Wednesday, May 13, 2015

My Old Friend

I had dinner recently with a very dear and long-time friend. We’re talking a decades-long friendship here. And even though she was married with two children and I was fresh out of Ohio State when we first met at Ross Labs, we both considered ourselves young and “happenin’.”

Incidentally, if you live in the central Ohio area, you’ll recognize that it was indeed a very long time ago seeing as how the place hasn’t been called “Ross Labs” in years. 

Plus, no one has used the term happenin’ to refer to themselves as being young and with it in, well, forever.  So clearly I’m dating myself.

Anyway. Karen and I used to be the unofficial party planners in our department at work and would find any and every excuse to gather a gang of coworkers together and go out.  Dancing was frequently involved, particularly if I held the decision-making reins.  We’re talkin’ back in the 80s – the big hair, lots of makeup, pointy-toed pumps and linebacker-worthy padded shoulder days. 

And, yes, I dare say…the good ol’ days.

Karen and I have maintained our friendship through many job changes over the years (both) and city moves (me). Through one divorce (hers) and many boyfriend break-ups (mine).  I helped her with preparations for her second wedding and she returned the favor much more recently and helped me with my first.   

So ours has been a friendship that has weathered the test of time and it’s one I cherish. There aren’t too many secrets we keep from one another, although we do seem to have lost touch a bit in recent years. We don’t call one another as often anymore, although I’m not sure we ever really did communicate much that way. But we do keep up through emails.

Once we realize it has been far too many months since our last get-together, we pin down a date and meet. This time it was at her house. I hadn’t seen their new kitchen remodel (started in 2014), or that they only have one Italian Greyhound these days and not two since they lost sweet Lulu last fall.

So we spent over three hours talking and laughing and catching up with one another. Heck, I talked so much I was surprised I didn‘t lose my voice.

But toward the end of our conversation we realized that a significant portion of our chat-fest was spent talking about health issues. Family health issues, our own health issues. 

We talked symptoms. We talked medications. We talked doctor visits. We talked supplements and vitamins and prescriptions. Oh my!


Yikes. When did we stop being The Young and the Restless and instead we turned into On Golden Pond

When did we become so freakin’ old??

I guess Father Time is funny like that.  Or sadistic. Yeah, I think I’ll go with the latter. Because instead of talking about the latest Gucci handbags or the newest movie releases, we suddenly found ourselves talking more about aging, elderly parent concerns and our own health issues.

Not once did we talk about books we’re reading, or the cute shoes she had on, or the gel nail polish I was wearing that doesn’t have to be cured with a light and comes off with regular nail polish remover. You know – “girl stuff.” 

On the other hand, there is something comforting in being able to talk so intimately with someone you’ve known a long time and whom you have trusted from the get-go. You know she won’t judge; she knows you won’t either. And it’s a relief to know you’re not the only one going through whatever it is you’re going through.

So I guess I need to acknowledge that a friendship that has managed to persevere through several decades is going to be a different one than when it first started.

But, like a cherished heirloom becomes more valuable once it’s considered an antique, so too does a cherished friendship like ours.

And, yes, I used the term “old friend” in the title on purpose. We finished our conversation feeling a bit old. But we promised ourselves that the next time we get together, we are going to table the health talk. 

So I’m thinking maybe we shouldn’t even ask each other the question, “How are you?” Yeah, that might be a good start.  Instead, I’m going to make a point of commenting on her cute shoes. 

And the word “orthopedic” will not be mentioned in that query.

Just kidding. She doesn’t wear orthopedic shoes. But she also doesn’t wear the sky high pointy-toed pumps anymore, either!

My orthopedic shoes, on the other hand… Oh, never mind. Didn’t I say we were tabling the health talk?!


Friday, May 8, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

First off, Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there. That includes birth mothers, adoptive mothers, mothers-to-be, step-mothers, foster mothers, mothers-in-law, and women who are like mothers. 

Heck, I should probably also include any single dads out there who have tackled both mom and dad duties. You have to give credit to a guy who can assemble a decent braid on his little girl’s head without it looking like a hot mess.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a category or two, but perhaps I can just include “and anyone else I may have missed,” which is kind of like the verbiage on job descriptions that gives employers free reign to tack on extra duties whenever they feel like it. 

