We knew Monday would be special when our third grade granddaughter Zofia went back inside her school for the first time in a year. My wife and I took selfies of the three of us before I dropped the masked Zofia into a funnel of protocols. Suddenly I realized this was an even bigger moment than when I walked her to her first day of Kindergarten. Zofia’s mother had the same experience when she did the pick-up after the half day session. She phoned me when they got home to tell me (three times) how surprisingly emotional the experience was. We probably should have expected strong feelings, considering the Pandemic tornado endlessly swirling around us. We can no longer take for granted the simple act of going to school. I have only a few memories of dropping my own children at school because my wife generally handled that activity. I do remember taking our oldest son to college but cannot recall if we said goodbye to his mother at the airport or at home. The memorable parting actually occurred at the airport four months later when our son returned to college after the holidays. He had unintentionally shocked my wife by casually referring to Virginia as “home.” After he boarded his flight, I turned to my wife and was shocked to see tears streaming down her face. She now knew he was gone for good. And she was right. For nine years, he lived in Virginia while we resided in Kansas and Washington State. We saw him on vacations and holidays but everything would be forever different. Sometimes the emotional moments jump out and grab you when you pause and realize just how big the turning point is.
The pain of a long hard hike signals the pleasure of a smoothie awaiting at Wapiti Woolies in Greenwater. Or it could be a warning that X-rays await at the University of Washington medical clinic to determine whether ribs are cracked or merely bruised. The time and trouble of getting a haircut can be well worth the exhilarating result unless your barber or hairdresser was hung over. I have always dreaded going to Reconciliation (nee Confession), the dentist, the doctor, and the car dealership. But the torture of those anticipations actually enhances the thrill of surviving the experiences, unless you have been excommunicated, diagnosed with a root canal, or told you are no longer covered by warranty or insurance. Combining fears of the known and unknown leads to great relief when the danger passes. The bigger the fear, the bigger the celebration. People who recover from a serious accident or medical condition are known to really appreciate life more afterwards. People who do not recover may end up in a more heavenly place. So potentially you might be a winner any which way. This may be why Alfred E. Neumann always says, “What, me worry?” He inspired a huge cult of people who embrace this philosophy. Yet maybe he was spouting nonsense and could just as easily have proclaimed the anagram “Wormy wreath.” Neumann has been labeled a Communist, so he could be capable of promoting Russian biological warfare aimed at infecting our holiday wreaths with killer worms invisible to the naked eye. I cannot keep straight whether the Democrats or the Republicans are in cahoots with the Russians but after the good guys win, I am going to enjoy a large cookie with my extra large smoothie from Wapiti Woolies.
The NCAA was embarrassed in the 2021 March Madness college basketball tournaments by photographs highlighting the disparity of workout rooms for men and women. Historically the NCAA has had even less interest in female collegiate athletes than they have in their male counterparts. So laws were passed to force parity. The NCAA is so clueless that they do not even pretend they care about any of the athletes, let alone the females. At least my wife pretends we are equal in our marriage. She tells others that I make the unpopular decisions, knowing full well that she negotiated veto power over everything in that cocktail napkin document we signed when I was legally drunk. When we order meals at a restaurant, she gets whichever one she likes better. So I choose strategically. If I love something, it might be better to order an entree I like but know she hates. My wife exercises authority over what house we buy, how we furnish it, and any landscaping. She determines how cupboards are used, what toilet paper we buy, and what side of the bed I sleep on. And I love her choices. I am choosing my words carefully because she just traded in our big couch for a little loveseat that is way too small for me to sleep on. Unlike the NCAA, I played the long game and gave in early. The NCAA presides over a culture that generates a $9.6 million annual salary for the Alabama head football coach but has not allowed athletes to share in profits from their own images and brands. Of course this will eventually change because the NCAA likes to be compelled to change rather than get credit for proactively finding equitable solutions.
I ended my last post with the words “answering the door.” What an odd phrase. Doors do not speak. People knock on my door, so perhaps that is a poetic description of door speak. And knocks do vary. I have learned the language of my door. When the door vibrates from hard pounding knocks, I translate the sound to mean something like: “You idiot, why do you keep locking me out when you know I am working in the garden?” If I ignore my knocked door when it speaks to me, it will keep talking with more knocks. That knock lingo is saying to me: “I know you are in there, I heard you moving around. I am a door to door salesman ready to sell you something you do not need.” Sometimes I catch the doors at my house singing, “Light my Fire.” I try to keep our doors closed but the other residents leave them open to heat the neighborhood as their contribution to global warming. So the horses escape by the time I bolt the doors. Our front door is a male. We used to call him by his generic name Doorman but eventually he earned a real name, Matt, and answers to Doormat. I have more space left but I need to slam this door right now.
When school shut down in March 2020, my granddaughter could no longer see any of her five close friends in person. Their families strictly followed rules and hid indoors. In August, the Pandemic looked endless, virtual school became permanent, the rising third graders were addicted to Roblox online, and anxieties soared. The girls could not swim at the Pool, take drama classes, or play on sports teams. Growth was stunted. A couple desperate parents suggested one on one outdoor playdates with masks and social distancing to celebrate birthdays. My daughter-in-law accepted a few such invitations for Zofia. But not much changed. On Monday, Zofia returns to in person learning for a token total of 15 hours spread over the next four weeks. Her closest friend Gracie did not accept the Hybrid option and will continue school full time at home. So I was surprised while babysitting last Tuesday night that Gracie’s mom (a physician) negotiated a one hour evening playdate for Gracie and Zofia at my place. I let the kids entertain themselves while I hid in the den and scanned People Magazine for Blog ideas. At 8pm, Gracie’s mom returned and I sprinted to the vestibule to give the appearance of involvement. Both girls were dripping wet although Gracie had changed out of her pajamas and into borrowed clothes from Zofia. I had no idea what happened but luckily the kids tipped me off by jabbering about a squirt gun fight outside in the dark. Our squirt gun battles include water bazookas, hoses, and pails and do not last long in March weather. I muttered about our liberal parenting philosophy, hoping that was considered an apology. Gracie’s mom said she would exchange clothes later. I do not know if she tried because I have not been answering the door.
