Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"And we were friends and it was good."




1993 
I’ve been lifting weights. I kind of like it, but I must tell you, if the idea of an out-of-shape, middle-aged woman lifting weights sounds funny to you, you’re absolutely right. It looks pretty funny, too.
          I work out on Nautilus machines, instruments of torture conceived of and built by men who hate squishy women. Then, when I am winded, sweaty, and exhausted, I do leg lifts, crunches, and things like curls and flys. No matter which way I turn when I’m in the weight room, there’s a mirror in front of me. Mocking me.
          Why am I doing this? Because, like every other year of my adult life, I gained weight over the winter. Because, when I was trying on a dress and had my stomach sucked in, my daughter said, “Just suck your stomach in, Mom. It’ll look fine.”
          Because 1993 is the year of my 25th high school class reunion.
          I remember thinking, when I’d been out of school eight years, that I could have been a doctor by then if I’d wanted to. Now I’m thinking, I could have a kid who’s a doctor if any of them had wanted to. Admittedly the kid would be a really young doctor whose only house calls were to home to have his or her laundry done.
          I remember my 20th class reunion, when I went on a diet and got my hair done and even borrowed my friend’s shoes because they matched my new shirt. I remember my relief because that our name tags had our senior pictures on them because I knew without a doubt that no one would remember me except for the ones I see all the time at school and at the grocery store and once a year at the fair. “Stay with me,” I told my husband. “If no one knows me, I want to go home.”
          “What if you don’t know them?” he asked.
          “I’ll know them.” I was as sure of that as I was that they wouldn’t know me.
          Some knew me and some didn’t. I knew some of them and some of them I didn’t. Some of us had changed dramatically and some of us hadn’t changed at all. Some of us had children who were nearly grown and some had toddlers. A few were grandparents.
          I had a really wonderful time. My husband checked on me periodically. We got home at three AM.
          So here it is five years later. I’m still on a diet and still wondering if anyone will know me when we all get there. Many more of us are grandparents by now and have probably changed even more, so that people will squint at our name tags and say, “Oh, yeah, I remember…” (You say that a lot at class reunions.)
          And it’s a joyous thing, being with people who remember the same things you do. If you’re feeling old, you can look at them and think how young they still look and know you’re the same age. You remember sitting in the same classes, on the same bleachers, riding the school bus for what seemed like hours every day.
          It makes me wonder, while I’m lifting weights and checking to see if I have yet developed triceps and calf muscles (I haven’t), if others are doing the same thing or facsimiles thereof.
          I’m glad my class reunion isn’t the only reason for the diet and exercise, because it’s not a very good one. No one there cares what size you are, what color your hair is, or how much money you made last year. Because, although not all classmates love each other even after 25 years, there is a sense of togetherness developed by memories shared that makes us see each other in a kind light. We delight in each other’s glories and mourn each other’s losses. It is the best of times.
***
North Miami Class of 1968
          2018
          Still dieting, and I’ve only gained about 40 more pounds since 1993. I’m calling that a success.
          Our 50th class reunion was this past weekend. We partied and ate and talked and took a million pictures. We remembered…oh, a lot. We were different now. Our hearing is compromised, our joints either wearing out or replacement models. Doctors’ appointments are a much bigger reality than we’re happy with. We’ve suffered losses and we’ve experienced glories. We mourned and we delighted. And we laughed, walking around and around the room and trying to make sure we greeted everyone. “I missed a few,” I said on the way home. “I missed a few,” a friend texted the next day.
          But not many, not intentionally, and we’ll catch them the next time the class of ’68 converges and gathers in celebration of that sense of togetherness the shared memories gave us both then and now.
          It was the best of times.