Anyway, the point is, I wish all those special women out there an extra happy day on Sunday.  Yours is a job that is worth a fortune, but pays in strictly non-monetary ways throughout the years – from the infant tightly gripping your finger during feeding time, to the countless hugs and kisses you’ve been given, and from being the first person your child wants to show their masterpiece drawing or A+ test score to the first person your adult children want to call when something good – or bad – happens to them.

Sure, you’ve been given lots of Mother’s Day presents as a reward for all your hard work.
But you cherish the tiny handprint Mother’s Day plaque you received when your child was a toddler as much as the elaborate flower arrangement you received once your child grows up. (Oh, and don’t tell FTD, but she may appreciate the handprint Mother’s Day plaque just a tiny bit more.)
 But no matter how heartfelt our handmade creations are or how much money we spend on mom, those gifts can never repay her what we owe her for the love and devotion she has given in raising us.

Interestingly, she doesn’t expect gifts or monetary rewards. It was simply her job and a role she cherished.  (Well, maybe not so much the stinky diaper changes or the spitting up thing. She probably could've done without those.)

Yes, I realize that I’m looking only at the positive role models and I recognize that there are mothers out there who probably never should have been mothers. But I have been fortunate to have known so many women who were and are wonderful, loving mothers. So this is my tribute to them.

Sadly, I never got to add the title of “mom” to my own name. But I’m a pretty decent aunt and I have been fortunate enough to hold lots of friends’ and relatives’ babies over the years. And I was a heckuva babysitter when I was young, so I’ve changed my share of stinky diapers and dealt with the spitting up thing. But, even better, I got to experience that feeling of an infant tightly gripping my finger during feeding time. And I’ve been given lots of hugs and kisses by little ones. And many of my friends’ kids know me as “Aunt Jane.”  So I’m not complaining.  Technically, I’m even a step-mom to three grown children, although there was never the need to “parent” them. I just hope that they somehow know I care about them and wish them all the best as they go through this life.
 
So, while I don’t know firsthand what it’s like to be a mom, I am fortunate that I still have my own mom here to thank for all she’s done for me. I can tell her that I love her.  And I hope she knows how very grateful I am to have been her daughter.

But I don’t know that she does anymore. My mother, you see, is dealing with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Whichever it is, it is a devastating illness and my mom is not the same woman I’ve known my entire life.

Yes, I’m very grateful to still have her here with us. I’m grateful that I can call her every week and she still knows who I am. Every week she asks about Vince and calls him by name.  But sometimes, toward the end of the conversation, she might say, “…and give our love to your dear husband,” which makes me wonder if she has temporarily forgotten his name.  

And I wonder when that memory lapse might become permanent. Which makes me so sad, I can hardly bear to think about it.

Our conversations are mostly one-sided these days with me giving her a recitation of our activities. Mom’s responses are usually of the, “Oh, my…” and “you’ve been busy” variety. Her contribution to the conversation is usually to ask about the weather, and she may ask three or four times. Just as she may ask a half dozen times what day of the week it is.

I always answer her with patience and love. I figure that she spent years doing the same when I was young, so it’s my chance to return the favor. I’m sure there were times when she grew a bit weary when her children went through the “How come?” and “But, why?” phase in which we repeatedly asked the same questions. Yet she somehow answered all our questions, which allowed us to move on to the next stage in our growth and development.

Mom still reads the newspaper every day, except that she may re-read the same article numerous times.  Very often she reads it aloud, which means we have to state our comments over and over again as if we’d never said them the first time.  Mom has a difficult time with any changes to their day-to-day routine, so she relies on Dad for everything. And it scares us to think what will happen if our dad leaves this earth before our mom.

My mom was a formidable woman when we were young. Yeah, all five feet, two inches of her. She was intelligent and opinionated – and Mom was pretty much always right. (Back then we thought she merely told us she was always right. Years later I have come to realize…she pretty much was always right.) 

But you didn’t cross her. She had a bit of an Irish temper and we knew not to misbehave or we’d suffer the consequences.

She was not our friend or our buddy. I don’t understand it when people today say their mom is their best friend. Sure, when kids are older, I kind of get it. But “in my day” (uh oh - soundin' like an old person here!), mothers were mothers and not friends. There was a definite hierarchy in the relationship that can’t really be present with best friends.

