Aging & Attitude
The pedaling of an old man riding a wide-tire bicycle grabs my attention as I drive Acoma road. The methodical around and around of the bike’s wheels is mesmerizing. I press the car brakes, slow to a crawl and drop back, to give the senior space, as we approach the corner stop.
He wears red Ked shoes and a large droopy straw hat shades his face from the morning sun. He sports a long sleeve plaid shirt and hazardous baggy Dockers. The blue and chrome fender bike has no basket or hand brakes.
Behind him rides a man in a metallic Speedo shirt and black skin-tight shorts. He wears a helmet and mustache, and he does not pass abruptly. Instead, he moves to coast gently beside the elder, a solid traffic barrier. They ease the corner together, dance a Minuet synchronized to Chopin.
I stop at the corner, turn right, and follow, absorbing their relationship.
It is paternal; head, back and shoulders are an older/younger version of each other. The son peddles ahead deliberate not to look back, allows his father to ride independently while protected. The old man’s bike wheel does not wobble and the handlebars do not shake. There is an air of pride accompanying his movement. I drive by and see his wrinkled face, guess he is eighty. A full head of peppered gray hair surround a son’s face with minimal expression lines and suggest he is sixty.
My mind conjures a past Father’s Day,
Imagine it is 1958, the father wearing the same plaid shirt, Dockers and Ked shoes, the son, jeans and a white t-shirt, both much younger. The father, teaching, leads the way with subtle protectiveness and allows the son to celebrate his newly acquired skill, riding a bike.
“Daddy, look at me!” He yells with a big smile.
Today is Father’s Day 2012. I watch the pair celebrate with a simple act of being there if needed, pedaling their bicycles.
. . . . just saying
Aging & Attitude
Mr. Wonderful* put down the newspaper, returned his glasses to the soft fabric case and sighed.
I asked, “What are you thinking?”
He responded, “Nothing, I’m thinking about nothing” and left the room to pee.
His matter of fact statement got me thinking.
My first thought, Is that possible? My second, would he be considered brain dead? My first and second thoughts were followed by third and fourth thoughts that I would rather not share.
Not that the first thought was better than the second thought, or third, or fourth, but, the first, stimulated more thought. I could not stop thinking.
When he returned I inquired, “Is it really possible to think about nothing?”
He said, “Anything is possible, ” then turned on the television.
I was impressed. His one and only thought ended in no more thought, However I kept thinking;
- 1st Thought Was he always a one-thought thinker or is this a sign of aging?
- 2nd Thought If you have only one thought do you assume it is the right thought?
- 3rd Thought Does a first thought carry more weight than following thoughts?
- 4th Thought How does one acquire the confidence to have only one thought?
My thoughts turned to President Trump and wondering whether he is a one-thought thinker. My first thought, he tweets like one. My second, third and fourth thoughts, well I would rather not share.
. . . . just saying
*Mr. Wonderful is my husband of forty-six years, Bob.
Daytona is famous for the beach, racing, and Bike Week . Water in shades of blue turquoise continue to roll across the flat beach front that initially attracted John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford to race cars here and Bike Week is now world famous however, Daytona is simply a nice small town where I discovered and fell in love with Mr. Mouse.
My sister, Mel and her friend, Ellen, came to escape single digit temperatures in the North and had visited Flagler Beach, New Smyrna, and CiCi and Hyatt Browns Art Museum, so I suggested lunch at the Dancing Avocado on Beach Street in Daytona. Having been there before, I knew there was shaded outdoor seating.
Although reports that Homeless plague the area discouraging shopping, I frequently attend a writers group at The City Island Library and have not experienced problems. Beach Street is quite nice and home of the famous Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory, as well as my favorite Used Book Store, Abraxas.
Parking is easy to find, and free.
A recent Daytona Beach News Journal article by Mark Lane reminisces about the area in the 1960s and details his family’s arrival in 1962 as engineers for General Electronics Apollo Support Program. Lane talks about the music scene, segregation (“He didn’t share a classroom with black kids until seventh grade”), and Beach Street as the place to shop.
So we headed to Beach Street and the Dancing Avocado.
