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Posts Tagged ‘humor’

Reading between the lines

 

One day I was speeding along at the typewriter, and my daughter—who was a child at the time—asked me, “Daddy, why are you writing so fast?” And I replied, “Because I want to see how the story turns out!” (Louis L’Amour, novelist)

My grandson and I were riding in the backseat of the car as my husband drove to kindergarten.

As we talked, Dakota picked up my second book in the Star League Chronicles. “What is your picture doing on the back?”

“Uh, I wrote the book.”

“Really?” he said. “It must have taken you at least a half-hour to write.”

“At least,” I responded. “Two years.”

My little buddy was amazed by my slow progress. I didn’t take umbrage. When my middle granddaughter saw my first book, The Curse Under the Freckles, she wanted to know where the pictures were. Grandparents, by my grandchildren’s measure, were invented as playmates, not boring adults who put together words on paper. And take years to write a single story.

Dakota and I enjoy becoming pretend pilots where the newbie Grandma-pilot does practice flights with a hundred passengers aboard. He decides how much gas a plane needs to fly cross-country. Five-dollars’ worth. Or we invent a game played in the gym with a mini football instead of a basketball.

In both plot and play, reality is suspended. Grandson and I open jet windows to shoo birds while Dakota snacks on cheese dipped in hot sauce. Literary subjects never come up.

Of course, the best fictional stories appear real as they unfold. Each life’s story has a beginning, middle, and end, often unplanned.

Sure, I wonder how my life will turn out. Change can happen in the last scene. However, savoring each day seems more satisfying than typing at deadline speed. Life’s end will come soon enough. In the meantime, I have a lot of seeds soaked in love to plant.

 

 

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Luke and ThomasGrandchildren are God’s way of compensating us for growing old. Mary H. Waldrip

Imagination, it gets soaked with the ugliness of world events and can be destroyed. I need space in between each hit from hate. Meditation, exercise, and play help both my physical and mental state.

My youngest granddaughter is here today to bring welcome sunshine. She names a toy koala, Thomas and a toy cow, Luke. (Since the doll-version is gender-neutral, the name doesn’t really matter in fantasy. Ella was Daddy in our last game.) The boundaries of reality expand in play.

“How high can you jump, Luke?” I ask as Thomas.

Apparently, the surface of my bed has lost gravity. Or fuzzy, button-eyed cows have super powers.

Thomas leaps and lands on a blue blanket—a cave, with a bear inside. Time to explore.

Danger means excitement, never malice. The bear growls, yet never attacks. The toys fall. Their injuries are healed with imaginary bandages. Within seconds.

And so am I…

 

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both books (2)_LI

I’m growing older, but not up. (Jimmy Buffett)

The tension in my neck tells me I am not in synch with the world as it is. Mass natural disasters are difficult enough to understand; mass hatred is another. I don’t need to delineate any of it. The blind can hear about it, and the deaf can read closed-caption. The unaffected remain in a narrow, wire-thin margin.

Pain begins before the first commercial on any news channel. Gentle heat helps my muscles. Distraction, blended with love, helps my spirit.

My husband and I take Dakota to afternoon kindergarten on Thursdays. Dakota asks me to sit in the back seat with him. We discuss the six-year-old boy world and his unique observations along the familiar route.

This young man notices details: The recycling truck has two steering wheels and two sets of brakes… He discerns how a toy train track fits together. His mechanical expertise will probably surpass mine before he reaches third grade!

During a rare pause Dakota notices the back cover of my second book, Stinky Rotten Threats. It is on the back seat between us.

“Isn’t that your picture? Why is it there?”

I smile. When I am with this young man, my intention is to focus on him. My successes, failures, and mundane trips to the doctor or post office don’t come up. He probably assumes I don’t pretend to pilot a plane without knowing what an instrument panel is. However, other than stocking the refrigerator with his favorite cheese and hot sauce, he wouldn’t know what else fills my day.

“This is what I do, buddy. I write. This is my second book.” (The first was The Curse Under the Freckles.)

“Wow,” he says flipping through the pages without looking at them. “It must have taken you more than an hour and a half.”

Dakota’s notion of numbers and time hasn’t developed yet. I realize I want world change overnight, in my spirit, even if my head knows a sudden transformation is as impossible as writing a middle-grade fantasy adventure in an hour and a half. The Star League Chronicles fights evil—not with fists and swords, but with truth. Even in make-believe, a story takes more than one page for goodness to win.

“Two years,” I answer. “It took me two years.”

He doesn’t say anything, but I suspect he thinks I must be mighty slow.

I don’t mind. Slow is the general idea. My neck thanks me. Growing up all the way isn’t recommended anyway.

 

 

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What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

The flower our beggar squirrel beheaded has replaced itself—threefold. I suspect what I thought was a sunflower gift is a weed, a wild sunflower. The plant’s leaves appear as worn as my septuagenarian skin. I photographed the whole plant anyway. The leaves are part of its reality. I wear flawed parts, too, like every other ephemeral life form.

I struggle to conquer uncertainty and borderless fears. My husband and I are traveling to Europe soon. On past trips, I have met people who have brightened my spirit. Nevertheless, the worry-pain I build-up feels like surgery without anesthesia.

I have the same sense of direction as an untethered balloon. Leave my familiar surroundings and I float wherever the wind takes me.

I imagine telling my husband, “Sweetie, I’m following you everywhere you go as we travel. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Um, even on my way to the men’s room?”

There may be a few problems with my plan. Maybe I’ll take everywhere out of my request. Superlatives such as everywhere, the greatest, the worst, and all, lose truth somewhere. Death is final, as far as I know, at least as far as my limited vision can see. The other side has only sent subtle hints, two or three pieces from a billion-piece more-than-I-can-fathom puzzle.