Believe me, we knew who was boss.  We sometimes behaved out of fear more than out of merely doing what was right. But through that method, we learned the difference between right and wrong and soon we didn’t need the fear part. We just did what was right because we knew it was the proper thing to do.

We also learned very quickly that mom was not the maid. And if we ever forgot that little tidbit, she made sure to tell us.  Emphatically.

Even when we were very young, we had chores to do around the house and we were responsible for our own belongings. Thus, the family room was never cluttered with toys and there was an order to our lives. One of my chores was vacuuming, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t like vacuuming back then because I still don’t like doing it now. (This is where Vince pipes in with, “When do you ever vacuum now?!”) But those lessons learned at a young age have helped me throughout my life.  And I’m happy that I don’t live in a messy home where I’d be afraid to have a friend drop by unexpectedly.

So I grew up in a different time and a different place. Parenting back then was different than it is today. I’m not saying it was better back then, but I definitely think there are pros and cons to each generation’s methods. 

But no matter the era or the method, a mother’s love is constant – and that has never changed.

There are so many times I wish I could still call Mom when something good – or bad – happens. When I want her congratulations or commiserations. When I am sick or need a pep talk, mom is the first person I think of to call. But I usually can’t do that these days as I don’t want to upset her. 

But I do take comfort in the fact that I can hug her whenever I see her. So many people I know have lost their mothers and dearly wish they could give their moms just one more hug. So I know I'm lucky.  

I get choked up and teary-eyed when Mom holds me extra tight before she heads off to bed and she whispers that she loves me. Mom grew up in a generation where you didn't just routinely say the words, "I love you." We were simply supposed to know that we were loved. And we did...but it is good to hear the words now and again. That she tells me how she feels now is even more poignant. I keep trying to store up those hugs and words and feelings, as I know that there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when she won't be able to say them.

Yet I miss those lively conversations I had with her once I grew up and didn’t need the lectures anymore. Jane-the-pacifist would even take one of her great debates – something Mom relished. I pretty much thought they were just arguments, and I knew I’d never win one of those with her. But if it meant that Mom was healthy again, I'd gladly participate in one of those discussions.

So while I miss being able to call my mother and ask for her opinion or advice, I know that I’ve been fortunate to have had her for as long as I have. And, because of her earlier guidance, I pretty much know what course I should take anyway. 

And I thank God for her every day. 

And, Mom?  While you’ll never read this blog (and would be appalled that I’m even talking about you in the first place!), I wish you a very Happy Mother’s Day. I love you - more than words or a bouquet of flowers - can say.


Monday, April 27, 2015

The Tale of Our Pen Killing Kitty

Both Vince and I woke up a little bleary-eyed this morning. Not because we had a wild night out on the town or anything, although we did stay up rather late watching an episode of “Bloodline” on Netflix. (Good series, by the way!)

No, the real reason for our lack of energy this morning was due to our killer kitty, Twinks, who has developed a penchant for “killing” ballpoint pens.  All manner of writing implements, really. This is good practice in the event there is ever a ballpoint pen uprising in our household, but I think the possibility is somewhat remote.

You’d think our killer kitty would prefer being outside stalking creatures smaller than she, say of the chipmunk or squirrel variety, but I’m not so sure that’s true.

Why?  Because whenever there is a bug or ant in our house that needs to be “handled,” she merely looks at it with a sniff of disinterest and goes on with the more important tasks of her day. Namely, grooming, napping or yakking up a hairball.

But just wait until we finish our evening pre-bed ritual and finally click off the light, give us about a half hour to j-u-s-t settle into that drifting off to sleep deliciousness, and Twinks will start up with a meowing so insistent, it’s like Lassie barking to tell us Timmy’s in trouble and may have fallen into the well.

Egad.

I, personally, can simply roll over onto my “good ear,” and ignore her, but to Vince, the sound is like fingernails on a chalkboard. And this is precisely the time when he decides our cats belong solely to me. Vince refuses to (a) change cat litter, (b) clean up kitty barf, and (c) get out of bed to investigate the latest Twinks “kill.”  (Please note that if ever a Twinks kill involves anything in the rodent category, he WILL be the one to handle that little chore!)

She only stops meowing when I finally go downstairs to investigate and discover her latest, er, victim.  Last night it was an Ultra Fine Point Sharpie.  Twinks was evidently proud of having bagged the Sharpie since she even put her paw on top of it as if to stop me from picking it up.

