Picture This…

I like pictures, photographs to be exact. It’s likely a family thing. My parents had lots of photos. My mother in particular had many photos of her teenage and college years. She had even more, but her mother, enveloped in what must have been emotional or mental illness, shredded her photo albums. Still, there were a lot of photos of my mother at various stages of her life. She always looked like Mom in them, even if the image was of a younger and smaller version.

My paternal grandmother loved photos. She had many boxes full. We usually visited Granny on Sundays in the small Eastern Kentucky town of Evarts. Granny had framed photos scattered about her house in addition to the boxes. She said she would save money to have photos taken of her children whenever there was a photographer in town. Granny’s love of photos is why I have a framed photo of my father at 4 months old:

 babydad

Dad often said that this “little fellow” had no idea what a tough world he was being sent into in 1925.

Photos tell stories, of course, but often you must know a lot of background before you know the story. That is certainly true of this photo (of my favorites):

fam

As photography goes, it’s unremarkable. The lighting isn’t ideal and the color is a bit odd. My mother, for example, was quite pale. She never had that much color. Regardless, I like the people in it. The date was August 11, 1987, my 25th birthday.  It’s in my parents’ home in Loyall, Kentucky. It was my home, too, from age 12 on. That’s me, the Birthday Boy, behind the cake. On the left is my younger brother, Richard Kent Williams, born March 16, 1967. My parents are behind me–Earl Malone Williams and Anna Muriel Dye Williams. I’m not sure about the photographer, but I assume it was my future wife, Sherry.  It was important to my mother that I come home for my birthday, so I did in 1987 like every year expect 1982 when I was stranded in Lexington, Kentucky without a car. So, I guess the story is that I came home for my birthday, and we posed for a photo. It is also worth noting that birthdays were the rare occasions when my mother would pose for a photo. Otherwise, she was like pursuing J.D. Salinger for a portrait sitting.

There’s more there, of course. My Dad was 62 years old. Mom was 57. My parents shared the same birthday–January 19. From a young age, I knew that at any given time, they were five years apart in age. Dad was in remarkably good health, considering that he didn’t exercise or eat right or even ever see a doctor. Mom, on the other hand, had only recently passed her five-year anniversary of a breast cancer diagnosis. Her health had been poor, not so much because of the cancer but more from the “cure,” a toxic cocktail of chemicals which eradicated cancer cells but left her weak and unsteady. Today, I also know that Mom suffered from depression, at least that’s my unprofessional diagnosis. In this photo, I didn’t think any such thing. I thought she was just prone to spells of sadness, much like she described her own mother.

As I write this, I’m 52, but I’m not 52 in that photo. I’m 25. It’s tempting to wax nostalgic or melancholy and think about what was or what was to come. For example, almost six weeks later to the day this photo was taken, Richard was dead. As far as I know, this is the last photo of him. He’s fine in the photo. I like that. Like most people who die young, he became his death. Here, he’s just a 20-year-old posing for a birthday picture with his brother.

Here, Dad hadn’t had a heart attack, like he would two years later, radically changing his lifestyle (for the better, I should add). Mom would have her share of health woes in years to come, but not on that day. Me? I was a 25-year-old who finally finished school and was about to start a career as a lawyer. I hadn’t had the ups and downs of that career and the self-imposed stress which would help make me the exact type of person that this young man loathed–pompous, self-important and with an over-inflated view of his own significance.

I know that house well. My parents built it, and I thought it was a mansion when we moved in.  It was a classic 1970’s split-level home with four levels, but it had things I’d only imagined in my 12 years–air conditioning, for example. It had carpet all over the house, too! I still shared a room with my younger brother, but that was much better than sharing it was my younger and older brothers. After my father died in 2008, I sold the house, but I never out-grew my fascination with it.

