May 23, 2020

The loss of a friend


Often when I most want to say something, words don’t seem to come to mind. I lost a dear friend in April, a woman I’ve known since I was a teenager and I have been struggling since to find those words. I read a piece by my son yesterday on writing authentically and I guess it inspired me to give it a try today.

Jean Garner Fullenkamp was one of a group of nine friends I have had the privilege of being a part of. Women who have managed to remain close friends through the years. Some of us met in high school, some in grade school. As with any group we have our differences. Lord knows, we’re not all on the same page on a variety of subjects. And to be quite honest, perhaps if we met now for the first time, we might not even become friends.

But we are friends. We make the effort to keep together. We’re here for each other in the hard times and good times. And we’re here for each other now as we try to find our way through this first devastating loss of one of our own.

Even though we got together only a few times a year Jean was a great part of my life. Always kind, generous and loving, Jean could be counted on to host any occasion, to be late for lunch dates, and ready with a compliment. She liked to laugh, enjoyed a good glass of wine, and was always dressed to the nines. She loved her family and her religion. She was passionate about the environment and worried about what the future would hold for her grandchildren. Like all of us, she had good days and bad days, but managed to muddle through, spirit intact. Jean was simply a lovely person. And I, as well as so many others, will miss her.

Keep your loved ones close, don’t forget to let them know just how much you care, and cherish each day as it comes.


May 6, 2020

The Boys of Summer Are Back – in South Korea


The Boys of Summer Are Back – in South Korea

Well, for those of us who miss Opening Day, who miss this year when the Nationals should be basking in World Series glory, who miss the 7th inning stretch, the wave, popcorn, peanuts and Cracker Jack, South Korean baseball is here!

Granted this season will be unusual. The coronavirus has seen to that. But South Korea feels confident enough that the season has begun – within coronavirus restrictions, of course. Games will be played in an empty stadium. Umpires wear masks, as do the cheerleaders, and most of the players.

Playing to empty stadiums must be difficult. Players thrive on the energy of the crowds, the excitement that seems to vibrate through the stadium. So, Korea has gone to great lengths to simulate the thrill of the game. Stadiums are filled with placards of fans, there is an announcer is doing his utmost to inject animation into his narration, and cheer leaders are gamely rooting on the home team.

I think they can do more. With a little ingenuity I’ll bet they could make everyone believe they are really at the ballpark. First, the crowd noises. You need the roar of the crowd when someone hits a dinger over the right field fence. And the roar - then moan when a ball looks like a homer, but is actually in foul territory.

Then, of course, an entire litany of catcalls, boos, hisses is a must. They could add the rude, raucous taunts one might hear today, but I think they should keep it family friendly and channel that classic William Bendix movie Kill the Umpire. A few ‘are you blind’s, ‘he was safe’, and ‘throw the bum out’ would add color. Also, a few of the placards leaning over the low fence and interfering with the play would be good.

Speaking of the placard fans, I think they should figure out a way they could do the wave with the appropriate whoosh sound we all love to make. It would be a sight to see because they would all actually take part and it wouldn’t just die a somewhat anemic death like it, sadly, often does.

The 7th inning stretch would be great. All the placards could pop out of their seats and sing along to Take Me Out to the Ballgame or Country Roads. I’ll bet they could figure out a way for vendors to toss hot dogs and peanuts to the ‘fans’. A tee-shirt toss would be a wonderful sight, but they’d have to be careful about the velocity. Knocking off a placard’s head with a tee-shirt would be a downer for sure.

Think of it, relaxing in those pajamas which you haven’t gotten out of for three weeks, sipping a Baseball Pleasure at four in the morning because ‘what else do you have to do?’, and flipping channels until you find Korean baseball. It’s a gift. Let’s root for the home team!

Baseball Pleasure
(a Daisy and Rose special)
In a highball glass with ice mix:
2 oz. Vodka
4 oz. orange juice
Add:
1 jigger Amaretto
1 jigger Whiskey
Mix well and garnish with a little pennant supporting your favorite team. Go Nats!

