The Permanent Family Record
Writes The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Subject: Pneumonia, Tight Shoes and The Battle Over the Hen & the Rooster.
“Daddy was due to go out of town for a building job and would be gone for several weeks, so he took me to the shoe store before he left. I was 6 years old, and the shoes that were supposed to last for all of first grade were falling apart. Mother warned him to buy sensible shoes that would last awhile. Daddy spotted a pair of sturdy brown oxfords, as I looked longingly at the black patent-leather shoes, the kind Shirley Temple wore. My soft-hearted Daddy bought both, much to Mother’s dismay.
“I wasn’t feeling very well when he left, but a few days later I was really sick — so sick that Mother actually called the doctor. Dr. Cranston had delivered me, and I knew him quite well, since he came annually when I developed measles. I had them six times in all; Dr. Cranston said there were nine variations, and I was trying to test them all. This time it wasn’t measles. It was my second bout with pneumonia. Mother sent my sisters and their mattress downstairs to sleep on the living-room floor, and she set up a sick room for me. I have a vague memory of a big kettle of water steaming on a hot plate and Mother putting cold cloths on my forehead, but I have a vivid memory of the day Dr. Cranston picked me up out of bed and said he was taking me to the hospital. My calm sweet Mother turned into a vicious tigress defending her cub as she blocked his way at the doorway: ‘Absolutely not! She is staying right here with me. Put her back in that bed!’ I actually felt quite comfortable in his arms, and since Mother had told me Dr. Cranston had delivered me at the hospital, I assumed he had first dibs on me.
“Mother won. Dr. Cranston came daily to check on me, and I slowly got better. Mother didn’t want to worry Daddy, so she downplayed my sickness in her letters, but Daddy was by nature a worrier. When he finished up on his job and came home, he rushed right upstairs to see me. He had a large gray metal suitcase, and he sat me up in bed and shoved that cold metal case behind me so he could show me the surprise he had brought me. It was Easter time, and he dumped an entire chicken family in my lap. (No, they weren’t real — but you would never know with my dad.) They were adorable: a mom and dad and six baby chicks made of fluffy chenille. The baby chicks were so darn cute, but the mother chicken was my favorite; she was so tall and colorful. I couldn’t wait to get out of that bed and go downstairs and play with them in my sandbox. Mother helped me get dressed, and when I tried to put my new shoes on, neither pair fit. My feet had grown half an inch while lying in that bed for six weeks.
“The day I invited my neighbor Janice over to play with my chickens, Mother overheard us having a loud argument over the gender of the rooster. Janice claimed the rooster was the father, while I knew better. The rooster was bigger, so it stood to reason in my mind that the tallest one was the mother: ‘Mothers are bigger than fathers. Everyone knows that.’
“My mom intervened and told me that wasn’t always the case. She said: ‘Look around you, dear. Janice’s father is taller than her mother. Uncle Hal is taller than Aunt Sadie. Look at our neighbors: Mr. Bailey is taller than Mrs. Bailey. Just because I am taller than Daddy doesn’t mean ALL mothers are taller than daddies.’ I had never noticed that before, so I grudgingly conceded. If Janice wanted to pretend the rooster was the father, OK, but by golly as soon as she left, it was Mother Rooster and Father Hen in MY sandbox.”
Or: Then & Now
LeoJEOSP writes: “I was sitting at my desk in my home office. I dropped a piece of paper. So, I leaned over to pick up the paper . . . then dropped it . . . then dropped it . . . then dropped it — very frustrating. I almost felt like my hand was repelling that paper.
“After a total of five times, I leaned over to the floor from my wheeled office chair. Then I fell out of my chair and gently hit my head on a desk to the right of me. I was able to recover from the fall and tried to sit in my chair, and the chair went rolling backwards and punched a hole in the wallboard on the left of my desk.
“My diagnosis was in 1999. I am 66 now, and I have learned that my initial reaction of rage in years past was the wrong reaction to have. I have read books which helped me feel calm a good share of the time. Many folks with cerebellar ataxia recognize Dr. [Jeremy] Schmahmann; reading his books and finding his online presence has been a great help to me.
“I wish I had recorded my attempts to pick up the paper. I was laughing so hard that I had to stop and catch my breath!”
Life (and death) as we know it
The Astronomer of Nininger: “Subject: Lost friends.