In the meantime, I study the weed in my front yard. Yellow. Green. Hints of brown. Sun. Shadow. And I wonder how one dull, broken stalk replaced one flower with three.

“Hey, girl!” I tell myself. “You’re taking a trip that frightens you because you know it’s worth the risk. Have a good time, and recognize the flowers among the weeds. Who knows what lies ahead?” I’m about to find out.

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I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”   (Kurt Vonnegut)

No point putting my socks back on—my feet are covered with sand—from my son’s backyard sandbox. Yes, this senior citizen has been playing with dump trucks and plastic buckets. I follow the lead of my favorite kindergartner, Dakota.

He asks about what kind of work both my husband and I have done, and what I do now.

I state as simply as possible the jobs we had in young-person language. “I write books now.”

“Sounds boring.” He rams a motorcycle over a sand ramp. A wheel falls off. He grins as he clicks it back on.

I suppose when an individual’s written vocabulary is limited to one and two-syllable words, it could be. My granddaughter Ella has been reading since she was four. Different interests.

But, I don’t say anything. I let his opinion stand and heap a plastic shovel of packed sand into the next project, a castle. The building lasts almost three seconds before Dakota smashes it and turns it into something else. Another truck obstacle.

At age six, the pretend world is always in progress.

Next, he introduces me to a new Wii game. I have no aptitude for sports in the tangible world. On the flat screen, my lack reaches a new low.

“Well, I guess you win again,” I say.

We are ready to go outside for more activity, and he takes my hand. A gentle gesture. Dakota is considerate. I mentioned once today as I swung an invisible baseball bat, that I was thirsty and he ran to get me water, with ice. He also wanted to wash dishes, but left the big knife for me. A smart decision.

By tomorrow, my at-home to-do list will be too long to fit on the side of a mile-long wall. Those tasks will wait. Today I spend time with a young gentleman who doesn’t care about what I can or what I can’t do. He knows I care a lot about him, and he cares a lot about me. We are family, and that is all that matters.

You are right, Mr. Vonnegut. If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

(photo-shopped public domain photo)

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Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. (Joseph Addison)

When I try to make a fist, my middle finger doesn’t want to cooperate. It remains in an upright position and causes my ring finger to cross over my little finger—a bully gesture caused by a hand attached to a profoundly nonviolent individual. I didn’t like football before I knew about the number of brain injuries in head-butted players.

Therefore, I wait in my orthopedist’s office to discover whether I will need surgery. I’m early for my appointment and I open Janis Thornton’s new cozy mystery, Dead Air and Double Dares.*

Janis opens the story with a powered parachute destined to crash. Inside is an asparagus-thin woman who runs a newspaper in a small town. Crystal Cropper’s age fits in the senior citizen category, but she bristles when she hears the o-word. Besides, she investigates crimes without fear. And, after her experiences in Dust Bunnies and Dead Bodies, if she isn’t afraid after almost—oops, no plot spoilers permitted—she isn’t afraid of anything.

I have only read as far as Chapter Six and I have laughed several times already. Out loud. Crystal’s personality sparkles with every action. She has spunk.

Author Janis makes it clear the victim is dead, but long descriptions of the scene a coroner would explore, is gratefully absent. For me, facing a fictitious dead body beats the possibility for slicing my right hand.

I’m called back to be seen by the doctor sooner than I want. One more page, just one more page. This office is entirely too efficient.

Fortunately, an x-ray shows I do NOT need surgery, just a time machine to go back and remove twenty years of accumulated arthritis. Yes, the metacarpal fracture did cause residual damage, but occupational therapy should help. In time. Lots of it.

Patience is a virtue I’m told. However, when it comes to a good cozy mystery, I’d rather not wait. I wiggle my offending fingers a few times and pick up my new signed book. (Thanks, Janis.) Chapter Seven and onward. Reading is to the mind what occupational therapy is to my fingers. No interruptions please…my mind is busy.

*The links for Janis’s books can be found on her website.

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I ran and ran and ran every day, and I acquired this sense of determination, this sense of spirit that I would never, never give up, no matter what else happened. (Wilma Rudolph)

I am a cloud-white, magnet-covered refrigerator. Appliances don’t celebrate birthdays. We don’t speak either, but I’m making an exception. For my final goodbyes.

My compressor stopped. And the husband living in this small house immediately sought help from an expert, a neighbor who can repair anything from ceiling fans to jet engines. The expert declared me incapable of resuscitation. Then he offered a cooler to save my interior parts—including at least a hundred dollars’ worth of items bought less than an hour ago from the grocery.

Another neighbor also came to the rescue. She said she had a freezer in her basement. I was impressed. The wife, the woman who rules the kitchen, turned my controls to the coldest possible temps. I gave it one more effort. I brought life back into me, Lazarus raising Lazarus.

Maybe I don’t have vision in the human sense, but I know Terry smiled. She saved my handle when it broke last year. With black duct tape. True, it’s not a conventional cure, but it kept me in alignment for a while. The sides of the tape are frayed, but the handle works—even if my energy can’t be promised for much longer.

Yes, I too ran and ran and ran. However, modern stoves, refrigerators, wash machines, weren’t made the way my ancestors were—to function through generations. Before profit became a god. No need to mention my brand. The notion is universal.

My replacement isn’t going to be loyal any longer than I have been. I plan to hold on until the delivery service pulls my plug. I’ll go wherever I’m led. I can’t hold on much longer anyway.

Tomorrow? Who knows? But, I count blessings. I lost nothing I was given to guard. I thank a kind neighbor. And that sudden burst of energy to run one more time.

the old handle, new stainless steel, and old in thermal camera view

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