A friend once told me that life “comes at you at the speed of light at point-blank range.”  What he meant, I think, was that things happen all the time, every day, and we just have to deal with them. It’s tempting to look at this or any other old photo and ponder all the things that were to come. I prefer to think that none of those things, good or bad, happened to those folks. They are frozen in that photo.

Sometimes, though, I do wonder about what those folks would think about what was to come. None of us would have accurately predicted the future. Unlike that young fellow in the photo, I’m the father of three sons. I didn’t even ponder such things in those days. Now, I’m the one who poses with his sons for photos:

fathersday2014

None of us in this photo knows what’s coming, either. It will surely come, of course, and we’ll deal with it. Or we won’t.

In the years after my 25th birthday, I wasted much of my young adulthood planning and hoping for the future, much of that little more than self-centered scheming to try to make the world suit my desires. This peculiar form of madness masqueraded as ambition. When I see these old photos, I realize how little I knew then. Then again, that 25 year old would be stoked to know about all the cool things that were to come. His view of the future sold himself short. There was a lot more growing up to do and the pains that go with it. Everything turned out pretty sweet.

In some sense, we’re still in 1987, I suppose, celebrating that birthday. At least that’s what they’re doing in the photo. That’s where I go when I look at it. I can’t claim to be the same person I was at 25, but that is me in the photo. I know, because I have the picture to prove it.

©www.thetrivialtroll.com 2014

Mitchell The House Rabbit (2008-2014)

An obituary of our rabbit, Mitchell:

RIP MITCHELL

Mitchell passed from this Earth on July 2, 2014 after a brief illness. He is survived by his friend and master, Max Williams (age 12) and Max’s family—parents John and Sherry; and brothers Adam (age 21) and Lucas (age 19). He is also survived by his longtime companion, Mollie, and his special friend, Charlie The Cat.

Mitchell was born on March 22, 2008 in Scott County, Kentucky at the home of Rick and Lisa True. At the time of his passing, he was the only known survivor of his litter. Mitchell was a pure bred New Zealand rabbit, known for albinism and propensity for weight gain.

Eating was the primary focus of Mitchell’s life. He enjoyed nothing more than his morning banana and snack of grapes right before bed. Timothy hay, rabbit food and cilantro were also among his favorites. He was no snob, though, as he was known to occasionally enjoy a piece of cardboard or perhaps newspaper. His own excrement was often his snack of choice. He also enjoyed a good book but only if he could eat the pages.

When not eating, Mitchell was often found staring blankly off into space. Being nocturnal, he enjoyed napping during the day, which he could do with his eyes open. As prey for larger animals, Mitchell was always aware of his surroundings looking about for predators. A cardboard box was his shelter or hutch of choice.

Mitchell brightened the lives of those who knew him with his entertaining “happy hops” and general mischief. While many carry scars from his bites, they are now permanent reminders of our friend.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Kentucky Rabbit Rescue at http://rabbit.rescueme.org/Kentucky.

Mitchell, back in his youth.

Mitchell, back in his youth.

Here’s Something Funny: How I Talk

I talk funny.  No, I don’t have a speech impediment.  If I did, it’s likely that very few people would mention it.  Then again, maybe they would.  Still, I talk funny, and I know it.

I didn’t always know it.  For 18 years, I thought I sounded just fine, better than most, in fact.  I grew up in Harlan County, Kentucky, the very heart of Eastern Kentucky.  Harlan is Appalachia at its finest.  We’re proud of our heritage.  We’ll tell anyone who’ll listen.  Unfortunately, many times those people won’t understand a damn word we say.

When I was 18, I went to college but not very far from home.  I attended the University of Kentucky, a mere 3 hours (at most) from Harlan County.  There were a lot of Eastern Kentuckians at U.K., and those folks became my friends.  As one friend from Bell County (Harlan’s next door neighbor) told me “We’re like Indians.  We’re lost when we leave the reservation, so we have to hang together.” So we did.