“Over the years, we all have lost close friends who died just too early in their lives, no matter how old they were. I certainly have had my share of people close to me who slipped away with little or no warning.
“This past week, I lost another.
“There is something inspiring in the life of a dear friend, something which grips the heart and holds it fast. It may be their pioneering spirit, or a sane (almost holiness) respect for life. Allow me to briefly tell you about a few of these special friends.
“There was Frank, a biology professor with whom I team-taught an honors course on the search for intelligent life elsewhere in this vast universe. He was a kind man who would do anything for you. He grew up in Hibbing and was a true Iron Ranger. He was so proud of his daughters. I recall that when his father died, many years ago, Frank selected one of his dad’s tools especially for me to keep. I still have it — not because I knew his dad so well, but because Frank gave it to me so I could share his loss.
“Tim and I were military pilots, but he was a Naval aviator and I had served in the Air Force. The Good Wife and I even went to his son’s wedding at Notre Dame, and we were both in the Minnesota Association of Scholars and a pilots’ organization. Tim could charm anyone. He was a large man and loved his family. Because of his size, he was a perfect Santa at our annual Christmas parties. This past weekend, for the deer-season opener, I wore a blaze-orange sweatshirt that he gave me. It was from Big River, Wisconsin, where we frequently ate lunch together along with a Leinenkugel.
“Last week Larry left us. He and I shared a passion for the Second Amendment and single-malt Scotch. He joined my son Chuck and me on a hunting trip to Africa, and we took the Good Wife’s lady friends out to the gun club range several times to introduce them to safety and shooting. Larry enjoyed telling stories about his family’s farm near Cambridge, as well as his experiences as a forester for the Minnesota DNR. He thrived on those online auctions and drove a yellow Mustang. A complete story could be told about Larry and each of the items just mentioned.
“All of my friends, both living and those who have passed, have made a significant impact on who I am today. And when they die, a part of me seemed to do so, too. But I continue to respect them and will always keep their memory alive, burning in my heart.”
What’s in a mascot?
Dennis from Eagan writes: “Subject: WILD ride on ice.
“Three relatives and I attended the October 7 Wild preseason game versus Chicago at the Xcel Energy Center. Fans will normally see the Wild’s mascot (Nordy) everywhere during the game; the Hy-Vee mascot (shopping-cart Zamboni) with groups riding onboard is seen on the ice only during the two intermissions.
“For more information on this Hy-Vee experience at the arena, contact a Wild rep at email@example.com.”
Gee, our old Lawn-Boy ran great!
Bill of the river lake reports: “Subject: Like father, like son.
“A bit of nostalgia.
“While out biking in our neighborhood this weekend to burn a few calories and get the kinks out, I observed a young dad cutting his yard, and his very young son mimicking him with his small, plastic lawn mower, the kind that clicks when pushed.
“I asked the dad if his son was helping. His answer: ‘Yes, of course.’
“Back in the mid-’80s, our young son helped me in the same way while wearing his porkpie hat and upside-down sunglasses. He was ‘helping’ and really enjoying himself.
“Sometimes it’s the little things that prop up one’s memory . . .”
Dumb Customer Jokes
Rusty of St. Paul: “Subject: Dumb Customer Jokes.
“A week or so ago, I was scheduled to drive five hours north to our vacation home. In the morning, my descending colon was having fortitude issues — enough so that if the trips to the bathroom didn’t slow down, I would not be heading north.
“Early afternoon, after eating three of the four items in the BRAT [Bulletin Board interjects: Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast] diet, things had calmed to the point where I felt I could head out.
“Four-and-a-half incident-free hours later, I stopped in at the IGA in the town just south of ours for a few grocery items. This store has gasoline pumps out in the parking lot. I was in the Express Line, as I had so few items.
“The checkout woman said: ‘Did you have gas?’ I thought my answer over; felt I should tell the truth, as I had had a LOT of gas in the morning. ‘Umm, that is kind of a private question,’ I responded. She was flustered for a moment, then said: ‘FUEL! Did you pump fuel?'”
BULLETIN BOARD MUSES: You sure it was “FUEL!” and not “FOOL!”?
