Never Could Say Goodbye

Why did the process of leaving a family friend or relative’s house seem to take forever?  Little kids hated adult small talk, “My how you’ve grown.  What grade were you in school? You’re almost as tall as your older brother.”

Adult chattering never stopped.  Pitiful expressions, tugging at mom’s skirt, never made the process go faster. Going to your father for help didn’t work, either.  His standard response, “Go ask your mother.”  Which really meant, he knew from years of experience, saying goodbye could not be hurried.

Two generations later, blessed with more patience, the process hadn’t changed.  Only the players in these mini-dramas were different.  Grandma, family matriarch, cooked at home–did most of the cooking away from home.

For that reason, the head chef needed proper utensils, small appliances, to feel at home away from home–anything easily transportable.

Leftovers had to be divvied up.  Grandma refereed the process.  “Don’t take all of that–take more of this.  Your sister likes cranberries, you know.”

“Where were the disposable containers?  I can’t find anything in your kitchen.  Why do you keep things on  top shelves where I can’t reach them?  Better take a couple of pieces of this lemon meringue pie.  Your grandpa and I will never eat it–it will just go bad.”

Lost items, previously ignored, became priorities; followed by discussions of where said lost items could be; bouts of anxiety, then, retrieval of lost items–purses, sweaters, jackets, electronic devices.  When, items weren’t found.  “Well, I’ll pick it up next time–or you can mail it to me.”  The postal service would never go out of business on our account.

When visitors left our house, the process was mostly the same.  Grandkids added interesting twists to the goodbye process.  Internet savvy kids left behind connectors, adapters–strange to unhip grandparents, various clothing articles.  They sometimes took things home, not noticed, until weeks, even months, later.

“What happened to the Caladryl lotion?”  I asked, after getting into some poison ivy.  “Oh, one of the grandkids took it home–he had an itchy rash.”  That wasn’t going to help me at that moment.

Goodbyes and hugs took forever, because we never could say goodbye.



Spilled Coffee…Other Blunders

Spilled coffee on my favorite shirt to start the day.  Correction–it’s one of my favorite shirts.  It’s gaudy and crass–a blue, Hawaiian souvenir shirt from four years ago.  The “just to knock around in shirts” are beginning to clutter my closet.  With application of “Stain Wonder Pre-Treat” it will be almost good as new.  Sure, it’s a little threadbare, that doesn’t mean I like it any less.

Wardrobe changed and off to the races.  “Off to the races” is a euphemism for an entirely different thing.  In this case it meant resumption of regular morning routines.

There were euphemisms aplenty when I grew up in the fifties.  Bodily functions were talked about indirectly.  Pregnancy meant someone was “in the family way.”  Little boys sometimes talked about their “winkies.”  “Seeing a man about a dog,” meant someone needed to go to the bathroom.

No, I don’t want to play (to the dog).  You want to go outside?  OK, I can do that. 

There were worse blunders.  Owning up to mistakes, when mature; knowing there could be consequences, were the worst.  Several years ago, when helping my father on the farm during winter break, I caused an expensive equipment repair due to my forgetfulness.

All right–I hear you.  Don’t tear the door off.  I’ll be right there.  I can only go so fast.  The dogs demanded to be let back in.

“Just getting over getting over you.”  Wouldn’t that make a great country song?  Like most flashes of sudden brilliance, it has probably been done already.



Today’s the anniversary of the first moon landing–“One small step for a man–one giant leap for mankind.”  The fulfillment of President Kennedy’s promise at the beginning of the decade.

I was away from home at a small conservative Midwestern liberal arts college.  No, I didn’t engage in either, telephone booth or Volkswagen stuffing.  My college pranks were simpler–too numerous to mention.  Mostly for cheap laughs and peer respect.  Late night dorm room discussions sometimes replaced homework.

I fancied myself as a misfit–somewhat of a non-conformist.  When was non-conformity, conformity?  The conformity, non-conformity conundrum wasn’t given much thought.  There was, however, a fine line between non-conformity and weirdness.

College dining hall jokes were cliché.  Flush the commode, it was a long way to the dining commons.  UFO’s–unidentified fried objects.  Too-thick pancakes were potholders.

Mrs. Green was dining hall manager.  I was a student dining hall worker.  She was my boss evenings as I cleared tables and washed dishes.  Spaghetti sauce and meringue were the absolute worst.  I hated smart-aleck college kids and dining hall pranks–that I had to clean up.

There were salt and pepper shakers with loose caps; full milk glasses turned upside down; disgusting mixtures of mashed potatoes, purple grape drink and Lord only knew what.  I wanted to bop a few instigators on the head, but restrained myself.  My hot water sprayer would certainly have reached them.

Maturity may have been slow for me, but I learned to appreciate Mrs. Green and her husband.  Mr. Green worked at a men’s clothing store downtown.  The moon landing was on everyone’s mind during the summer of 1969.

My dorm didn’t have a television.  That was how I ended up invited to Mrs. Green’s house in the wee hours of the morning to watch the moon landing.  The house was as I imagined it, clean, comfortable, tastefully decorated.  For the record–Mrs. Green was an excellent cook.  I’d kill for one of her homemade sweet rolls right now.


So, life in general sucks.  People lie to each other–never say what they’re really thinking.  Everybody’s caught up in making money.  You’re tired of being lied to by both political parties.

Sensational headlines without style or substance make you sick every day.  Fearmongering, hatemongering–some, so-called journalists would sell their own souls for a story.

We’re two generations apart, so you won’t listen to my advice.  So, I won’t offer any–except to suggest that you maintain your health.  At your age, I didn’t listen to advice either.  Whatever happens, I wish you well on your journey.

I’m surprised it’s taken you this long to realize the truth–better late than never.  I will close with some observations; there are very few people that really care about you.  I hope that I’m one of them.

You will be much wiser, when the journey’s over.  It’s funny–someone told me that same thing a few decades ago.