Friday, May 26, 2017

A Word About My Aunt


This will be brief. I recently wrote about my Aunt Carol. Five years older than me so we grew up together.

I told you about her lymphoma. She has been battling leukemia for several years.

The lymphoma won. Carol died May 15. I will miss her.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Uncle Raymond


For some reason I never called my uncles on my mother's side of the family "uncle". I knew they were uncles but they were so close in age that they were something a bit more.

Raymond is the oldest of my uncles. He was around but because he was 12 years older than me I was a nuisance to be tolerated more than anything else.

Like all my uncles Raymond worked the farm with Grandpa. Tractors and cattle consumed most of his time.

I do not think he liked farming too much. After all sons working a farm were excrutiatingly short of spending money.

When he was old enough Raymond took a ob driving a delivery truck. He had his own money.

Raymond was getting married! And I would get to go to the wedding. I had never been to a wedding before. I was 11 or 12 years old.

I do not remember much about the wedding. Such things were of little interest to me at that time.

His bride's father was the manager of the country club. That meant he took care of the golf course.

There was an interval of about 3 hours between the wedding and the reception. Pictures had to be taken you know.

So here were all these children with nothing to do. Left to themselves children will usually find something to do and it usually involves getting dirty.

To prevent that my aunt's father gave us a couple of golf balls and a couple of his golf clubs. We stayed relatively clean as we puttered around on the golf course.

The reception was held in the club house. It was not a fancy building as I look back at it. But I was entranced.

There were tables of food and bowls of punch. There was a lot of floor space for dancing. We could dance as long as we stayed clear in one corner and sort of out of the way.

The Witch Doctor by David Seville was so popular at that time. I was thrilled to hear it so many times that night. (My new aunt's father finally removed it from the juke box because he was so sick of hearing it.)

My uncle Donnie got drunk. He was funny to watch. He sort of draped himself over his date (she later married him) and moved the two of them around the floor.

Raymond died 3 years ago after a long fight with cancer.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Stormy Weather


As all of you have been experiencing this has been a strange year as far as the weather is concerned. In the winter we had balmy days right before getting 10 inches of snow.  In the fall we had unbelievably hot weather right before temperatures would fall below freezing. This spring began early but there were cold days often accompanied by snow.

Here in the plains states there has been a lot of precipitation. Most of it has been rain. There has been a lot of wind. Tornadoes have become common.

Right here where I live I feel somewhat protected from some of the severe weather. Tornadoes have hit within a few miles but I am nestled against a hill. It is not likely that a tornado will touch down here.

I live less than a mile from a big river. It has been known to flood and completely engulf the fields just across the highway from me. That is a distance of about 3 blocks. However the fields across the highway are several feet lower than the little town I live in. It is not likely to flood here.

I think the biggest problem we have other than the occasional hail storm is the wind. Because of the hill the wind seems to blow almost directly from the north to the south. It can be pretty fierce sometimes.

There are a lot of older trees around us. Even a moderate wind will blow small branches all over the place. We are constantly picking up twigs and small branches from all over the yard.

Then there are the big branches that break off and fall. Last year the neighbor's tree lost a huge branch. The base fell right next to the trunk of the tree. The branch itself filled both our yards. It missed our house by less than 2 inches.

One of our trees lost a big branch a few years ago. It was in the middle of a bitterly cold winter. The branch was on the roof and hanging off the edge with the base of the branch resting on the ground. It was too large for us to move without causing some serious damage to the house.

I called a tree service. They made an emergency call for us. They told me that it was a good thing I called. It was a big branch.

While they were there I asked what they would charge to trim the tree over the house. It was a reasonable fee so they did it while they were here.

It was so cold that day. Of course the wind was still blowing a bit making it colder for those poor men. But they were troopers. It took them about 3 hours. I stayed inside where it was warm.

We still have to clean up the small branches that blow from the trees including that one.

Then last night just as I was almost asleep I heard a bang and a tinkling of glass near me. The whole place shook.

I jumped out of bed to make sure my sons were safe. They were coming to see if I was okay.

A quick look outside revealed that a branch had fallen from another tree. It landed on the house right above my bed. It was not nearly as large as the other one had been thank goodness.

My son got up early and got out the ladder. He was able to pull it off the house before I even woke up.

I also realized the tinkling sound of glass was actually from a small wind chime that hangs from the ceiling in my room. No broken windows.

So far we have been really fortunate that there has been no damage to the roof. Knock wood!

I suppose now I will have to have the other tree trimmed too. It never ends.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Butt Of The Joke


I am often the one that makes my family laugh. I do not always do it intentionally but they laugh anyway. Laughter is good for the innards so I am happy to help keep them in good health.

