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Another Good Day

March 29, 2018 • By

For nearly eight years after my mother’s stroke I lived to help my father make her life the very best it could be.  Few coworkers during those years knew of my life outside the walls of academia. Only a handful of close friends recognized the paralyzing stress that lodged in my jaw.

Now the days I am not teaching are reserved for appointments and errands with Dad. He is 95 and trust me, totally in charge of life. On the schedule this morning: routine blood work for his checkup next week, the barber for his signature buzz cut, and an inaugural trip to the new Dunkin Donuts on the south side of town.  Eating a single treat after monitoring his sugar intake a month before lab results has become tradition. Until today, I would pop in, stock up on a half dozen frosted yummies and deliver them to Dad’s apartment. The new shop has a wide entrance, more seats, and larger windows. Dad wants to check it out.

Only two cars in the lot, I unfold his cadet blue rollator and we wind our way down the ramp and inside. The menu on the wall includes active video panels in between the list of coffee varieties and breakfast fare.

“Do they have anything like regular coffee?” Dad leans over to ask.

“Yes, way at the top, roasted coffee.”

“Boy, you need binoculars to read that far.”

Straining my eyes behind trifocals I know he is right, as always.

I wait for the coffees. Dad rolls his way toward the far window and sinks onto a comfortable seat at a low table.  I set down the coffees and he chomps into a sweet frosted break from the overnight fast.

“All we need is Mom and the paper.”

A reflexive smile curves onto my face, then freezes. The coffee, the chocolate morning treat, and Dunkin Donuts.


Balance in a Roll

September 7, 2017 • By

I do yoga. Don’t laugh. At a studio with the word ‘balance’ on its banner. Stop laughing.  My yogic beginnings are humble and certainly predestined, by Life.

I drove past a weather-beaten sandwich sign five or six times a week for over a year.  It looked lonely but stable; perched on the sidewalk in front of a stately old house divided into apartment units.  Plastic letters spelled out Yoga Classes.

Spring 2010 had landed me in weeks of physical therapy for what started as a shoulder issue. But as the song goes, ‘the shoulder is connected to the neck bones’, and that’s where the whole problem was. One month of biweekly appointments nestled in a computerized traction system and I could turn a doorknob and sometimes the ignition key without a wince.  The prospect of lifting that arm over my head any time soon was idealistic. I was on the lookout for an apparatus and pharmaceutical-free cure.

Slow traffic one morning behind the convoy of logging trucks heading east to a paper mill required me to stop directly in front of that sign. I chuckled reading the oxymoron. A life in balance was everything mine wasn’t. But as idling seconds ticked away, humorous skepticism pushed to one side of my thoughts leaving space to consider the potential. Traffic moved and a decision was made. I would try this yoga thing out.

Late evening, I Googled the name of the studio. The home page listed six classes through the week. My schedule allowed one option, Friday morning at 8:30. I penciled ‘yoga’ on the kitchen calendar.

Friday’s sunshine and green tea chased with half a pot of java produced motivation to arrive early. I peeled running crops from the corner of a drawer and grabbed an identity free t-shirt. I wanted to avoid any symbols suggesting I had a personality. One glance at the mirror confirmed it: I had no aspiration to bend into a pretzel shape that or any day.

What am I thinking?

I backed out the driveway waiting for my hyperactive gut to dump into my bladder and compel me to pull forward. Thoughts thumped at both temples.

Do they have yoga mats? Should I mention my arthritic neck, my grating knees, my locking jaw? Will the teacher notice I can’t lift my right arm? Can you do yoga with glasses?


Loose Fittings

May 31, 2017 • By

Four days of spring rain. I spent them writing. About serious things. My binge started in a place of self-acceptance. That lasted two hours. I tapped on the keys and got sad and sadder. I took breaks, but chose the wrong distraction, MSNBC. I sulked after day one and whined all day two. Day three I yipped sarcasm at my computer monitor and every car that drove past the house. Day four I exhaled obscenities.

This morning was cloudy, cool, and breezy, but no rain. Time to get outside.

First on my list, wash our 2002 Toyota Camry, white. And no (Child #1), it does not have a backup camera. This vehicle was part of the family. I dug out the fancy golden car wash liquid from the back shelf. Household dish soap was not good enough for this dependable beauty.

Bucket, soap, brush, and mitt collected, I turned the spigot. And noticed the leak puddling on the blacktop. I suspected a loose reel-to-rubber-connection was the cause. If I unwound the hose completely, I could press out any kink, rewind the hose and voilà, no more leak.

Water off.

Someone (husband) neglected to tell me the hose reel, looking tidy as ever inside a gray poly plastic cube, did not unwind easily. Or at all. Assuming a squat, my right hand pushed the handle counterclockwise while my left grabbed the next two-foot section of hose and tugged. Did I mention the bone spurs in my right shoulder?

The hose snaked in misshaped figure eights in front of the dirty car. I got a pair of pliers and a small hand towel. I protected the two-inch section of kinked hose with the towel and gently pressed it round with the pliers. I was no novice at DIY projects. I had YouTube.

Tools back in their box, I returned to my squat and reversed the process. My left arm straightened the hose while the right pressed the handle forward. Every few seconds I hit a rhythm. In between I re-positioned the hose on the reel to wind a perfect balance of coils left to right leaving enough hose out to fill the bucket and rinse the car.

Spigot back on. So was the leak.

Fuck it. I had done the best job possible. Obviously the reel, the hose, and the fittings were junk.