My habit has been to bring the fallen pen upstairs and place it on top of my dresser, which is the one piece of furniture I haven’t seen Twinks attempt to climb. The pile of pens got to be so mountainous, though, I finally put a pen cup on there. But even that has become rather full lately.

This nightly caterwauling has gotten so bad, I’ve recently added a task to my evening routine, which is to walk around the house searching for stray pens that we’ve taken out but have forgotten to put back in their proper drawers. And I make sure to close the drawers firmly once I put away the pens because I wouldn’t put it past little Miss Twinks to use that slight opening to paw open the drawer so she can go on a pen-killing spree.

Yet despite my attempts at removing all writing implements from kitty access, she somehow manages to find a new one every night.

Smart cat, dumb human? Perhaps. But I’m hoping I’ve managed to crack the case.

This morning I was downstairs cleaning out the wastebaskets and, out of the corner of my eye, I watched her leap from the chair to the desk to the table where I have a large collection of pens that I thought were surely out of her reach.  Guess not, since she pulled one out of the container with her mouth and dropped it on the floor.

Aha! I thought. Her diabolical plan is to let it lie there all day and ignore it – until late this evening after we’ve gone to bed when she will carry it to the stairs and start her meowing. 

So later today when she was catnapping (which is cat speak for “basically all day long”) I snuck downstairs and picked up tonight’s “victim” and put it back in the box. And then put the box in the closet. And firmly shut the door.

So we’re keeping our fingers crossed for a full night of restful sleep without a Twinks Pen Killing Incident.

But in the event she has another stash somewhere, we're planning to wear ear plugs tonight. Just in case.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Technology Rant of the Day

I don’t think I’m technologically illiterate, but there are times I’m ready to give up and go back to the days of the rotary dial telephone and snail mail communication.

Like today, for instance.

My iPhone instructed me that I had a software update to install and, like a good little techno-geek, I pressed the Settings tab to comply. Except that my iPhone got snippy with me and told me I didn’t have enough storage to complete the task.

The last time my iPhone got snippy with me, I took it to the Apple store and traded it in. 

Take that, iPhone 4!

Sure, it was an expensive alternative to actually deleting stuff off my phone, but, hey, I was ready for a new one anyway.

This time, unfortunately, my phone isn’t eligible for an upgrade and I refuse to pay $600 for a new one. So I figured I’d better investigate the source of the clog.

Turns out that the bajillion photos I’ve taken on my iPhone are taking up the lion’s share of the storage. This was not surprising since I had no less than fifty-seven photos of our friends’ twins messily playing with smash cakes on their first birthday a couple months ago. Fifty-seven!
Lots of photos, yeah, but they sure are cute!
And this was only a small portion of the photos I took that day.
You thought I was kidding?!

And why I haven’t deleted the two dozen photos my niece recently took of the inside of her mouth in order to count the number of teeth she has, I do not know.  Perhaps I was thinking I could someday embarrass her with them or something.  Hee hee. Evil Aunt Jane, I know.

Anyway, I spent half the day trying to figure out how to get the photos off the phone and onto the external hard drive I purchased for this very purpose.

And, while I somehow managed to get eight hundred seventy-two photos onto the hard drive, there were many, many more photos than that on my phone. Which doesn’t compute.

Kidding. I don't have a great aunt Myrtle.
In frustration, I tried simply trashing all the photos on the phone.  I figured I’d risk deleting that last photo of great aunt Myrtle celebrating her 100th birthday because somehow, somewhere I have stuff stored on the “Cloud” and surely that photo must already be saved. Right?

Yeah, right.  I pretend like I know what the Cloud is all about, but in truth, I have no real freaking clue. Like…where do I find stuff that is stored on this mystical Cloud? 

Got me.

I tried Googling instructions on the photo transfer process, but got frustrated and had to step away from the computer, lest I do something drastic and toss the thing out the window.  Instead, I did Saturday chores like watering the plants, washing the darks and scrubbing the toilets. Believe me, I had to be extremely frustrated with my online search to have preferred scrubbing toilets over deciphering Google instructions.

Eventually, I wandered back to the computer and tried again. I read something about how photo albums added using iTunes cannot be deleted from the iPhone unless one accesses iTunes and makes the change there.

