October 8, 2018

The one that got away

I would really like to tell you about the very big fish my husband caught – and lost – last week. Last Wednesday we decided to take our boat out for what very well might be the last time before we have to put it away for the winter. The day began well. A light breeze rippled the water softly. Puffy white clouds decorated the azure sky, as the sun gave just enough warmth to make it comfortable.

We made our way from Harbour Cove where we keep our boat, up Rockhold Creek and past the rock wall into the gorgeous Chesapeake Bay. The water level was high after all the recent storms, but the waves were gentle. Tom put out the two planers and we slowly glided north toward the Bay Bridge reveling in the quiet and serenity. We seemed to be the only boat out there. It was lovely.

The only thing marring an otherwise perfect outing was that there were no fish to be had. So, after a couple of hours Tom began pulling in his lines. He had pulled in the first line and had just picked up the second when he caught a big one! A very big one.

Now, I must preface this with the fact that I am not, by anyone’s estimation, nautically savvy. I cannot drive the boat. I cannot swim. And, honestly, I cannot even stand up on the damned thing without becoming perilously close to going over the side.

Tom on the other hand has always had what are referred to as ‘sea legs’. He’s a wonder. He can pretty much bring in fish or hand me a soda or steer the boat and do many other amazing feats without difficulty while standing up. I’m always in awe of this ability.

That day, however, just as he was pulling in the line, shouting for me to get the net, a speed boat roared past and its wake caused our little eighteen-footer to roll dangerously. Tom lost his footing and over the side he went.

Normally, I don’t do well in crisis situations. I am usually the first one to panic. So, I am proud to say that in this instance I did have the presence of mind to turn the key and stop the engine. Then I dithered around, trying to keep my balance, and wondering what to do next.

Tom, who thank God hadn’t hit his head and does know how to swim, was treading water. As he directed me with some agitation to toss him one of the seat cushions that floats so nicely and extend the ladder so he could climb back in to the (well, I won’t quote him verbatim here because my granddaughter may read this) colorfully described boat, I’m pretty sure he was wishing he had married someone a little less cerebral and a lot more physical.

However, I managed these feats without joining him in the water and he climbed back on board, dripping and not in the best of moods. The fish, after having a good laugh at our expense, departed to depths unknown taking the planer with him. On the bright side, Tom was all right. And he had managed not to lose his glasses or his wallet. And he is still speaking to me. So, I call that a win.

As I said at the beginning, I would like to tell you this story. It’s way more interesting than my real life. However, in all honesty I can’t. We did go out. It was a beautiful day. No one went over the side. Tom didn’t catch a fish. He didn’t even get a nibble. The most exciting thing that happened was my sighting of a huge stork that turned out to be some guy pulling in a crab line. I have an appointment with the eye doctor next month.

September 18, 2018

Long life to Mrs. B

Cats are curious creatures. Well, of course, they are. Who hasn’t seen a cat nose into things better left un-nosed. But what I am referring to is that cats are curious creatures – peculiar, remarkable, bizarre little animals who can be at the same time both needy and independent. They can be affectionate one moment and ready to take your hand off the next. Cats enjoy being unpredictable, a trait that I firmly believe that they cultivate from kittenhood. They are also wonderful little pets that the world would be a sadder place without.

As some of you may remember at this time last year I had three little cats. They started life under my shed, born to a feral mother. I adopted them as outdoor kitties. Alas, two met unfortunate ends within weeks of each other leaving me with Mrs. B. 

Dear Mrs. B. started life as a little male kitten known as Bigglesworth. When the vet informed us that Bigglesworth was not a he, but a she, she was renamed Mrs. Bigglesworth and, as is usual with longish names, soon became Mrs. B. 

Mrs. B. is now fifteen years old. Translated into human years she’s a grand old lady of seventy-six. Interesting how the computation is made. Cats age most quickly in their youth. The first year of a cat’s life takes her all the way from infancy to mid-teens. Second year she jumps up to mid-twenties. Then she ages four of our years for each additional birthday celebrated.