Someday many years from now
We'll sit beside the candles glow
Exchanging tales about our past
And laughing as the memories flow
And when that distant day arrives
I know it will be understood
That friendship is the key to live
And we were friends and it was good. - Eileen Hehl


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

TAKE YOUR MOMENTS


by Debby Myers

Elvin Myers
My husband just got a phone call that his father has passed away. My father-in-law was 86 and he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Although I didn’t meet him until seven years ago, I’ve heard from many that he had a long, wonderful life. When an older person dies, that is often the comment you hear most.

What I see in him is a man who had many experiences―some breathtaking, some tragic, some hysterical―and he was strong, proud and loved. As he began to deteriorate from the man I knew, I didn’t want to remember him in that way. I couldn’t bring myself to go see him the past few months, knowing he was dying. I think it was because every time I lose someone I love, my memories of them come flooding back. I want my memories of him to be when he was talking and smiling…living. It may sound selfish to some.

My own father died almost 30 years ago at the age of 48. No one said he had a long,
Ernie Range
wonderful life. On the contrary, he’d had a rough one. It was a heart attack, sudden but not really unexpected. My parents were divorced and I hadn’t see him much―not since I was a teenager. Yet he was still my dad. That connection was there.

I’ve been told you can see him in me. My memories of him are so vague. I wish I’d known him better and I wish I’d spent more time with him. I wish we had talked about his childhood, his memories. Hindsight is definitely 20/20.

The death of a parent is different than any other. They gave you life and it feels like a part of who you are dies with them. In my case, the loss was overwhelming. I needed to fill that void with memories―the good ones—of my dad. I was angry because there were so few, so long ago.

None of my children ever knew my dad, so I am their only link to him. Whenever I got the chance, I would tell them something about him. That he loved basketball, that he made up little nicknames for me and all my friends, that he liked to drive, and loved Elvis Presley.

I’m so glad my husband will have so many memories of his father to share with our grandchildren about their great-grandfather. That’s the circle of life we speak about. It’s so important to keep one’s spirit alive after they pass. In truth, it’s the one thing I think they want―not to be forgotten. It’s so important to tell our children and grandchildren stories of those who have gone. I wonder what my children will remember about me. I like to think I’ve given them many good memories.

In all aspects of my life, I’ve stuck by a phrase. In 4th grade I was cast in a play at school called “Cowboy on the Moon.” From a young age, I remember wanting to be in the spotlight and I had no fear of performing, sometimes to a fault. At one of our final rehearsals, my teacher, Mrs. Demuth, said to me, “Take your moments up there and help others have their moments too. Your moments are how you will be remembered.”

So, readers―do it! Take your moments! Over the next several weeks, our family will be sharing their moments of my father-in-law. May he now rest in peace and know he will be remembered.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

There was a stairway...

I think I always knew I'd be a writer. Or at least that I wanted to be. Since I grew up reading Erma Bombeck, Lewis Grizzard, Captain Stubby, John Turnipseed, and numerous and sundry other syndicated columnists, that was what I wanted to be, too. While I never got syndicated--not from lack of trying--the Window Over the Sink has been out and about for 30 years. It is my favorite thing to write. However, I try not to make it about writing. Except today.

I wanted to write books, too. I read voraciously as a kid, finishing every book an author I liked wrote and starting over and reading them all again. And I wanted to do that, too.
Gilead School - thanks to Don DeWald
There was a stairway in the center hall at Gilead School. The stairs led to the
stage. That was where I would sit whenever it was allowed at lunchtime and recess and write long stories on loose-leaf notebook paper. I liked college rule the best because I could get more words on the paper. I kept it all in a folder. I used a different color folder for each story and I can still remember whose stories went with what color. When the folders began to disintegrate, I put them back together with masking tape. I was ten when I started. I'll be 68 Thursday--I'll let you know when I stop.

So tomorrow Nice to Come Home To will be released. It's the third story from Lake Miniagua. Its protagonists are a writer and an engineer (who also plays guitar.) They own an orchard together--think McClure's and Doud's in a mash-up; I'm so grateful for their unwitting help in the writing of this book--and they like each other a little more than they intended.