March 24, 2020

Coping with Confinement

Well, here we are caught in coronavirus hell. I have been trying to think of amusing little anecdotes to write about, but I'm afraid they aren't coming to mind. I just find this scary and depressing. As my older sister, Heather, reminded me, I'm no spring chicken. This virus is taking aim at the likes of me.

I am so very fortunate that I really have very little to complain about. Tom and I are financially secure, able to stay home, and are managing to get along. Staying at home is what we normally do. So why do I feel a burning need to go somewhere, anywhere?

My sister, Chris, calls this the 'snowplow syndrome'. You know, when a big snow is coming and you are absolutely ready for it. You're well stocked with toilet paper, milk, coffee, and tea. The pantry is filled with pop corn, the makings for s'mores, and Pepperidge Farm cookies. You have plenty of wine, beer and strong drink on hand, and eight DVDs of Columbo and a complete set of Jane Austen movies, jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, and a fully loaded Kindle. So why are you looking out the window and wondering where in the hell the snowplow is?

I have found that, like I'm guessing many of you have also, much of my day is now consumed with grocery delivery. First thing in the morning I check Safeway, Harris Teeter, Whole Foods and Giant to see which grocery store has a delivery slot open during the upcoming week. If I find one, I quickly grab it and proceed to order everything I can think of.

I'm becoming a pro at this. I started off naively placing an order with Harris Teeter last week which was delivered in a timely manner. It was a fairly normal order, no hoarding, just what we might need for a week or two. I got a call that morning from a man who informed me that they couldn't fill everything on it. I said, "Fine. Just deliver what you have." Well, the order was a tad short - consisting of a fairly disgusting cucumber, two bags of croutons, salsa, rye bread, and a couple of other items I didn't really need. The saving grace was the bag of Tootsie Roll Midgies. I've now caught on and order accordingly. I'm not hoarding, but I cover a broad spectrum of goods giving the store a lot of leeway for choosing what I might really want.

And Tom and I have actually been, sort of, rationing our food. While we are in no real danger of starving, as the virus picks up steam groceries may very well be more difficult to get. So we're pacing ourselves. And what we've found is that we really eat too much! And we throw away too much! And we should be much more thankful for what we have.

Anyway, I just thought I would check in with all my friends and let you know I'm still here. Please everyone, stay safe, comply with social distancing, stay home if you can, be mindful of others, and take care of yourselves.


August 16, 2019

It's my birthday and I'll cry if I want to!


Fair warning, this post is not for anyone who doesn't want to hear all about the joys of turning seventy. That's right, I said seventy. Seventy. I figure if I keep repeating this number, it will lose its potency.                                                                                

When I woke up this morning, did I bound out of bed and shout, "Hooray. It's my birthday?" No, I did not. I sort of rolled out and stood up and groaned. My knees hurt. Why? This is a bit of a conundrum to me. What in heaven's name can my knees have been doing all night that I wake up and they feel as if I have just climbed the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This is only one of the many mysteries I've encountered as I quickly approach 'old age'. 

Well, I guess I am actually there, aren't I? There are a number of things I've noticed in the past year that are not particularly amusing and that scream, “Boy, are you getting up there!” For one, my skin has lost all elasticity. I mean I have become walking crepe paper. You could decorate a school gym for the big dance with me if only I had some color.

And let face it, things are drooping – badly. Knees are sagging, butts are dragging. I could send semaphore messages with my arm flaps if I knew the correct formations. Because this is a family blog, I will not go into the hideous result of not wearing a bra. Suffice it to say, it is not pretty.

My hearing is an in and out affair. My end of conversations with Tom consist of a lot of, “What?”, “Sorry, what did you say?”, and “I can’t hear you when the waters running.” Or really any other time.

Tom, whose hearing is a bit more in and out than mine, thinks he’s a bit of a comedian. So, his end of the conversation is always a treat. Instead of just asking what I said, he likes to repeat what he thinks he heard, but knows damned well he didn’t. There is really no reason I can think of that I would ask him if his liver had been dyed. He is a card.