Scott Van Pelt of ESPN asked his audience, “Do you know anyone who has run a Marathon?” He then observed that if anyone you know has run a Marathon, you would know about it because they tell everyone. I would add a corollary to that truth: If you are not a runner, you find conversations about Marathon running very boring. Even when I am not talking about running a Marathon, I am still boring. It does not really matter what I am saying. Now I wonder if I was attracted to running races because they fuel narcissism. Gabby Barrett’s rendition of the The Good Ones inspired my chapter of Narcissists Anonymous. We changed the word “He’s” in her song’s tag line and adopted the slogan, “I’m one of the good ones.” At our next meeting, I am going to float my Marathon theory because I think several of us have run one. I do not remember because I rarely listen when others are speaking. One of our co-Presidents has posted a professional looking sign that says, “Watch out for Motorcyclist.” The sign is narrower than standard highway markers that remind drivers to be aware of motorcycles but it focuses on “motorcyclist” in the singular. Maybe the sign maker ran out of space. Or maybe he is just notifying marathon runners in the vicinity that he specifically is going to be riding without regard to rules and warning others to get out of his way. Perhaps he has been injured before by some oblivious runner or crazy driver like me. I can no longer even tell which people are the good ones and which are the bad ones.
I have eaten at a restaurant alone on occasion. If I were on a solo business trip, I would more likely run after work and pick up a Subway sandwich on the way back to the room. But I have no problem eating by myself in public. I usually take reading material. If someone is eating single at an airport restaurant, no one notices. But under other circumstances, a party of one can seem sad to me. One Saturday evening about 25 years ago, I was dining with my three sons and one of their friends at the Boar’s Head Resort in Charlottesville, Virginia. I spotted a man in a coat and tie dining solo. Easter was the next day. Our group of five was having a particularly good time. The lone man may have been overjoyed too, but this was not as outwardly obvious. I felt a little guilty both about my good fortune and about making assumptions about his circumstances. On the day this post was composed, I realized I have never been to a movie by myself. I can say this with confidence, knowing that no one can rebut my claim with the words, “What about the time you went to Reefer Madness with me?” I see plenty of people alone at a movie. My wife and I once ran into a particularly sociable friend on her own in a movie theater. You cannot talk during the show and are anonymous in the dark, so it seems like a perfectly logical activity to do alone or together. Just like I jog alone or with others. Since I have no reason not to attend a movie by myself, I need to add that to my Bucket List just to prove it.
Even before the Pandemic, I could no longer walk up to a movie theater and buy tickets to a show. I needed to go online, reserve seats, and hope I finally did it correctly after a few false starts. Why am I not getting the Senior discount? I am sure I typed in my preferred customer loyalty number but they still charged me the convenience fee that is waived for members. I can print out a confirmation because I have no idea how to scan things with my phone. I cannot even figure out how to turn the phone ringer off. Why is there even a convenience fee? This process may be convenient for all young people and competent old people but it should at least be labeled an inconvenience fee for me. I liked to go to the movies on the spur of the moment. Sometimes a movie might be sold out when I showed up. But then I could take a walk and go out to dinner. Except they want me to scan my phone to access the menu through some app. They want me to place my order and pay on a machine on my table. Next they are going to ask me to cook my own food after picking it up during my prescheduled online appointment at the grocery store. I have a nice view at home and would eat there if I wanted to do all the work. I do not mind tipping and paying fees for conveniences. I object to paying inconvenience fees. Actually my wife does all the work, including ordering the tickets and getting us to the movies. But what if I outlive her?
Even when I know the power is out, I keep instinctively flipping light switches when I walk into a dark room. Last week I had a fairly minor surgical procedure on the bridge of my nose requiring several stitches and a large padded bandage to protect the wound. I was wearing contacts but the pressure of the tight wrap made it feel like I was wearing glasses. I kept reaching up to adjust the phantom spectacles as if they were askew. No matter how many times I verified that I was not wearing glasses, my instincts took control of my hands and continued to search for them. It was embarrassing to be talking to people while waggling my fingers around my upper face looking for specs. I became the spectacle. When I took my contacts out and wore glasses, the result was just as discouraging. I had underestimated the difficulty of fitting my blended trifocals over a bulky bandage on my nose. It was challenging to keep the glasses on but at least I could grab them and not thin air. It was difficult for the trifocals to work from a new angle. After 48 hours, I substituted a more conventional bandage whether I was supposed to or not. I still felt like I was wearing glasses. I expect my body is programmed like a smart phone to automatically take care of me and this convenience goes unnoticed until it starts autocorrecting non errors. This is similar to a boss who only notices when you are involved in a screw up. And even then, the boss is usually the reason for the mess.
Ah, Spring is sprung. Bean sprouts of mung. Frisbees are flung. The swings are swung. By trees of Tung on river Nung, wet clothes are wrung. The lights are strung. Snowballs are slung. Stockings are hung. My boys are young. My ho is gung. My Fu is Kung. The cask is brung with leaky bung. My tongue is stung. My songs are sung from aging lung. My bells are rung. My life is dung. But still I clung. The years flashed by in a blur. Sorry I did not see you waiting. I was working on a Eulogy Poem for my Doggerel Anthology while trying to conjure up an idea for today’s Blog. Hopefully something good will appear in this space before posting deadline.