RETROSPECTION

Since hindsight is more like 20/60, there are a few things I remember. Like my mother saying, “Keep it up and I’ll ship you off to a convent!” One gem stuck with me. “Kill them with kindness.” But I didn’t learn this philosophy right away. Because after all, did she kill the herd of red ants with kindness that swarmed our front porch and stung her when I was nine? And did she kill my brother with kindness when he missed the lawn and mowed down her tulips?

Flash back several decades to my new mother status. After birthing two children, a friend of my parents said, “Starting out just like your mother aren’t you?” I wasn’t exactly planning a Kennedy comeback. What would warrant him saying such a thing unless I was on my tenth pregnancy? And let’s see….eight more, times nine months of mood swings with the total possibility of a crazed disposition? I was wacky enough after two kids thank you very much. It wouldn’t leave me much time to go snorkeling on my lunch hours. And if I became the next nutty old woman who lived in a shoe only Chianti compelled, my kids would end up coming to me asking, “Who are you, and what did you do with our mother?” Besides, it takes a superheroine with a lot of brain and brawn…doo-dah, doo-dah. A challenging crew running wildly from dusk till dawn, oh doo-dah day.

Despite all the warnings and advice from Spock childcare central, I did learn unconditional adoration. When my love bugs were young, I had many nerve pinching nostalgic moments. Some good, some a bit more heart wrenching. Like one work day when I began feeling dizzy and unbalanced. I went to the doctor who told me it was either vertigo, or a brain tumor. Thanks for sharing. This was way worse than any computer crashing jolt or the Smuckers cemented to my countertops. I drove home with the word “inoperable” penetrating my brain thinking I’d likely be dead by the end of the week. The urge to karate chop the man was pretty powerful when I still had two tykes at home to raise. To think I might miss out on all the general warfare of teen traumas was more than a woman could comprehend. That’s when I decided to cling to a pew. Turns out it was an inner ear problem. I totally began to undertand the meaning of malpractice. Doctors are suppose to prevent torturous deaths. Mine truly inspired it.

I was wrong to think the only time my parents wanted to kill me in a torturous way was when I was a teenager. A thought no doubt shared by sibling charlatans during their dumbest moments as well. Which brings me to this monumental memory. I was fifty when we took a full family vacation (nine siblings, spouses, their kids, my parents, my kids, one bug jar) to northern Michigan. One afternoon half the clan played golf (including my parents), while the other half took a ferry to resorty Mackinaw Island. Our half who took the boat was also responsible for taking the kids. We had a fun filled day, incognizant of time and the fact that my poor dads golf clubs were lying in the trunk of our car. We had cell phones, but no service. Vodka companies were promoting their products at the island watering holes with ice sculpted slides set up so you could place your mouth underneath one to catch a waterfall of various libations. My brother ran into an old buddy making the excursion all the more pleasurable. That is until we missed the boat going back to the mainland. There we were, stranded. Giving my parents some languid syrupy spiel full of excuses wasn’t going to extricate us. My heart felt a sudden shift. The same way the fog shrouds the western coastline in June. Or should I say like so many other acts of youthful /adult obliviousness. Something told me I should have smoked a carton of cigarettes under that albatross of angst. Except I don’t smoke. Something else was nudging me to widen my lips under several icy fluid passageways to ingest all they had to offer till it was time to meet the parents. Last time I checked, God hadn’t given me the disposable income of Oprah to be able to helicopter us back to the mainland. I was happy however with the idea of a hotel since I needed to replenish my home with shampoo, bar soaps, and clean towels. But my brother’s pal offered his place to us considering his other guests vacated earlier. We rationed blankets and wished they hadn’t banned bonfires in the rooms. And you never saw eight people scamper to a morning ferry so fast. Needless to say my parents had the chutzpah to chitchat about us for the next several years. I was delighted I could be of service.