My memory is a bit off. This is putting it kindly. If I don’t write it down, it doesn’t get done. I actually forgot what I was going to make a note of the other day in the time it took me to pick up the pen.

Also, I have an affliction which I call ‘noun aphasia’. I sometimes cannot remember nouns. This leads to a lot of interesting conversations that consist of charades and word clues. Such as, “You know, that stuff you put in a glass to make the drink cold.” “You mean ice?” “Yes, ICE!”

Tom and I had a kind of funny experience visiting the optometrist. We had already been to the ophthalmologist, so we only needed to have our vision tested. We both went into the exam room together and met the doctor. We hadn’t seen him before, but assumed it would be a quick ‘read the chart’, write the prescription, and Bob’s your uncle. At least he was mine. We were not expecting the third degree.

I was first in the exam chair and the doctor started peppering me with questions about my medications and other health issues. I hesitated while I tried to remember exactly what I took and for what reason I took it. Luckily, Tom was able to fill in the blanks. I felt a bit of an idiot. And I’m pretty sure the doctor agreed with me.

On reflection, I think it was the chairs fault because when Tom sat down he couldn’t remember a damned thing and I had to fill in the blanks for him. It was like a weird marital cross-talk act. I’m pretty sure the doctor was happy to see us go.

Seventy. Let’s say it together – seventy. Well, I’m finding that the adage is correct. Old age is not for sissies. And the other old adage is also correct. Being seventy is better than the alternative.




June 5, 2019

Crazy Old Ladies

I'll start with my favorite old lady joke. 

Jane and Regina went out for a drive, Regina at the wheel. The day was clear and bright, the traffic was practically non-existent. They were tooling along as they came to an intersection with a bright red traffic light shining right at them. Regina tooled on through without a pause. Jane thought this a bit odd.  

At the next intersection with another glowing red light, Regina didn't hesitate for a second. She just cruised on through. Again, Jane thought this a tad on the odd side as Regina was usually a law-abiding kind of person. 

When Regina sailed through the next red light, Jane finally spoke up. “Regina, honey, why the hell are you running all these red lights?” 

Regina turned to her and said, “Was I driving?” 
                                                                          

Well, that’s what I ask myself much of the time. Was I driving? Am I in charge of anything? And does anyone know I’m here? 

My sister Chris and I recently went to Florida for the wedding of my younger sister Martha's stepdaughter. Since the security crack-down resulting from 9/11, we now fly under assumed names. We assumed them at birth. We were named Jane Christine and Regina Penelope by our parents. No one calls us Jane and Regina. 
Martha, Penny and Chris

The wedding was on Memorial Day weekend and flights that suited our timing needs, were non-stop, and weren’t exorbitant landed us with Spirit Airlines. 

Spirit Airlines offers a number of fine amenities. It has reserved seats in which you can sit up very straight without crossing (or even moving) your legs for the entire flight just as mother used to encourage - for a price. If you care to travel with more than a toothbrush and change of undies, you can carry-on or check your baggage - for another price. Most of all, you can, and are encouraged to, make all transactions on their very fine website. No need for pesky interactions with other humans. 

Well, we started our adventure by trying to purchase tickets on-line. This was not to be and here was the first pesky interaction I had to make. The answer to why I was unable to purchase tickets on the website was, ‘So sorry the website isn’t working properly today. I’ll be glad to sell you tickets for $5 more than the advertised price on-line.’ I didn’t quibble. I bought the tickets.

Second pesky interaction. A few days later, we decided to take one suitcase and check it, this being quite a bit cheaper that carrying on two bags. Nope. Could not do that on-line either. The nice woman told me the price. It was a few more dollars than the on-line price, so I questioned her a bit abruptly. She offered, ever so graciously, to give me the on-line number because the website was being updated and wasn’t working properly. I was getting the picture.  

Third pesky interaction. I decided that we had better purchase seats. Our luck with Spirit hadn’t been too good so far and we did want to sit down while in flight. You guessed it. The website was still being tweaked and, no, I would not care to pay more than the advertised price. 

