Month: June 2017

Love and Layaway

The long wait was over. A surrender had been signed on the deck of the USS Missouri, and troops were returning home. Bill was one of them. He had survived unscathed from all the hell he discovered in war.

And his purpose in life, his reason for surviving all the blood and guts of combat, and all the separation in time and miles from family and home, was for one person. Hazel.

For Hazel, Bill was like a layaway gift. Back in the days before credit cards, that’s how you purchased things you couldn’t afford right away. The shop put it up in their storeroom while you made layaway payments. After the final payment you could pick it up and take it home.

Each letter Bill and Hazel exchanged while he was away fighting the Japanese was like a layaway payment. The handwritten missives helped preserve their feelings for each other. And when the day finally came where he could step down off that ship onto dry ground forever, she was waiting for him. She picked up her layaway gift and took it home.

They had already been engaged for over four years. Now it was time to plan the wedding. And one of the first orders of business was to shop for wedding rings.

Bill’s strength was his exuberance and unbridled pursuit of all the wonders of life. Hazel loved that wildness about him. But her strength was her self-discipline and circumspect approach to life. Bill recognized and appreciated the fact that he needed someone like her, to keep him from a Gadarene plunge off of some sort of cliff of disaster.

“Pick a nice one!” Bill cajoled. Hazel peered through the glass at all the clinquant shiny circles resting upon their satin beds. She saw many nice ones. But she also saw the price tags. And she knew that Bill didn’t have much money. Military pay was just a little higher than a beggar’s salary in those days, and Bill wasn’t much of a saver, anyway.

“That one, right there,” she pointed. It was a thin little gold band, priced at $11.99.

“Awe, come on Hazel!” he shoved her shoulder kind of hard. “That’s the cheapest one in the shop! Pick a nice one!” He shoved her again. “Pick a diamond, an emerald, a ruby. I want you to wear a gorgeous wedding ring. Come on!” He slapped her on the back goodheartedly.

That ired her. How could she show this damn fool what a stupid spendthrift he was? How could she persuade him to back off with his pushfulness and allow prudence to prevail?

Her temper flared, and she paused and remained silent for a long moment. That was Hazel’s discipline. She refused to act until she calmed down, and could think clearly. Finally a rational idea struck her cooling mind. Hazel stepped over to a spot at the counter that displayed the biggest, brightest, finest, and most expensive ring in the jewelry shop.

“That one, Bill! Buy me that one!”

Bill’s face went instantly grim. “That one? Are you sure?” he murmured.

“Oh yes, Bill, that one! I just love it! Isn’t it gorgeous! I’d just LOVE to have a ring like that!”

Bill shoved his hand in his pocket and fiddled around with a small wad of cash. He gazed hard at the thick, shiny ring with the giant stone. And at the $599.99 price tag. Now was HIS time for a moment of silence. He gulped hard.

“H-Hazel, I-I just don’t know. You know that I love you, and I want you to have anything in the world. But . . . but I just don’t think I can afford this ring.”

The argument was won that day by the self-disciplinarian. Bill swallowed his pride and made the provident choice. He purchased the thin gold band for $11.99.

During the early years of their marriage they had a few more disputes about money. But Hazel’s patience allowed her to gradually rein in her profligate husband, and get the spending under control. And they actually began to grow a little nest egg.

Their love for each other grew also. Who would have thought this odd couple could stay together for so long? But they allowed their disparate qualities to complement each other, rather than clash.

Their tenth anniversary rolled around, and Christmas soon followed. On Christmas morning, Hazel and Bill were pulled out of bed by their excited young son. While the child was tearing open a present, Hazel noticed something in the tree. It was a most unusual looking ornament, small and glittery. She examined it more closely.

What she saw lifted her eyebrows in shock.

It was the ring.

It was the selfsame expensive wedding ring she had picked out at the jewelry store ten years before, to convince Bill to buy the cheap wedding ring.

“Bill! Oh my God! How did you get this?!”

Bill smiled in delight at her. “Honey, you know that I love you, and I want you to have anything in the world that you desire. You wanted that ring, but I couldn’t afford it. So after I bought the cheap ring, I put this ring on layaway. I’ve been making payments on it for the past ten years.”

Fifty years later, Hazel became a customer at my wife’s beauty salon. My wife met Bill and was impressed with the love and warmth of this elderly couple.

