Saturday, November 18, 2017

I Wish I Hadn't Heard That

When kids ride in the back seat of a car with their friends, they forget a parent is sitting behind the wheel listening to everything they say.
     I was taking my daughter and her friend to school one day when I overheard the friend say she had walked in on her parents in the middle of doing, well, um... you know. The thing that horrified her the most was seeing that her father was wearing his CPAP mask.
     “It was like watching Darth Vader having sex,” she said.
 

 
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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Enchiladas

It's funny about the restaurant I used to buy my mother’s gourmet enchiladas at.
     What am I talking about?
     I'm talking about back when my beloved mother was still alive, I used to go over every Saturday morning for breakfast. When my schedule at work changed, so did the time I was able to go over and visit. It became lunch, and, I'm not quit sure how, but the routine also changed from my going over there to eat, to my going over there to take her lunch. I always asked her in advance what she would like, but her order never changed.
     What about your father?
     You sure do ask a lot of questions, my friend.
     Well, my father preferred home-cooked meals, so my mother would still have to fix him something to eat. I think he would have preferred the enchiladas I was bringing over, but to him it was a matter of pride.
     The reason I tell you all this is because I was remembering the lady who, week after week, would take my order every Saturday afternoon. She was an older lady with a bad case of arthritis in one hand. Why she was working as the cashier, I don't know. I always thought she might have been the owner of the restaurant, but she could have been a former waitress whose waitressing days were long behind her.
     "Welcome to La Chancla," she would greet me. "You can seat yourself."
     I was only there EVERY Saturday, rain or shine (just like the post office), and she would treat me as if I had never been there before.
     "Maybe she's one of your old high school girlfriends," my older and less attractive brother once told me. "Assuming you had any."
     Well, I had plenty. Girlfriends, I mean, and she wasn't one of them. Believe me, if she had been one of my old girlfriends, she would have certainly remembered me. In fact, I would have probably gotten my food for free.
     There was a separate To Go section of the cashier’s station, and that's where I would stand, just under their "Order Here" sign. Why she would always assume I wanted a sit-down meal, I don't know.
     "No, thank you," I would politely tell her. "I'm here to order out."
     If there was already an order there that had previously been called in, she’d ask me, “Did you order the burritos?” Or, “Here are your chile rellenos.”
     "Those aren't mine," I would tell her.
     "Are you sure?" she would respond.
     Of course I was sure.
     You see, I never ever called in and only ordered the red chile enchilada plate with extra onions EVERY time I went there. Remember how I just wrote “with extra onions”?
     “Did you want onions with that?” she’d always want to know.
     "Extra onions," I'd repeat.
     My mother didn’t care for their salad, so I’d also tell the lady, “No salad, please.”
     “No salad?” she’d say, like not wanting shredded lettuce with your meal was beyond her comprehension.
     “That's right.”
     “You don’t want any salad.”
     “No salad.”
     Sometimes, when I was feeling especially frustrated, I’d point out, “I’m only in here EVERY week,” but, mostly, I kept my temper, because the ladies were nice and the food was good and I didn’t want them--thinking the  enchilada plate was for me--to do anything to my mother’s food.
     Sometimes, after I gave her my order, she’d incorrectly clarify, “CHICKEN enchiladas?”
     “No,” I’d correct her. “Cheese.”
     Once, this waitress who was especially nice to me, saw the lady write down "chicken enchiladas" on her ordering pad, and, knowing it was me, double-checked, “Did you want cheese or chicken?”
     “I ordered cheese.”
     And the nice waitress made sure I got my usual.
     Now that I think about it, I should have given her a tip.
     Too bad I'm cheap.
     (I jest, of course.)
     I write all this, because I was thinking about the time the older lady handed me my order and said, “Here’s your green enchiladas.”
     Green enchiladas?
     I checked, and they were red, so all was good.
     Except for the salad it came with.
 
 
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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Words Of Wisdom

Daisy, a friend of mine, recently asked if my father still offers me words of wisdom.
     I had to think about that.
     I came to the conclusion that any words of wisdom my father offers me are usually in the form of hindsight.
     In other words, if I were to bump my head on a low-hanging bar, my father would then tell me, "Watch out for that bar."
     If I stepped on something sharp and painful on the floor, he'd caution, "I forgot to tell you, I put that there."
     Just the other day, when I complained that my stomach was upset, he told me, "You shouldn't eat like a pig."
     For the record, I don't eat like pig.
     My father's not much of a talker, but one thing I've noticed as he's gotten older is that he's more concerned over what his legacy is going to be, how he's going to be remembered.
     "Remember when I..." he'll tell me.
     "You were a good dad, dad," I'll tell him back.
     And he still is.
 