As we drove, I explained to Mel and Ellen that although we were driving on Beach Street they would not be looking at the Atlantic Ocean. The view was of the Halifax River.
Mel asks, “So where is River Road?”
I responded, “ The east side of the Halifax is called River Road, lots of big expensive houses and part of The Loop. My guess is Floridians went to the beach along the river because back then, there was no bridge to the Oceanside.”
“Really?” Mel was amazed.
It was a cool fifty-five degrees so we sat inside at the Dancing Avocado and selected Veggie Burgers and Symphony salads made with carrot curls, sprouts and sunflower seeds.
Afterwards, we perused the shops and I confessed my search for a vintage cookie jar. Something to fill in an empty counter top space, as we entered “Sisters Décor & More.”
The store was stacked with floor to ceiling shelving and cluttered with previously owned items. Ellen spotted an Old Mother Hubbard jar and drew my attention saying, “She’s kind of nice.”
I moved closer for a better view, and responded lackadaisically, “She doesn’t do anything for me. I don’t know what I’m looking, I’ll know when I see it,” and turned around.
In the corner, his nose pointing towards me was Mr. Mouse.
There was no discussion, no debate. He was perfect I loved his extremely large ears, his small beady eyes and spidery whiskers.
At home, Mr. Wonderful was unimpressed with my new purchase, not even the $19 price tag! He thought his ears too big, I thought them just right, although he believed an open stack of saltines would nestle easily in its long snout.
I love Mr. Mouse’s small beady eyes and spidery whiskers, and the way he sits on the counter oozing personality. Mr. Wonderful . . . not so much and roams the house saying, “Eek, eek! I see a mouse.”
. . . . just saying
Mr. Wonderful, aka, Bob is my husband of 46 years.
A dear friend phoned the other day and said, “I have a big favor to ask.”
“No problem,” was my response. We have known each other thirty-six years, so short of asking me to change someone’s diaper I was all in.
She continued in a subdued tone, almost a whisper, “It’s a really big favor.”
Obviously, it was more than watering houseplants or feeding the cat. Perhaps it involved driving her to the airport or lending her my car.
“It’s a really, really big favor.” She continued emphasis on both reallys.
“Really really,” I responded. “Tell me what you need.”
“Will you make Joey an apple Pie? You make the best apple pie.”
Joey is her grandson and graduating high school. Although she and Grandpa Bob gifted him a college fund, what he really wants is an Apple Pie.
Now I was saying really, and hard pressed to remember if in fact I did anything special when baking an apple pie but nevertheless, said “Of course I’ll make Joey an apple pie.”
Our conversation ended with me feeling I have special talents, that is how Pat makes people feel, and recalling how we met.
It was 1981 and we were buying our first home. The purchase price was $80,000, interest rates nineteen percent. The sellers, Ruth and Lee Hardin agreed to hold a $57,000 mortgage for five years at thirteen percent. Our monthly house payment would be $630.53.
As a stay at home mom, and substitute teacher I wanted to earn extra money so responded to a New Jersey Herald ad, Avon Representatives Needed in Sussex County and met Pat.
Pat first came to our home as the District Sales Manager but soon became a guest.
The house was a beautiful Victorian on Linwood Ave in Newton, New Jersey and we were thrilled it was in move in condition. There was pink plastic tile, trimmed with black, in the bathroom, a window in the shower. Four doors consumed the small kitchen; one to the outdoors, one to the basement, a swinging door to the family room, and a paneled door entering the formal dining room. The windows were original and the drafts off set by huge silver radiators. There was green sculptured carpeting throughout and matching embossed green wallpaper everywhere. We had one couch. My mother-in-law lent us a dining room table.
The day after our phone conversation, Pat dropped off a deep dish-baking pan purchased for Joey’s Apple Pie and Mr. Wonderful set about the task of peeling the Granny Smith apples.
I tossed the apples with cinnamon and very little sugar, turned them into a bought pie crust, dotted the apples with butter, crimped the edges of the top crust and baked the pie in an oven.
I felt special, as though giving a commencement speech, and knew Joey would feel special too.
