Hell of a Guy
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The former Mrs. and Other Stuff

06/28/2006

I am in my second round at attempting to get the marriage thing right.  My first ended badly and the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of this writer.  Yesterday, June 27th, would have been the 42nd anniversary of that marriage’s humble beginnings.  I thought I might use this site to share some things about my former life, as well as my former wife.

She and I - don’t ask how or why I remember this stuff, I just do- met for the very first time in late June 1956 at Vacation Bible School at the Andrew Chapel Methodist Church in Baltimore.  She was ten and I was, of course, a handsome much older man of twelve.  I remember teasing her, and that was the extent of our contact until some years later. 

At Andrew Chapel we were both members of the Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) and it had maybe twenty, twenty-five regular members.  In addition to the services we attended on Sunday, the members, a rather close knit group, would often get together at one or another member’s home for parties.  These parties were of the harmless variety: no booze, no drugs – just lots of Cokes, chips, dancing and maybe some harmless “making out.”

Late September 1960 I attended a party at Pat Pohler’s house, and Sandra and I slow-danced a few of times and talked about 1960s stuff, and so on…  The following week, whatever day the 28th fell on, we started officially “going together.”  And from that point until September 16, 1963, we were practically inseparable.  That date is etched in my gray matter as the date of another of my life’s errors, it is the day I entered the military (that story previously posted).  It is she who got me through the funk I found myself in for the four months I suffered the rigors of Air Force Basic Training and Technical School.

After Basic I was stationed in Upstate New York, one of the coldest places I have ever been, and I thought at the time it was God’s idea of a joke on me.  I got to Rome, New York about January 19, 1964, and managed by hook or crook to get back to Baltimore every chance I got to spend time with Sandra.  It was during one of these trips that Sandra and I decided we should marry, and shortly thereafter I presented her with a fabulous, dazzling one-quarter carat diamond ring that cost me $100.00, which I paid for in installments. The ring was stunning, and in a certain light at a certain angle you could even make out the stone.

Marriage for us was not easily accomplished.  Sandra was seventeen and a half and I was four months into my 20th year on this earth.  Both of us, as minors, were required to have our parents sign for us in order to get a marriage license.  They did, and on June 27, 1964 we were married in a small but very nice wedding at Andrew Chapel with lots of family and friends looking on.

After a very inexpensive three-day Honeymoon in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, we took off for Rome, New York and a furnished, one-bedroom, first-floor apartment at 115 Emerson Avenue, just outside the main gate of the Griffiss Air Force Base .  These luxurious accommodations cost us a neat $75.00 per month and included all utilities.  It was in a building with three other apartments, all of them also with military families in residence.  We did the best we could to make the place a home and settled in.  This was early July 1964.

Some minor issues between us came to the surface almost at once.  Sandra didn’t like my clothing lying all over place ( I kind of dropped it and wherever it landed, it stayed) , nor did she like the manner in which I hogged the majority of our bed.  She often reminded me she was not my mother.  One day I came home to find my formerly thrown about clothing in a box on the front porch, and another time she pinned a tape measure down the middle of the bed to delineate her side from mine.  I soon learned who was boss of the bedroom, the proper method of hanging up clothes and the location of the hamper.

Money also became a minor but important issue.  My military pay, included two checks each month for $32.10 and another as a housing allowance of $92.00.  That’s $156.20 per month to you math buffs.  After paying the rent and a life insurance premium each month, we had just about $64.00 for food and other stuff, including gas for the rest of the month.  We had a 1958 Plymouth sedan – you may remember some models, including this one, had a “Push-Button” transmission – and we would lend it out to a guy named John Dominco, and he would put gas in it as payment.  It helped to stretch our money. Looking back, life was a struggle, but then we thought we were doing the right things.  I bought my Camel cigarettes at the Base Exchange for $1.50 a carton.  We lived on hotdogs, pizza and Campbell’s soup.  Sandra didn’t have a job.  There were none to be had.  She made money babysitting some officers’ children, and we got by.  We were dumb enough to think we had the world by the gonads.  Life was a hell of a lot more simple then.

