Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Thanks, Mom

I was telling Tom about the time my mother came into my bedroom and ordered me to go play outside immediately.

"But Mom," I whined. "I want to finish my drawing." I was in the middle of a Georges Seurat pointillism phase and had been busily hammering a piece of paper with colored pencils.

I recall this very distinctly.

Mom shrugged and put her hands in the air like she just didn't care. Next thing I knew I was out on the front porch with my sketchpad and no pencils staring at the door. Click.

"That was a very strange thing for an Art major to do to her kid," said Tom. "What'd she suggest you do instead? Go find your brother and dress him up in a leotard?"

My brother, dressed in a leotard.

Maybe, I mused. Either that or spend a pleasant afternoon brawling with the boys up the street, which is how I spent half my childhood.

My mother was completely unconcerned that they had BB guns and all we had were these ghetto guns my Pop taught us how to make out of 2x2s and rubber bands. Ammo were those hard little plastic tags from unopened bags of hotdog buns and Wonderbread. We'd skulk around Miller's Grocery and harvest a shelf's worth of firepower down the baked goods aisle.

Also a wholesome activity far superior to quietly drawing in my bedroom.

"She probably did you a favor," said Tom. "If you'd gotten any good at art, you'd be one of those poor starving MFAs."

"And instead I got good at duking it out with boys..." I said, before I realized this explains most of my career.

Thanks, Mom.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Livingroom Sportsing

I dread the day when my niece and nephews do not fall for the “smell my feet” game, no matter how cleverly deployed. To be clear, my personal strategy lacks finesse. I find a kid on the floor and exclaim, “Oh look, Jack wants to smell my feet.” Then I count on the existential fact that I’m bigger than he is.

Tom, on the other hand, premeditates. When we were down in Richmond, he told Jack and Ella to lay on the carpet, head-to-head, face down. He told them to close their eyes and lift their chins. Then he shimmied between them, his giant feet just under nose-high.

ha ha. smell my feet. The crowd went wild.

The Dark Game will also be mourned even though playing it can get tiring after about six hours. It’s basically the love child of hide-and-go-seek and your basic game of tag: Just played inside, after dark, with all the lights turned off.

The rules are starting to get really complicated. Recently we added a “shake the water bottle full of dice” element, which is the indoor translation of kick the can.

Grandma and grandpa are exceptionally skilled Dark Game players. The last time I was 'It,' I captured grandma sidling down a hallway pressed up against the wall with a blanket hoisted over her head.

Grandpa tends to find a comfortable chair and sit in it very very quietly. He’d be a Dark Game phantom menace but you can always manage to catch him when he remembers he has a pretzel in his pocket.

There’s also Cards Against Humanity, for the under-10 set. This means censoring all but a tiny sliver of cards. Luckily there’s plenty featuring straight-up gas passing, pooping, Jean Claude Van Damme in slow motion and middle aged men in roller skates. 

The first time we played, Jack belly-laughed so exuberantly he slammed his tiny heiny right through a plastic lawn chair and we had to break for medical attention. I told his dad this is a very educational game. Most second-graders cannot yet sound out words like “explosive farts."

Cousins night is coming up. I look forward to a new game - Pie Face. We’ve heard good things.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Note to Self: Make Sure Doctor Washes Hands

Jack texted me a selfie
My nephew Jackson is a fast learner. He was in Grammy's hospice room for 8 seconds before he figures out there's a "Nourishment Center" down the hall featuring a fridge stocked with chemically-preserved snacks his mother has forbidden. In a flash, he's back with an orange jello cup. 

Jack walks in Grammy's door and instantly gets a random nose bleed. A real gusher. Blood all over his face, dripping on the floor. He sticks five fingers up his nose. It is not even moderately effective. Nonetheless, the kid maintains a vice grip on the jello.

We snap into action with nostril-sized wads of kleenexes. Luckily, there are lots of readily available kleenexes in a hospice facility. 