Then Bill passed away, leaving Hazel to live alone. After Bill died, Hazel told my wife that her son would call her every evening to tuck her into bed. But one day she lamented that her son was going on vacation, and could not make the ritualistic evening phone call.

My wife offered to stop by her house and do the tucking in. That evening was when my wife spotted the ring. It was pinned to a blouse beneath Hazel’s dress, close to her heart. As Hazel climbed into bed, she explained that her old, withered fingers had shrank too small to retain the ring, but she didn’t want to stop wearing it.

And then Hazel told the story about how she got the ring.

This is how my wife learned about the bigness of a man’s heart. And a story about the power of patience. But most of all, a story about the love of this couple.

Love, with a little help from layaway.

Blasphemy Galore

An unfortunate man in Pakistan, named Taimoor Raza, was recently sentenced to death for posting blasphemous content on Facebook against the Prophet Muhammed and his two wives. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/world/asia/pakistan-blasphemy-sentence.html?_r=0

I didn’t see the posts, so I have no idea just how blasphemous this content is. But when I read news stories like this, I feel very glad to be an American. Here, we can blaspheme to our heart’s content, and face no legal consequences.

I follow no religion, but I am kind of sympathetic toward Buddhism. Nonetheless, it’s refreshing to know that you and I can say something like “Fuck the Buddha!” and not risk going to jail.

But this is mainly a Christian country. Just the same, we can also say, “Fuck Jesus!”, and not risk jail or execution. America. What a country!

I support Taimoor Raza. And as a show of support, I’m going to commit all kinds of blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammed (and his two whoring wives). This is for you, Taimoor:

The Prophet Muhammed is a dirty cocksucker. Not a clean cocksucker. A dirty one. He only likes the dirty cocks that have already been up his ass.

The Prophet Muhammed humps camels and eats pig shit.

The Prophet Muhammed beats his wives when they don’t share any of the money they’ve made from turning tricks.

The Prophet Muhammed is an atheist. (Ooh, that’s a real bad blasphemation.)

The Black Stone at the Kaaba is made out of the dried, hardened shit from the Prophet Muhammed. At one time it was much larger, but the Prophet ate most of it.

If you are an Islamic-American, I suspect you may feel rather disgusted from reading these blasphemous insults. I understand. But I believe that if you truly support our Constitution, you will wholeheartedly support my right to post this material.

It is not enough to just condemn terrorism.

Neither is it enough to just condemn what Pakistan is doing to Taimoor Raza.

If you want to convince me that you truly stand for the American way, you must strongly support my right to post this material.

And you must advocate for Taimoor Raza’s right to do what he did, in Pakistan.

The Senility Test

Looking after an 89-year-old man poses many challenges. And so it is with my father-in-law, Jake.

For instance, it’s a challenge for my wife and I to keep him entertained. Jake’s worn-out body prevents him from engaging in almost all the activities he enjoyed a few years ago. He was once very active. But now about all he can do is sit around and read or watch TV, or stare at the walls.

But he can also play games. And he loves games.

And so we compete against each other at Scrabble, Dominoes, Yahtzee, and Rummy. Rummy is his favorite.

I theorize that playing games with Jake can help us to assess his level of mental capacity. In other words, has that old fart gone senile yet? How about we put him to a test every day? Let’s see how well he does at Rummy.

When my wife and I first started playing Rummy with Jake, we colluded to go easy on him. We didn’t want him to feel dispirited from us beating him too much. But it didn’t take long for this conspiracy to fall apart. Jake kicks ass at Rummy. Now it’s everyone for themselves, in a Rummy free-for-all.

We also track the winner of the most games per month. The monthly champion gets a free dinner at the restaurant of their choice. So far, we’ve bought Jake’s dinner three months in a row.

A typical game of Rummy with Jake goes something like this:

Me: “Let’s see, since you dealt, my dear, Jake goes first. He’s to your left.”

Wife: “Oh yeah, right. Jake goes first!” she repeats firmly and loudly.

A long minute passes while he silently fiddles with his cards. We stare expectantly at him, our patience gradually dissolving. Finally he glances up at our stern faces and gimlet eyes.

Jake: “Who’s first?”

Wife & Me: “You!”

Jake: “Oh, I thought it was someone else.”

Jake fiddles with his cards some more.

Jake: “I can’t play. I only have eight cards.”