In August 1964 we bought a mixed breed puppy (mostly beagle) and named him Fred.  Mr. Honaker, our ever-so-nice landlord, shortly thereafter served us with a notice to vacate the apartment – our lease said no pets.  So in October of that year we moved again, this time to a nicer, more expensive furnished apartment, also in Rome at 409 Myrtle Street, in a home owned by Lincoln Melioris and his wife Barbara, at a nearly unaffordable rent of $95.00 a month.

All in all, we made it through the first couple of years in good shape.  I got a couple of promotions, and while the money wasn’t great, it was enough for us to get by.  We had more money for pizza, especially pizza from the Plaza in downtown Rome.  It is without a doubt the best pizza I have ever had, and there were months when pizza was our main meal of the day at least ten times…the rectangular Sicilian style at $3.00 each.  I think I was drawing about $324.00 a month when I was discharged in September of 1967.

Our oldest daughter came along in January of 1967.  She was born at the Base hospital and the total bill came to $8.75. [Side note:  Family, do I sound like my dad with all these numbers and dates?]  Sandra began the birth process with a rush of water right in the middle of “Bonanza” and an episode called “Ponderosa Explosion.”  Little Joe and Hoss were raising some rabbits and…well you get the drift…it got way out of hand, rabbits everywhere.  Anyway, I didn’t get to see the outcome…we headed off to the Base hospital.  Sandra checked in and they sent me home.  There was no place for expectant father’s to hang out at the hospital, and in those days no one was allowed in the birthing room except hospital personnel.  Baby White came the next morning at 7:37am, and someone at the hospital called me about 9:30 that morning to let me know I had a daughter. 

After the Air Force discharged me out in September 1967, we moved back to Baltimore and in with Sandra’s parents, with the idea of staying there while we saved money to pay cash for our own furniture and would then get our own apartment.  We lasted about two months.  Her parents, while being more than wonderful to us, also nearly drove us crazy.  We got the apartment, and went into debt way over our heads, but at least we were in our own place being our own masters.  Well, not entirely, the roaches in the infested apartment complex we chose ruled us for the nearly two years we stayed there.

We had another move in between the apartment and moving to Richmond, Virginia in 1971.  It was there in Richmond we really began to live and to make friends and had another daughter in 1972.  It was in Richmond my former bride developed a work ethic that far exceeded her underachiever husband’s.  She excelled as I maintained the mundane.  In Richmond we moved two more times before the marriage, under my direction, went south.

This morning via e-mail we both acknowledged yesterday’s date and what it would have been.  Sandra and I are acutely aware of the ties we have and the history that will inexorably bind us together for as long as we live.  I have admitted to her many times there will always be a part of me that will always love a part of her.  And in her own way she has communicated the same to me.  We, the people of this planet, are all connected to one another in some way.  In a way, I suppose that isn’t all bad.

And that is all I have to say about that. 

 

 
Monday, June 19, 2006

A Reflection, Not A Mea Culpa

06/19/2006

image

Photo is entitled “Thinker in Bibs”

That would be me…

Given the title of this piece, one might think one is about to read something profound, enigmatic, or wholesomely reflective.  Not!  The reflection of which I speak is the damn sight of me standing in front of a full-length mirror toweling myself off after a brisk shower.  This isn’t something I meant to do; the darn mirror in the hotel room I was in was just in a position so that it eventuated.

The sight of me naked these days just causes my heart to sink.  I have been relegated to living in a body that is woefully out of shape and beginning (I am being kind to myself) to sag in all kinds of directions.  There was a time when I had six pack abs, well maybe a three pack, but nonetheless, there were ripples.  I could do fifty or more sit ups without working up a sweat.  Fifty pushups were a pushover.  I could run – a close friend likened my running to fast walking – for two hours some days, at least an hour on most, depending on the temperature.

These days I get winded lifting a twelve-ounce beer bottle…but I do manage it by using two hands.  I couldn’t run fifty feet without panting like a tired dog.  I have one abdominal ripple, and it resembles more of a keg look than any kind of a pack.  This getting old is Hell.