I met people from different places, and they talked funny.  They had accents.  We did, too, but not so bad.  I knew plenty of people in Harlan with accents, heavy mountain accents.  They were hard to understand even for a native.  I didn’t sound like that.  Or so I thought.

When I was 19, I met a girl from Louisville–Kentucky’s big city.  She broke the news to me about my accent. For example, I pronounced the word “light” all wrong.  It has a short “i”, not the long, flat “eyyyyyye” I used.  In fact, I was practically saying “lat” instead of “light.”  Damnation.  Who knew?  She complained about my mumbling.  Little did she know, that she should been have happy that she couldn’t understand everything I was saying.

Once someone talks about your accent, the relationship is doomed, I suppose.  Nevertheless, I realized that I did have an accent.  I’ve been cognizant of it ever since.  You can’t tell I have an accent by reading this, but I do.  It’s a pretty thick one, too.  You know what?  I don’t give a fat damn about it.  [“Fat damn” sounds really good with my accent, by the way.]

What kind do I have?  Appalachian.  That’s not southern.  I don’t sound like Foghorn Leghorn, although folks in the Northeast will ask me if I’m “from the South.”  I’m not from the South.  I’m from the Mountains.

Our accents are a mountain drawl combined with a distinct mumble.  Our words run together but kind of slowly.  We aren’t fast talkers.  Go to Michigan if you want to hear that.  Our accents have so butchered the English language over time that translation is often required:

You from upair? Translation:  Are you from up there? [Up where, you ask?  Upair.]

Them yor people?  Translation:  Are you related to those people? 

He done got farred.  Translation:  That fellow was discharged from his employment.

Gimme em warcutters.  Translation:  Please hand me those wire cutters.

He thoed that out the winder.  Translation:  He threw that item out of the window.

I et a mater sammich yesterdee.  Translation:  I dined on a tomato sandwich yesterday.

Them fellers fit upair.  Translation:  Two gentlemen from up there engaged in fisticuffs.

He clum upair and worked on the chimley.  Translation:  He climbed up on the house to repair the chimney.

These are but a few examples, extreme though they may be.  We’ll say “tar” instead of “tire.” Someone may be “lexicuted” rather than electrocuted.  We fish with “minners,”not minnows.  People live in hollers or they may holler at you.  We’ll even “GARNT-tee” something for you.  We can do all of this but you won’t have a damn clue if we explain it to you.

So, you’re thinking:  “You people are ignorant hill jacks.”  No, we’re not.  That’s just how we talk.  I guess we have our fair shares of idiots, but almost all of us have accents which render us, to some extent, incomprehensible.

Now, not all mountain people have accents.  Some work very hard to get rid of them or to never have them.  I’m cool with that.  That’s not how I was raised, though.  We just talked how we talked.  We didn’t really think about it much, except for my mother who was a stickler for correct grammar.  She pointed out to me on many occasions that only the lowest of trash used double negatives.  “Ain’t” made her practically shriek, but not as much as “hain’t” did.

I do feel a bit bad for the folks who lose their accents.  They become sort of like people from Nebraska.  Try to say something and sound like someone from Nebraska.  You can’t, because no one knows what they sound like.  I can identify an Appalachian accent in about 5 seconds.

One group I don’t care about is those who shed their accents because of their shame of coming from the mountains.  They don’t want to sound like us.  It’s embarrassing.  They’re above that.  They are the same folks who pontificate about people in the mountains need, when in truth they wouldn’t care if the place was used for nuclear waste disposal.

So, how thick is my accent?  I was eating at my neighborhood Waffle House recently, when the waitress asked where I was from.  When I said Harlan, she said “I thought so.”  Oh, she then added:  “Half my family is from Harlan–the half we don’t speak to.”

Recently, I was in Las Vegas and struck up a conversation with a couple of strippers on the street.  One asked:  “Where are you from?  Your accent is so cute.”  I gave her five dollars.  I also met aspiring rapper, Young Cheese.  Even he asked me where I was from.