. . . . Just Saying
My daughter, Janine will turn forty on May 19 and hopefully this post captures how special she is to me. . . . just saying , , , , I love you, Mom
Aging & Attitude
My daughter phoned a few weeks ago and after a good hour- long conversation told me, holding back tears, I was on her gratitude list. It was not Mother’s Day but it was the best Mother’s Day present ever. I hung up the phone, and put a long list of ‘if only I had’ in the trash, to reminisce about my little girl.
She was not a fussy infant and slept through the night at six weeks, never cried or climbed out of her crib, and woke with a cheery “Morning.” By the third call, I would have her in my arms. Asked if she would give baby Donna her bottle, Janine said yes and drank from a cup. She potty trained easily wanting to wear big girl pants like Christie.
Most days, after playing in the park we lingered on the stoop outside to wait for Daddy. At two and a half years old, Janine would climb the brick steps, teeter across a cement ledge and jump to the ground holding my hands. She was long and lean, like a green bean, and called Beaner Her incessant jumping gave birth to the rhyme, J is for Janine, Mommy’s jumping jellybean. I struggled to match my daughter’s energy and enthusiasm.
The summer of 1980 we traveled to Chicago, by sleeper train, to visit Aunt Judy and Uncle George. Independent Janine maneuvered the way from our cabin to the dining car, bouncing side to side. You could not hold her hand. The dining tables wore white linen table cloths, and the wine served in a stemmed glass.
I have a vivid picture of Janine sitting in a Winnetka ice cream parlor, her chin even with the table, ready to place her order, a chocolate cone. Uncle George, who was treating, suggested a dish of ice cream might be safer. Determined, she stately sweetly, “I want a cone,” to Uncle George’s continued feeble attempts to persuade her other wise. There was no terrible two-temper tantrum only the pointing of her pinky and index finger like devil horns saying, repeatedly, “I want a cone.” Uncle George did not comment after her pretty dress was covered in chocolate.
The first day of kindergarten she wore a sucker of a rhinestone pin given to her by Great Granny B for dress up, and left the house saying; “Mom, I’m going to be the prettiest girl in the class.” My response, “Yes, you will.”
Early on, she wanted to know if you went to college to be a cocktail waitress, to which her father and I had no reply, amazed at her insight that attending college and waitressing somehow went together.
These days, Janine is miles away, and missed. People notice her kindness, generosity, quiet determination, and independence. She pounds the streets of New York City and a chorus joins me in cheering, J is for Janine, Mommy’s jumping jellybean.
Thank you daughter, for loving me.
…. Just saying Happy Birthday
Today, crisp cool air mingles with a blazing sun as I leave my minuscule apartment on Lexington Ave. The weather has been dreary. This morning is glorious.
I pull my long chestnut hair into a no-nonsense ponytail, walk and think about the other woman . Damn, I am better looking, appear tall for my height and young for my years.
Around noon, I stop for lunch at a typical outdoor New York café; the tables are round and small; the metal chairs look uncomfortable, but are not once I sit.
A waiter fills my water glass, and announces he is my server. The menu choices are unexpectedly appealing; fennel quiche, garlic soup, and more.
I take time ordering.
The man on my left, glances my way. His look lingers but reveals nothing, and leaves me questioning if I know him? The feeling we have met and cannot remember where, accompanies the exchange. His thick blond hair is sun streaked and he looks familiar, a little like a friend, Sam.
Groomed brows frame his eyes. Carefully pressed gray slacks, and a wrinkle-free dress shirt complete his polished look, but I do not know him.
I sit back to wait for my meal and people watch. New Yorker’s are something, a biker babe dressed in leather, pushes a doggie stroller. The dog wears goggles and rests his paws on the bar celebrity style. I laugh.
The street is increasingly active as people walk and talk loud.
The waiter brings my order and the man who looks like Sam stares in my direction again, his eyes search everywhere. As the tables fill up, the man gives a knowing nod my way, and almost smiles. Although he is facing me, it is hard to tell if he is looking at me, or not.
I refrain from turning my head to look behind hearing a couple seat themselves. They create quite a stir dragging empty chairs across the concrete and arranging shopping bags. I realize the man who looks like Sam is studying them.