I was in tremendous shape at the height of my Mid-Life Crisis.  It was also the most miserable time of my life.  I was very bad.  I mean very, very bad.  I did things that hurt people.  I lead a furtive, sneaky and downright nefarious life style.  There was little joy in my life at that time, but at the time it didn’t seem to register. I dropped about forty-five pounds, going from 240 to 195.  One time after an hour run I weighed in at neat 187.  I went from a 40 waist to a 34 waist, and an extra large shirt size to a large – some even mediums.  My suit size dropped from 46 to 42.  I did look good, at least I thought so, but that is where it ended.  I smelled good with my Obsession wafting around me.  Trust me; it was not a happy time. 

My little venture into the world of the unsure and nearly unstable lasted about four years.  My life was dramatically different at the end of it.  Not all of it ended badly.  There are things I would alter, some behaviors I am not proud of and would change, but there were some rewards.  I came out of mid-life thing a much wiser, much better man then when I entered the phase.  Thank God for time, for it truly heals.

So, these days as I look at my much older body (thanks, Mom and Dad, for the genes), I have to laugh at myself as my waistline approaches that forty inch mark again.  I have a keg where a six pack should be, and the scale at home groans when I climb upon it.  I refuse to let my belt out another notch, probably because there is no other notch, and it is killing me.  I need to lose weight, but will have to give into eating correctly, and that sucks.  And, that may mean curtailing my beer intake, or, God forbid, giving it up.  Do I hear laughter?

August 11, 1995 was the last meat I ingested (it stayed with me for a little while, so “ingested” may not be the correct term).  Meat – bovine, porcine, fowl or seafood – does not agree with my digestive tract for some inexplicable reason.  It flat out makes me sick. Medical tests where not conclusive and I couldn’t figure out which kind of animal flesh was the culprit, so I gave it all up.  If I went on the Adkins diet I would starve to death in about a week.  My life is carbs and perhaps that is why my belly could be designated a disaster area and perhaps qualify for Federal assistance.

I do, however, look at the bright side of all of this.  Some of the larger pieces of clothing which I have held onto for the last fifteen years may now be brought out of storage (if the moths haven’t completely riddled them) and worn again.  My weight gain may prove a blessing and save me money.  More money to spend on beer, so I can gain more weight and wear more of the larger old clothes I have already paid for…I may have hit on a gold mine, and all because of a chance meeting with a bad angle of my reflection.  Damn, I am really happy.

And that is all I have to say about that.

An added note:  Since February 28, 2006, the date of the first posting to this Hell-Of-A-Guy website, there have been 11,370 hits.  Thanks for stopping by.  I have had a hell of a lot of fun doing this, and can only hope in some small way I have given you a little joy, cause for thought and maybe even got you to think about the world in which you live.  Ain’t it all so grand?  Feel free to send cash donations.  Come see us in the mountains.

 
Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Alma, I miss you, too!

06/14/2006

I have written a little about my dad in past postings, so it is now appropriate, I suppose, to write something of my mother.  This is a really tough subject for me.  My mother, at least the one I would like to remember and pay tribute to here, ceased to exist a long, long time ago.  The Alma Laura that lingers in my mind these days was the one who was torturously tormented, easily addled and mostly confused for the last ten to fifteen years she was alive.  She died Memorial Day weekend 1997; she was 90-years old. 

Mother suffered from the insidious effects of dementia.  Her short term memory was gone.  She often asked the same questions or said the same things over and over every few minutes.  I do not recall her calling me by name at any time during the last five years of her life.  “Life” is not exactly a good word to use for the world or dimension where she lived.  Her days where endless: She was always hungry and wouldn’t eat, she always thought it was time to go to bed and once there time to get up.  She would want my 92-year old dad to take her for a ride in the car, only to ask why they were going out and how long they would be.  My last mental picture of her is of her sitting on the sofa in her home weeping, as her face was buried in her hands, rocking back and forth pleading with God-only-knows who, “What are we going to do?  What are we going to do?”  She was never at peace until the day she died.

Mom and Dad lived in an apartment/condo.  Dad purchased the condo so they would have a place to live all on one floor.  He didn’t relish mother trying to navigate steps, especially with both of them “getting up in age.”  It was there my mother passed away and her agony ended.  For me, her passing was bittersweet, and it left me pissed off at God.

