Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Stroke of Brilliance

The following piece of flash fiction was inspired by my father who suffered a stroke in his late 80's.  It left him paralyzed on one side and altered his personality, leaving him much less inhibited and prone to imagining things.  You may recognize someone you know.

Stroke of Brilliance

“Dad, are you awake?”

“Yeah, who’s there? Come on in.”

“It’s Lisa. I brought Cameron to see you.” The woman held the baby so the old man could see him.

“So you did. You remember I’m having twins next week.” The old man fiddled with the blanket. “Where’s your mother?”

“She’s coming. She stopped to get you a Dr. Pepper.”

“Ten, two and four. Three good times to enjoy life more.” The old man struggled to sit up.

“Here, let me raise your bed.” The young woman shifted the baby and pressed the button to adjust the bed. “Is that better?”

An old woman shuffled in, carrying a Dr. Pepper. “How are you today?” she smiled and kissed his scratchy cheek.

“I’ll be better when you give me that drink.” he smiled back at her.

“Cameron weighs 23 pounds now and he can almost sit up.” the young woman said.

“Grasshopper green is a comical chap.” the old man sang. “My twins will be big boys.”

The older woman ignored the remark. “Have you had a bath today? These pajamas don’t look clean.”

“I’m clean enough…” the old man started to say.

A knock on the door interrupted his answer. “Hello, Uncle Claire. May we come in?”

“Goodness, what are you two doing here?” the old woman asked the men standing in the doorway.

“Alvis had the day off so we thought we’d drive over and check on Uncle Claire. Hello, young lady. Is this your boy?” a tall, rough hewn man asked, grasping a tiny hand.

“Alvis, Joe. Good of you to come.” The old man shook hands. “How’s the family?”

“Fine. Everyone sends you their love. Sis fell and broke her wrist a while back but she’s on the mend.” Alvis said. “How are you doing?”

“I’m fine but watch out for that little bear over in the corner.”

Alvis and Joe looked around in confusion. The young woman shook her head almost imperceptibly.

“What did you have for lunch today?” The old woman was trying to fix the awkward silence.

“Ah hell, they served coyote meat. Serve that crap most every day and think we don’t know it.” the old man grumbled. “Fools.”

Alvis and Joe shifted their feet. They tried again to make conversation. “How do you like this place?” Joe finally said.

“It’s okay.” the old man replied slowly, a faraway look coming into his eyes. “But you know, I miss the little things. Like being able to take a walk, or go fishing. Feel the sun and wind on my face. Play with the grandkids.”

The room became still and quiet, his words holding their hearts in a tight grip.

“But you know what I miss most of all?” the old man said. “Sex.”

The young woman stifled a laugh as she looked at the rigid backs of the two men at the foot of the bed. He’s lost most everything else, but gained comic timing she thought to herself.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hiking At 10,000 Is Not For Sissies And Other Lessons

My kids on top of Haleakala

My husband and I learned a few lessons this past Christmas during our surprise Christmas trip to Maui. We decided to surprise our kids (15 and 12) with the gift of a trip. Barry and I had been to Hawaii once before but I was barely pregnant with our first child, nauseous and hormonal. Barry had just torn his ACL ligament playing church league basketball and was on crutches. It is amazing how many people will push past someone on crutches to board an airplane. I guess they thought Barry was faking so he could board early. By the time we arrived in Hawaii near midnight, I was worn out and hungry. I started crying. I'm sure Barry was thinking about ditching me and finding someone else to take to the hotel. Overall, we had a good time but it was definitely not our best trip. There was a now legendary incident with a breakfast burrito on the flight home but in the interest of marital harmony, I can't repeat it.

Back to the present. On Christmas morning our kids opened a strange package with a plastic whale, leis and a guide book. Grace was immediatley thrilled when she figured it out but Cameron's face fell. Lesson number #1: your 15 yr. old son may not be happy to leave his first girlfriend for a week when they have plans for New Year's Eve. I was beginning to wonder if there was some sort of curse over us going to Hawaii but by the afternoon he allowed himself to perk up.

Indeed by the time we got to Maui, both kids were excited and having fun. Still, my son did text his girlfriend over 200 times a day but managed not to be obnoxious about it. (Lesson for you with younger kids: don't ever consider anything but unlimited texting plans.)