The blurb and buy links are below. Thanks to everyone who reads the Window both here and in Peru Indiana Today. If you read my books, thanks for that, too. You've all made it such a fun ride. Have a great week!

***
Will an apple a day…

Keep love at bay?

For Cass Gentry, coming home to Lake Miniagua, teenage half sister in tow, is bittersweet. But her half of the orchard she inherited awaits, and so does a fresh face—Luke Rossiter, her new business partner. Even though they butt heads in business, they share one key piece of common ground: refusing to ever fall in love again. But as their lives get bigger, that stance doesn’t feel like enough…








Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Piercings, tattoos, and underwear

This is from 2009. I think I could make a series of "the more things change, the more they stay the same," because I still feel the same way about piercings, tattoos, and underwear. I still don't know where to look. But I still maintain none of those things are sufficient criteria by which to judge a person.

I don’t mind piercings. I don’t love them, by any means — I nearly fainted the first time I got one. That was the first ear with a darning needle and then I had to go ahead and have the other one done. Then they were crooked and I let them grow back, vowing never to do it again. But I did, and then one more time just because I wanted to wear two sets of earrings. I’d like to do the cartilage thing, too, up in the top of one ear, but I’m too big of a chicken, so that’s not going to happen.

I don’t mind tattoos, either. Some of them are beautiful and meaningful to their wearers. I’d even kind of like to have a little shamrock tattooed somewhere not obvious, but in addition to being a big chicken, I’m also a cheapskate. I’d rather spend the money required for a tattoo on something else. Probably earrings. Maybe purses. Or shoes.

Now that I think about it, there are a whole host of things I don’t mind. Drooping pants with
boxers and body parts peering out. Skin tight pants with body parts squeezing out. Skimpy tops with body parts hanging out — although I must confess to jealousy here; I’d give my whole earring collection to have the kind of body that looks good in those tops.

It doesn’t bother me that people wear pajamas in public. Truth is, the pjs seldom expose any body parts and they’re really comfortable. They’re often color coordinated with a hooded sweatshirt and a stocking cap and gloves. I don’t have a problem with chains. You know, the ones looping from people’s pockets that are attached to ... something. Of course, whenever I see them, usually on a guy in a close-fitting black cap, I spend the next hour singing, “Ch-ch-chain ...” This would be all right, except that I don’t know the rest of the words, so I just say, “Ch-ch-chain ...” over and over again.

I don’t mind comb-overs. As someone who has had recalcitrant hair for ... oh, lots of years, I understand that you do what you have to do. Every now and then, though, the wind will catch hold of a comb-over and suddenly you have a nearly-bald man with hair standing a foot or so straight in the air on one side of his head, starting from a part that’s right over his ear.

Which brings me to my problem.

I don’t know where to look.

When dealing with people, there’s little that’s more important than eye contact. It once took me months to go back to a fast food restaurant because the cashier who took orders took mine without once looking at me, much less saying Please, Thank you, or Have a nice day. But you can’t maintain a mutual gaze all the time. You have to look at something else.

If a person doesn’t have facial piercings, you can look at his or her face. You can notice if you like her makeup or if he should have shaved and you can ask if they have any weekend plans. But if there are little gold rings in their eyebrows, nostrils, and upper lips, you catch yourself staring in a heartbeat. Same goes for tattoos of teardrops slipping down cheeks. Your query about weekend plans comes out something like, “So, are you backing the Cardinals in the Super Tattoo?”

If hair is just, you know, hair, you can think, “Oops, roots,” and go on about your business, but if the comb-over is misplaced, you absolutely cannot tear your eyes away. Your fingers itch to just give a little flip of that chunk standing Alfalfa-like where the wind left it.

Drooping clothes give you parenting urges, even if you no longer clock in daily as a mom. You want to offer a belt, a cover-up hoodie, sweats to wear over the sprayed-on jeans. You want to say, “Just get up?”