“Mind your own business,” says a voice in my head.
When the waiter takes my empty plate, I order a Cappuccino and the ‘Chocolate – Chocolate’ cake, and listen to the newly seated couple’s angry banter.
The woman protests, “I didn’t make you come here, Victor, you agreed it was a favorite of ours.”
“Eve, you’re the one who loved the menu, thought the food so nouveau or something?”
Her voice rises. “You loved the zucchini mushroom quiche, and what about the gazpacho soup? You raved, said it was the best you’d ever had!”
His reply is slow and deliberate. “No, you weren’t listening; I said the quiche was good if you like quiche. And the soup ‘the best’ Gestapo! I was being sarcastic.”
He leaves the table saying, “I’ll be in the men’s room.”
I am stunned. His voice sounds like Victor’s? My Victor?
Look-A-Like Sam rushes to fill Victor’s empty seat, firing off questions that leave no room for a response. “What’s going on? You said you would be at here 12 o’clock, alone. Why did Victor come? Drama? Eve, you thrive on drama. I’ve had enough.”
Now, I turn my head to see and watch. Coyly, Eve removes her Hollywood style sunglasses, checks her diamond wristwatch, leans forward, and whispers, “Oh, my, it is past noon, isn’t it. Victor’s golf was cancelled.”
Playing with her blouse buttons she continues, “When he learned I was coming to the city, he said, he would come.”
Shaking her head, she continues, her eyes misty. “I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t persuade him otherwise. You know I’m married.”
Look-A- like Sam laughs, “Do you think I’m a fool, Eve? There are other restaurants in this town! Why bring him here? There won’t be a next time.”
He takes a twenty-dollar bill from his wallet, presses it in a nearby waiter’s hand, and leaves abruptly.
Eve shouts after him, “Next time answer your cell, damn it!” As she tosses her hair back and adjusts her sun glasses.
The husband returns. A tan complements his brown eyes, perfect Roman nose, and romantic lips. Approaching the table, his aloof expression becomes surprise, as our eyes meet.
Victor sits down across from his wife, tucks in a cloth napkin and questions, “Who was that? You seem upset. Is everything alright?”
Eve clears her throat, forces a smile, and explains, “Someone who goes to my gym. It’s nothing. I’m tired, and sorry. Sorry we had words.” She reaches across the table to take her husband’s hand, “Can we forget it?”
Eve appears confident and why not? She is not his other woman.
I linger to finish my ‘Chocolate-Chocolate’ cake, lick the remains of a raspberry garnish from the fork, and pay the bill.
Stopping at the couple’s table when leaving, I say, “Victor, What a surprise to see you here . . . with . . . your wife? And move into the passing crowd.
. . . . just saying
Aging & Attitude
Ridiculous, this is ridiculous; I am telling myself, stressed about baking chocolate chips cookies.
Really! Chocolate chip cookies! Have you eaten a home-baked chocolate chip cookie that was not delicious?
I am on a mission to bake my grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies and disappointed with the results.
Granny B’s cookies were more like a brownie, square in size , not chewy or gooey, just the right amount of crunch. As you can tell from the picture; not flat or crispy.
The struggle for perfection is ridiculous, absolutely positively ridiculous.
My children, who I will be bringing them to, remember the cookies, but not the way I remember them; a special treat that accompanied a special woman wherever she went.
Remember special treats for special days. Some of us even enjoyed weekly special treats.
Ours was eating pizza in front of the television on Friday night. Pizza was tomato paste on English muffins with American cheese criss-crossed on the top. The television show was Seventy-Seven Sunset Strip. We snapped our fingers and mouthed the words to the signature song. Then mesmerized by Kooky combing his hair, and prayed he would lend me his comb.
No really, I am being ridiculous. The cookies I baked are practically almost exactly like hers.
I never watched her bake them, but asked for the recipe once. Her response was she followed the recipe on the back of Toll House package but added one teaspoon more water. In later years I pondered and pondered how an insignificant addition to a cookie recipe could produce nirvana , then recalled Granny B baked with Crisco.
