A Little Kindness

Good stories are in tough competition with sensationalism. Bad news seems to sell.

This morning, at breakfast, at a popular Country Store themed restaurant, my wife and I weren’t expecting anything out of the ordinary.

The lady at the next table stopped on her way out of the restaurant. She handed my wife a gift card. That was a surprise. “What was the catch?”

There wasn’t any. It was a simple, unexpected act of kindness from someone we’d never met. It was enough to pay for breakfast, and the tip. A nice surprise on a beautiful, sunny Sunday morning.

“You Put Things in the Strangest Places”

From the initial frightening moments of my wife’s accident, we’ve transitioned to scenes of amusing awkwardness.  Her two-week check-up went well–except for some light-headedness during the X-Ray session.  I was amazed at the amount of hardware, pins, and screws.

I’m thankful for the assistance of caring friends and neighbors.  A friend brought over some yummy, home-cooked, black-eyed peas and soda bread.  Yesterday, Mrs. “P,” from across the street, helped me do much-needed house cleaning.  She cleaned the bathrooms.  I cleaned the kitchen and vacuumed the floors.

It’s surprising the amount of damage, a few boil-overs and microwave explosions can do.  On a positive note, this second string chef was on a winning streak, until yesterday; when my macaroni and tomatoes didn’t have enough sugar.  It had something to do with acidity, and was, apparently important.  Also, I’m sure the space shuttle could have been built, in the time it took to peel my boiled eggs.

Laundry is going swimmingly.  Dark clothes, light clothes–never the twain shall meet.  I knew that from college dorm days, and don’t need to go into further details.  Grocery shopping is better, with my bride nearby–to oversee selection of necessary victuals.  Surprise of surprises–I was informed that I wasn’t aggressive enough in the supermarket.  That’s why other shoppers were cutting me off.  I was advised to emulate Chicago rush hour drivers.

It was good to have help and not end up with odd surprise items; that looked good to me in the store, but not so good at home.  Who knew there were so many different kinds of potatoes and onions?  Did you know that russet potatoes aren’t really red?  It shook up my entire belief system.

Being a personal valet has been a source of amusement.  My slightly off-kilter mind needs no help in wandering astray.  I wondered whether other people might stare at my wife and think–“Gee, your husband sure dresses you funny.”  I’m sure they’d be too polite to say it out loud–even if they were thinking it.  I’ve been tempted to pull up her stretch pants right up to her chest–“old man style,”  but thought the better of it.  She’s still got one good arm–that cast could do some damage against the side of my head.

My wife is much neater and more organized, than I’ll ever be.  That’s why I keep hearing, “You put things in the strangest places.”  She doesn’t understand or appreciate my impatience.  This morning, while emptying the dishwasher, I asked, “Honey, where does this mini-radar beacon go?”  It turned out, that it was a small strainer, and not a radar device at all.

Rinse, lather, repeat; rinse, lather, repeat; condition, moisturize–please don’t mention the whole hairdressing scenario.  Keep it on the DL.

EVERY PARLOR NEEDS AN UNCLE BUBBA

victorian 3

When Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Bubba came to visit, the women went to the kitchen and talked about families, childbirth, and homemaking.  Uncle Bubba went to the parlor with Dad.  My sister, Grace and I, wandered between both settings.

Our parlor was Uncle Bubba’s debate forum.  There, surrounded by lace curtains, furnishings frozen in time from the Victorian era, Uncle Bubba held forth–starting with an inquiry as to the availability of home-baked delicacies.

Uncle Bubba was a big, guffawing, hulk of a man.  Aunt Gertrude was a prim and proper wisp of a woman–quiet and reserved.  Her salt-and-pepper hair was usually fixed in a bun.  Unlike her husband, Aunt Gertrude always saw the good in everything.

“It was on Merv Griffin yesterday–people depressed at Christmas, after Christmas, during winter, spring, and every other time of year.  Christmas blues, Post-Holiday blues, the “Boo-Hoo” blues, the “You and Me” blues–who believes that crap?  It’s just another excuse for people to not work and get on the public dole,” Uncle Bubba said.

“What’s everybody looking at me for?  Pardon me for being slow on the uptake. I get it, now.  If it was any of your dad gum business–which it ain’t; I injured my back at the meat-packing plant.  That’s why I can’t work anymore.”

“Nobody’s singling you out,” Dad said defensively.  “Uncle Bubba, who’s Merv Griffin?” Grace asked.  Dad’s stern expression said, “keep quiet.” But Grace went on, anyway.  “Depression is a serious mental illness.  Sometimes people fall into dark holes and can’t climb out without help.”  Grace was like mom–spoke what was on her mind.

“Drug companies are always looking for ways to make more money–that’s all I was saying.  Pretty soon, everybody’s going to be on feel-good pills.  Well, whatever–it was on one of them talk shows.  I don’t even try to keep up.  They’re all the same.  I mean, what other job is there–where you get paid for talking, and don’t have to know anything?”

Dinner guests meant kid shenanigans at the table.  Grace would stick a spoon on her nose; then I’d eat peas with my knife, until Mom or Dad gave us the “stink eye.”  We knew when and where, to not cross the line.  Then, Uncle Bubba concealed amusement with fake coughing attacks, excused himself from the table.

Uncle Bubba’s passion and rage was everywhere.  His lack of discernible skills, made drudgery last as long as possible.  It didn’t stop him from offering opinions on just about everything.  At least, it seemed that way to me, back then.