“Art” imitates “life”
Sitcom Division (responsorial)
(Former) Banker of River Falls, Wisconsin: “I was sad and a little upset by the critique of ‘Leave It to Beaver.’ I was 17 in 1961, and while I might not have been thrilled to get handkerchiefs as a birthday present, if they were from my little brother, I’m likely to have thanked him and said they were ‘neat,’ too. If I had been sarcastic or snarky in my response, it’s a sure bet that any gift from my parents would have quickly disappeared! It was a kinder and gentler time. And ‘neat’ was perfectly acceptable!”
Fun facts to know and tell
Al B of Hartland: “I heard yip-howls of coyotes — short howls that rise and fall in pitch, punctuated with staccato yips, yaps and barks. The ‘song dog’ pups born in the spring are ready to disperse and find new territories from September through November. The yip-howling I heard is the communication between the animals that’s a type of bonding within a family group, while also serving as a territorial display.
“The yip-howling appeared to be coming from different locations, but I wasn’t surrounded by coyotes. It’s an auditory illusion known as the ‘beau geste effect,’ wherein a few coyotes sound like many. It’s named for the novel ‘Beau Geste,’ in which French troops propped up their dead to make attackers believe they were a larger force than they truly were.”
Unclear on the concept (responsorial)
Or: Fun Facts to Know and Tell (Canadian Football Division)
A recent mention of the American football field’s 50-yard line inspired this note from Friendly Bob of Fridley: “For the uninitiated, here are a few facts about the football played by our friendly neighbors to the north (though many of the players come from American colleges and universities).
“The ‘playing surface’ is 110 yards long, versus the American field of 100 yards. This midfield would be the 55-yard line, though I do not think it is ever referred to that way — only ‘centerfield.’ (There is a big ‘C’ marking it; looks like a cents sign with the yard line going through it.) The Canadian field is also wider: 195 feet versus 160 feet. The end zones in Canada are 20 yards deep, versus the paltry 10 yards here. Gives pass receivers more room to work! Goalposts are on the goal line, instead of at the American end line.
“If you were to watch Canadian football (OK, I’ll admit that I sometimes do), you would have to pay attention to notice the differences. The general order of play and penalties are almost indistinguishable. Some penalties have slightly different names. Canadians get only three downs to make 10 yards for a first down, instead of the four downs here — which usually results in more passing plays. Some scoring differences, especially the ‘single,’ formerly known as a ‘rouge.’ (No, I do not know why.) The reader can search the Web for the exact way a single is scored. Or why it was called a rouge. Years ago, a touchdown was only five points instead of six, but at some point it changed. (Too lazy to look that up.) Oh yes, and the entire offensive backfield can be in motion at the snap (but must still not go offsides), even toward the line of scrimmage. No ‘fair catches’ on punts; they must be returned (unless they go ‘oot of boonds,’ which is a penalty), and the punt returner has to be given a 5-yard ‘halo’ to field the ball. The first time I watched the CFL, I was a little surprised that distances were measured in yards, not meters.
“I’m sure I did not cover all the differences. I do not know offhand how many ‘time-oots’ each team gets), and I think the ‘two-minute warning’ is different as well. (Again, just too dang lazy to look up any more info!)
“The Canadian game (IMHO) does seem to move along faster. Less showboating, too — one of my major gripes about our pro football. I think the Canadians are too polite for that (oh, and one may draw a penalty flag for such bad sportsmanship).”
Kathy S. of St. Paul writes: “Subject: Taking my shot.
“There’s an ad for KitKat bars on TV lately. As an alarm clock sounds, part of the candy bar pops up. Then a sleepy-sounding Dracula sits up, saying ‘OK, OK, I’m up, I’m up!’
“As I got my COVID booster shot last week, I visualized my immune system saying the same thing. And, judging by minor swelling on my arm, it is working. Yay!
“BTW: There was an older couple in the drugstore when I got my vaccine. They had not been able to book their shots online (as I did), so they came in to book it in person. Maybe some trustworthy neighbors out there could help folks like them?”
The darnedest things
WARNING! Cute kid story ahead, from Vertically Challenged: “Granddaughter Adriana is in first grade this year. For homework, the teacher had them write out five sentences using the word ‘all.’ Maybe she wasn’t having the best day, having to think of these sentences, by the time she got to the fourth one. 🤣”
Band Name of the Day: The Song Dogs — or: Search for Intelligent Life