Monthly Archives: February 2014

Love

“Ugh.” Ralph sat up in his recliner.
“Uh?” Gertie lowered her newspaper.
“Ugh.” He waved in the direction of the television remote control.
“Oh.” She stretched her arm across the sofa to retrieve it. “Here.”
“Uhum.”
“Ah.” She returned her attention to the newspaper.
Ralph clicked the television on and turned to professional wrestling.
“Wha?”
“Uh?”
“Nuh uh.”
“Aww.”
“Nuh uh!”
“Sheez.” Ralph began to channel surf. He stopped on a station showing NASCAR. “Hmm?”
“Nuh uh.”
“Shee.”
Ralph continued to click until Home Shopping Network showed up.
“Unh! Unh!” Gertie bounced on the sofa.
“Oh shee no!”
“Bthpt!” Gertie glared at Ralph and then jerked the newspaper up to cover her face, almost ripping it.
“Hmph!” Ralph turned off the television and threw the remote control down. He looked up at the ceiling. After a moment he sighed and started tapping his fingers on the arm of the recliner. He looked over at Gertie. “Hmm?” He paused, waiting for a reply. “Hmm?”
Finally he stood and walked over to the sofa and sat next to Gertie, leaning into her. “Hmm?”
“Nuh uh!” Gertie kept her newspaper between her and Ralph.
He nudged her again. When he received no response he put his lips up to her ear.
“Boogly woogly,” he whispered.
“Nuh uh!”
“Oh, boogly woogly.” His voice took on a pitiful tone as Ralph scooted closer.
“Meh!” Gertie elbowed him in the gut.
Bending over, Ralph let out, “Ow!” He wiggled back a little. “Boogly woogly?” Again she ignored him. “Oh boo hoo, boo hoo hoo.”
“Oh sheez.” She put down her newspaper to look at him.
“Boogly woogly?”
She smiled. “Oh poopy doopy.”
Ralph put his arms around Gertie. “Boogly woogly! Boogly woogly!”

Rubbing Tummies

I have a black lab mix which my wife insisted we adopt about thirteen years ago because the dog had a cute face. Forget that those honking big puppy paws meant she was going to be the size of a bull mastiff. How adorable that she could walk on the back of the sofa. What grace. What style. Eventually she got so big she couldn’t walk atop the sofa and fell off, looking at me as though I had done something wrong.
Then she went through her bratty years. I could not pet her back leg without her growling and exposing her teeth. I kept petting her leg but lightly slapped her mouth. What kind of mixed message that sent out I don’t know. I’m not a dog whisperer. She liked to chew on my prescription lensed glasses. This was getting expensive until my doctor told me to buy No. 2 grade magnifying glasses at the drug store.
As she matured she started liking the way I patted her belly; in fact, she would position herself in front of me so I couldn’t move unless I leaned over to pet her. They developed into full-blown tummy rubs. Usually after the rubs she’d prance around the room like she had just scored the winning touchdown. She quit eating my glasses but she did like to carry around my socks and handkerchiefs, tossing them in the air and catching them on her nose. In fact, she could not sleep unless she was cuddling something that was drenched in my body odor.
She’s thirteen years old, and I’m sixty-six. I don’t know if that makes us the same age or not, but neither one of us prance around like we used to. Sadly, I have to admit I don’t rub her tummy as often as I did. She stands patiently while I stroke her underside and afterwards she gives me an appreciative look before settling on her designated spot on the sofa.
This reminds me that as we get older we forget to be kind to the people we are closest to, not because we don’t care but because we focus on the constant crick in our sacroiliacs. Our loved ones seem to understand but they still appreciate it when we remember.
(Author’s note: Please realize this is only a metaphor for life. Only rub the bellies of your long-time pets who may be expecting it. Do not rub the belly of a dog that does not belong to you. If you do and the dog bites, don’t demand the dog’s owner pay for your doctor bill. Also, do not attempt to rub the tummies of long-time friends and relatives. This could result in being arrested and held for psychological examination. Repeat: this is only a metaphor on how we should treat our neighbors.)
On the other hand, if you have been married to your spouse for 40 or more years, and you can’t remember the last time you rubbed his or her tummy, please do so sometime this evening. I think you will be in for a pleasant surprise.
Originally published in the Tampa Bay Times Hernando section as a guest column.