My mom did not have a glamorous life.  Her dad was a Methodist minister up until his death in 1945.  She and her three sisters and two brothers were raised in a Christian environment, often moving from church to church and sometimes even living in the church because a house was not available.  Her maternal grandfather was a preacher, as was her oldest brother.  My family is riddled with Methodist preachers, and I know my mother had hoped I would take that path, as well.  I think she recognized the bullshitter – though she would never have used the term - in me (and it being a requisite trait for a good preacher) believed I might fit the mold.  No way, Jose!!!  I went into sales, instead.  The same traits are requisite in sales and much more suited to my particular form of standup-philosophy. .

Anyhow, the mother I remember from the distant past is the one I so wish had lived until 1997.  This woman was pious to a fault.  She was a Christian’s Christian.  She was a wonderful mother, although she sort of screwed up her kids with her niceness.  She loved us dearly, but saddled us with some beliefs that, frankly, have not served us well as adults.  We kids were never allowed to argue or fight.  It was simply not condoned in our house, and it is one of the things instilled in me that caused me issues later in my life.  But, still, the five of us, now ages fifty-eight to seventy-five are doing okay and are in relatively good health – at least we are still breathing.

Mom wrote poetry in her younger days.  She had an ability to weave a story.  She and Dad were very active in the church, as were we kids - by force.  She used to say she “never worked a day in her life.”  What she meant was she had never worked a day outside of the house.  Truth is, with five of us at home, she never stopped working.


My parents were not very demonstrative.  We were not raised as a touchy, feely family.  I don’t recall my parents verbally expressing the love they held for one another, though I know it was there.  You could see it in the way they made eye contact and the crooked little smile and chuckle my mother exhibited sometimes when my dad was close to her. They were married in 1928 and lived happily together for sixty-nine years.  I can’t recall her ever saying “I love you” either to any of my brothers, sisters or me.  She showed us in so many ways, and in so many ways we got the message.  I suppose their generation just didn’t make a big deal out of the words.  Toward the end of her life my mother did become more demonstrative; however, it wasn’t from the heart of Alma, but moreover the being that snatched her mind away.   

Mom wasn’t much of a cook.  Any meat or vegetables she prepared were cooked beyond wisdom.  Veggies were reduced to mush and meat was cooked dry.  She couldn’t understand Italian food, didn’t see how anyone could make a meal of spaghetti – she said she could see it as a side dish.  She never ate pizza and definitely no Chinese.  She loved sharp cheddar cheese and often her lunch would be a slice of bread wrapped around a hunk of cheddar and a cup of coffee.  She also thought eating out at McDonald’s was the pinnacle of epicurean delight – coffee and fish sandwich with a few fries.  This was heaven for mom.

One time, I suppose I may have been about ten or so, I had an appointment with the dentist, one inappropriately named “Dr. Coward.”  Just about the time we were to leave for the appointment I got the bright idea to climb a tree in the backyard and lay low, hoping I could avoid the chair by hiding in the leaf-covered branches.  It didn’t work.  After calling me several times Mother finally yelled out the back door that it was too late and we would have to go another time.  I came down out of the tree and was immediately nabbed and carted off to see Dr. Coward.

I remember very well the “time” I told my mother to “shut up.”  I probably don’t need to explain the aftermath of that unfortunate mistake on my part or my parts.  Suffice it to say it never occurred again.

September 16, 1963, as she and my dad dropped me off at Ft. Holabird in Baltimore for my first day of military service, she had tears in her eyes as they drove off.  I was nineteen and it was the first time I had ever seen this strong woman show that kind of emotion.

I haven’t thought about my mom for some time.  The body in the casket was a mere shell of the woman who held me when I hurt and loved me just because.  I didn’t cry at her funeral.  Perhaps now I can.  The time is right. 

This has been a good exercise for me, and that is all I have to say about that.

image

This family portrait was taken about 1918.  My mother is standing on the right-hand side as you look at the photograph.  She would have been about fourteen when this was taken.  Everyone in the photo has passed away.  My grandfather died in 1945 and his two sons in the 1950s.  All five women in the picture had some form of dementia - some worse than others.  My mother is the only one who was survived by her husband.