There was a time I didn’t know stain removal tactics from common laundering didactics. So I ruined a few clothes in my day. I began to summon St. Albert the Great, holy pietist of destroyed silks. Because after that came the miracle of One Hour Martinizing. I was living proof of “Honey, I shrunk your wool sweater,” besides being good at shrinking the bank account. Dirty clothing was usually synonymous with dirty martinis. For awhile there, my washer and I had a separation agreeement. I couldn’t quite grasp the whole biodegradable breakdown through decomposition thing. How could I be on eco friendly terms with the contraption when everything came out slightly altered? I was into preserving the earth, but I didn’t want to have to spread Woolite and Shaklee products over every inch of soil outside at the tune of some serious green.

In surveying the past, there’s probably not a whole lot left to learn the hard way. Unless you’re a baboon. Or the president. Or me.

HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU, MADRID

It’s always been about escapisms. For me, for Orville Wright, for inmates, for those making trips to the porcelain throne for an hour with a newspaper, or for anyone vanishing for some quiet time in the closet with a bottle of Bordeaux, the HELP hotline phone number, and a grenade in case the HELP hotline doesn’t help.

Since I’m probably North America’s foremost pursuer of enjoyment, and mismatched socks. Escapes for me usually mean unleashing the shackles that bind me to housework and hopping in the car for a road trip or flying somewhere. Now if ever I am motivated to do that thing called cleaning, which I can promise you only nudges me about every other eclipse, it snatches my happiness and is usually the reason I plan most of my out-of-the-house activities. I could hire Molly Maid, but I have a rather fevered fondness for strangers being in my house who are fishing things out of my couch cushions. And I don’t want anyone but me ruining the glossy shine on my outdoor spigots. Wisdom is knowing that a lovely fragrance doesn’t come from mixing bleach and ammonia together. Escapism means not buying them in the first place. One reason not to hire a cleaning service? Well, a maid could sense a mess and take it upon herself to use her own escape strategy of calling in sick, as fibbers do sometimes. I can’t get grunge liberated from the last kitchen catastrophe if she was chasing her dog and it will take at least a day for her legs to recover from it. Even state of the art appliances don’t wash themselves after boil overs when a certain someone ditches a lit range to go watch a two hour movie. Not to mention that nine times out of ten, someone turns the toaster setting that burns bread to a blackened smoky obliteration leaving dingy cabinets and with me relying on butter by itself for breakfast. Next time that happens, I’ll be escaping to The House of Pancakes.

Now there were definitely days my children wanted to escape, from me. Especially after they found out I read their diary, that teen escape. I recall delving into hearts and hubris splashed on the pages hidden behind lock and key, mostly because their mother the temptress knew they weren’t going to the mall to peruse Talbots. So I pried open their secret tell alls as much as humanly possible to keep track of their dalliances. I didn’t get many merits for super sleuthing. In fact I found myself living the great escape of diaries when they started hiding them from me. But most of what this snoop dog did read was about how their lives were as suspenseful as Nancy Drew stories, much like mine at that age. I also read a chock full of nuttiness. Tidbits about flaming nail polish remover mixed with my great grandmothers hand pieced quilt. I looked high and low for that thing. I’m sure it flew the coop along with my cook book that had brownie mix splattered all over it. I had to keep mental reminders not to keep both matches and recipes lying around anymore.

Once I was trapped in my bedroom with Waverly bedding beauty and the bee. But not just one bee, a colony full. They had taken over the attic and made their way down the inner walls entering through the cable wire hole. I exercised my choice to scream, a tactic that may similarly serve me well if I’m ever called to be an extra in a massacre movie. The rest of the evening played out like a scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds. There was no escaping them. Yet for them, there was also no escaping me. Because sting me once, shame on them. Sting me twice, shame on me for not opening the windows and keeping busy bees from breaking free. Sting me three times and I call Terminex, then escape, I mean beeline it to a hotel. Because men with extinguishers and power over pests just make bees angrier.