I have recently come to understand one of the more mysterious things I have seen cats do. Have you ever seen a cat jump up, run into the middle of, say, the driveway clearly with a definite purpose in mind, only to stop dead, sit down and clean his ears? I finally figured it out! They are doing what I do all the time. I am at the kitchen sink and need clean towels. I leave the kitchen for the purpose of getting clean towels. I get upstairs only to find that I have no idea why I am standing at the top of the steps. At which point I sit down and clean my ears. Not really. I go back to the kitchen and stand at the sink until I remember what I had forgotten. Maybe cats do the same.

At any rate poor old Mrs. B. is now into her dotage and getting a bit senile. And I can certainly sympathize. She’s a little greyer and a bit slower. She complains a lot. Her meow has changed. It’s a throaty meow that sounds as if she is coming down with laryngitis. She cries for food after she’s just eaten because I’m pretty sure she’s forgotten that she just ate. She’s a bit lonely. I think she still misses her siblings. With any luck Mrs. B. will be around for another few years. I hope so. Each morning I walk out the kitchen door and say, “Good morning, Mrs. B.” and she comes running from the deck to get her breakfast. I dread the day she doesn’t.

September 7, 2018

Moving on and writing again

Well, I’m finally in the mood to get back to writing – at least, I think I am. It’s been a long couple of years with enough distractions to completely throw me off whatever game I may have had. Some good things, sadly more bad things, have been keeping Tom and me up nights and running around days. But these things are settling down a bit and I feel like I can catch my breath and try to focus.
Mainly because Tom’s cousin’s house was sold last month! And Eileen herself is ensconced in a shared apartment with 24/7 help. While she is not always happy about it, she is safe, sheltered and looked after. And this is a major load off our minds.
Emptying the house was fun! I am being facetious. It was not fun. I freely admit it, Tom and I are too old for this crap. The house was dirty and dusty and there were a fair amount of mouse droppings in rather strange places, always a joy to come across. But it’s done and in the hands of some other poor schmuck who can deal with the water in the basement and the windows that won’t open. Yay!
And so, as I said, I am trying to return to writing. And I think I will begin with my list of pet peeves and just get some much-need venting out of the way. I’m clearing my mind, so to speak. And my mind could certainly use some clarity. Here we go in no order of importance whatsoever.
1 - People who back into parking spaces when they just could just pull through. I don’t understand this phenomenon, but see it all the time. A practically empty parking lot. Tons of spaces where you can just pull through to face out. But no, these people back in. Why? I would really like to ask one of them someday, but my husband fears for my life (or possibly my sanity).
2 - Bathroom stall doors that open in! Who thought this up and why? There is no room in those little spaces. We spend our time trying not to touch anything and yet to get out we must back into the toilet. It’s just yucky.
3 - Waiters who ask, “Are you finished working on that?” If they think the food they have just served you needs to be worked on, then they should just apologize for serving it. How about, “May I take your plate?” instead.
Here, I must admit that I am rather a grammar-hammer. I love the English language and it hurts to hear it used badly. So, the next few are grammar related.

4 - The use of ‘I’ when ‘me’ is correct. This misuse has become rampant. I heard our eloquent President Obama misuse it at Senator McCain’s funeral. It’s not rocket science. “Tom and I went to the store.” “Matthew went to the store with Tom and me.” When in doubt, take out the other name. ‘Matthew went to the store with I.” No, he didn’t. He went with me.
5 - ‘LIKE’ every other word.
6 - Using there’s (singular) when you mean there are (plural). Newscasters, among many others, say this all the time.
Well, now that I’ve vented and my mind is clear, I will try to come up with interesting tales of life in the slow lane to regale you with in future posts. Right now, I am running to Target run where I will certainly see someone backing into a space muttering, “It’s like real hot out there.” Wish me luck.