 
Monday, June 12, 2006

Getting Into Shape

06/12/2006

I get a lot of e-mails from people and have no idea where the material originates or who the authors may be.  Some are nasty, some are cute and still others are funny.  I do pass along a lot of these to people via e-mail, almost as if I am required to do so because of some silly rule of etiquette.  This one came to me this morning and as I read it I began to laugh.  The more I read, the harder I laughed.  When I finished it, I knew it was a good one from the pain I had in my abdominals.  Inasmuch as there have been nearly 11,000 hits to this website, I thought this way I could share it with many more folks and not risk losing my job by sending it over the company e-mail system on company time.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I.  Feel free to cut and paste it and send it on….


Dear Diary,

For my fiftieth birthday this year, my wife (the dear) purchased a week of personal training at the local health club for me.  Although I am still in great shape since playing on my college football team 30 yrs ago, I decided it would be a good idea to go ahead and give it a try.

Called the club and made my reservation with a personal trainer named Belinda, who identified herself as a 26 yr old aerobics instructor and model for athletic clothing and swim wear.  My wife seemed pleased with my enthusiasm to get started!  The club encouraged me to keep a diary to chart my progress.

MONDAY: Started my day at 6:00am.  Tough to get out of bed, but it was well worth it when I arrived at the health club to find Belinda waiting for me.  She was something of a Greek goddess—with blonde hair, dancing eyes and a dazzling white smile.

Woo Hoo!!!!!

Belinda gave me a tour and showed me the machines.  She took my pulse after 5 minutes on the treadmill.  She was alarmed that my pulse was so fast, but I attributed it to standing next to her in her Lycra aerobics outfit.  I enjoyed watching the skillful way in which she conducted her aerobics class after my workout today.

Very inspiring, Belinda was encouraging as I did my sit-ups, although my gut was already aching from holding it in the whole time she was around.  This is going to be a FANTASTIC week!!

TUESDAY: I drank a whole pot of coffee, but I finally made it out the door.  Belinda made me lie on my back and push a heavy iron bar into the air, and then she put weights on it!  My legs were a little wobbly on the treadmill, but I made the full mile.  Belinda’s rewarding smile made it all worthwhile.  I feel GREAT!!  It’s a whole new life for me.

WEDNESDAY: T he only way I can brush my teeth is by laying the toothbrush on the counter and moving my mouth back and forth over it.  I believe I have a hernia in both pectorals.  Driving was OK as long as I didn’t try to steer or stop.  I parked on top of a GEO in the club parking lot.

Belinda was impatient with me, insisting that my screams bothered other club members. Her voice is a little too perky for early in the morning and when she scolds, she gets this nasally whine that is VERY annoying.

My chest hurt when I got on the treadmill, so Belinda put me on the stair monster.  Why the hell would anyone invent a machine to simulate an activity rendered obsolete by elevators?  Belinda told me it would help me get in shape and enjoy life.  She said some other shit too.

THURSDAY: Belinda was waiting for me with her vampire-like teeth exposed as her thin, cruel lips were pulled back in a full snarl.  I couldn’t help being a half an hour late; it took me that long to tie my shoes.

Belinda took me to work out with dumbbells.  When she was not looking, I ran and hid in the men’s room.  She sent Lars to find me, then, as punishment, put me on the rowing machine—which I sank.

FRIDAY: I hate that bitch Belinda more than any human being has ever hated any other human being in the history of the world.  Stupid, skinny, anemic little cheerleader.  If there were a part of my body I could move without unbearable pain, I would beat her with it!

Belinda wanted me to work on my triceps.  I don’t have any triceps.  And if you don’t want dents in the floor, don’t hand me the *&%#(#&**!!@*@ barbells or anything that weighs more than a sandwich.

The treadmill flung me off and I landed on a health and nutrition teacher.  Why couldn’t it have been someone softer, like the drama coach or the choir director?

SATURDAY: Belinda left a message on my answering machine in her grating, shrilly voice wondering why I did not show up today.  Just hearing her made me want to smash the machine with my planner.  However, I lacked the strength to even use the TV remote and ended up catching eleven straight hours of the Weather Channel.

SUNDAY: I’m having the Church van pick me up for services today so I can go and thank GOD that this week is over.  I will also pray that next year, my wife (the XXXXX); will choose a gift for me that is fun like a root canal or a vasectomy

 
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