 
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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Rambunctious Kids

My brother and I were pretty rambunctious kids.
     How rambunctious?
     Well, in the Bible, I’ve heard it says, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

     Let’s just say that the two of us gave our parents plenty of reason not to spoil us.
     Let me give you an example. When I was still in single digits age-wise, I saw a movie about time travel and decided to build a time machine. This consisted of my getting an oven rack that, for some reason, was discarded in our backyard. I took it, then went into the kitchen to get my mother’s roll of Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil. I covered each metal wire with the aluminum foil, including the thicker wire frame. I found an extension cord, also discarded in the backyard, and cut off the female end, exposing the copper wiring. I attached the exposed wiring of the extension cord to one corner of the rack.
      I placed the rejiggered oven rack on the ground, plug the extension cord in the outside electrical socket, and talked one of my friends into becoming the first time-naut.
      My theory was this: the electricity flowing through the rejiggered oven rack would create a time warp, and, when my friend jumped onto it, he would fall through the portal and find himself in another time-stream.
      Let’s just say the experiment didn’t go so well.
      Cut to my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary.
      My brother and I were celebrating the special occasion by taking our parents out to a fancy dinner. Our father didn’t want to go, but that’s another story.
     “Bring me back something,” he initially told us.
      He changed his mind and came with us after our beloved mother sent us to another room so she could talk to our father “in private.”
     At dinner, I asked what their secret was to a long, successful marriage.
     “Well,” my mother said, “your father and I agreed that, if we ever split up, whoever left would have to take you and your brother.”

 
 
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Sunday, October 8, 2017

McThis, McThat

I had a headache and thought it might be because I hadn’t had my morning coffee.
     “Maybe it’s a tumor,” my father helpfully suggested.
     “It’s not a tumor,” I told him, wondering where I had heard that exchange before. When it came to me, I couldn’t help but think, “This is what my life’s become: a bad scene from a bad movie.”
     When I was still working, I used to look forward to retiring. Little did I know back then I’d be spending it chauffeuring my father back and forth from his many doctor visits, most of which are unnecessary.
     “You’re perfectly healthy,” one doctor even told him.
     “That could change,” my father replied.
     We were on our way back home from one such visit and I thought I’d pull in to the first fast food place I’d see and get myself a cup of something hot and black. Angela Bassett came to mind, but she wouldn’t fit in the cup.
     Coffee isn’t the only thing I hadn’t had recently.
     “You hungry, dad?” I asked my father.
     “Hungry for what?” He wanted to know.
     “Hungry for food,” I told him.
     He’s ALWAYS hungry.
     “No,” he said.
     Well... he’s always hungry at home, but, then, he likes how my wife serves him. She serves him like a king, and that's why he wasn’t hungry at this particular time. Once we got home, he’d be consuming calories like King Henry the 8th, with my wife as his serving wench.
     Hmm... serving wench.
     Move over, Angela Bassett. I have a new image to occupy my mind.
     Unfortunately, this morning I slept in, so I didn’t have time to make myself a cup of the gourmet coffee I enjoy. My wife has offered to make me a cup every morning, but I prefer doing it myself. It’s one of several things I prefer doing myself, habits I picked up the twelve years between my first and current marriage. Vacuuming’s another, as is doing my own laundry.
     “I do a better job washing my clothes,” I tell my wife. “You should let me do my own laundry.”
     “Maybe I should,” she sniffs, but she never does.
     “What are we pulling in here for?” my father complained at the disruption of his routine, not making a connection between my asking him if he was hungry and then pulling up to the squawk-box of a burger joint.
     I thought I’d be funny.
     “Because,” I answered him, “I have a McHeadache and want to get a McAspirin.”
     My father looked around.
     “This is a McBurger King,” he said.
     
 
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Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Joke Man