In a conversation with my dad, he revealed that while raising us he and mom would periodically take their much needed getaways. He said weekend trips would extend into lengthier stays. Saturday and Sunday would turn into Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday, Saturday, Sunday would turn into Friday, Saturday, Sunday, into Monday. It’s a wonder he still had a job by the time he retired. But escape plans are crucial, especially when we can’t recover from some things. Not unless your house burned down right before you fled to your vacation spot and you come home to a winning lottery ticket, or Extreme Makeover rebuilding and feng shuiing your humble abode so there’s never the need to escape again.

If I want to be the next Dora the Explorer with a hankering for ancient architecture, there’s certainly no place like Rome. And take Madrid. I could handle a few Sangrias right about now. I need to prove the logic behind a bull and Matador, but it could pose a real problem if I’m wearing red. And nothing would be finer than cruisin’ an ocean liner to Skopelos. Yet if I drink enough Drambui, I can pretend I’m escaping to the Greek Isles by reenacting the entire film version of Mamma Mia right in my living room. That is until I see dust. Then it’s time again for plotting an actual escape, and maybe coordinate my cheerfulness with a place that is completely grime free.

HELLO, ANYONE HOME?

I’ve been out to lunch. No, really out to lunch. In the atmosphere, spacing out, oblivious, eradicating the world around me. In fact I have given in to many bouts of this behavior. It doesn’t take mind altering substances to arrive at this mental wandering. I am noticing more and more people with the same disease. Much like Sigmund Freud’s beliefs and theories that the unconscious mind moves from the conscious, resulting in conflicting attitudes. Even some Einstein images suggest a man detached from the universe.

Oh this wonderful planet. The one place a person can experience both heaven and hell at the same time. One instance showed my digressive behavior flaring with satirical thrusts thrown at family members. They were panning the better part of my laboring shindig, waiting for peeks at my first born. They hovered over my draped yet naked bottom half, which wasn’t exactly there for anyone’s placenta viewing pleasure. They could have at least brought me some leg warmers! When my baby proved late for the premier, all I heard was, “Hurry up!“ and “Hello in there, is anyone home?” I swore they were talking to me for overdramatizing my situation when my seriously fatigued self couldn’t push a watermelon out of a pea sized opening. Then dopey me asked Dr. Kildare if he wanted to do the ballroom rumba. He said it looked as though I already did the bedroom rumba. I learned never to hire a good looking physician to come calling when your head is covered in hot rollers and undergarments weren’t optional. I also shouldn’t have let him see my un-spa’d nails that I was totally un-prioritizing on my to-do list which was right there next to GIVE BIRTH. Not to mention handing over my purse to a hair color rapist so I’d look horizontally gorgeous for the cast and crew of General Hospital.

As time went on, I was continuously reminded of my blunders. Like the time I worked for a Bed and Breakfast. Right before work I took a Tylenol and popped a Tylenol PM by mistake. An hour later I was asleep at the desk. People walked in for continental breakfast and thought I was dead. Not to mention I was mush brain for the rest of the shift. I tried drinking coffee and energy drinks, then didn’t sleep for three days. I’ve also brushed my teeth with Polysporin, washed my hair with conditioner, put plates in the fridge, and the milk in the cupboard. And I spend much of my sprightly remaining time on earth looking for my purse, then searching for things IN my purse.

My teen daughter used to think I was wacko material just because I cut her off mid sentence when she was snarling about something trivial. Since anything I said would be held against me, I was inclined to muster up something like Gene Chandler’s Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl Duke Duke. She looked at me as if the Battlestar Gallactica just landed in the living room and out I stepped. Then she’d ask who the heck Duke of Earl was. And if I heard “DUH” one more time, I was going to see if anyone could loan me a razor blade so I could slit my wrists. She also asked me if I knew who The Rolling Stones were. I could have said “DUH” back, but I didn’t.

