Fathers’ Day

Happy Fathers’ Day to all the dads out there! My hope and prayer for you all is that you know how loved you are, how important you are to all who love you, and what a profound difference you make in the lives around you.

This being my first Fathers’ Day without my father, I remember him and thank him in my heart for all he did for me. I thank him for being the kind of man who grew and changed with the years, and who sought knowledge as eagerly as a plant seeks water.

My dad came from a childhood where his mother showed him constant and unfailing love. His father, for reasons of his own, could not. When dad was young, his father never ruffled his hair and told him he was a good boy, played with him or encouraged him in any area. Dad grew up with trust issues that didn’t resolve themselves until much later in life.

I watched my dad throughout the years, and was proud of him for his efforts to grow and change and rise above the dysfunction of his father. I watched as he read all he could about healthy living. He believed, as so many do now, that a plant-based diet was the best way to go for good health.

When Mom was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, she took many medications and infusions to help. Dad put her on the “cancer free” diet; basically no sugar, no processed foods, no dairy, very little meat and no artificial anything. The main diet is fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, small portions of organic meat, and the like (look this up; it’s a real deal). Because of this, Mom lived a lot longer than she would have on just the medications.

Because of how he had lived as a boy, he decided that marriage was not for him. His parents’ marriage was constantly in an uproar, and fights were frequent. We have laughed over the circumstances that lead him to marry Mom and adopt me when I was four years old.

Here’s what happened:

He was sitting in a waiting room in Philadelphia, getting ready for his interview to be a radio announcer. While he sat there, he found a Maine newspaper and idly began to read it. There was a tiny ad in the classifieds for a television cameraman/announcer in the new station, WTOO, in Bangor, ME.

Without thinking, he got up, told the receptionist that he had to leave, and drove all the way up to Bangor, ME. Not only did he get the job, but he met my mom, who at the time was hosting a TV swap show.

A few months later, they began dating. Mom was in the process of a divorce, and she was understandably nervous about starting a new relationship. When she let Dad meet me, I liked him right away. He often showed up at our apartment with bags of groceries because he thought we were both too thin.

Months later, Mom was offered a new and better-paying job in Portland, ME. Although she was already falling in love with Dad, she told him that this was an opportunity that she had to take to make a better life for me.

I can’t imagine the mix of feelings he had to have had at that moment. He told me years later that he might have been able to walk away from one of us, but not both of us. So he grabbed my mom by the shoulders, took a deep breath and said this following “romantic” proposal: “All right, goddamnit, I’ll marry you.”

Needless to say, this was a family joke for years. We have all felt that this was no coincidence; it was a meant-to-be.

So on this first Fathers’ Day without Dad, I remember him for so much. I will always love him for marrying my mom and adopting me. I will always be grateful for all he taught me and for how much he loved me and my mother. He was truly a father who fathered and did it well.

Thank you, Dad. I love you.

 

Chemistry Partners in Crime

Back in high school, Chemistry was mandatory. I didn’t know a molecule from a mollusk, but I went to class hoping I could at least pass it. We were partnered up by the teacher on the first day, and my friend Susan became my lab partner. We were both clueless.

Neither of us had ever made so much as a baking soda and vinegar volcano, so we sat there in mutual ignorance. Many of our friends in the class had older brothers and sisters who had at least told them what to expect in Chemistry; we were both only children and were on our own. Back then, there was no internet, no Google, no Wikapedia, no cell phones; all we had was the Encyclopedia Brittanica and our parents for information.

For those of you who were not born in the ’50s, the Encyclopedia Brittanica was a set of “books of knowledge” ranging from subjects A to Z. Back then, you could buy them “on time;” one book a month until you had the whole set. Unfortunately, these were no help to us as the information on chemistry seemed to be pretty light in encyclopedia “C”.

So, there we were, lab partners in rubber gloves, wondering how in the heck we were ever going to make it through the class. I don’t remember much about the class, to be perfectly honest. I just remember that Susan and I took turns doing the experiments; one of us did the actual work, and the other took notes.

The one valuable thing I took away from Chemistry was what our teacher called “the scientific method.” This meant that you took notes on each and every step of each experiment. This way, if things didn’t work out as expected, you could go through the notes and figure out when/where you got off track.