These ladies like my accent.  That's not so bad, is it?

These ladies like my accent. That’s not so bad, is it?

The obvious downside to my accent is that I am often incomprehensible to the untrained ear.  I once ordered lunch in a restaurant in Gloucester, Massachusetts.  The waitress couldn’t understand me nor could I her, yet we were both speaking English.  My lunch companions worked as translators.

My own wife struggles to understand me, and we have lived together for over half our lives.  Here is a typical exchange:

ME:  What’s for dinner?

HER:  What?

ME:  What’s for dinner?

HER: Huh?

ME:  DINNER!  WHAT ARE WE HAVING?

HER: Don’t yell at me!

ME:  I have to yell.  You can’t hear.

HER:  What?

ME:  YOU! ARE! DEAF!

HER:  I am not! You mumble!

…and so on and so on. It always ends with my wife pointing out that her friend Lisa can’t understand me, either.  Maybe I do mumble, but you’d think 26 years would be enough time for someone to get used to it.

 [In my defense, I would note that my father often accused my mother of mumbling.  He was almost completely deaf, yet never conceded that his lack of hearing was an issue.]

As a lawyer, my accent comes in handy.  I handle many cases in Eastern Kentucky and sound the part with no real effort.  Occasionally, it’s a hindrance.  I recently tried a case in Illinois, and explained to the court reporter that she may have problems understanding me.  She did.

Mountain accents help in other ways, too.  They are really good when you threaten someone.  If someone with Locust Valley Lockjaw says he’ll kick your ass, you’ll laugh in his face.  When someone from Harlan says it–male or female–it has a ring of truth to it.  “I’ll whup your aaasss” just sounds serious.  It also makes curse words sound better. “Hell” comes out like “Haaaiiil.” Shit becomes “I don’t give a shiiiiiit.”  It creates an emphasis that others lack.  There are many more examples that good taste prevents me from discussing here.

The only time my accent bothers me is when I hear it.  I’ll hear myself on video and think “Man, oh man, I sound like a weed bender.”  I guess I do.

Naturally, many folks hear us talk and think we’re dumb. Many of these people are, in fact, dumb people with different accents. Sure, if we’re interviewed on TV, there may be subtitles, but we’re not dumb–at least not all of us. If you ARE dumb, a mountain accent won’t help. Nevertheless, it won’t actually make you dumb.

Of course, we aren’t the only people who sound funny.  New Englanders sound funny, too.  So do folks from Wisconsin.  New Yorkers are hard to understand, just like people from the deep south.  Appalachians just have the disadvantage of being in perhaps the last remaining group of people who can be openly derided with no repercussions.

Now, read this again in your best Appalachian accent. If you still don’t get it, watch the TV show Justified. It’s set in Harlan County, and they do a good job with the accents. Maybe you’ve seen the Patrick Swayze classic, Next of Kin. There are some good accents in that one, with the exception of Liam Neeson. I’m not sure what he was doing, but I’ve never heard anyone sound like that.

Aint’ got nuthin left to say about this hyere–nary a word.  I’m still upair in Lexington, but I’ve still got people in Harlan.  Reckon I’ll stay hyere, unless I end up somewheres else.  Proud to know you uns.  Holler at me if you get up this way.

©www.thetrivialtroll.com 2014

The Ultimate Facebook User’s Guide

It’s 2013, and I guess everyone on Earth is on Facebook now–maybe not everyone but a lot of people for sure. I first joined Facebook in 2008 as a way to snoop on my kids. That didn’t last long as I became intrigued, then fascinated and then addicted to its wonders.

In 2008, most people were playing games on Facebook.  Mafia Wars dominated as your FB friends asked you to join their “mafia.” I never did. That gave way to Farmville, and Facebookers became virtual Oliver Wendall Douglases. They needed help building fences and barns and rounding up animals. It was like everyone was Amish after they logged on. Then came Words With Friends, CityVille, Poker and many more games. Now, there is a Farmville 2. We’ve come full circle.