Chains make you think in stereotypes. Gangs? Truck drivers who thunder past you on icy highways and scare the snot out of you? Even worse, in my case, is that they make me sing and gaze vaguely at anything except the serpentine length of metal looping from a pocket to...something.

However, I think I may have something figured out. And I owe it all to the name tag I wear at work.

The name tag is so that people will know what they can call me aside from “hey!” or, even worse, “hey, lady!” It’s information, and if I didn’t want to share that information, I wouldn’t wear the tag. (This is assuming I wasn’t required to wear the tag, and I’m not even going there.) I think this means it’s okay to look at facial piercings, obvious tattoos, attention-calling clothes, and chains.

What isn’t okay is to look at all those things and forget to see the person behind them. Just as there is a whole lot more to me than a chintzy plastic name tag, there’s more to everyone than what meets — and calls to — the eye.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The case for average

I'm not sure when I wrote this, but my letter grade in life hasn't risen any since then. 

I'm coming clean. It's said that confession is good for the soul — plus it's a novelty in this day of not admitting to anything. Makes me feel all sanctimonious and Marmee-like. So here goes.

I am not a leader.

Umm, felt good. I'll say it again, louder and longer. I'm a follower with absolutely no aspirations to lead.

I have never dreamed of gathering obscene wealth or dining at restaurants where cute guys park your car and paparazzi snap pictures of you as you walk past. I've never longed to be a CEO or a member of any other profession that has initials as its description.

If I'm helping at a seminar or conference, I'm the one making sure the speakers have fresh water and directing people to the coffee urn and the nearest bathroom. I'm never the one smiling out over the crowd and saying, "Can everyone hear me?" I don't want to be heard.

I play Jeopardy along with the TV show at home — badly — but the idea of actually going on television for any purpose makes me turn pale and fumble for my Zoloft.

The last time I had jury duty, I was elected to be the foreperson based on my being the only one who had served before. I explained that all this meant was that I knew where the bathroom and the coffeepot were, but the other jurors seemed to think that was sufficient knowledge. I hope those people are never around when conference speakers are hired; they might recommend me!

When I was in high school, I was always a third-row member of pep club, never a cheerleader. In physical education class, the bane of my existence, I warmed the bench in basketball, was the 27th batter in baseball, and the only time I ever got a volleyball over the net was when the hard-as-a-rock ball bounced off my nose and I thought it was broken. The nose, that is, not the ball. If I'd gone away to camp to improve my skills the way young scholars and student athletes do now, I'd have ended up being the tent monitor because I was too lackadaisical to excel at anything else.

While I admire excellence and do on occasion strive for it, I'm more often happy with good-enough. My husband — whose leadership qualities I hesitate to acknowledge just in case he takes it upon himself to lead me — thinks if you're going to do something, you should do it right or not at all. Having been raised by a mother who ironed everything, I became an adult who can survive years at a time without opening up the ironing board. However, if I'm wearing a jumper or a vest, I will break down and iron the collar and sleeves of the blouse I wear underneath. It looks … you know … okay. My husband considers this beyond laziness and well into slovenliness, so I let him iron my blouses whenever he wants to.

I am — dare I say it? — incredibly average, to the point that I've never been able to buy my clothes off the clearance racks because my size is average, too. When I gained the requisite 20 pounds and two sizes after I stopped smoking, so did everyone else.

And you know what?; I don't mind being average. A friend suggests that this is because I don't want the responsibility of excellence. I don't want to be the idea person, the trouble-shooter, the Moses of the workplace. She's right.

But at the end of the day, when all the ideas are presented and the games played and the conferences over, everyone needs the bathroom and a cup of coffee. They need to sit and unwind without worrying whether there are wrinkles in their blouses. They need to just be average.

So, the bathroom's just down the hall there and the coffee's fresh. Cream? I'll be glad to get you some. That's what people like me are for, and it's not bad at all.