Remember the movie, “The Help,” when Minny says to Celia, “The greatest invention since they put mayonnaise in a jar. You have a squeaky door hinge, Crisco. Bags under your eyes, gum in your hair, Crisco”?
I examined the Crisco can, and sure enough, when substituting Crisco for butter add one teaspoon water.
Now the recipe is just right. Well not exactly, the taste is delicious. That is not the problem.
The problem? The cookies are too thick and a tad too light in color.
I get it, I am being ridiculous.
I have tried a 9 by 13 pan, too thick, and 15 by 10, too thin. One is too small; the other too big. It is possible a 9.5 by 14 pan will be just right. Unless I am being ridiculous.
. . . . just saying
The Happiness Series
I am standing in the kitchen and Mr. Wonderful, my husband Bob, walks behind me headed for the garage.
“Can you get me the hack saw?” I ask.
“The hack saw?”
“Yes, that small saw with the black handle. Isn’t that what it’s called?”
“Why do you want a hack saw?”
I roll my eyes to heaven.
I have used the electric knife before and know the cord and blade are in the back of the silverware draw. However, it will be quicker if he brings the saw back with him when he is done doing whatever it was he was going to do in the garage.
Now he stands behind me breathing over my shoulder as I explain.
“If you saw this plastic container in half, I’ll be able to get the rest of the lotion out.”
The plastic bottle has been sitting upside down the past three days, and I have been sticking my pinky finger in the opening then applying lotion to my arms and legs.
Speechless at first, Mr. Wonderful says, “Lotion is on sale at Publix, I’ll go buy some.
“It’s not about the money.” It’s more like . . . . children in China have very dry skin, so eat your green beans. And this lotion has sun screen in it!”
“Okay, so you’re making a statement, you don’t want to be wasteful?”
“Sort of. Is recycling a good choice if a million gallons of water are used to clean the container.”
He interrupts, “Johnson’s Baby Magic is a Bogo (buy one get one free) this week.”
“I feel better using the spatula to remove the dribs and drabs. See it practically fills this jar. It makes me happy.” I look at him and smile.
He smiles back. “Great. So you are on to a new kind of cause.”
“If I wanted a new cause or to protest something, I’d refuse to show my license to have a mammogram?”
“Why do you need a license to have a mammogram?”
“Well, any picture identification. Some type of mammogram fraud. However, I cannot recognize my breasts now that they almost reach the floor. I do not argue.”
“Claudia, how many people would use a hack saw to get the last drop of lotion out of a bottle?”
I roll my eyes and say to Mr. Wonderful, “A bread knife really doesn’t work.”
. . . . just saying
I tuned into the ninth Presidential debate late, listened until John Dickerson questioned Trump about his use of profanity, and when Jeb Bush whined, then professed love for his mother, turned the television off. It was not a debate, as in whole wheat flour vs unbleached flour is a healthy choice, but a headache.
As a grammar school teacher I had separated first grade students fighting over bad things said about their mothers. Back in those days each one was sent to stand in a corner. There was no reasoning they never met the women.
Trump defended his use of profanity as “a way of emphasis.” The man does not smoke or drink, and with his classic no apology look implied; cursing, although okay, not presidential. If only he would do something about his hair I could forget about the fake tan.
John Dickerson labeled the shenanigans as “a race to the bottom.” Thankfully, Trump did not retort with, “Your mama wears combat boots.” He probably has not met Dickerson’s mom.
Sunday morning, according to Nielsen, the debate was the highest rated with 15 million viewers. Analysis claim;
“Marco Rubio is the clear favorite among Republicans, while independents are largely divided between Trump, Kasich, and Rubio.
But get this;
“Donald Trump is the clear leader on values. Twenty-seven percent of Republicans and independents who watched the debate pick Trump as the candidate who most shares their values, with Ben Carson and Marco Rubio tied for second place, each with 16 percent. Rubio does better than Kasich among Republicans, while Kasich does better than Rubio among independents.”
Today I have been remembering the candidates standing in front of a pink and red CBS back drop, many wearing red ties. My headache became a migraine.