A lot of people who know me well are surprised that I like Facebook. I’m not the most social person. In fact, I’m an intensely private person. Why do I like FB? First, I’ve caught up with dozens of people I would never have heard from again nor made any effort to do so. I know about their families and lives now. Second, I would never have contact with most of these folks otherwise. I don’t do a good job of keeping track of folks. FB fixed that. Third, it helps me to hear opinions of others and the good and bad in other folks’ lives. It’s good to be plugged into to the human race, even if it’s just by a PC or smart phone.  Finally, it’s a way to interact with people without really having to fool with them. Perfect for me.

Even people who aren’t on Facebook know about it. They have co-workers, friends and family on FB. They’ll look at others’ pages and secretly pine to belong. Why don’t they? Usually, these folks are men who have deemed themselves either too busy or cool to be bothered with it. They’ll say things like “I’d never do that. I don’t have the time.” Translation: “I’m more important you are. Blah, blah, blah.” These are the same people who will join LinkedIn and make 2,000 connections, because they think it’s important. Look, I know housewives, doctors, lawyers, teachers, kids, CEOs, factory workers, journalists, accountants and unemployed folks on FB. You ain’t that important. Of course, there are the Luddites of the world for whom the whole thing is overwhelming. These are the folks still trying to figure out if they should get into texting. Don’t let any of these killjoys drag you down. If you want to live in the FB world, join us.

If you’ve never been on FB or if you are but you only log on every few weeks or months, there are some basic rules or guidelines which will help you enjoy the experience.

NO ONE LIKES A CREEPER

Imagine if your next door neighbor rarely left his house and, when he did, he didn’t speak to you. Yet, he would read your mail and stare in your windows. Sometimes, he would just stand in your yard. Even if you thought he was harmless, you’d get tired of this behavior. FB works the same way.

Don’t just go on FB to creep on other people. We’re not a shy lot, but we like some interaction. I’m not saying you have to post something every time you log on, but you can “like” a status or even comment on one sometimes. We won’t think less of you. In fact, we might “like” you right back. Even if we don’t, we’re unlikely to say anything. There is no “dislike” button.  You might even get “poked.”

When you creep, I call it going Rondo:

Creepers are scary.  Don't be scary.

Don’t go all Rondo on your friends.

Naturally, you might wonder: “If I post something, what should it be?”

WHAT SHOULD I SAY?

The good news is that there really are no rules beyond a certain unspoken PG-13 standard. Posters fall into several categories:

The Lamenter: This is a person for whom the world is a difficult and troubled place. He or she is ill, has ill family members, job and money woes and usually doesn’t sleep well. We on FB like these folks. They’re part of our virtual family. Plus, they make us feel a little better about ourselves.  Vent all you want. We won’t judge you and, if we do, we’ll probably do it quietly.

The Prayer Warrior: This person is seeking or sending prayers for many things: the country, sick children, sick adults, the dead, the living and the unborn. He or she will post Bible verses and inspirational quotes from a variety of sources. If you have a problem, these folks will step up.  Most people are like I am–we’ll take prayers where we can get them.  It can’t hurt.

The Politico: This man or woman occupies either the far left or right of the political spectrum. He will post a long string of gifs and memes assailing his political opponents. Some of these will even be factually accurate. Many will be libelous. He also likes to quote people like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Ronald Reagan. Oddly enough, these sources are quoted equally by both sides. You, too, can join in. Now, please understand that none of us change our opinions based on your posts, but we will be entertained, at least to some extent. If we’re not, we can always block you. You’ll never know.

Just like at the Thanksgiving dinner table or your local bar, droning on about politics will eventually offend someone.  The good news about FB is that you can just log off and let other vent at you.

