Monday, December 24, 2007

Spoon Cam

Our oldest son Andy, his charming wife and adorable daughter have been in town. 'Nuff said. Now watch...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Last Word

My family ain't average folk. Truth be told, we barely fit into the range of what's considered normal. We're a stoic lot -- figuring feelings are at best quixotic, at worst treasonous. So, as a rule, we tend to avoid emotional displays. That's not to say we're a passionless dour barrel of pickles. Quite the contrary, we feel things very deeply, and enjoy a good joke like no other family I know. But because our emotions are such violent beasts, we instinctively understand that we have to keep them caged and approach them cautiously.

The year 1974 was both momentous and tragic. In the spring Mom went to the doctor because of some swelling in her right arm. The diagnosis was lymphatic cancer. She began chemotherapy and radiation treatment, growing weaker and more uncomfortable daily. In August of that year I graduated from college and received my commission as an Army officer. Mom, though frail, was well enough to attend my commissioning ceremony. Her life (though, in one sense, a near-empty hourglass) in the one way that really counts, was an overflowing cup. I faced the audience as took the oath. Mom was radiant -- a light shining from the depths of the valley of the shadow. The professor of military science permitted each of us commissionees to speak for two minutes. Two minutes (as it turned out) was just enough time to say, "Thank you, Mom and Dad." I remember Mom glowed with joy as I spoke my few words. I left home two days later; Mom went Home less than two months later.

I must digress to explain that Mom had a long-standing habit of pausing in mid-sentence whenever she was speaking. Usually she'd continue her thought after pausing a few seconds. But occasionally the sentence would finished itself silently in her head and then mom's thought would fluttered away, leaving everyone guessing at Mom's point. Sometimes the thought had wandered so far from Mom's mind that no amount of our coaxing could entice it back into her head. "Go on, Mom; you were saying," would be met with a blank-faced, "Saying what?"

On a beautiful late October day our neighbor, Mrs. Clark, was helping Mom get ready to go to the hospital for a routine blood test. As Mrs. Clark stepped out to open the car door before helping Mom into the front seat, our oft-inconclusive conversationalist (seated in her wheel chair) was saying how pleased she was that the hospital had made special arrangements to facilitate her blood test. "I'm so glad I don't have to get out of the car to have my blood taken, because ..." and then she paused in her customary way. Only when Mrs. Clark came back through the kitchen door and found the earthly shell slumped over, did she discover that Mom had departed along with the rest of her sentence.

So the family (which now included one grandchild, 22-month-old Jomona) gathered to share our loss, stoically hiding tears from each other as we roamed a house that still smellt and felt like Mom. But now, instead of hearing Mom's laughter, we heard Jomona's giggles. Instead of seeing Mom's ever-frailer movements, we saw Jomona's ever-boisterous frolic. Instead of conjecturing about Mom's unfinished sentences, we puzzled over Jomona's near-intelligible verbalizations.

The funeral was unremarkable. Pastor Jack officiated and, to be honest, I don't remember a thing he said. (Missing the point of Pastor Jack's sermons was hardly a new experience, but candor compels me to say that on this occasion my inability to focus on his message was probably my fault, not his.) However, I do remember the closing prayer. The good pastor asked us to bow our heads. The tears were brimming in our eyes as we silently bowed and listened to his softly spoken benediction.

Jomona was being very well behaved, bowing her head with all the rest of us. Pastor Jack, in recognition of the solemnity of the business we were about, paused as he spoke the words, "In Jesus' Name ...." And Jomona (knowing perfectly well where Pastor Jack was going with this subject) joyfully punctuated his sentence with an ear-splitting "Amen!" Pastor Jack conceded he'd been bested and let Jomona's staccato hallelujah conclude the service. So the final word at the funeral of the woman who didn't finish her own sentences was that of Jomona finishing someone else's.

We managed to suppress our mirth until we got back into the limousine, but someone among us (I can't say for sure who) let slip a fair impersonation of Jomona's finale and we all burst into laughter. Only then did we look up and realize that the car windows weren't as well tinted as one might hope. The congregation was filing past staring us, no doubt wondering what was so all-fired funny about burying ones mother. Dad's continued tear-filled chortling was all the license needed for us to ignore the congregation's censure. Thus it was that, with Jomona's help, one of our saddest moments reinforced our reputation as a family on the fringe.