June 12, 2018

Forty-seven years and counting

Forty-seven years and counting. Yes, today marks forty-seven years since Tom and I exchanged vows and rings. We were incredibly young and pretty na├»ve. But we were in love and ready for our 
big adventure. 

I have to admit that after all these years there are times that I miss that crazy passion of youth when we couldn’t keep our hands off each other and everything was new. Emotions overwhelmed us. It was intoxicating and powerful.  

But then I look over at this nutty guy I've lived with for forever, belt loosened, gently snoring in his La-Z-Boy, occasionally muttering in his sleep (the other night it was something interesting about 4000 hot dogs) and I realize I wouldn’t go back there for anything. 

Because with all the passion of those first years, it’s easy to forget the angst, the hormonal ups and downs, the stupid arguments, and the tears.  

Even at its best I think marriage has a fairly sharp learning curve and we’ve certainly had our ups and downs –  births, deaths, family upheavals, illness – all the things that most of us deal with at one time or another. What we’ve learned is that simple courtesy, thoughtful timing, and keeping our mouths tightly closed lest we say something that cannot be taken back, seem to be the key to muddling through. That and remembering why we married each other in the first place.   

So, as I look over my best friend and my rock, emotion once again overwhelms me. It’s not just comfort and contentment that I feel – though I think that comfort and contentment are often under-rated – it is deep enduring love. 

Happy Anniversary, Tommy. With so much love.   

PS: Shameless promotion - for any of you who are beachbound, I will be signing books at Bethany Beach Books on Wednesday, June 20th from 6:30 to 8:30. I'd love to have you drop by.

May 24, 2018

Book Club doesn’t disappoint

You know how it is when all you want is to go to a movie, sit back with your popcorn, and get ready to have a really good laugh, only to find that the advertising was specious and those hysterical scenes in the trailer were the only ones in the movie? Well, Book Club is not one of those movies.

My sister and I took the afternoon off yesterday to watch Book Club. Between personal heartbreak, political chaos, and a level of societal animosity that I’ve never seen in my sixty-eight years, she and I needed a good laugh. And we got one!

If you are looking for depth, substance, and an deep discussion afterward, perhaps you should choose another picture. Book Club is a solid B movie with a great cast and nothing to make you think. It’s the story of a book club made up of four old friends, women of a certain age as we say, and their responses to Vivian’s (Jane Fonda) selected book – Fifty Shades of Grey.

The weakest plot line is that of Vivian and Arthur (Don Johnson) who were lovers forty years ago who meet once again. Sadly, there’s just no chemistry between them. One scene where they end up in a fountain together was painful to watch, really. Seventy-year-old people (the average age of the cast) don’t do cutesy very well and Jane Fonda and Don Johnson are too dignified to be asked to do it.

Diane (Diane Keaton), a widow, has a wonderful encounter on a plane where she meets Mitchell (Andy Garcia) and the attraction is immediate. Keaton is funny, but Andy Garcia steals the scene with his charmingly wry reaction to her antics. The relationship proceeds as it should with a bit of a hiccup and nice resolution.  

Carol (Mary Steenburgen) and Bruce (Craig Nelson) are a long-married couple facing a difficult time in their relationship. Carol’s efforts to revive a stagnant love life has some hysterical side-effects, and Bruce’s admission of insecurity and purposelessness after retirement is, I thought, the most poignant moment in the movie.

And then there is Sharon (Candace Bergen). I love this woman. Divorced for eighteen years, a highly successful judge, she is quite happy without a man. She never the less agrees to try on-line dating and ends up on a show stealing date with George (Richard Dreyfus). Sharon is self-assured, self-doubting, witty, sardonic, and vulnerable. She is clearly the most interesting character and Bergen plays her beautifully.

As I said Book Club is a good B movie. It is predictable. The end is as it should be, everyone is happy. And it was worth every penny of $9.50. I laughed out loud. I left smiling and light-hearted. I had not one minute of existential angst. It was just what my sister and I needed on a Wednesday afternoon.

