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Saturday, October 24, 2015

So long, Old Sharp

I knew it was a question of “when”; the inevitable “if” being a foregone conclusion. Still, one is never fully prepared when the news is received.

With a series of pops, snaps, buzzes, sparks, flashes, flames and smoke; our trusty microwave announced it demise the other day. As disturbing as this was, I was most profoundly impacted with the collateral loss of my roast beef and potatoes innocently expecting a gentle thermal increase.

While scraping the ash and debris speckled dinner into the trash, I tried to recall when we obtained this particular microwave. In all honesty, it was probably during Clinton’s first term. Face it, a microwave has become a purely utilitarian device. No longer a kitchen luxury, and as awe inspiring as a bowl of instant oatmeal they are just---well--- there.

My thoughts wandered over the years, as I retrieved a pan and lid, placed a new batch of roast beef and potatoes in it to warm. A twist of a knob, a “foomp” of gas igniting; and my meal was under way. Old school, yes.

I remembered that back in the 1960’s they were called “Radar Ranges” What a wonderful name! It bespoke of the times; the Cold War was raging, the Space Race was full on. Planes were flying faster, higher, and farther. Technology was emerging, and all was good; or so we thought. It just sounded so with-it, so cool, as if the Great American Marketing Machine were proclaiming “HA! Take that, Godless Commies! We are so advanced we COOK with radar!”

So it was that one evening, my Dad came home more excited than a kid on Christmas Eve.  He had heard a new restaurant was opening the next town over—AND---they cooked everything with RADAR!

The following Friday, we piled into the Pontiac, and headed west. I can’t recall the name of the place, or even the location. I was perhaps 11, and my dinner was going to be cooked by the same stuff seeking out Russian bombers trying to sneak across Canada!

I do recall waiting in line, the atmosphere fairly abuzz, no pun intended. Had we been paying attention to the countenances of the exiting diners, we may have been somewhat less enthusiastic.

Finally, we were seated. A review of the fairly simple menu, orders placed, and we eagerly waited what The Future would hold. Literally and figuratively; after all, we were sampling the New Day of cooking! A culinary revolution would soon be placed beneath our very noses!

After what seemed half an eternity, with all the fanfare usually assigned to the hanging up of a used dish-rag; dinner was served.

As it turned out, the presentation was apropos for the culinary delights. Our individual plates all held variations upon the theme of monochromatic gray. Be it beef, chicken, potato, or beans; all looked blandly, un-appetizingly, similar. On the positive side it was hot, I do remember that.

I also recall the placed folded about six months later.

The Seventies ushered in an era of God only knows what. The upstart Radar Range was now being subtly referred to as a “micro-wave”. 

This was more fitting to the times; because all we were saying is give Peace a chance. Microwave was much more palatable. Rather than huge, Russkie bomber hunting radar waves cooking one’s food; the much more benign “microwave” worked all the wonders.

A little, bitty, nice friendly wave; just like the ones found on a calm, relaxing day at the beach. Only they are in your kitchen, for a mere grand.

But, like all technological wonders, the price began to drop. Do you remember when a basic desktop calculator was about a hundred bucks?

Being the practical family we are (remember, LB and I had 4 children) we didn’t jump on that bandwagon any time soon. We finally broke down and got our first one in the late seventies or early eighties. The thing broke a couple of times, and we had it repaired. The last time it quit, we discovered it was cheaper to replace it. So we did.

That one also died, and was replaced. With six people in family, that bad boy got a real work-out. It also died and was replaced by a Super-Duper sale one. It was too small, too under-powered, and in general not well received.

I don’t know what became of that one only that the lately departed had arrived. And now… it has been ceremoniously committed to the dumpster at the end of the drive.

I rather like not having the thing there. I don’t need a kitchen appliance with more complex controls and computing power than John Glenn’s spacecraft used, lurking over my shoulder.  We didn’t really cook in the thing. We don’t consume micro-wave popcorn. We have a stove, we have pots and pans.

Hmm…maybe we can start a new Foodie Trend---RETRO WARMING!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Voices in the Dark

The other night, I overheard the most remarkable discussion. As utterly ridiculous as it may sound, I could have sworn I heard Ike and Mimi having a conversation. Oh, I know it sounds completely absurd, and folks will speculate I had been nipping at Grandpa’s cough syrup, but I know what I heard.

In the small hours of the morning, while tucked away cozily in bed, Mimi snoring by my side, I heard a wee little voice: “Mimi! Mimi! You awake?” coming from downstairs. “Naww…” I thought while blinking my sleep heavy eyes.

“I am now.” I heard a voice beside me say. “What is it? A burglar?”

“No, nothing that cool. Boy, would I run him off!”

“Sure, Junior. You just keep thinking like that.” She emitted a big yawn, then “Good night, Ike.”

“No wait! I saw something big eating LB’s hostas.”

“Yes. They are known as “White-tailed deer”. The Latin name is Odocoileus Virginianus. They are so named because the early settlers, at least the ones who bothered to record such arcane things, encountered them in the Virginia Colony.”


“They are a member of the ungulate genus, along with moose, caribou, horses, camels, and other such hoofed mammals.”

“Who’s late?”

“No one is late, you Bil-Jac head! Un-gu-late… a hoofed mammal!”

“Oh, cool.”

By now, I was upright in bed, frantically mashing buttons on my phone. I was amazed! A dog which I had always assumed had the IQ of a banana was absolutely right!

“Hey, Mimi?”

“What Ike?” I detected a slight tone of annoyance in her voice now.

“How did you learn all this stuff?”

“Well, after 12 years of reading the guy who is married to LB’s  Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, Field and Stream magazines, some things sunk in, I guess.”

“Ahhhh, I see. Thanks, Meem.”

“No problem, Little Buddy. Good night.”