Like paranormalist Uri Gellar believes, maybe I too came from the distant planet of Hoova. My concerned offspring wants to invest in a drill bit so she can tighten my so-called loose screws. Suffice to say, she is inheriting my humoristic personality. She sat next to me recently observing my changing chassis and said, “Your boobs are starting to sag,” then broke out in song. “Do your boobs hang low, do they wobble to and fro, can you tie them in a knot, can you tie them in a bow, can you throw them over your shoulder, since you’ve gotten so much older, is this what I have to look forward to because I’ll schedule my reconstructive surgery right now fa la la la la, la la la la!??” I had to wail with laughter knowing girls just wanna have fun at any age.

We’ve all been there when life gets cobwebby, and have done things that were absentmindedly stupid. One day while driving I decided to make a courtesy call to an elderly friend. I got caught up in her diarrhea disaster, passing my exit and ending up in Timbuktu. Or finding out I exceeded my cell minutes, throwing my bill into major digits showed one more variant of numbskullery. There’s the time my sterilizer broke and I had to boil baby bottle nipples the medieval way. I walked away and failed to remember them until burning rubber and a charred pan caught my nostrils attention. Old habits die hard. I have also burnt soup to crispy Calphalon, neglecting to tie that timer to my earlobe. Though I’m pretty sure when I’m dead I won’t be turned away from the Kingdom for putting a pot roast in and turning the oven on broil, or inadvertently killing cookware. I confessed to a friend who said, “Don’t fret you marvelous vintage vessel, I’ve done that too! I think it also happened to almost everyone on Dallas including J.R. and Sue Ellen’s second cousin.”

I asked if it was her second cousin once removed.

Some people just know what to say to make you feel better. As I woefully admit, it isn’t going to improve. I just want to get through my mornings without spilling my coffee on my keyboard while applying nail polish and talking on the phone, let alone do dumb things.

Nobel winner Rabindranath Tagore profoundly said, “The burden of self is lightened when I can laugh at myself.” I can only hope I am never listed in the Dodo Directory or nominated for the Darwin Awards.

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO AARP

The American Association of Retired People must think I’m old since they keep pestering me into becoming a member. First of all I’m not ancient just because I used to be a groovy cool chick and now I’m a groovy hot flashed hen. Secondly, I’m not retired and probably never will be. And thirdly, telling me I’m over the hill doesn’t flatter a girl.

I realize the world revolves around staying healthy and living towards a ripe old age. I
scratch my head wondering if I can’t be in the sun, eat red meat, drink wildly, and party
hearty, then why would I possibly want to live to be 100? Plus I found that feeding the
cat holistic food didn’t exactly extend her life or keep her from croaking either.

I know someone who went to her garden to pick her nutrient filled healthy rutabaga and
keeled over dead from a heart attack. It made me not want to go to my garden ever
again. And since my brain cells are finally down to more of a controllable size, I developed the bright idea to just eat bulk candy every night if I’m going to die anyway. As a youngster, was trying to wrap my head around mind boggling geometry really that important a component in journeying forward? Because I’ve never had to play Tetris, assist an architect, or aviate a spacecraft. I did do a lot of point projection stuff like hanging all the family photos and needed to come within certain linear feet from the ceiling and the neighbor’s garage. In time I learned that it’s best to wear a helmet with a light on it like the coal miners wear to assure pinpointing areas for pounding a nail, and for finding something deeply hidden in my medicine cabinet. You’d think AARP would be advertizing these nifty necessities.

How can a person possibly enjoy life if we’re napping everyday from noon to five? Plus, if I gag down twenty eight supplements per day, I’m taking a heck of a chance on
counteracting longevity by choking to death. No one has had to wipe drool from my chin
other than the times I’ve scarfed Cinnabons. This AARP magazine offers thirty more reasons to flaxseed my diet and ways to cope with not getting a pension. But I have yet to read about which caskets are more comfy, or fun fashions for wearing in the coffin. They should provide more helpful hints in case I forget things or fancy holding onto my teeth. Like buying mass quantities of concrete, string to tie around my finger, and backpacks to lug all those elderly items needed for emergencies, if in a future restaurant visit I sink my central incisors into a steak and my dentures stick. It’ll be a major disappointment if I walk away without my doggie bag and backpack.