One day we drove to the top of Haleakala, a dormant volcano, to hike and see the views. Lesson #2: when a friend who has been to Haleakala in November tells you it will be cold at the top, listen to him, because it will still be cold in December and probably all year round. We thought that since we'd be at the top in the afternoon, the day would have warmed up. Very wrong. We were all wearing shorts and sweatshirts but the wind is wicked at 10,000 feet and you are above the clouds. We weren't going to miss exploring the volcano just because we were cold so we set out to hike a ways into the crater. Going down was not bad; after we got past the edge, the wind seemed less severe and the view was amazing. It was like being on Mars. Then the time came to turn around and hike out. Lesson #3: hiking at 10,000 feet is not for sissies. Almost immediately my chest began to hurt. Badly. I was going to die. The air is very different at 10,000 feet than it is at sea level where I live. The wind was now blowing in my face and my ears started hurting, despite my hood. To make matters worse, my nose began to run and I had no kleenex. Great. I was going to die up here and when the rescuers found me, I'd have a snotty face and dirty shoes and ankles from all the dust on the trail. Not the way I pictured my last moments at all. So I wiped my nose on my sleeve. It was that or drip. Lesson #4: a good mother carries kleenex and water when hiking; they come in handy. Of course, my children were not suffering at all. My daughter was bounding up the trail like a mountain goat, my son not far behind. I hated them at that moment for not suffering with me.

Maui really is a beautiful place and we did enjoy ourselves. We went whale watching, snorkeling and to a luau where we ate poi and squid. We ate great fish every day and even some of the best Mexican food I've ever had. Strange that I have to go to Hawaii for great Mexican but as a foodie, I seek out good food where ever it is to be found. Our last lesson: it is possible to have a great time with your teen aged children.

Having a great time with our kids - priceless

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Tanning Primer

A cautionary tale for women: Never let your husband be in charge of spraying on tan in a can. I never was a sun goddess even though most of my generation worshiped the sun but this year I thought a tan might be a good idea. I have severe reactions to anything that bites – mosquitoes, flies, fleas, ticks, chiggers, you get the idea. These bites itch for days and leave jumbo sized red welts. I am tired of people wondering what horrid disease I have so I decided a tan would camouflage the problem.
I went to the nearest we-have-everything-you-need-and-plenty-you-never-thought-of store and discovered tan in a can. Everything you need for the perfect airbrushed tan in an $8 can. You can even spray upside down, dries in five minutes, and in four hours, you have a beautiful, natural tan.
I decided to do this right. I told my husband he was going to help so he could spray all the hard to reach places. I showered, exfoliated according to directions, and hopped out, ready to be bronzed. My husband was not reluctant, indeed, he was eager to spray his naked wife with oil. He read the instructions but here was my second mistake: I should have gone over the instructions with him carefully and made darn sure he understood the consequences of messing up. Instead, I relied on his college education and doctorate to get the job done.
He began spraying and no where on the can does it say the spray will come out in an artic blast. It is really hard to be still when someone is spraying frost all over your naked body. I gritted my teeth and turned when needed. In five minutes I was dry and in my jammies, ready for bed. I was feeling gloriously tan already and congratulated myself on saving a bundle over a salon airbrushed tan.
The next morning I checked out my new tan. In the dim bedroom, I looked much browner. Wonderful. In the bathroom however, the truth was revealed in the bright morning light. My upper torso was pretty uniformly brown but my arms and legs were now stripped. On one arm, my tan ended abruptly at my wrist, like a sleeve. There were dark streaks down my shins and one white knee. White skin contrasted sharply with brown. I had to laugh. Mistake number three: Don’t attempt home beautification the night before leaving on a trip. Yes, in a few short hours we were leaving for a long weekend with my husband’s family. I could only hope his brothers wouldn’t notice my appearance or I’d be the butt of jokes all weekend.
A week has gone by and my canned tan has faded. Still hopeful and determined, I discovered tan in a tube at my latest shopping excursion. This time, I applied most of the tan, leaving only my back for my hapless husband. Once again, I leave in the morning to take my son to band camp. Hope does indeed spring eternal as I am confident I’ll be tanned and gorgeous, not spotted and clownish.