he does not have a birth certificate of his own “because I always was.” Hillary produces her third and fifth grade report cards but says her other elementary school records and emails “were stolen by the Islamic terrorist Ben Ghazi.” The Donald explains he skipped third grade and that his other records from Trump Elementary were donated to his charitable foundation and “cannot be released until the Mexican government pays the expenses and penalties of all ongoing audits.” I am fairly certain I will end up a big loser because Brandin Cooks cannot be expected to overcome the deficit the rest of my Fantasy team created on Sunday.
My Polish daughter-in-law has always been skeptical of the skin cancer industry. She considers it a bit of a money making scam when I get annual check ups that regularly result in excisions (three this year). Nonetheless, as a licensed esthetician, she provides me with allegedly the best sunscreens. They make me look like I am perpetually on an expedition up Mt. Everest, covered in pasty white zinc oxide. I cannot seem to get the white residue off in the shower. I am beginning to suspect that the sunscreen dispensers she gives me are actually lead based paint tubes she orders online for her artwork. My investigation has stalled because the writing on the tubes is all in Polish. So far my paranoia stems only from the giggling she and her sister engage in whenever they are around me. Of course, that could be a result of the gravy stains on my shirt or the spinach in my teeth. But in the event of my death by skin poisoning, please sound the alarm because I am fairly positive it will be logistically impossible for my wife to raise the issue while she is on her luxury world cruise.
I have done a couple of day hikes on the Appalachian Trail with family members. I have even been lost on it around Harper’s Ferry where only a “stupidest grandpa” could miss the trail marker. Despite my fear of heights and an unsteadiness that leads to rib injuries, I have always shared my brother’s fascination with the idea of being a thru-hiker and doing the entire 2,190 miles. Besides the fact that I am allergic to camping out, I figured that hiking 15-20 miles a day with a big pack would take me four or five months. I would be far too haunted by the sadness such an absence would cause my wife. However, I have been encouraged by the people who keep lowering the time for completing the trek through all 14 states. Karl Meltzer, age 48, just finished in a record 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes. When they get the time under thirty days, I am definitely going to hike that sucker.
Earlier this week my four year old granddaughter called me “the stupidest grandpa ever.” I confirmed with her that she was saying I was the stupidest of even grandpas dead hundreds and thousands of years ago. I gave her room to to amend her statement to make me just “one of the stupidest grandpas ever” but she held firm. In the interest of full disclosure, some evidence does exist that makes her claim arguably credible. After a few days of offering her examples of other candidates for the stupidest title, yesterday she called me the “second stupidest grandpa ever.” She has learned the value of leaving wiggle room when making absolute statements. My goal is to extricate myself from the top ten. If she ever claims I offered up any of my readers as a possible substitute on the stupidest roster, do not believe it for a minute. Her hobby is throwing me under the bus when she gives her daily report to her Mom on how I did as a Nanny. I am OK with that because as her great grandpa liked to say, “You get what you pay for.”
At the end of one summer (1966 I believe), my friend Paul (a good looking ladies’ man) and I drove a loop through Canada, down to Montana, and back to Puget Sound. Toward the end of the trip, I realized the purpose was to visit popular girls he knew from college. We had little money, so we camped out. We were ill prepared for camping, probably because Paul expected some free lodging and meals from the families we surprised along the way (no cell phones back then). At the first campsite, I dropped my green tinted contact as I was trying to put it in without the help of a mirror. It floated to the ground and I could not find it in the grass. So I stood up and purposely dropped the other contact. Apparently I thought that if I watched really closely, it would lead me to the lost contact. It actually led to a now famous saying: “Don’t throw good contacts after bad.” We appeared at the next stop as Tom Cruise and a squinting Rain Man. A lovely young lady explained that while she would love to hang out with us, her brother was entering the seminary tomorrow and the family needed to spend the evening together. Paul then asked if we could just cook some of our food in their kitchen to take to a nearby Park to eat. We must have been really hungry and really broke to open a can of baked beans and heat it up in one of their pans. Under the influence of low blood sugar, I filled the awkward silence with some edgy repartee. Paul smartly left me in the car for his next couple of surprise visits but they still did not lead to lodging or meals.
On the flip side of the previous post: I once represented Management at a Step 3 grievance meeting where the Union was challenging the dismissal of a professional employee for misuse of the computer. A couple of the union officials were upset that the company had needlessly humiliated the grievant by how he was terminated in front of his coworkers. After an exhausting battle over the more germane issues, I was asked in the presence of a stenographer, “Why did you have two security guards escort the employee off the premises?” I replied, “Because the third one called in sick that morning.” I did move to strike my own answer but it lived and actually aged better than I have.