Catty PS: It is to be noted that men, apparently (at least these men), age so much better than women. And someone please tell Diane Keaton that tunics are the way to go.

April 12, 2018

Losing Another Friend

Well, springtime seems to be, once again, a difficult time for our family. My brother-in-law, Mike Dillon, passed away March 29th. It was somewhat sudden and I think we are all in still in shock.

Mike was quite something – a true gentleman, a loving and supportive father, step-father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and uncle, an avid antiques collector, an ethical businessman, a basketball phenom (I consider anyone over the age of fifty who still plays a phenom), and a bit of a free-spirit. When I met him thirty or so years ago, he was rocking long hair, peace medallions, and designer jeans. And pulling it off with aplomb, as he continued to do.

For my husband, Tom, he was his conversation/discussion guy. Mike always had an interesting viewpoint, strangely interesting in some cases, but always thoughtful and considerate of another’s perspective.

For me, though, he was the man who loved my sister and gave her great joy. I think I will always remember his voice clearly. It was so smooth and melodic, an actor’s voice. And I can hear him clearly now talking about Chris. He was so proud of everything she did from making biscuits from scratch to her beautiful artwork. They had thirty years of happiness together for which I am so thankful.

Mike was truly one-of-a-kind and he will be missed.

January 23, 2018

Cell phones and the Technologically challenged

I have been having a rather uneventful time lately. No unfortunate tumbles on public streets, no gluing fingers together, no more dead cats. While this makes for a peaceful life, it does not make for a good story.

I have, however, rocketed into the new century and bought an iPhone. Why, you may ask. Because I found myself looking wistfully at those lucky few - well, many really - who, while at dinner with a friend who is wondering what the GDP of Uganda is, can tell them in a few short taps on a handheld mobile device. This was just so intriguing. All that information at my fingertips anytime, anywhere. I couldn't resist. And so I went big and got myself an iPhone 5 or it could be an XS.

Well, nothing is easy, is it? Other people don't seem to have these problems. I was so excited. I was going to use this new technology to call someone, maybe even text! But my beautiful new iPhone with the pink butterflies on the cover wouldn't shut up. It kept talking to me. Telling me to do things. I didn't know why. It demanded that I 'Tap twice.' I would do just that, but it didn't help. It just kept telling to tap until I thought, perhaps, it actually meant I should throw it into the garbage disposal.

I don't think I'm alone, although I am probably only joined by people over sixty, in that I like paper manuals. Everything used to come with directions on paper. You went to the index, looked up troubleshooting, found the problem, and voila! But new technology does not come with paper. God forbid they stick a little user guide in there with the stupid phone.

After a few hours of having the damned thing yak at me, I calmed down and thought, "What would my daughter do?" She would sit down at the computer, log onto the world wide web and type, "How do you get the damned cell phone to stop telling you to tap twice?" Which I did. And it did. I can't remember now what it told me to do, but whatever it was worked. My phone became a source of endless amusement. I became a texting fool. I looked up inane information about the cast of Leverage and how to make Eggs Benedict. All was well right up until New Year's day when the phone just sort of froze.

I did not freak out this time. Inconvenient, yes. A little annoying, yes. But I already knew the GDP of Uganda and nobody calls me anyway. So I waited a couple of days and took it to my local AT&T store after dire predictions of needing a new battery from my beloved and that I should not pay more that $25 for it. It was not the battery at all. A very nice man fixed it in just a minute. Apparently, I had somehow gone into settings and told the phone that I was blind. I don't know how I managed this. I do not recall going into settings, but then I am, apparently, getting a little doolally.

The best part is how the nice man fixed this little problem. He tapped it three times, just like Dorothy and her ruby slippers. So now we know, tapping your iPhone can do all sorts of things, but I still wish they would write it down on paper.

(In case you're wondering the GDP of Uganda is $27.53 billion USD. If you want to know what a GDP is, get your own iPhone.)