Sports Guy: Based on his posts, he lives for sports, not playing them but watching other people play them. If “his” team wins, he will gloat and insult other teams and their fans, not just the one “his” team beat, either. His very worth as a human being is tied to whether a team of people he doesn’t know beats another team of people he doesn’t know. These victories fill him with joy and make him superior to fans of other teams. He won’t post about anything else. The flip side is that when his team loses, his posts become disturbing and deranged. He is a lesser person, and he knows it.

The Worker: This guy uses FB to promote his job, whatever it might be. He’s usually selling something. That’s cool. I might want to buy whatever it is he sells someday. I’d rather buy from a virtual friend than a total stranger.

Music Man: This guys rarely posts, and it’s almost always music videos. Why? I don’t know. I’ll check one out every now and then. It’s harmless.

Animal Farmers: These are folks who like animals. Well, maybe they love animals. Almost all their posts are about animals. There is an endless supply of comical photos of dogs and cats on the Internet. All of them have been posted on FB. If, like me, you don’t find animals particularly entertaining, you can scroll through these posts. Besides, if you don’t love animals these folks probably aren’t targeting you anyway.

Crusaders: These folks are against bad stuff. Oddly, the bad stuff they are against is the kind of stuff everyone is against. They want you to “like” their posts if you’re against such things as child abuse, cancer, child pornography, violence against women and animal abuse. These are good things to be against. Post all you want about them but don’t expect any spirited debates.

Family Affair: These folks post only about their families, usually their kids. Their kids are uniformly wonderful and blessings from God. We all like to hear about kids, so join in. One word of advice–don’t get too real. If your kid caught the basement on fire with his meth lab or got stabbed by a hooker, you probably should keep that to yourself, unless you need prayers.

They also will ask you to “like” or “share” posts that say things like:

If your mother is a saint, your best friend and greatest person who ever lived, share this status.

They never post things like this:

If your mother was a crack whore who brought home a new “daddy” every week and burned down your trailer while smoking, share this status.

So, if, as is the case with too many folks, your parents or siblings were or are vile monsters, you probably shouldn’t post anything about them.

Tin Foil Hatters: They like to post links to various conspiracies, usually involving President Obama. Such things as implanted computer chips, Kenyan birth certificates and Muslim wedding bands are frequent topics. They never check Snopes.com, and if you tell them to do so, they’ll tell you that George Soros owns Snopes. You, then, will become part of the conspiracy. Try to not to become one of these folks. Then again, if you’re so inclined, the fact that I suggest you not do so will only strengthen your resolve to do so. The good news is that FB gives you a platform. If you carry on like that at work, you’ll probably have to see a doctor.   On FB, we just scroll by you like people on the street probably do.

These folks also tend to think Facebook is evil. It’s sharing your profile and personal information and photos. It’s signing you up in Al-Qaeda. It’s garnishing your wages. They never explain why they want to be on Facebook, but they love to warn you about it.

Suckers: Facebook is a hoaxer’s playground. Folks on FB will believe anything. Follow the same rules you follow in real life. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. For example, Bill Gates, despite his vast fortune and philanthropy, is NOT giving away $5000 if you share a picture of him, even this one:

bill-gates-5000-hoax

Also, no one won the PowerBall and wants to give you a million or even a thousand bucks. No beautiful women want to be your FB friends.  If it doesn’t happen in real life, it won’t on FB, either.

Newsies:  These posters assume that none of us watch or read any news, so they post links to news stories.  Some are also Politicos, and their posts only reflect their personal views.  Just like with music videos, it’s all pretty benign.  Who knows? We might even learn something from you.

Posting Tourette’s: This is me–a person who just posts various and sundry things that pop into his head. We can’t control it.  It just happens.  It’s almost like we’ve allowed FB to replace actually thought. Think it–post it is our mantra. We’ll post anything–family photos, videos, gifs, memes, jokes, rants, links. We’ll tell you about last night’s dream, our meals, illnesses and travel plans. We’ll complain about work and our families. We’ll brag and moan about things. In short, we combine all the best and worst of the other posters into one, manic posting monster. We post so often that if you were to read all our posts in sequence you’d be privy to the inner workings of our minds. We’ll wear you out on any given day, but we tend to be entertaining–or annoying. But, we’re never boring.