Eventually, the crisis dwindles to a trickle. Jack celebrates by jamming his entire bloody hand into the jello cup and shoveling a blob into his maw.

We all sit back on our heels and screech at the same time.

Uncle Tom says, "You are a sticky jello germ swab, Jack. Every microbe in this hospital is gonna be stuck on that hand if you don't wash it right now."

Jack spins to leave for the bathroom, but not before rubbing his hand on his pant leg and then a nearby table leg.

The doctor chooses that exact moment to march into Grammy's room. "Oh hello young man. I do not believe I've had the pleasure of meeting you before!" He shoves out his hand for a shake.

It's a very sticky shake. There's a goo-snap sound when the doctor pulls his palm from Jack's slimy fingers.

We all screw up our lips into that face you make when something icky just happened.

We watch to see if the doctor washes his hands.

He does not. He walks out and visits the patient across the hall.

We all screw up our lips into that face you make when something icky just happened.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

1915-2015. Rest in Peace Grammy

At 100 years young, Grammy T died on December 24, 2015 after a fall in her home. Earlier, she had been outside gardening and clearing yard clippings with her wheelbarrow. 

Grammy and me and my bro walking a 5k - she won the 90+ age group.

Grammy was a "Rosie the Riveter" during WWII. Here's her version of events, I'd transcribed it for her big birthday party last spring:

I worked at Armstrong’s Cork Company. It turned into an armor factory. I first worked riveting lights onto the wingtips of B-29s. That was shift work. I worked 11-7, 7-3, 3-11.

When I was riveting, I had to wear pants because I had to crawl into the airplane wing. That was really when women started wearing pants. There was no uniform. You had to buy your own slacks. Most everyone wore dark blue denim-like clothes. We all wore the same kind of outfit because there really wasn’t much else to buy. There were shortages and maybe there was only one brand of women’s pants. Women had never worn pants before, no one manufactured them.

I wore low heeled shoes. People didn’t have sneakers then.

We had to tie up our hair. I held the rivet in place with a bucking bar, really hard from inside the wing, while the girl outside used the rivet gun. I was smaller, and I was better at getting in the wing, so that’s why I did the bucking bar.

Everything had to be flush and smooth and go in straight otherwise the light would not stay put. And everything had to be inspected. There was one light at the very end of the wing tip and then two underneath. The one on the end by the wingtip was the hardest. It was the hardest because the one who held the bucking bar had to really hold it tight while the other person used the gun so that the light would stay in there and not wobble.

There were two men at the wingtip next to us. The one evidently didn’t sleep during the day because we’d watch him and he’d be dropping off. We always thought whomever was flying that plane would lose a light.

I can’t remember my partner’s name. She was a red-head, auburn hair. Very good looking and athletic. She was married and had a child. She hated to see me go, but my next job was much better than shift work. I didn’t mind shift work, but your grandpa was working day work so it was much better that we had the same shift.

And then I went and worked for the Navy, and this is terrible when I think about it, I went to work for the Navy inspecting 44mm shells. They had to be inspected so when they didn’t misfire or anything.

Other Posts about Grammy:

March 18, 2007: Birthday Interview with a Grammy

June 5, 2007: Grammy-san and the Art of Gracious Conversation

June 18, 2007: Oh Right, I think I Saw Them Waiting in the 'Don't Tell My Sister This' Ward

September 25, 2007: My Grammy Loves Me Series

October 1, 2007: Fireside Chats with Grampy T about the War

October 3, 2007: Grammy Lived through the Great Depression

October 10, 2007: Titans of Grammy, Touché

January, 2008: Why Brung Ya

June 29, 2009: Adventures in Why I Need a New Car

July 18, 2009: Favorite Things When You are 96 Years Old

November 25, 2014: Enjoying Thanksgiving Afterglow in a Good Pair of Pants

December 25, 2015: Under the Dining Room Table at Grammy's