Great.  I no longer have iTunes loaded on any computers we own because I exceeded the number of computers I had loaded it on.  And, while I thought I had followed instructions and “unauthorized” old computers that had iTunes on them before recycling the machines, evidently I didn’t.

Sigh.
 
In the end, I manually deleted enough photos to give me adequate storage to allow the Software update.  

It doesn’t make me any more informed about the correct process, but at least I got the job done.

Until the next update, anyway.

And I'm really hoping that by then I’ll be eligible for a phone upgrade and I can tell snippy iPhone 5 where he can stick it when he tells me I don't have enough storage for the update.

Okay, technology rant over. For today.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Great Decluttering Project of 2015 Continues

So my last blog was about organizing and clearing out a lot of junk in my home. I call it the Great Decluttering Project of 2015.

I started on it a couple weeks ago, but I haven’t accomplished all that much, particularly in the furnace room-slash-storage area. Oh, who am I kidding?  I haven’t even started on that room.

But I do think I am working up to it. Why? Because I have managed to clear out some other areas of my home.

Like, for instance, I organized and decluttered our entryway-slash-laundry room. And now the room is both functional and pretty, which makes me smile just looking at it. And, believe me, I look at it a lot. You wouldn’t think that a household with only two people living in it could produce as much dirty laundry as we do. But we do.

And I also cleared out the freezer. We haven’t even lived in this house three years yet, so how we have a frozen pot roast from 1983 is a mystery.

Well, okay, so not really. But some of the stuff I pulled out of that freezer did vaguely resemble something from the last century.

And on today’s agenda was the dreaded furnace room.

Sadly, I never made it.

Instead, I completely overhauled the master bathroom drawers, cabinets and closet.  Why? Well, near as I can tell, I was procrastinating. I figured it would take me only an hour or so to work on this area and then I would head downstairs.

I had, after all, organized this room about a year ago. An hour? Yeah, right.

Clearly, the expiration date on any organized area is one year. Because it took me several hours to get through all the cabinets, drawers and the closet.  Yikes.

I tossed things that evidently were on the bubble last year when I organized the area. Things that were jumbled up in the drawers were moved to bins in the closet and labeled.

It’s a wonder I didn’t find more than one colossal size container of certain items – like Q-tips. Thankfully, we only had one. But as it is, the mega-Costco-sized container will last us well into next year.

On the other hand, if there is an Apocalypse anytime soon, we will be the “go-to” people for toothpaste. We have enough to keep the teeth of a small third world country shiny clean and bright.  Sadly, we don’t have enough toothbrushes for said third world country. We have only one spare toothbrush. One. It doesn’t compute. Fourteen tubes of toothpaste and only one lonely little toothbrush?  And, hey, I’m all about sharing – but not my toothbrush.  So it looks like another trip to Costco is imminent.

Y’know. Because of that Apocalypse thing.

Oh, and the other thing I was happy about accomplishing was that I hung the two auto sketches that Vince and I had framed, which had been leaning against the wall in our front hallway for the past three months. And I even measured the walls so the pictures would be straight and even.  Didn’t rely on the Jane Eyeballing Method of Picture Hanging. Guess there’s hope for me yet, eh?!

There is one tendency I need to curb during this Great Decluttering Project of 2015, though. I have become a big fan of the label maker. Okay, I may as well admit it.  I am addicted. I have been labeling everything

Vince gave me a hard time about labeling the spot in the cabinet where his camera goes. His camera has been in the same place in the same cabinet since he got the camera for Christmas several years ago.  So why did I need to label it?

My perfectly reasonable response was, “Well, if it is supposed to go in that cabinet, why do you leave it on the counter?”
 
And just because I think I’m soooo funny, I hauled out the label maker one more time and put labels on the washer, the dryer and the back door. And waited for him to notice.

He finally looked at the back door as he was heading out the other day, and did notice that label.

And he laughed.

Mission accomplished.

And I swear to you – I’m gonna get to that furnace room. Soon. This year, anyway.

While I still have tape in my label maker.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

“Someday” in Jane’s Domain

Today I was in a caffeine-fueled mindset that I had to completely refresh and re-organize my home from top to bottom.  

It was a lofty goal that was destined to fail. Particularly since I intended to get the entire main floor finished in one day.

Ha.

Instead, I managed to get a few decorative items hung in the living room, dining room and hallway. I watered all the plants and then shuffled them around between the kitchen, dining room and living room. But after all that schlepping, I was too weary to start in on the spice cabinet.

