Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chocolate-Covered Cherries These Are Not

There is plenty to deplore about this recent heat wave. All the shit-covered water balloon shrapnel now littering my yard is at the top of my list.  I picked up the shards of the first couple hundred blasted balloons. Then I noticed Sadie, Unconventional Wisdom’s official dopey dog, helping me, and I thought, “Probably I should stop you from eating them but you’re a dog, you’ll be fine.”  In fact it seemed a perfect solution.  The kids love smashing them, dog loves eating them, and dad loves not having to pluck the shards out of the grass.  Sadly, the bubble burst tonight when I mowed over a couple piles of rainbow-colored dog shit, strewing the confetti across my lawn.  I hope the snow comes early this year.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I'm The Asshole

I've been mildly anxious most of the past two weeks as I've been dealing with selling a boat and buying a new one.  The past two days I've been laid low with a cold and spent some time rueing that as well.  And the whole while I've known that a dear friend has lung cancer and had a surgery scheduled for this morning, a surgery during which doctors could discover that the cancer was more aggressive than they knew, that removing the lung would not suffice and that, well, let's not even think about the rest yet. About an hour ago I got the bad news that this cancer is aggressive. I don't know what that means exactly, but my imagination is certainly running wild. I know it sucks. And I feel like I suck, too, for wallowing around like a goddamned asshole over my dumb little "problems."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Decade of Love

It’s common knowledge, especially among the women in my life, that my wife is a very lucky woman. I’m not going to argue with that but I will point out that being married to me for 10 years is not as easy as it may seem (you will remember that the longest any woman lasted previously was 11 months). I have been thinking a lot lately and have come to realize that I don’t deserve full credit for this decade of wedded bliss. Surely Stacy deserves some credit, has done some things right. Indeed she did not stop making good decisions the day she chose me.

At times like this over-statement is tempting and superlatives are expected. She is the best this, the fastest that and on and on. Well I promise you that I cannot overstate what Stacy has done for me, how important she is to my ability to thrive. When we met, I was depressed, lost and about to marry the wrong person. Yes, I had managed to muddle my way to Hamline University and yes, I would have graduated with a respectable GPA.  After all, I am plenty smart and prideful.  “Well, Tom, if you are plenty smart and prideful then what, exactly, did Stacy do for you?”  First of all, I didn’t know at the time that I was plenty smart. Or rather that some people weren’t. I just assumed that everyone who applied at Hamline was accepted and that everyone who wanted to could get at least a 3.0. I wanted to, is all, because my professors knew my name and I would’ve been embarrassed to get a C. 

If I had met Stacy earlier would I be a doctor or something now? I don’t know and this isn’t about me anyway. Here’s what’s important:  The fact that we can seriously consider that question tells you what you need to know about Stacy.  That simply by being her friend I was going to be more successful than I would’ve been without her.  

We met my first year at Hamline. It was my fourth year of college but, because I had transferred from a community college, I was a few credits short of being a junior. After a few months, Stacy, recognizing something in me that I don’t know anyone else had, had me enrolled in summer school, on track to graduate a full six months before I thought it was possible, and enrolled in a senior honor’s seminar with her. And she has never quit working her magic with me.  For one thing, I am a writer now. And whereas what skill I have comes from me, the certain knowledge that I can do it comes from her. I have dear, dear friends without whom I may not have survived my lower moments. But before Stacy, I never believed that I could do more than survive; that I could thrive.  She doesn’t give huge motivational speeches.  She does it by putting things in front of me and expecting that I’ll do them- because she knows I can. And she does it by working so hard that any non-dipshit man in her life must do the same.  She does it by not being surprised when I do good things.  She does it by being “on my side” no matter what.

I think I’ve written before that we don’t celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with presents and cards.  Because each of us was stung in our first try at marriage, we decided to forgo those things and concentrate on being nice and respectful to each other every damn day instead; to say “I love you” every day; to not ever raise our voices in anger.  I won’t say that you should do those things, too. Of course you should respect your mate but how you choose to show it is no business of mine. But I will tell you that our system works for us. Sure, we do things that make each other crazy, but it’s much more fun to giggle at those things than to fight about them. And how do you giggle at things that make you crazy?  You do it by knowing without so much as an inkling of doubt that you are married to the perfect person for you. Therefore it follows that those maddening things are nothing more than silly idiosyncrasies and not the essence of the person whom you married. 