Wife: (takes cards from his hand and finds the ninth card hidden behind another card) “There. You have nine.”

Jake: “Oh, there it is. Thanks.”

Jake drags his lame hand and fingers across the table, reaching for the deck. The stridor of his scratching fingernails on the tablecloth sends shivers up my spine. He fumbles with the deck. He has a very hard time picking up the top card, due to arthritis, and numbness in his fingertips from carpal tunnel. Finally he gets a grip on the top two cards and pulls them back toward his chest.

Me: “Jake, you picked up two cards!”

Jake: “Oh. Damn! Sorry.”

He clumsily drops the bottom card (my card when I draw next) upon the table top, face up. I pick it up and put it back on the deck.

Then Jake proceeds to lay out some beautiful runs of three and three-of-a-kind on the table. That son-of-a-bitch sure has some luck!

It’s now my turn. I draw the card from the top of the deck that everyone has already seen. It’s a useful card, but I fear tucking it into it’s most appropriate spot in my hand, because everyone has seen it and would know what else I’m holding. I find a less useful card and tuck it there as a ruse, then discard it, then put the useful card there. Nobody is fooled.

The play goes around. When it’s Jake’s turn, my wife helps him pick up the top card, and only the top card, so that the next card will remain a secret. Then when it’s my turn, I draw it. To my delight, it’s a Joker.

I play two Aces and the Joker, for three-of-a-kind.

Jake: (tsking in disgust) “Another Joker. You always get the Jokers. I just don’t understand it.”

I roll my eyes and sigh. I’ve given up on this controversy. Jake began making this claim that I always get the Jokers, from the time we began our Rummy tournaments. His little under-the-skin implication is that I’m a cheater, and have somehow figured out how to always conjure the Jokers from the deck.

I don’t even like Rummy. And why would I cheat an 89-year-old man?

At one point I kept a tally of who was getting the Jokers, just to prove that I wasn’t cheating. And then I was able to smugly point out to Jake that actually he had gotten the most Jokers over the past few games. Jake replied that it was awfully strange that he was suddenly getting so many Jokers after I started keeping track.

That old bastard is so good with the needle. Always getting it under my skin.

Jake gets a look at my upcoming draw card just about every time he clumsily draws without assistance. But it all evens out. His arthritic, numb fingers can’t hold his own cards in his hand very well, and they often escape to gravity, revealing themselves on the table top. I shamelessly make a mental note.

We bought a special card holder that Jake can use, to assist him at keeping his cards from dropping. But he refuses to use it. He’s painfully independent. He wants to get by in this world with as little help as possible.

We play Rummy every night, routinely murdering each other in our minds, as one player or other picks a card from the pile that someone else wants, or makes a big play, or goes out.

Mostly we murder Jake. For all his fumbling and bumbling, he thwarts our strategies much more often than we thwart his.

And so, Jake keeps passing the senility test.

After the game he pushes himself up from the table, exerting every last ounce of muscular effort he can manage, to render his broken old frame upright. And all this exertion forces him to pass a big, long, loud fart. And then he glances at our panicked faces and cackles wickedly.

It happens EVERY time. And we know it’s going to happen. Why don’t we ever get up first and make a run for it? I don’t know.

I guess it is us who cannot pass the senility test.

Savoring a Grapefruit

One hot day, I decided to savor a grapefruit. I plucked the chilled fruit out of the refrigerator and cut it into eight semicircular slices. I held each slice between the fingers of both my hands, but did not immediately bite into it. Savoring involves all the senses.

I examined it first. I observed its chatoyance. I saw how light glistened off the moist carnelian facets of this gem of a fruit. I spread the rind so that sections of the meat separated from each other, and I inhaled the citrus scent that sprayed from the parting sections.

I tasted the texture and tanginess, but without yet biting into it. I just ran my tongue along the glossy, bittersweet surface.

Then I bit it. And the piquant tartness bit back. It made my lips pucker.

I chewed slowly and winced as each astringent droplet coursed down the back of my throat, burning like a Fourth of July sparkler. It forced me to pause in mid-chew, to allow the bitter to fade into sweetness.

I swallowed, and each fleshy lump of citrus burned and cooled my stomach, all at the same time.

That is how I immersed my hot summer day in zingy cool sweetness.

(This post is meaningless. But I hope it helps you feel a little cooler today.)