So…two check marks on a legal-sized page filled with “To Do’s”? 

Epic fail!

But see what happens when you throw a little sunshine and warmer temperatures my way? I get all giddy and think that this is the year I will finally see my entire home cleaned, organized and de-cluttered – all at the same time. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’m afraid to have unexpected guests show up or anything. No one is forced to sidestep a big mountain of garbage just to make it through the front door.

And, while there are many areas of my home that are well-organized, including drawers and cabinets that are all labeled and shelf-papered, there are definitely hidey-holes filled with junk and things that I need to go through “someday” and organize.

My mistake early on was thinking that “someday” I would have a garage sale to sell the things that I can’t use here, but are too nice to toss.   I envisioned raking in big bucks while sadly saying goodbye to some of the valuable possessions I’ve had for years.

Yeah, right.  The last time I participated in a garage sale, I think my net profit was approximately 12 bucks.

Consequently, there is not a great deal of motivation to work on the garage sale idea.

Every month, I get one of those charity solicitations asking for gently used clothing, shoes, and household items. And every month I save that postcard thinking that I’ll gather together a nice pile of donations for the charity.

Never happens.  Instead, I have boxes and bags of stuff that are supposed to be donated, but have been stashed in another one of my hidey holes. I swear, if that Hoarders show was still airing new episodes, they might want to make a house call.

They would come in expecting to climb a mountain of trash upon entry, but they wouldn’t encounter any. At first, they would think they had the wrong address. But ask them to step foot in my furnace room-slash-storage area, and they would be appalled.

The place started out somewhat organized after we moved in. But it’s where all my holiday decorations, wrapping paper and party supplies are stored. And since we’ve had a bunch of holidays, gift-giving occasions and parties since we moved here, the place has become a wreck.

But every time I step foot in the room and contemplate tackling the mess, I close my eyes and shudder, and then walk out and slam the door.

And then I pray that our furnace and water heater remain in good working condition.

I don’t think my plan of organizing my home from top to bottom is unreasonable. But I may need to lower my expectations on what I can get done in one day.

Baby steps, I guess. Besides, I’m pretty happy with myself that I’ve finally managed to hang the star-shaped mirror that has been leaning against the wall in the living room for nearly 2-1/2 years.

And I think my father-in-law will be proud of me. He has been wondering why it has been leaning against the wall when we have many empty walls on which to hang stuff. And we are not lacking in either hammers or nails.

A couple months ago, Vince and I had some car sketches framed. He’s a car guy and displaying them in our home is not unreasonable. The problem was, we didn’t know where to hang them. We didn’t want to hang all four pictures in our lower level and turn the place into a man cave.

And our living room space doesn’t work either. I’d suggest we hang them in the garage, but we spent too much having them framed, so that idea is out.

Meanwhile, the pictures have been leaning against the wall in our entry area since before Christmas.

But the other day, my sister-in-law and niece helped me find a spot in the lower level to hang two of them.  

Now, we just need to do the whole measuring and marking thing and get them hung up. Or the Jane version of that process, which is the eyeballing and hammering thing. (Most of the time, that works surprisingly well – as long as no one walks in carrying a measuring tape.)

So, today the star-shaped mirror. Tomorrow, the car pictures. And I may even have a little time left over to get to the spice cabinet.


And “someday”? Yeah, someday I’m gonna get to that furnace room-slash-storage area. I’m a little worried about the expiration date on the furnace and water heater. 

(And, no, I am NOT going to show you any "before" pictures!)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Confessions of a Half-Deaf Blonde and The Rustin Story

Do you remember when you were a kid and played the Telephone Game where you’d whisper something to the person next to you and they would whisper it to the next person and it would go on down the line until it reached the last person who had to repeat the message out loud?

Hilarity ensued because usually the message spoken had very little in common with what the originator whispered in the first place.

Yeah, life is sometimes like that with me.

Why? Well, because I’m half deaf. 

(The proper response here is, “WHAT?!”  Yeah, ha ha. Stop it! I’ve heard it before.)

But I’ve been 100% deaf in my left ear since I was about four and contracted German Measles, which damaged my auditory nerve. For years, I’d just tell people I was “half deaf.” Very often, they thought it was the beginning of a joke. Or that I was simply hard of hearing and would continue to talk quietly into my left ear, which was a lesson in futility.