The next convenience for our flying pleasure was the joy of self-tagging our luggage. It couldn’t be easier. We just go to the kiosk, print out the tag and drop tagged bag at baggage drop-off. Well, of course there was a fairly long line for the kiosk. Then a longer line for baggage drop-off and when we finally got there, the attendant needed to see our IDs and tickets and then she weighed the bag. So why had we tagged it ourselves? Because if we hadn’t, we would be charged if the attendant had done it.  

In the past five years Chris and I have flown Delta and have been TSA pre-checked. We were not this year, meaning we had to go through the regular security line. We were x-rayed or whatever that weird machine does when you put your feet on the feet spots and hold your hands up in the air. And then we were both patted down. Clearly, we looked a bit sinister. 

Luckily the flight was uneventful. We landed on time and had a good weekend. I got to visit with my sister, Martha, her husband, Roy, and my great-niece, Madeline. The wedding was lovely. We visited the Dali Museum which is certainly worth seeing. Martha chauffeured us around and generally took care of us.  

One quick word about Florida drivers – there are evidently only two kinds. About 2% of them seem to be perplexed as to whether they have actually left their driveway. They move along in a bemused sort of way and annoy all other drivers on the road. The other 98% (of which Martha is one) apparently believe that they have actually taken the on-ramp to the Indy Speedway and just realized that if they don’t step on it they will never catch up to the pack. Our trips to and from the airport were a lot like Mrs. Toad’s Wild Ride. Chris and I were put in the back seat and told to ‘Shut up and READ A BOOK!’. Speed aside, Martha is a good driver and I appreciate all she did for us last weekend. 

Finally, we started home and we must have looked equally sinister because once again we were x-rayed and patted down. At least, I was – sort of. By the end of the weekend my left knee was telling me in no uncertain terms that it was not a happy camper. I limped through security, planted my feet and raised my arms once again, and was told to wait for my pat down. The woman looked at me (a fairly bedraggled specimen at that point) and asked if I were in pain. I mentioned my knee. She patted one hip briefly and moved me along. My Kindle,
forgotten by mistake in my purse’s zipper compartment, also made it through without detection in spite of the dire warnings from the official about leaving such items hidden in one's bag. I’m beginning to wonder just how efficacious all this screening is. 

We made it home in one piece. I drove us from the airport in the dark and I stopped for every light whether I needed to or not. Just kidding. I'm pretty sure I knew I was driving.

  

May 22, 2019

Remembering my big brother

On the anniversary of a death, it's very easy to recall all of the shock, the disbelief, and finally the deep sadness that the day evokes. And I am afraid I sometimes dwell too much on the event and not enough on the life. I have written before about May 22, 1968, that last light of day when my brother, Tim, was taken from us. Now I would like to recall other days when we were very young, before teenage angst and civil unrest and the Viet Nam War; some good, some not so much. But they were mostly brighter days that bring a smile.
Tim Clover, maybe 5 years old

I was born two and a half years after Timmy and we, apparently, were in sync from day one. For example, I didn't talk until I was well past two years old. The doctor seemed a bit worried, my mother did not. According to Mom, I didn't need to talk. Tim did all my talking for me.

When we were small, we lived in a row house on 20th Street in Washington D.C. right off Dupont Circle.Washington was a small town then. Small enough that mail addressed only to Mr. Clover, Washington D.C. was actually delivered to my dad. Small enough that Tim and I, and eventually my little sister Chris, were allowed to play outside unsupervised for the most part.

I remember a friend in the neighborhood. We called him "Mr. Man Across the Street". I have no idea who he was or where he lived, but we would wave and holler 'hello' to him as he strolled down the opposite sidewalk. He would smile and wave back and on good days he would roll nickels across 20th Street to us.

There was the old lady that lived next door in a house that sat far back from the street. She did not smile and wave. It certainly never occurred to us that she might send a nickel our way. I never saw her dressed in anything but black. Someone (very possibly my older sister) convinced Tim and me that she was, actually, a witch, although I never saw a broom and I don't remember any warts. But we were pretty darned scared of the poor woman who probably just wanted to be left alone.