Everyone knows how much I love baseball. My sister-in-law just smiles and shakes her head as she says, "You and your baseball."  But my children are another matter altogether.

We lived for a long time just a few miles from where my favorite major league baseball team played their home games. We went often. My children were able to watch some great baseball and great players. When we were not able to go to a game we would watch on television.

Even after my father died my mother and I had a good time watching baseball together. We would moan when our batter's hit was caught just before it appeared to be going over the fence for a home run. We would cheer when our outfielder caught the ball hit by the other team just before it went over the fence for a home run. We would scream and yell at any perceived infraction to our sensibilities committed by either team or the umpires. It is great fun.

But my children, nieces and nephews, and younger brother and sister were the ones having the most fun. They would sit in the back yard on nice summer days and laugh at us as we screamed at the television.

These days my children still laugh because I am still screaming at the television during ball games. They are joined by my grandchildren. Soon my great-grandchildren will be joining in. At least the dog does not run and hide any more.

I love music. I am the weirdo you see in the supermarket bopping down the aisle when a favorite song comes over their music list. I will being watching TV disinterestedly and suddenly find myself chair dancing to the music of a commercial. And of course I sing long and loud with the radio.

Now I know I cannot sing. If you put the tune into a briefcase and locked it I would not be able to carry it. But I have a lot of enthusiasm. Does that count for anything?

Of course my whole family laughs at me. When I begin to twitch in the grocery store my children used to scatter not wanting to be associated with the crazy lady. Sitting in a restaurant with my grandchildren brought head shaking and comments like, "Don't do that." Listening to music on the computer brings wails begging me to stop singing. (It is my house. I sing.)

When my children were young I would try to plan activities we would all enjoy. Movies were a good bet but we often did not want to see the same movie. Theaters that show multiple movies worked well because we could see the movie we wanted to see then get together afterward for something to eat.

But there were movies that we all enjoyed. Star Wars was one of those. So off we went to Star Wars. But it seems that everyone had a favorite place to sit in the theater. It works for us.

Toward the end of that movie Darth Vader is killed by his son Luke Skywalker. It was an emotional scene and I cry easily at the movies so I was dabbing my eyes and (I thought) quietly crying. Then I hear son number 3 chuckling. He was sitting several rows behind me and to the left.

He then stage whispers to son number 2. "Hey, Mom is crying because Darth Vader got killed." All heads in the theater craned to see me dabbing at my eyes. Son number 2 chuckled as did son number 1 and my daughter. Then the whole theater erupted into soft laughter. Think how good they all felt inside.

After the movie I had plans for us to go downtown in the big city. Summer weekends they held what they called Ethnic Festivals. It was an attempt to introduce people to other cultures and learn more about their own. It was one of the best ideas they ever had.

Anyway this weekend was the Irish Festival. Seeing that I had four little Irish children we went to the festival. After much searching we found a parking structure that was almost within walking distance.

As we were walking into the riverfront area where the festival was being held there were so many people milling about. Son number 3 took great joy in walking up to as many as he could and saying, "That's my mother. She cried when Darth Vader died."

Most people just had confused looks on their faces. But a few of them laughed. My son was having a good time. Add to that the fact that we had a good time at the festival. It was a great day.

It truly does not bother me when people laugh at me. Know why? I laugh at them too. Ridiculous things happen all the time. The trick is to recognize them for what they are and enjoy them.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Screaming Dog


My son's dog needed to go to the vet today. She needed a rabies shot which she has not had since he got her. She also was in desperate need of a pedicure.

The boys made an appointment to take her in. They went together. She was so happy to go for a ride with them.

She is not a huge dog but she is between a medium size and large. Her markings make her look a bit like a bull dog but she has no bull dog ancestry.

She got to the vet's office and trotted right in. She felt so important going along with her two favorite people.

Because of her size a couple of people held tight to their pets as she strutted by. The boys chuckled to themselves.

Because she had an appointment the vet called her right in. The boys were ready to hold her down. The vet put a muzzle on her as a precaution.

First came the vaccination. She did not like it at all. But it was over quickly and she was ready to leave.

When the vet began to clip her nails she was not happy at all. My oldest son was holding her head tight. My second son had a tight grip on the other end.

Apparently something hurt because she began to scream. Not growl. Scream.

Somehow she popped the muzzle right off. No paws... just opened her mouth and popped it off. The vet looked up in shock but saw that the boys had a tight grip so he kept on clipping.