Real-life intrudes, even on love letters, and I must wrap this up. I could go on and on about my wife though. She is the best.  And she has taught me this lesson, which I recently told my five year-old after she asked me whom she would marry:  “If you get married it has to be to someone who makes you a better person, like mommy does for me. Otherwise it’s a huge waste of time.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tommy and Clyde

I just returned from renewing my driver's license. It expired three months ago. That's right pigs, you're too late! Come and get me coppa! Probably best no unfortunate cop tried pulling me over while I was playing fast and loose with the law.  I won't be taken easily, I promise you that. Anyway, as I say, I am now legal (unless you count the chemical composition of my bloodstream). And I can't wait to see my new license...when I got in my car to drive home, I realized my shirt was on inside out.  Sweet.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sell the Ball

If I ever catch a "Milestone Baseball", I will not give it back to the player for nothing. Frankly, I don't understand why so many people think that's what fans should do.

Why do owners make so much money?  It's a business.
Why do players make so much money?  It's a business.
Why does it cost so much to go to a game?  The owners and players have to make a lot of money. It's a business.
Why does a hot dog cost $8? The owners have to make a lot of money. It's a business.
Why am I going to sell my hypothetical ball?  Because the players/owners would. It's a business.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Daycare Lady

“I’m not a doctor, or even a nurse, but I have run a daycare for 30 years so I’ve seen it all,” the woman with the sunglasses said for the many-eth time.  We had been together in the Emergency Room waiting room for four hours by then.  She would tell this to anyone who would listen, and many who had no choice, in part to be helpful, but mostly, I think, to shorten the list of patients ahead of her. 

“Can I see that sliver?  Ok, good, that’s what I was hoping it would look like. You know what you can do?  You put some triple antibiotic on it, cover it with a bandage, and in the morning it will be at the surface and you can pluck it out. Of course, I’m not a doctor, or even a nurse, but I have run a daycare for 30 years so I’ve seen it all. But that has to be a decision you’re comfortable with.  Maybe the person you were on the phone with a minute ago gave you some advice, too?”

“Yeah, that was my brother. He’s a doctor.  He said it would probably be ok until morning.”

“Right, like I said, I’m not a doctor, but I have seen it all.”

The poor kid with the 2x4 in his foot didn’t seem to like the idea of waiting until tomorrow, but his dad eventually tired of waiting and they went home.

When Daycare Lady wasn’t making a show of rubbing her temples or holding her stomach, she was making trips to the reception desk to ask how much longer it would be before a doctor would see her.  Every time she re-entered the waiting room she winced at the noise of the T.V. and shuttered at the brightness of the lights.

“There’s still two people in front of me and I’ve been here since 3 this afternoon.  One doctor on a Sunday, when no clinics are open, can you believe that?”

My wife, son and I were a poor audience for her, always failing to be as outraged as she thought we should have been. Our son was sick, and we were going to wait until he was seen. Simple as that.

“Yeah, well, it is what it is,” I told her once, to her disgust.

“Not when you have a migraine it isn’t.”

By 8 in the evening, Daycare Lady was mutinous.  “Five hours in the ER waiting room! That’s not what I call quality care!”

I needed fresh air (again), so I went outside and walked around the parking lot.  As I walked I thought about Daycare Lady, of course, but in the context of the bigger picture.  Is it possible she doesn’t know how many millions of Americans there are who would love to have her “problems”, who would love simply to be able to see a doctor?  Dumb question. I guess the better question is:  Does one have to try really hard to avoid knowing that?  It’s a scary disconnect when half the people get pissed when they can’t see a doctor without waiting a couple hours, and the other half would give their left arm (some probably have) to see a doctor at all, or go bankrupt after the “privilege”. I don’t give two pinches of coonshit whether you think the solution is an entirely private-run system, or if you favor government-run healthcare, but if you won’t acknowledge that there’s a big problem with the current system, well, fuck you. 

These joyous thoughts were interrupted when Daycare Lady stormed out the hospital doors, stomped across the parking lot and idiotically jerked on her car door handle before unlocking it. It was midnight now but she still wore her sunglasses in case, I imagine, she ran across someone in the parking lot who might feel sorry for her.

Back inside I discovered the reason for Daycare Lady’s meltdown:  my son had been called ahead of her.  “Maybe the system isn’t broken,” I thought.

Because strep is rare in children as young as my son, the doctor didn’t do a strep test until he had taken blood and done a chest x-ray.  After ruling everything else out, he did the strep test. The results were positive and he gave us the choice of giving our son one shot or two-weeks of oral meds. Because we are not idiots, and our son can’t talk, we opted for the shot.  When the nurse came in to administer the shot she thanked us for being patient. “There was a lady out there who got pretty crazy when we called you ahead of her.  But, you know, we don’t go by who’s been waiting the longest. Who doesn’t understand we’re always going to see a sick baby before a lady with a headache?”

“Someone who’s seen it all.”