Letters

Letters
Black Swan Hotel
Denver, Colorado
July 8, 1895
123 Main St.
Enid, Oklahoma

My Dear Wife,
I miss you terribly and hope the company will soon recognize my talents and promote me to vice president in charge of sales so I may enjoy your company more often. With luck, I shall return to you by the middle of August. The weather in Colorado is pleasant enough but I would sacrifice my comfort to be under the torrid Oklahoma sun with you and the children. Tell the children I shall take them on a great camping adventure before school starts. How is Edward Junior recuperating from his bout of chicken pox? I must be off to my next appointment soon in a small town called Golden. It reminds me of your lovely locks.
With love,
Your Husband

Black Swan Hotel
Denver, Colorado

July 8, 1895

321 Main St.
Waxahachie, Texas

My Dear Wife,
I miss you terribly and hope the company will soon recognize my talents and promote me to vice president in charge of sales so I may enjoy your company more often. With luck, I shall return to you by the first of August. The weather in Colorado is please enough but I would sacrifice my comfort to be under the torrid Texas sun with you and the children. Tell the children I shall take them on a great camping adventure before school starts. How is Edwina recuperating from her bout of measles? I must be off to my next appointment in a nearby town called Red Bud. It reminds me of your lovely locks.
With Love,
Your Husband

321 Main St.
Waxahachie, Texas

July 18, 1895
Black Swan Hotel
Denver, Colorado

My Dear Husband,
I am quite confused. We live in Texas, not Oklahoma and we have a daughter Edwina, not a son Edward Junior. I have red hair, not blonde. Edwina is terribly afraid of the outdoors and the little creatures that inhabit it so she would not enjoy a camping trip. She had chicken pox, not measles. I reread your letter several times thinking I must have misunderstood it. As you have pointed out to me several times I do have a tendency to misunderstand the simplest of statements. I will continue my sessions with Dr. Fitzmorgan in Dallas. I’m sure he will straighten this out for me.
With Love,
Your Wife

123 Main St.
Enid, Oklahoma

Aug. 4, 1895

Black Swan Hotel
Denver, Colorado

To My Soon-To-Be Former Husband,
Don’t bother to come home, you lying, cheating scoundrel. You should have realized you were not clever enough to have two wives at one time. To refresh your memory, I am the blonde-haired woman living in Oklahoma with our son Edward Junior, who by the way had measles not chicken pox. I exchanged several telegraphs with the lady residing in Waxahachie, Texas. She has canceled all her appointments with her doctor in Dallas and has engaged a lawyer. I have also hired a lawyer. Please expect a letter from the main office of your company stating you have been dismissed from your job because of a complete lack of morals. I must be off now to visit my mother and to apologize. She was right about you.
With absolutely no love,
Your Soon-To-Be Former Wife

It Is What It Is

Here I’ve reached the age of 66, and I don’t know what existentialism is.
Teachers talked about it. Those French writers Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre wrote about it. Even movies are made about existentialism. “Taxi Driver” and “Annie Hall” were about it but you couldn’t prove it by me. One was very violent, and the other was very funny.
I like to write stuff. Some of it is violent and some funny. What if I were an existentialist and didn’t even know it?
I have looked the word up in the dictionary, and what was there didn’t explain it to me. I even went to other dictionaries and they didn’t help either. You’d think that someplace on the internet some one could come up with clear definition, but no.
For a long time, like forty years, I have faked being smart. I call it the old smile and nod. No matter what the conversation is about. This is particularly helpful when the topic is religion or politics. No one can get mad at you if you give them the old smile and nod. I’m also a little deaf in both ears. In the case of not understanding what was being said, I add in the knowing chuckle with the smile and nod. I don’t know if I actually fooled anyone. Most of them had the decency not to expose my ignorance.
Once I got up the courage to ask my wife what existentialism meant. She has a master’s degree in criminal justice and spent a career observing people and writing reports to judges about whether to send someone to prison or not. That’s a very serious job so I figured she must understand existentialism.
“I don’t know, and I don’t care,” she replied and went back to one of her books about biblical archeology or the theory of the black Athena.
When you reach the age of 66 you realize that you don’t have to fake anything anymore because most of the people you were afraid of disappointing with your ignorance have probably already passed on. And who cares what the people younger than you think. They don’t write my paycheck. That’s mostly because I don’t get a paycheck anymore.
Recently I asked three of my smarter friends about existentialism at our weekly breakfast where we solved all the world’s problems over bacon and eggs. All of them have highly cogent observations on the condition of mankind, but none of them knew what existentialism was. It was such a relief.
Perhaps it is enough that I have made it through most of my life without inflicting major discomfort on anyone within reasonable distance of my space. If I have not made a fortune, at least I have never taken food or shelter away from anyone else. If I have not done anything to save the world, at least I have given people a smile along the way.
I don’t know what existentialism is.
It is what it is.
I am what I am.
That is enough.

Originally published as a guest column in the Tampa Bay Times.