Trump says he is a businessman, not a politician. His goal is to win. When asked how to achieve winning, he say by consensus. He does use the pronoun we.
Obviously, Trump is making sweetheart deals and I am not entertained.
. . . . just saying
The inspiration for this story came after a doctor’s appointment. His nurse is habitually terse and abrasive, so much so that, I asked, “Have I offended you in some way?” She looked at me strangely having no idea she treatment others poorly.
The challenge for the Anthology was to use a dialogue format to present your short story.
The conversation below is between two women in a doctor’s waiting room.
“This is unacceptable! My time is of value, too. Why aren’t you complaining?”
“I was told the doctor was running late when I signed in.”
“This is ridiculous. I’ve been waiting more than twenty minutes. My appointment was for nine fifteen. What time was your appointment?”
“Well, I’m not sure; I think nine thirty, why?”
“It’s better if everyone is out of sorts. I can complain for you, make something up, like your dog is in the car, sick and needs to be taken to the Vet.”
“Reading here is as enjoyable as anywhere.”
“Boy, you people are annoying, must you be so perky and pleasant?”
“You’re upset. Why don’t you thumb through a magazine? There’s a travel article about Hawaii in this one. Have you been there?”
“You think looking at pretty pictures of places I can’t afford to travel to will help me… what? Be happy I have to wait for a man, I pay to tell me I’m sick. And looking at colorful advertisements won’t help either. I’m Acerbic. My parents and grandparents, on both sides, were Acerbic and proud of it.”
“Acerbic? Is that … American or … a religion?”
“Acerbic is a way of life. You got a problem with that? Our dispositions are generally crabby. We find fault in others quickly and enjoy being sarcastic.”
“Golly gee, everyone feels crabby from time to time.”
“Golly gee? Golly gee, we’ve been sitting here over a half hour. Can’t you pretend you’re a little annoyed? That wing back chair looks awful uncomfortable. These doctors are all the same; think they’re better than the rest.”
“His nurse said the doctor had an emergency, it sounded serious. Are you really Acerbic?”
“Our whole neighborhood is Acerbic. We don’t like friendly. People yell, ‘Don’t park in front of my house, jerk’ and threaten, ‘If your dog pees on my grass, I will call the police!’ Although things are changing. Someone, I can’t find out who, moved my garbage pail out of the street on a windy day.”
“You don’t mind if I read my book?’
“Of course I mind. I get it. Why not say shut-up? Add please if you have to. It’s easy; watch my lips, ‘Will you please shut-up!’ ”
“No, tell me about your life.”
“Actually I had a great childhood. We owned a small cabin not far from Route. 95 below the Georgia border. Dad named it Acerbia. It was a retreat where we could be sour and discontent on weekends and during vacations. You know, say nasty things about neighbors and relatives.”
“Was that fun?”
“Are you kidding, of course, the best. By the way, they call me Unfortunately. I’m Unfortunately Fortunato. What’s your name? Not that I care.”
“Unfortunately is a first name? And Fortunato your family…?”
“Mom wanted an Acerbic name, nothing cheerful or common like Hope, Joy or Grace.”
“That had to be a difficult name for a child. Did she think it was a mistake?”
“No, Difficult and Mistake are my brothers. Mother named them good, too, because Difficult is in prison and Mistake, chronically unemployed.”
“Was that a surprise?”
“They still haven’t called anyone. All they do is talk on the phone. Someone else has to complain. You can do it. I like your pink eyebrows.”
“My eyebrows are pink?”
“Yea, they match your lipstick, compliment that bluish tint in your hair, and look cool on a woman your age.”
“My hair isn’t blue! I’m not that old.”
“Isn’t that book you’re reading in large print?”
“It’s easier I don’t have to remember my glasses.”
“Most seniors get a little forgetful. It’s normal, not a problem unless you can’t remember what glasses are. You know glasses magnify things, right?”
“I know what glasses are for and I didn’t forget them. I do not need them to read a large print book.”
“Did you hear that? The receptionist called Ms. Fortunato. That’s me, Unfortunately. Doc’s ready for me. Have a rotten, day”
“You too, and my eyebrows aren’t pink!”
P.S. I welcome your comments.