Living with my father has never been easy.
    When it came to communicating, he went by the same motto as Clinton’s Army: Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. He didn’t ask me anything, so I didn’t tell him anything. He was of the belief that children (especially his) should be seen, not heard. And, preferably, not even seen. It was enough for him to know we were around.
    It was a different time. Let’s leave it at that.
    And then my parents grew old, my mother passed away, and my father was diagnosed pre-Alzheimer’s. When my family and I asked him to move in with us, I thought maybe things would be different. They weren’t. His first words when I tried to engage him in conversation were practically, “Don’t bother.”
    Not too long ago, I walked into the great room and sat down. Not in my favorite chair, because my father claimed it the day he moved into my house, but in the sofa next to it. He was watching baseball on the MLB channel we got him. Sometimes I’ll watch baseball, too. Usually when I’m in the mood for a nap. He didn’t seem interested in conversation, so I pulled out my phone and went to @jackiemartling. It’s the Twitter account of Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling.
    That’s where something caught my eye.
    “Hey, dad,” I said, “did you hear about the cannibal’s son?”
    My father reluctantly turned my way.
    “The cannibal’s son?” he repeated, probably wondering if I was nuts.
    “Yeah, he got kicked out of school for buttering up the teacher.”
    My father let out a chuckle.
    “That’s a good one,” he said. “Now let me finish watching the game.” Only he didn’t say that last part. What he said was, “Tell me another one.”
    That caught me by surprise, so I quickly looked for another joke I could tell him.
    “How is marriage like a hot bath? Once you get used to it, it ain’t so hot.”
    My father chuckled again. Heck, this time he outright laughed. Since I had his attention, I thought I’d push my luck.
    “What does it mean when a tombstone reads: ‘Here lies a lawyer and an honest man’? It means they buried two people in the same grave.”
    Laughing, my father told me, “You’re a pretty funny guy.”
    Now, how did I manage to squeeze such an unexpected compliment out of my father? Is it because I’m a natural-born comedian? Is it because I keep my funnybone where my backbone should be? No, I couldn’t tell a joke to save my ex-wife’s life, even if I wanted to, but I can read, and I can listen. Although, if you were to ask that very same ex-wife, she’d tell you otherwise. About my listening, I mean. Toward the end of our marriage, her conversations with me usually began, “You haven’t heard a word I’ve said, have you?”
    No, I’m not a comedian, but Jackie Martling is. Not only that, but he’s a mighty fine actor, too. If you’ve seen him in Elias Plagianos’ award-winning TV show “Shoot Me Nicely,” then you know what I mean. And if you’ve listened to any one of his comedy CDs, then you’ve probably busted a gut laughing. I know I have.
    Before I retired, when I was at work pretending to be productive on my computer, I was often at his jokeland.com website instead because I’m a sucker for a good joke. I’m also lazy. I’m so lazy I stick my face out the window and let the wind blow my nose. That’s why I got on his mailing list, where every month he sends out an email stuffed with jokes. It was easy to get on. I just sent him an email at jokeland@aol.com. That’s right, AOL. It’s right there, next to the dodo bird. Best of all, it’s free, and free just happens to be my favorite price-point.
    Don’t look at me that way. What do you want me to do, pay for my entertainment? Ha! Besides being lazy, I’m cheap. I'm so cheap, I go to Kentucky Fried Chicken and lick other people's fingers.
    On October 24th, Jackie is coming out with his autobiography. It’s called “The Joke Man: Bow To Stern.” I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. I don’t usually pre-order books because, like I’ve already told you, I’m cheap, but I went to jackiethejokeman.com and did just that, because I see the book as a good investment in building a relationship with my father.
    Just today, I walked into the great room. I guess I do a lot of walking into the great room. As always, my father was watching baseball. Personally, I’m not into baseball. There might be someone with even less interest in baseball than me. If there is, I haven’t met him. I sat down in my usual spot.
    “Hey, son,” my father said before I could pull out my phone.
    “Yeah, dad?” I answered, thinking he was going to tell me I was being quiet too loud.
    “Why do gorillas have such big nostrils?”
    “I don’t know. Why?”
    “Because their fingers are HUGE.”
    He laughed, and so did I.
    “Good one, dad,” I said.
    And it was.
   
A man walks into a bar. “Ouch!” he says. Don’t make the same mistake. Go to JimDuchene.BlogSpot.com, RaisingMyFather.BlogSpot.com, or @JimDuchene, where there are no low-hanging bars.
     
as featured in Desert Exposure Magazine
     
   
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Monday, September 25, 2017

Listen Up, Ladies!

Listen up, ladies.
     The way to a man's heart isn't through his stomach, it's with the remote control. Let a man have control of the television set, and you'll have a very sedate beast.
     At least that's the way it is with my father, and that's how I usually find myself sitting in the great room watching the premium baseball channel with him, instead of something more interesting, like Championship Knitting.
     The cable company calls the MLB channel "premium," which is another word for expensive. It's not something I would purchase on my own, but my wife and I get it for my father because it makes him happy.
     And keeps him out of trouble.
     Speaking of trouble, my father has developed a bit of it when it comes to reading and understanding his bank and financial statements.  He's been diagnosed pre-Alzheimer's, and one of the symptoms is having a problem with numbers.
     Occasionally, he'll pester us into taking him to the bank so he can complain to someone in charge, then he'll come home satisfied, but still unable to make sense of the statement, so he'll get upset all over again.
     "Those characters," he'll rant. "They're nothing but a bunch of thieves. Take me to the bank!"
     "Here's the remote, dad."
     And all is right with the world.
     When the phone rang (yes, we still have a landline), I wasn't surprised. We get a ton of calls from people trying to sell us something, no matter how many Do Not Call lists we put our names on.
     This one was for my father, so I handed the phone over to him. It was a broker making what's referred to as a cold sales call, but, since we have veto power over his finances, he can't get into too much trouble.
     "Hello?" my father said into the receiver, and then listened politely to the sales pitch. "No, thank you," he finally said, "but I'll keep you in mind in case I ever want to hand all my money over to a stranger on the phone."
     My father.
     He's not so dumb.

 
 
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