Summers were fun. We stayed outside most of the time playing with our neighbors, Bobby and Earl. Occasionally, the city would open the fire hydrant in front of the house so we could run in the water. High old times indeed! Tim and I got to share a popsicle on the front steps once a week. We caught lightening bugs and went with my dad when he fished in the Tidal Basin. We watched fireworks on the Mall and bought ice cream cones that came with ice cream cubes from the Peoples Drug Store around the corner. On very hot nights Mom would rub on our backs with alcohol to cool us off so we could get to sleep. I can still remember the smell.

Christmas mornings were special. We had no fireplace, so our stockings (Dad's socks) were hung on the end of our beds. Tim, Chris and I got to open these before anyone else was moving. It was our special time. And now that I think about it, I don't understand why the custom didn't continue. It certainly gave my parents an extra half hour or so before we charged into their bedroom.

I remember that Tim and I spent several nights one winter synchronizing our dreams. We'd decide before bedtime to dream of the same thing and our stories always meshed in the morning.

I have one particular memory of that little house and my brother. I was a rather trusting little girl. We were playing inside, so I'm guessing the weather was coldish. I was sitting in the big chair in the living room and Tim decided he would do a little target practice. I was the target. My little toy broom with the red handle was the projectile. He promised that he would miss. So I sat there and let him throw it. Well, his aim was a little off and he whacked me right in the forehead. Copious amounts of blood and a none-to-pleased Mother ensued. He did feel bad and his aim certainly got better over the years, but I never agreed to be a target again.

We went to Calvert School which was the parochial school attached to St. Matthew's Cathedral where we went to church. We walked to both. And much of what I remember centers around them.

My most horrid memory was the day he fell on the playground and hit his head. The playground for the girls, if it could be called that, was the small yard in back of the school. The boys played in the small yard across the alley from our area. I was in first grade and standing by myself when there was a bit of commotion and suddenly I saw two eighth-grade boys carrying my brother, unconscious, possibly dead for all I knew, across the playground into the school. I have to hand it to the nuns, they did an excellent job of ignoring me. Not one of them thought to reassure me that he would be okay, which, thank God, he was. But that picture is engraved on my mind to this day.

Much more amusing memories come to mind. Tim was an altar boy at St. Matthew's which is a large church with a large altar. Well, his first time out, he must have been all of eight years old and on the small side, he went behind the altar to get the water and wine as was done in those days, and he didn't come back. The priest finally had to go get him. We never found out what he was doing. Perhaps he saw something that struck him as interesting? Or he simply forgot that a whole church was waiting? Who knows? This was my brother to a tee - easily attracted to foolishness, as one nun told my parents. But, really, he was a little boy with a vivid imagination and no sense of time.

I love one particularly ridiculous story which I'll preface by saying that as a whole, we were fairly literal children. My mother and our neighbor, Mrs. Smith, shared the walking to and from school responsibilities. Someone (probably Mother) from our house got us there and Mrs. Smith walked us home. I'm a bit fuzzy on whether I was part of this particular screw up or whether I wasn't yet going to school. At any rate, my mother was fond of singing and, apparently, was belting out "I'll be down to get you in a taxi, honey" as Tim was leaving for school. When Mrs. Smith got there in the afternoon to walk him home, he refused to go with her. He told her Mom was coming in a taxi and he had to wait for her. She, of course, had to drop whatever she was doing, pack up my sister and, probably me, and fetch him - sans taxi. She dined out on that story for years.

It's been over fifty years, but I still miss him. I miss playing in the rain and coming home to tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I miss our Sheena Queen of the Jungle and Tarzan act as we ran through the woods near our home in College Park. I miss being arctic explorers trudging through a foot of snow for what seemed like hours. And I miss his smile, his laugh, and his always being there. I want his grandchildren to know what a glorious nut he was and what a wonderful big brother I had. Rest in peace, dear brother. You are not forgotten.




March 19, 2019

Some vacation or Who was that masked man?

Well, he wasn't masked, but he was a man. Here's the story.