She was screaming so loud that one of the women waiting with her pet came back to see what they were doing to that poor animal.

The dog was so happy to leave that terrible place.

When they came home she wanted nothing to do with getting out of the truck. She was taking no chances.

Finally they got her in the house. After drowning her sorrows with a long drink of water she laid down and went to sleep. She steered clear of the boys for a while. You should know that she tends to hold a grudge.

That was all a few hours ago. She has calmed down. She has sort of forgiven the boys for inflicting all that indignity upon her. But I see her giving them sidelong looks every once in a while. I laughed and told them they need to be careful when they go to sleep.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Uncle Norman

Uncle Norman is my father's younger brother. They were both much younger than the rest of their siblings.

Uncle Norman was the reason my father met my mother. Uncle Norman was dating my mother's younger sister. When Daddy came back from the war they arranged for Mom and Daddy to double date with them.

Uncle Norman and Aunt Luella eventually stopped seeing each other. Mom and Daddy got married.

Uncle Norman served during the Korean War. After he came home he somehow met a nice woman from Tennessee. They married and had a couple of children.

They came to visit for a day when I was about 8 or 9 years old. It was early in the morning. The rest of us kids were in school. As part of his morning ritual my little brother took his penny and went to the store for a piece of candy.

Mom always watched my brother until he turned the corner on the next block. The woman at the store was waiting and watching for him. When he left the store she watched until he turned the corner going home knowing that Mom was watching then. It was a good arrangement.

So the morning Uncle Norman came he saw my brother walking home but of course didn't see Mom. He rolled down his window and kept asking my brother what his anme was and where he lived.

My brother knew he should not talk to strangers so he hurried home. When my uncle saw my mother he was laughing about my brother not talking to him.

When we went on a long vacation part of it was spent with Uncle Norman's family. They had a son and daughter at the time.

His wife Patsy made us a snack one evening. I raved about how good it was and told my mother she should get the recipe. Finally Mom took me to one side and explained that it was simply donuts made from cans of biscuit dough dredged in frosting.

Uncle Norman decided to show Daddy around town. He was the barber so he just closed his shop and off they went.

Aunt Patsy was sure they were up to no good and dragged Mom to go looking for them. Mom said they saw every illegal still in the county. The menfolk were waiting at home when they got there.

The last time I saw Uncle Norman there were two more children. They were there for Daddy's funeral.

His children obviously did not want to be there and were not shy about making it known. To be fair they did not know us so I am sure they felt out of place.

Uncle Norman was very nice to us. Like family should be. Patsy and the kids never had the opportunity to know us and they felt like outsiders.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Practical Jokes


I like practical jokes... not the kind where someone is hurt or where someone is seriously embarrassed or belittled. I think jokes that make you laugh with yourself and others liven up the day.

That is not to say that I have not always used good judgement in practical joking. I wish to blame age but youth is not a good excuse. But for the most part my practical jokes hurt no one.

Of course there are the standard "Your shoe is untied" and "What is that spot on your shirt?" as you flip your finger up to their nose. Most people do not fall for those any more. But they are funny when you 'get' them.

When I was in my early teens I was wandering around downtown when I came across a novelty store. By novelty I mean the kind of store that sold things like whoopie cushions and fake vomit. I must point out that every two or three years my children and grandchildren receive whoopie cushions for Christmas as part of their stockings. So beware when visiting.

Back to the store. I found all sorts of delights but was fascinated by the loads. I say loads because they were out of cigarette loads. All they had in stock were cigar loads. I had always wanted to try them because I had seen them on television. Besides they were extremely inexpensive and I had little money.

My sister was with me. We planned and plotted. Who would be our victim? We discussed our mother. but she might have a bad reaction to it. Who else did we know who smoked? It had to be someone we had access to. It also had to be someone who would be around when the cigarette was lit so we could watch. There was only one other candidate. Daddy.

When we got home from work we managed to grab his cigarettes while he was in another room. I carefully pulled one cigarette out of the pack. I then took the loads out of their wrapping. They looked like small pieces of straw. Even though they were made for cigars they were so small. I decided to put in three just to make sure they worked.

My father smoked non-filtered cigarettes so I was not sure which end he would light so I needed to push them into the center of the cigarette. I used a toothpick and it worked quite well.

Now all we had to do was wait. Only my sister and I knew what was going on. We were on pins and needles all evening waiting, waiting, waiting...

Finally he took out the loaded cigarette. He lit it. Nothing happened. He took a few puffs; nothing happened. Duds thought we.
.
Suddenly BANG!!!! That cigarette sounded like an M80. It exploded right under my father's nose. His eyes popped open wide and his whole head turned red with anger. He was mad!