To this very day, I still use the scientific method. Example: when my faithful computer guru comes over to help me figure out why my sound no longer works or why the text I’m reading keeps jumping up to the first line, I take notes. As he explains what’s going on and how it can be remedied, I write down the process. This way, when the same problem comes up again, I read my notes and can usually fix it myself.

I don’t remember what grades Susan and I got in Chemistry. What I do remember was that at some point our teacher realized that he had two real duds on his hands, and he had work out how to teach us.

At the beginning of each class he would explain the experiment to us all. Then he would look at Susan and I and “translate” it into a process we could understand:

To everyone: “Class, remember to keep the <insert arcane chemical here> well away from the <insert next arcane chemical> before you mix in the <insert last arcane chemical>.”

Then he would turn to us and say, “Susan and Jane: don’t add water.”

Incredibly, we passed the course. Our grades may have been on the low side, but at least we didn’t fail, nor did we give our poor teacher an aneurysm.

 

 

 

Cacophony!

The word “cacophony” (pronounced ‘ka-cough-any’) means “harsh” or “dissonant” or “jarring.” Just imagine a metal trash can filled with old silverware, tin cans and jingle bells falling down several flights of stairs. The sound it made would be pure cacophony.

Yesterday the Crankee Yankee and I had the great privilege of attending Ava’s (our oldest granddaughter) graduation from kindergarten. She and all her friends wore their black felt mortarboards proudly, and they all accepted their diplomas to rounds of applause and cheers.

Ava, being the fashionista she is, wore a long fluttery dress in pink and purple and sported a pair of sparkly, strappy purple kitten heels. (Honestly, if I could have found a pair like them in my size, I’d have bought them in a New York minute; they were that cute.)

Once the formalities were over, the sound of excited children and adults filled the air. There were happy screeches, hugs given and received, gifts presented and exclaimed over, and constant excited chatter. Now that’s a good example of cacophony.

We went out to lunch to celebrate, and one of Ava’s school friends and her family were also there. So both girls sat at the counter, twirling their seats and chattering and laughing together. That’s another good example of cacophony.

After lunch, we went back to Ava’s house to have coffee and chat. Now Ava’s dad has a big farm with sheep, yaks, chickens, guinea hens, geese, ducks, and rabbits. There are also two corgis, Jack and Ross, and a huge Kangal, Sabannah (this is a dog as big as a pony). MCat, the tiger cat, wisely keeps to herself in the house.

As you approach the house, there is honking, clucking, crowing, cackling, quacking, mooing, baa-ing and barking. Add to that Ava’s happy singing and yelling, and you have true cacophony. This version of it is exactly what it sounds like; loud, happy, attention-seeking, “listen to me!” noise.

My step-daughter gave this type of cacophony a name that says it all about this wild and happy and life-affirming noise: “kaka-phony” (pronounced “kak-a-phony”). It is different from plain old cacophony in that it makes you laugh instead of covering your ears. It means that all is well, everyone’s healthy and happy, and that there is so much to celebrate each day.

These are the sounds that let you know that life is loud and good; that it is composed of laughter and shouting and cheering and all those lively barnyard conversations. “Kakophony” is life in its loudest and loveliest form.

May we all have plenty of kakaphony in our lives!

Whew! Summer’s Here!

Here in the great northeast we have experienced a few days of what we call “summah weathah.” It wasn’t so long ago that we kept the warm and heavy down comforter on the bed, our systems still attuned to a rainy, chilly spring.

That said, these past few days of mid-90s and the accompanying humidity have driven most of us to install our air conditioning units in the windows and to leave the overhead fans on 24/7.

Personally, I’m not a fan (ha, ha; pun intended) of hot, sticky weather, but I find that the more I complain about it, the worse it seems. So if it’s just too hot to be out, I stay in and write, do some cleaning, read, or something else that doesn’t require a whole lot of effort.

Plus complaining about something over which I have no control is just a waste of time and breath. So, to lighten things up, I checked in on one of my favorite poets, Ogden Nash, to see what he had to say about hot weather:

“When the thunder stalks the sky,
When tickle-footed walks the fly,
When shirt is wet and throat is dry,
Look, my darling, that’s July.

Though the grassy lawn be leather,
And prickly temper tug the teather,
Shall we postpone our love for weather?
If we must melt, let’s melt together!”