I was born during the doo-wop, so I remember Ike in the White House, Ward and June
correcting the Beave, Elvis making history with his pelvis, and underwear that covered girls cheeks. If Hanes panty makers were truly making them her way, they’d get rid of the wedgie. And about those Kay Jewelers commercials, I’m betting every kiss really begins with shots of Courvoisier, Tiffany’s, or an extremely spirited geezer walking up and down “the home” hallways all puckered up and holding a sign that says FREE KISSES. AARP should probably come up with some sort of anti-claw campaign if old biddies battle each other for a smooch.

So between reruns and my less than perky bra buddies, I don’t need AARP
unless a membership guarantees that they will come change my diapers when I’m decrepit. One of their ads seduced me into getting the oh so suitable titanium silver Bose Wave sound system since I’m a bit hearing challenged. What could possibly happen with their 30-day risk free trial period other than the absolute likelihood of rupturing my ear drums? They also advertize The Jacuzzi Walk-In Hot tub as your personal fountain of youth, claiming it’s the world’s leader in hydrotherapy and makes bathing safe. I can argue that a plume of revitalizing bubbles isn’t going to save me from dying or magically return me to my twenties. And I read that Chevron is spending over 8 billion this year on energy projects. One project could be finding a way to fuel my stamina into say, forever.

All the shingles vaccines in the world and switching to Geico aren’t going to help either when I’m going the distance towards inevitably kicking the bucket. But when I do read those pages directed at seniors, it forces me to focus less on the years left and more on filling every hour constructively after my alarm goes off. That is if half my day isn’t over already by the time my alarm goes off. They say dancing increases cognitive acuity. So if I can get past my cellulite awareness when my salsa skirt swivels in the upward motion, when I get down from the dining room table, I need to invest in some clinical Hold It Tight thigh solution if I’m going to be seen in public doing the bouncy bounce. And I should be strengthening my muscles the more fun way by Jello wrestling. I’m hoping with the miles I have left I do more than strolling through my house singing into the curling iron and make it to such landmarks as The Salton Sea, or at least both ends of the San Diego trolley.

I admit to loving senior discounts. Bless those sweet ticket sellers hearts at the movie theatre who say I don’t look a day over forty-eight. I make sure I go after dark so no one can see my crow’s feet. And I guess the nice thing about maturing in a small town like Parson’s Kansas, is that when you’re older and you don’t know quite what you are doing, everyone else will.

(Blog posts can be found in THE PARSON’S SUN newspaper out of Kansas every weekend)

DIVINE SECRETS OF THE NANA SISTERHOOD

Yikes! Seems like last time I blinked I was saying that I’m not ready to be a grandmother. Now my granddaughter is turning nine. Excuse me while I go put a down payment on a walker, then run to buy a hazmat suit for my daughter. And I’ve come to the conclusion that we shouldn’t be spoiling our grandkids, they should be spoiling us.

I have many nicknames for my granddarling. And hopefully with careful consideration, she will in turn have some nice ones for me besides Mimi, the equivalent of Nana, and more contemporary than Granny, which should only be used for naming apples. As long I don’t hear “old Grandmaw” or “one eyed one horned lyin’ sneerin’ people eater.” Nor do I want to be that person that pinches her cheeks and says, “My how you have grown!”