Happy birthday, Jomona!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pointed Questions


Joyce: Hello?

Meredith: Hi Aunt Joyce! [Note: Meredith is nine years old.]

Joyce: Well, hi Meredith - it's nice of you to ca...

Meredith: Aunt Joyce, I have a question!

Joyce: Okay, what's that?

Meredith: How old were you when you got your ears pierced?

Joyce: I was eighteen. Your mommy got hers pierced when she was only sixteen -- but she fainted!

Meredith: Welllll, thennn ... lemme ask you another question. If you had a little girl, how old would she be before you let her get her ears pierced?

Joyce: Oh, that's an easy question. Twenty-five!

Meredith: I gotta go now, Aunt Joyce! 'Bye. {click}

In Passing

Joyce: That's ridiculous!

Bob: What's that?

Joyce: This website says, "On average people are flatulent sixteen times a day." I'm certainly not.

Bob: Sweetheart, it says "on average people fart sixteen times a day." That just means that I have to compensate for your deficiency.

Joyce: Well, that makes sense.

{Later that night in bed (right after the sheets billowed)}

Bob: Dear, I thought you said you don't fart.

Joyce: No, I said I don't fart sixteen times a day. In case you hadn't noticed, it's nighttime.

Bob: Oh, then I stand corrected.

{long pause}

Joyce: You aren't gonna blog about this, are you?

Bob: Nooooo, ... Scout's honor.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Over Coffee

Joyce: Do you have enough cash for lunch today?

Bob: ... which means, "We don't have anything you can take for lunch," right?

Joyce: No, I just thought you might like to eat out.

Bob: In that case, I don't need anything for lunch.

Joyce: Really now, you shouldn't starve yourself.

Bob: No, I mean, I don't need to take any food today because today's our Christmas luncheon. The company's feeding me.

Joyce: Dear, really now. You're more than old enough to start feeding yourself. You can do this. Just grab the fork with your tiny fist and jab the food. Careful of your eye.

Bob: Being a bit literal, aren't we?

Joyce: You've taught me well.

Bob: Forgive me?

Joyce: I suppose that would be the Christian thing.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tribute to a Falling Hero

With the temperature hovering just a touch above freezing and a light mist falling, we came to Butte to perform our sacred duty. Like so many times before, we faithful fans were gathered to witness one more of Evel Knievel's death-defying performances. The only thing lacking this time was the suspense about whether this would be his final show. Always before there'd been some question as to whether the stunt would land Evel on the far side of the Snake River Canyon or the far shore of the River Styx, but this time we knew the world's greatest daredevil was destined for the grave. The crowd was massive, possibly Evel's best turn-out ever. The open grave was cordoned off to keep the mob from intruding on the private grief of the family, but I'd gotten there early and claimed my spot against the velvet rope, so I saw the whole thing.

The family, all draped in black, climbed out of their limousines and slogged across the uneven turf of the graveyard. I pitied them, not for their loss of a beloved hero (for I too shared that loss). No, my pity was for the fact that they (unlike me) would sit in the relative comfort of covered seating and miss out on the full dreariness of this event. The mist turned to a steady drizzle. At the far end of the cemetary the hearse stopped and the pall bearers withdrew the red-white-and-blue casket. They walked toward us but stopped when still half a football field away.

Suddenly the tail of the coffin lit up with a roar and a stream of scorching exhaust. The casket accellerated quickly, leaving the ramp doing at least 80 mph. The jet pack went quiet and the flying sarcophagus silently traced a graceful parabolic arc over the parked limos and directly into the earth's maw. As Evel came to his final resting place, a geyser erupted from the grave. I turned from the spectacle to face the mud-drenched throng behind me. Nary a dry eye.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Dang, I Wish I Cud Rite This Perdy

If I wuz real smart, I'd rite good stories like this'n -- 'n use 'em ten-dollar words like "defenestration". (Honestly, this guy's a hoot.)