“Cream rises to the top.  Dregs sink to the bottom.  It’s that simple.”  Was I cream or dregs?  I always thought Uncle Bubba was talking about me.  Especially on the day, my foot slipped off the clutch of his old GMC pickup.  I hit a pothole so hard, the old truck bounced–Uncle Bubba’s head banged into the roof.  “Damn it, Son–you gotta’ be more careful,” was all he had to say.

He was my father’s brother.  They couldn’t have been more different.  My father was quiet and reserved.  Uncle Bubba was seldom, if ever, quiet.  My father was of average height and weight with a full shock of hair.  Uncle Bubba was portly, and bald as a billiard ball.  Could there have been a mix-up at the hospital when he was born?

I loathed working for him.  He was obstinate, stubborn, opinionated–couldn’t (or wouldn’t) communicate.  The only emotions expressed were frustration and rage.  I could never live up to his expectations.  It seemed, as if there were always better ways to do everything.  However, Aunt Gertrude was nice.  How had she ended up with him?

Sometimes the silence between dramatic pauses was too much to bear.  Then, I’d talk about anything and everything, just to break the silence.  Uncle Bubba never said anything about me being a “motor mouth.”  On those days, maybe he just didn’t feel like talking?

“You look like a polecat–with that white stripe in your hair.”  Uncle Bubba said, once, on Halloween.  I don’t think he ever knew or cared–that I was supposed to be Eddie Munster.

“Son, do you know Jesus?”  Uncle Bubba asked one day, right out of the blue.  “Yes, I learned about Jesus in Mrs. Hampton’s Sunday school class,” I answered.  I’d never known Uncle Bubba to be a religious man.  He threw around a few “damns” and “hells,” but never took the Lord’s name in vain.

“I want you to promise me that you’ll ask Jesus to forgive your sins.”  I’d never seen him so sincere–so, I promised that I would.  Was it because he never had a son?  He never said those exact words, but I think it was true.

George Henry Walsh was Uncle Bubba’s real name.  He was Grandma Mary’s son by another man.  The man’s name was never mentioned.  People in those days didn’t talk about such things.  Grandpa Joe raised him as if he were his own flesh and blood.

Uncle Bubba passed away on a gray November day in 1999.  There it was–inscribed in polished granite, plain as day: “George Henry ‘Bubba’ Walsh, Beloved Adopted Son of Joseph M. & Mary R. Walsh.”

OLD SCHOOL POINTS TO PONDER

medora high school

“MY OLD SCHOOL”

Arched window tops came to a point.  This former high school, in Medora, IL, (population 500), was my old school.  Part of my grade school years were spent there.  My mother taught school in that building for most of her career.

Lets get right to the point.  I’m old school, can’t always finish what I start–when it comes to computers and electronic devices.  My frustration, isn’t shared by computer geeks, regular computer users, and even typical young children.  My struggles, they very likely find strange–if not amusing.

It’s not technology itself, that I rail against.  Attitude is everything. I have a problem with support personnel lacking in people skills.  Expertise, doesn’t justify condescension and/or arrogance.

Albert Einstein–one of the smartest men that ever lived, had a reputation for being personable.  No doubt he told some wickedly funny jokes at parties.  And what’s not funny about time-space continuums and shifting paradigms?

Perhaps, I’m one among many non-specific geniuses?  I know how to fix leaky faucets–caulk windows, change spark plugs, and many other mundane tasks.  Once, when in an adult education class, I stripped a computer down to the mother board, reassembled it, and it worked PERFECTLY.  Take that–computer geeks!

While I’m being dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century; think about this hypothetical example.  Me dashing past your subcompact; that’s stranded by the side of the road, because the engine control computer died.  I’m riding high and dry in a beat-up, vintage ’47 Dodge pickup, with rattling fenders.  It’s an ancient vehicle, that still operates daily, as originally intended, and is two-times older (if not more) than most bloggers.  It’s easy to fix if it breaks down, parts are inexpensive and readily available.

For all of the snarky, snickering, Grinches hiding behind 1-800 customer service numbers–wherever you are, I have a special gift list.  Too many of you made my naughty list this Christmas.  I have  plenty of aged fruitcakes waiting to be re-gifted–hardened to perfection.

For the especially naughty, one of Aunt Olga’s hand-knitted gaudy sweaters, with extra sleeves of random lengths.  Aunt Olga uses extra-itchy woolen yarn from her favorite, rock-bottom discount store.  I think it’s leftovers from a nearby carpet mill.  Will all of you Grinches promise to do better next year?  If not, I’ve got Auntie “O’s” liver soufflé, and I’m not afraid to use it.

Remaining Grinches, surly computer geeks, will receive the following gift.  To demonstrate that I’m not completely computer challenged–a personally, selected compilation of musical memories:  “Mr. Spock Sings of Christmas,” “Slim Whitman Yodels Favorite Bird Calls,” “Surfin’ Bird,” by the Trashmen, “Chewy, Chewy,” by Ohio Express, “Little Willie,” by The Sweet, and the complete Spike Jones Collection (the old-school musician, not the movie guy, with the, almost the same, last name).

And furthermore, the point of my diatribe–and yes, “Virginia,” there really was one.  I’m a hardware, not a software guy–always have been and always will be.  During this wonderful time of the year, many people around the world don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  We have so much and others have so little.  Don’t be a Grinch’s helper this Christmas!  Holiday thoughts to ponder from an “Old School,” hard-headed, hardware guy.