WHAT SHOULDN’T I SAY?

Facebook is a free speech zone, but all freedoms carry with them responsibilities. There are, of course, things you shouldn’t do:

Keep it clean: This should go without saying, but keep it clean, folks. Foul language, nudity (especially your own) and links to pornography are all beyond the pale. Hey, I’ve got no problem with any of that, but there are plenty of Internet forums out there for that stuff. At least that’s what I’ve heard.

Good taste: I am vehemently against child abuse. Honestly, I don’t anyone who isn’t. But, on the off-chance that you have FB friends who need persuading, photos of beat up or dead children won’t help. And they gross out the rest of us. Same goes for dogs that have been abused and killed. We know that’s bad.

It’s Not All About Politics: If you’re a Politico, that’s fine, but remember: Not everything is about politics. Don’t screw up someone’s post by trying to twist into a political statement. Example:

Post: We just had a great dinner-Steak on the grill, green beans, mashed potatoes and homemade yeast rolls! Thanks to my beautiful wife!

Politico’s Comment: Be thankful that Michelle Obummer isn’t your wife! She’d have you eating sprouts!

The Politico has now invited others of his or her ilk to make similar comments and hijack your wall. Bad form.

No Jesus Jukes: The Prayer Warriors will do the same thing with the infamous “Jesus Juke.” It goes like this:

Post: We had a great time at the game! 23,000 people rocked the place!

Comment: I wonder how many people would show up if Jesus was there and no game.

Your well-meaning friend has just brought you down and made you feel evil for enjoying the game. Don’t do that.

SPELING

You may be like me and be a spellcheck illiterate. Years of word processing have eroded my spelling skills. I am far-removed from the brash young lad who finished second in the Loyall Junior High Spelling Bee in 1976. Facebook won’t help you.

Its and it’s have different meanings. Same with there, they’re and their. To, two and too are not the same. Facebook won’t help with these issues. You have to step up and take responsibility.

THE UNFRIENDLY

There may be occasions when you must unfriend someone or, God forbid, you are unfriended. It’s happened to me. Yes, me. A girl I dated in college unfriended me. I think it’s because it took just a few months for her to remember that she hated me.

Unfriending is a drastic step. It is the Internet equivalent of a slap in the face. You aren’t even worthy of being a pretend friend. Think about that. In real life, of course, we unfriend people all the time. We just quit talking to them. If it required some affirmative act, we’d be less likely to do it.

Now, Facebook won’t tell you that you’ve been unfriended. You have to be paranoid enough to notice. Let’s just say that some of us notice these things. And we don’t like it.

EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY

Post a few pictures of yourself. Maybe we haven’t seen you in years. We’re curious. “But,” you say, “I’m not a handsome person. It shames me.” Relax, my ghoulish friend. Most of us are quite unattractive, especially those of us with a few years on us. We’ve gone bald (mostly men), gained weight, grayed, sagged and generally decayed. It’s okay.

I’m a good example. I was never what you’d call a handsome man. Now, my hair is gray and I have numerous wrinkles. Yet, I’ll post many photos of myself. Why? Well, for one thing, I’m a narcissist. Two, I’m not bald. See? You look better than someone–hopefully.

Perhaps you’ve improved with age, which happens. If so, by all means, post photos. Of course, if you really have improved, I don’t have to tell you to post photos.

One thing to watch is posting pictures of other people. They might not like it. For instance, I posted this photo of my wife:

catwoman

This made her angry because–she claimed–the lighting made her look pale. I should have cleared this with her first.

Please feel free to post as many photos of your kids and grand kids as you wish. God knows I do. They’re yours, and you should be proud of them. Even if they’re as homely as sin, we’ll still “like” them. Same goes for your pets. I have two rabbits and don’t hesitate to post about them, even though they are boring, do-nothing pets.  Yet, people always “like” them.  Go figure.