Here’s hoping that none of us melt, together or separately!

Honesty NOT the Best Policy??

Doesn’t it seem that the truths we grew up, such as “honesty is the best policy,” and “do to others what you would for yourself,” and so on have just gone right into the ditch?

When I hear on the news that someone has gotten away with doing terrible things and then got caught (think of Bernie Madoff), I have to wonder what in the world they were thinking? And how in the world did they think they could get away with what they did?

Most astonishing of all is that most of them act as though:

  1. It was only “business,” and nothing personal.
  2. Someone took over their body and did these awful things; it wasn’t their fault!
  3. They have some weird some nutritional deficiency that caused them to murder someone, steal money, sell drugs to children, and so on.

When I hear of some dumb cluck who robbed a convenience store and got caught, I have to wonder how that thought process went:

Dumb Cluck: “I need money. Hey—I know; I’ll rob a convenience store!”

If he/she were a little smarter cluck, he/she might then say: “Oh, but if I’m caught, I could go to jail. Maybe I’d better not do that.” But they don’t seem to get the ‘smart’ thing, do they?

Of course, the Crankee Yankee, being the Crankee Yankee, always says this when robberies and other acts of mayhem occur during the cold weather:

“Well, there’s another one who needs three hots and a cot.”

Meaning three meals a day they can count on (in prison), and a bed (in prison). If so, that’s crying shame that things have devolved so badly for this person.

On the other hand, there is the trying-to-do-the-right-thing that often goes sideways. You made a mistake, or forgot to pay a bill, or you weren’t charged for something you should have been charged for, and so on. You try to make it right, and it turns out to be so difficult you feel like giving up and just joining the other dumb clucks.

I just don’t get it. Whenever I try to do the right thing, it seems a lot harder than if I did the wrong thing. For example, my dad and I each had a credit card from his account; I was able to use it when necessary, and Dad paid the bill. When he died, I let the credit card company know and told them to bill me for the outstanding balance.

Well—you would think that I asked them for a kidney. I originally called in late April, and in mid-May I called again and asked for a bill. A few weeks later I called again, and was assured that a bill would be sent. It is now mid-June and still no bill.

So I wrote a letter to the customer service department for this company, AND their corporate offices. I explained the situation, and specified that I wanted to pay the balance owed, and could I please get a bill? As of today, no bill. What’s wrong with this picture?!

Have things changed so significantly that dishonesty is now the best policy? If so, I never got the notice. OR a bill.

 

 

The Weight of a Human Soul

What is a soul, exactly? According to my good friend, Webster’s Dictionary, it is all these things:

“1. the principle of life, feeling, thought, and action in humans, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body, and commonly held to be separable in existence from the body; the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part.

2. the spiritual part of humans regarded in its moral aspect, or as believed to survive death and be subject to happiness or misery in a life to come: arguing the immortality of the soul.

3. the disembodied spirit of a deceased person: He feared the soul of the deceased would haunt him.

4. the emotional part of human nature; the seat of the feelings or sentiments.

5. a human being; person.

6. high-mindedness; noble warmth of feeling, spirit or courage, etc.

7. the animating principle; the essential element or part of something.”

Scientific studies have been done where a dying person has been placed on a platform over delicately balanced scales. When the person expires, there is a weight loss of one half to three quarters of an ounce. (Check out Snopes for this one; it goes into much more detail.)

But what about how all of us non-scientific folk feel about souls? I can only tell you the truth of my own soul.

Like Santa Claus, I know when I am naughty or nice. I know when I am being rude, selfish, obnoxious, angry, etc. I also know when I am working to be a better person. I envision my soul as a vapor-like shape of myself sitting behind the wheel of my body, trying to keep on the straight and narrow.

Due to the fact that we all came to earth with free will, it must be difficult for my poor soul to keep on course. When I swear and rail against the things that bother me, I can almost feel my soul cringing. It is as if I hear a whisper in my ear saying, ‘you are better than this, come on now—make this RIGHT!’

I’m sure that this “soul or no soul” has been an ongoing debate since the beginning of the human race. Speaking just for me, I have always believed I had a soul, in fact, I believe that every sentient being has one.

My goal for today (well, every day) is to keep my soul shiny and clean and not aggravate it to the point where it wants to pack up and leave.