Being deaf in my left ear hasn’t really hindered me in life all that much, other than I get a little surly if I’m stuck on the far right hand side of a table in a noisy restaurant, which means I pretty much can’t hear anybody throughout the meal.

There aren’t too many outward signs that I can’t hear, other than I tilt my good ear toward the speaker’s voice to try to hear better. But I don’t talk loudly the way some hard-of-hearing people sometimes do. And I tend to enunciate pretty carefully. Perhaps I’m trying to help out other half-deaf people or something.

Oh, and sitting in the passenger seat of a convertible means that, (a) conversation is pointless, and (b) my hair will look Bride-of-Frankenstein-ish by the time we arrive at our destination. The second thing really has nothing whatsoever to do with being half-deaf, but I just thought I’d throw it in there.

Other than those few things, though, I haven’t had too many problems with my faulty hearing.

But I realized the other day that I fill in the blanks a lot. Sometimes I’m a half step behind everyone else when the punchline is told and I fake the laugh – at least until I can fill in the blanks to the words I missed and I finally “get” it.

Probably over the years, people have attributed my slow response to being blonde.

Ah well. The price you pay. It’s not like I’m going to wear a sign.

The other day we were at the funeral home for Mrs. B. Friends and family were greeting each other and catching up, or shedding a few tears, or watching the slideshow Nick and Frankie had prepared where the images of Mrs. B's life flashed by on the screen.

One good friend, let’s call him Mikey P, walked into the room. He sees Joe for the first time and walks up to greet him. Joe, being on the verge of tears half the morning, hugged Mikey P tightly and they said a few words to each other.

When Mikey P released him and stepped back, he looked at us and then looked around the room, arranged a confused look on his face and said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought this was the Rabinowitz funeral…I’m in the wrong place!”

And we all burst out laughing.

We had all been feeling sad and his comment immediately released the tension and allowed us to laugh. It was perfect.  Plus, Mrs. B would have loved it.

But here is where I start making stuff up. I have no idea what name Mikey P used. I just filled in the blank with “Rabinowitz.”

Fortunately, with that kind of example, the name itself didn’t matter.

But it sometimes makes retelling stories a little difficult for me. I hear parts of stories and I just make up the rest.

People will listen to me tell a story and think, Huh? I was standing right there – that’s not what he said at all!

So when I was at their house working on the eulogy for Mrs. B the other day, my friends Nick and Beth started talking about some guy named “Rustin.” I was completely baffled. First of all… “Rustin”? What kind of name is that? I figured I must have misheard them.

Fortunately, I’ve learned in life that it sometimes pays to ask that stories be repeated. The parts of the story that I do hear sounds too good to play the fill-in-the-blanks game, so I asked them to start over again for me.

In this case, they did.

It turns out that when Nick posted on Facebook that his mother had passed, he and/or Beth accidentally tagged some guy named “Rustin.”  Now, Rustin is not a Facebook friend. They don’t even know the guy. And they weren’t exactly sure how he got tagged.

What’s worse is that they didn’t know how to un-tag him.

Because Mrs. B was so well loved, there were many responses from friends sending thoughts, wishes and prayers to the family over her loss.  Many were sweet memories that evoked tears as well as smiles.

But we laughed knowing that Rustin was seeing every one of those comments and “likes.” Oh, how that probably confused him. 

Rustin's Facebook cover photo depicts five guys in a shooting stance, leveling guns or rifles at a target. And there he is, all the way out in Washington State getting dinged every time someone in Ohio sent condolences for a little, old Italian lady he never met.

After nearly a hundred comments on Nick’s post, Rustin finally chimed in and said he was sorry for their loss. And, for some reason, that cracked us up.  What a great thing – to give us a chance to laugh and to make our sadness recede for just a moment.  Beth typed in a “thank you” for his condolences, which made us laugh even harder. And when Nick suggested that maybe Rustin and his friends could give Mrs. B a 21-gun salute, we were practically rolling on the floor.

Too funny.

So, Rustin? Even though you'll never see this, we want to thank you for the laughs, man.  It helped get us through some sad moments.

And sometimes – just sometimes – it’s a good thing to hear the real story and not try to play the Telephone Game to cover my half-deafness.


“WHAT?!” (Ha ha. Stop it!)