As he was demanding to know who did it all of us kids were finding ways to leave the room. Mom was already at the kitchen door so all she had to do was go back to cooking.

I never did admit to Daddy that it was me and my sister. I think that even after a lot of years had passed he might have spanked us. Mom told me after Daddy died that she knew we did it. She never said a word.

As I said age is not an excuse but it is the only one I have. And I was not even able to enjoy it because I was scared that he would find me out.

One of my dear friends was getting married. The best man was a notorious practical joker. When another friend of his got married he went to the honeymoon hotel the before the wedding and he and some other friends removed all the furniture from the room. Because of this the present honeymoon destination was a closely guarded secret.

After a great deal of persuasion and more than a little liquor we were able to pry the hotel name from the groom's father. It was just across the border in Canada.

About 6 of us waited an indecent amount of time. Then we went to the hotel and asked for their room. The clerk was wise enough to not divulge that information.

However we had another trick up our sleeves. One of us was the bride's sister. The clerk finally agreed to connect us to the room if we would go to a house phone.

Sister was on the phone with the bride who did not believe for one minute that we were in the hotel lobby. Until sister began to describe the fountain, the entrance to the lounge, and what band was playing in the lounge. The newlyweds came down to see us.

The poor things agreed to go with us to a little outdoor restaurant for a drink. The groom was in obvious discomfort and the bride was trying so hard to be gracious. I am sure it was the high point of their honeymoon.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I do not believe in violent or destructive mischief but it is a good time for people to be good-naturedly scared. I have assisted in planning many haunted houses.

I was working in the cash office of a large department store chain. We were isolated from the rest of the store because we had all the money and records in with us. We often decorated for holidays.

One year I got the bright idea to make tombstones for those of us who worked the cash office. Of course we needed epitaphs so I wrote funny little epitaphs for each of us. The others in the office liked them so much they invited people from other offices to see them. I had to make them for those people too.

Another time those of us on the night shift decided to decorate the office right. We had access to merchandise from the store. All we needed was someone with the authority to write off the expense. We went straight to our friend and part time co-worker. Then we set about getting our decorations.

We built a scarecrow using things people left on the lanes when they were shopping. (We held those items for 30 days to see if they would come back to reclaim them.) There was a jacket, sunglasses, a hearing aid, a cane, false teeth, gloves, boots,  and even a prosthetic leg. Add a mask and we had a proper scarecrow.

We set up flying ghosts and bats to attack the cashiers when they came in for their cash drawers. If our inner office door opened there were shrieks and moans. We had ghosts and bats hanging from the ceiling. In all the drawers (of which there were many. Each drawer had a special use and each was used often.) there were surprises. There were plastic worms and spiders and all sorts of disgusting things. But the best part of all was the little haunted house we had set up in the vault.

At the beginning of each shift one person had to balance all the money in the office. That included going into the vault to count the money in there.

When the morning shift came in they would have to count the safe which is what we called it. And inside the safe sat our dear friend. We had a long cape and mask on him and he just sat there and waited.

The head of the cash office was doing the counting this day. She counted the stamp drawer. Then she counted the safe drawer. Thne she counted the service drawer. Then she counted the cashier drawer. All the time she counted she was talking about how much she liked the decorations. We were smiling to ourselves and anticipating the moment she went into the safe.

Then she began to talk about how afraid she was of haunted houses. She said she had never been able to go into them because she was so scared. I had a sinking feeling about her going into the safe. As I was trying to find a way to tell her not to go into the safe without betraying my co-workers she went into the safe.

Nothing happened. Still nothing happened. I went over to see if she had dropped dead from fright when she screamed and came running out of the safe. I thought she was going to run me over and go right through the wall into the shoe repair. At the last minute she made a left turn at the coin counter and ran to a corner at the opposite end of the room.

As she leaned against the counter panting I told our dear friend he could come out. He said he would as soon as he could move his legs. He had sat there for so long without moving that his legs would not work.

When he was finally able to stand he came out and told us what happened. She had gone into the safe and started counting the boxes of rolled coin. She was so intent on her job that she did not even notice that he was sitting there. When she lifted her head a bit he slightly lifted his hand and gave her a little wave. That was when she screamed.

She was such a good sport after she had ascertained that she was not going to have a heart attack. We laughed about it for the rest of the time that our shifts overlapped. She also promised that she would find a way to get me back. I welcomed the threat.

These are just a sampling of practical jokes I have been a participant in. I am sure they will not be the last but it is harder to be original the older I get.