Silence settled over the house for a short period. Then….

“Mimi…you awake?”

“Yes, Ike, I am awake” she replied in an icy tone.

“Why don’t they call those deer “Whatever you said Ohionus”?

“At that period of our nation’s history, Ohio didn’t exist. It was part of the continent which was disputed between France and England. Settlement was highly discouraged, not only for political reasons, but also safety.”

“Safety? Why? Were there monsters?”

“No, no monsters that were known. The indigenous peoples of the area had, for the most part, a decidedly less than receptive view of illegal immigration than their counter-parts to the East and Northeast. “

“Oh. Hey, are there many deer around?”

“Oh my, yes! The white-tail subspecies we have here is the most widely naturally distributed large mammal in North America. It is by far the most common large mammal in the State. In the late 1960’s there were about 17,000 deer in all of Ohio. Today, there are estimated to be 700,000 plus.”

“Wow! I think about half of them visit LB’s garden.”

“So, don’t worry, Little Buddy, they won’t harm you. Unless, of course, you irritate a buck during mating season, then all bets are off.

“Okay, thanks, Mimi. I feel better. Good night.”

“Good night, pal.”

I snuggled under the blankets, my mind trying to decipher what had just transpired. I gave the pillow a couple of adjustment thumps. Sleep was gently overtaking me, when I heard it…

“Mimi! Mimi! What is this thing!?”

“What now, Ike?” she replied rather snappishly.

“This thing is really weird! It has a white head, with a sort of long snout and a kind of a pig nose. The ears look like little pieces of black leather. It has this really kind of scruffy gray fur, and it looks like little tiny hands for feet. And, the tail! It has no hair at all!”

“Ahhhh, yes. You have just met a member of Didelphis virgininana…or the Virginia opossum, most often referred to simply as “’possum”.  Did you know they are marsupials?”

“Really? Wow! No I didn’t. Uh… what is a marsupial?”

“A mammal with an external pouch in which it carries yet unborn babies while they mature to their birth size. A kangaroo is a marsupial.”

“Wow! Pretty strange, huh?”

“Actually, they are fascinating little creatures, Let me explain….”

At that point, I pulled the pillow over my head as Mimi’s Biology lecture droned on.

Before I fell asleep, I made a mental note to lock up my outdoor magazines.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Joy and Tears

Do you believe there can be humor and joy amidst the tears?

I know, I know… it is a dichotomous thought. So totally ludicrous, the height of incongruity;  it is one that is hardly worth even considering.

Yet, we have found humor, and laughter, joy, and peace amidst the tears, the uncertainty, and the emotional vacuum which has drained us all.

At one point, while LB was in a very serious state; barely able to speak, and sleeping nearly around the clock, one of our granddaughters and I were visiting her. She was lying mostly motionless, drifting in and out of sleep as I read the new stack of cards she had received. We noticed her toes wiggling. Just for the sake of asking a totally stupid question, I said “Is there a baby Bulldog down by your feet?” With her eyes still closed, not hesitating a moment, she replied clear as ever; “Believe it or not…there is!” Our beautiful grand-daughter paused from her task of taping the cards to the cabinet and wall; we stared at one another, and burst out laughing. As we were reveling in this bit of humor, LB chuckled, knowing she had made a joke which was well appreciated.

There were those moments when she was transitioning to regular food; traversing the path of pureed and then “mechanically softened” (read; ground to a near mush), and finally to a full regular diet that will remain with me for the remainder of my life. There were times I would make an effort to be with her at meals, not only to keep her company, but to encourage her to eat.  One evening, while she was laboring her way through God only knows what it was, she set her fork down after about 4 bites. We talked for a few moments, then I encouraged her to have some more. She looked at me with those beautiful blue eyes, the most serious of expressions on her face and informed me; “I am finished. This tastes like crap. I refuse to eat any more crap.”  The culinary wonders of ketchup were once again proven. A few squirts and the meal became palatable, to a degree.

As she has become more active, she has perfected getting around the rehabilitation center by scooting her feet while seated in her wheel-chair. This is a temporary form of locomotion; as her legs are becoming stronger. However, she soon discovered that by hanging out by the front door, she could slip out when people were entering or exiting. The concern arose that she really shouldn’t be outdoors alone. The yard/parking area slope gently downward and it would take nothing for her to go rolling off. The possible end results are not terribly good; so, it is best for someone to be with her.

However, given her sweet personality, and ability to befriend people the decision was made to put an alarm on her chair. All of which worked. For awhile.

I knew it was a merely a matter of “when” and not “if”, but LB figured out she could switch from her chair to a non-monitored chair, and VOILA!—the great outdoors are hers to conquer. She was discovered the other evening, trying to convince the driver of a transport ambulance to drop her off at the mall!

After the circumstances of what happened, and all the dust settled we got a good chuckle out of that one. The nursing staff was giggling away as they put the guard on her ankle. It’s okay, though; for now she calls it a lock-box, and thinks one of our daughters made it for her.

She has a group of lady friends. They have meals together, they play cards together, the go to the music programs and such, they cruise the halls together. I call them “Cindy and her posse”. Some staff members think she is forming a coalition of constituents and will run to be elected President of the Resident’s Committee. Or the Big Cheese of the place.

During the seeming never-ending sameness of our days for the moment, these little flashes of humor burst upon the scene with an unexpected brilliance and wonder not unlike a fireworks display against the inky backdrop of a summer night sky.

But, the one thing which never fails to bring the biggest smile to my face, and lightens my burden the most is simply holding her hand; me walking, her rolling along. Just being together, hearing the musical sound of her voice, seeing the wonder of the Inner LB through her eyes.

Then recalling just how close we came to having to relinquish her to the One who created this wonderful person.

That is the greatest Joy of all.