As summer approaches and I mull over our vacation options, I’ve been reminiscing a bit about vacations past. Warm, sunny days spent at the beach getting sunburned and bitten by sand fleas. Crazy weeks spent in log cabins hiking trails, dodging bats, and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. Long car rides to state parks with no air conditioning to a chorus of, “She’s touching me.” Fourteen sweating people in Nagshead, NC sharing a non-air-conditioned cabin. Colicky babies. Hurricane evacuations. Emergency room visits. High old times all. But one vacation sticks in my mind particularly. 

Probably because it was it was my first ‘adult’ vacation.  It was the summer of 1970 and my best friend, Linda, and I decided we would go on a real vacation by ourselves. After much mulling on what would be fun and, most importantly, cheap we settled on camping in Massachusetts. God only knows why.  

I now think of it as a learning experience. We learned rather quickly that we did not like camping. We learned that neither of us is particularly fond of the great outdoors. We learned that both of us had, and still do, deep reservations about any proximity to bugs of any kind. 

But it was an adventure. We set off one morning in late June in my little yellow Opel – the worst car in the world - loaded down with every conceivable camping accoutrement Linda could get her hands on. She was working at Atlas Sporting Goods at the time and had ample opportunity to select among other things, matches that would still light when wet. In case, I suppose, we decided to cookout in the rain. 

We set out on a bright sunny morning and wended our way up the East Coast toward Boston. Now, I must admit that my memory is a bit hazy. It was forty-nine years ago and I haven’t gotten to that stage of dementia where I can remember past events clearly, but nothing from yesterday. I simply can’t remember either much of the time. Anyway, we got to Boston and spent a lovely day walking around the city. Saw a matinee of Hair and felt quite urbane.  

From there we went to Gloucester, Salem and Plymouth. We visited Hawthorne’s birthplace, saw the Mayflower II, stood off the shore and stared at the spot the Hesperus wrecked, and watched a lobster boat bring in its catch. Word to the wise, if you see the odd lobster claw on the ground you probably do not want to pick it up, stick it in your trunk, and take it home as a souvenir.  

We spent two nights of our adventure sleeping in the car. One because we saw a large bear in the camp grounds which turned out to be a medium sized dog. The other because a vicious mosquito had gotten into our tent. We had one emergency car repair and, believe it or not, didn’t have one drop of alcohol the entire week. What were we thinking?  

However, all of these were just stops on our way to lay in the sand at Cape Cod and frolic in the ocean. When we got there, we found out that there is no ocean beach at Cape Cod. At least none that we could find. There is just an incredibly rocky shore. No wonder the Hesperus wrecked. We finally located a small sandy beach on the bay side of the cape. It wasn’t really what we had hoped for. 

The highlight of the week, if you can call being scared silly a highlight, came when we went walking on the sand dunes. The dunes in 1970 were pretty spectacular. Miles of rolling sand mountains under a gorgeous blue sky. I don’t know if they have since been eroded by wind and tourists, but back in the day they were really something. 

We seemed to be the only tourists in the area that day. We were trudging along, up and down the dunes, giving our legs quite a work-out when a man approached us from out of nowhere. Suddenly, there we were all alone on a vast expanse of sand with this weird little man. It felt uncomfortable right away. But we said hello politely because we were polite young women and walked on. But he felt the need to chat. He informed us in a, frankly, scary kind of way that four bodies had been found not long before right where we were walking.  

I now know that he was not the murderer because that man had already been arrested. But at the time, Linda and I weren’t sure just who we were conversing with. Was this guy implying that he actually had planted the four bodies and was wondering if we would like to make to six? Or was he just an ass with a warped sense of humor? Or, perhaps, a self-appointed tour guide? Whichever, we were not sticking around to find out. We just smiled goofily and made tracks back to the car as fast as you can make tracks when wading through the sand. No doubt he had quite a little laugh at our expense. 

The rest of our journey was unremarkable other than a rather exciting drive down a mountain followed by a semi without his load who really would have preferred us to go a lot faster. We made it home in one piece, and icing on the cake, have remained best friends, but have never even considered camping again.