My oldest daughter is experiencing good times. Her latest phone call to me went like this. “I just wanted to say I’m sorry.” “For what?” I asked. She said, “For all the times I told you a science project was due the next day and you stayed up all night helping me.”
It’s a possibility that she now understands motherhood. It’s a probability that similar events will occur and she’ll want me to buy her a one way ticket to the Swiss Alps. She’s no different than any other woman who groaned out a little rascal in their day and hopped all the hurdles of parenting.

My granddaughter sucked her two inner fingers just like I did. And like me, she’s a kidder. I would probably use her same entertainment strategies by becoming Denny’s dancing queen. My Hollywood bound cutesy gets attention wherever she goes. One lunchtime at the diner a few years ago, she told her mom she’d be back to their table after she perused and sang for patrons. Her mother said, “Why can’t you just eat your chicken fingers and be okay with that?” But after being coerced by the Grand Slammers, my daughter let the percussionist proceed with her performances for a room full of overstuffed judges. After venting her love for everything musical, the strolling minstrel walked back to her mom all bummed out. Noticing the dismay, my daughter asked what was wrong. My granddaughter winced, “Not one person gave me a tip!” Her mother thinks we should get her an agent, and I’m certain there’s an Emmy waiting.

When Rock Star was old enough to watch movies, she became captivated with The Little Mermaid and told me she wanted to be Ariel. So I explained the downsides of having a fishlike existence. “You would have to change your hair to ravishing red and hand over your entire piggy bank to a hair colorist for the rest of your aquatic life. You would live among fierce sea urchins, your torso would always be wet, you would look like a prune, you would live in fear of Ursula the sorceress, and you would never be able to make whoopee or have normal babies. Now, do you still want to be Ariel?” She looked at me fixedly for a few moments with total incomprehensiveness. Then she blurted out that she wanted to be a vegetarian (veterinarian) instead so she could make animals feel better. I was afraid to ask the small genius what part of my story she did understand.

This child has always vied for attention by proudly prancing in the buff. Head Shoulders Knees and Toes was just scratching the surface in her clowny quests for exploring body parts. One night, the young and the curious sat au naturel with her mother in front of the television. When my daughter thought they were both deeply devoted to Bambi, she turned and saw her munchkin looking down dissecting her sacred spot. She looked up at her mother expressing, “Say hello to my little friend!” My daughter had to leave the room in reactionary hysterics. She also had me doubled over after calling to tell me that zinger, then quizzed me. “Mum, where does she get this stuff from? It’s hard keeping clothes on her!” I said, “Listen, when she’s sixteen and stripping for the paper boy, then you can worry. Her nakedness is cute unless she’s leaving a vapor trail from undigested beans!”

Another legendary moment was when my daughter got a friend to play phone Santa. My very excited grandchild called me inquiring, “Mimi, guess who I just talked to?” I said, “Who?” She squealed, “Santa!” I asked how she got him on the phone. She replied, “Mom has him on speed dial!” The next morning she called me asking, “Hey Meems, do you have Little Red Riding Hood’s phone number?”

Since I’m dealing with a character out of a real life comic strip, when she was a bit older I received this unnerving telephone transmission… “Hi Mimi! Mom went to the store and never came home.” I said, “WHAT?” Your mom isn’t there?” She said, “No, I don’t know where she is!” At the point of being petrified, I heard her snickering. Then I heard a flustered momma sigh in the background asking, “Who are you talking to?” She took the phone from her joker and said to me,” Mom, you didn’t really think I abandoned her did you?” I said, “Of course not, but she had me going. I thought maybe you were in the basement. I can see the headlines now… FIVE YEAR OLD HECKLER HITS THE COMEDY CIRCUIT.” I told her to put the teaser back on the phone. I asked, “Okay Goofinberry, does cheese come with that crack-up?” The little dickens replied, “Goofinberry isn’t in the dictionary!” I said, “Alright, maybe it isn’t. But it is in the yellow pages right there next to YOUR name!”

Pouts never got me anywhere. So why hers get past me I’m not sure, except that I’m a bonafide grandparent. It’s just part of my job description.