CONCLUSION

Come join us!  If you’re already on board, get in the deep end of the pool!  Join for real, too. Do not share your Facebook page with your spouse.  This will only show that you have trust issues, and we want to trust you.

It’s out there waiting for you, and there’s no time like the present.  In fact, I’m linking this post to Facebook as soon as it’s published.

You can even send me a friend request, and I’ll probably accept it.  I’m waiting.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

The Flu Blues

I don’t have the flu–at least not yet.  My wife does.  So does my 10-year-old son.  My other sons–17 and 19–also don’t have it.  My 17-year-old rarely leaves the basement and, when he does, it is usually out the back door.  I find this habit both annoying and disquieting, but now I embrace it as preventative health care.  My oldest son is home from college on Christmas break.  If he can avoid the spreading virus for the next 24 hours, he will be on his way back to Pittsburgh.  He attends Carnegie Mellon University, the alma mater of such diverse personalities as Andy Warhol, John Forbes Nash and Lenny and Squiggy of Laverne & Shirley fame.  His academic rigors can ill afford to be interrupted by disease.  On my advice, he is staying away from his childhood home except to pack his belongings and flee.

How bad is this flu?  Pretty bad.  My 10-year-old, normally an energetic cuss, has been rendered almost immobile.  My wife, too, has been felled, for the time being at least.  The good news is that the horrid virus has not diminished her ability to bark orders.  Thus, our home will continue to run like a well-oiled machine.

I now face a conundrum. My office is less than two miles from home, making it an oasis from the disease around me.  I must, of course, occasionally visit them while they are sick.  How can I make enough of an appearance to still be engaged as the titular head of the household, yet protect myself as any sane person would?

Before proceeding, you should know that the flu fascinates me a bit.  Several years ago I read The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John M. Barry.  It is an excellent book about the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918.  THAT was a bad flu, killing in the neighborhood of 40 million people, including 600,000 in one month in the U.S. Since then, I’ve read a lot of material about the flu.  If I wanted to appear brainy, I could rant about various flu strains, antigen drift, corona virus and other minutia.  But it all comes down to this:  The flu comes in many forms, changes constantly, is highly contagious and incurable.  The good news, as Barry notes in his book, is that–even its deadlier forms–it’s just the flu.  It won’t kill you.  Probably.  Now, if you’re elderly, it can lead to pneumonia which no old person wants.  Bad stuff there.  Much worse than the flu.

How do you know if you have the flu?  Oh, there are many symptoms.  Here is a simple test:  Are you coughing like you have Black Lung and do you feel like crap?  If so, you may have the flu.

Even though I won’t pretend to be a doctor, I do want to clarify something.  There is no stomach flu.  There are viruses which will cause unimaginable gastrointestinal disruption and strip you of your dignity.  You can be like I was about year ago.  Start feeling a little weird in your stomach and then–BOOM!–puking pizza through your nose for an hour.  But, that’s not the flu.  Could be a virus. Maybe it’s bacteria, i.e., food poisoning.  Just don’t call it the flu.  The flu is the flu.  If you say you have the stomach flu, it makes as much sense as saying you have a facial hernia.

Anyway, back to me (as if we ever left that topic to begin with).  Once the disease hit, I had to think fast to protect myself.  I considered several options before settling on one:

RUN LIKE HELL

Like any animal, fight or flight is my reaction to terror.  In this case, flight is the only reasonable option.  My initial plan was to get a room at the Hampton Inn across the highway from my home.  It’s close to my office and home.  I could stay there until the trouble passes, plus feign immediate availability for the sick.

I love Hampton Inn, by the way.  I travel a fair amount for work to many places that don’t have 5 Star Hotels.  Most areas do, however, have a Hampton Inn.  They are all pretty much the same.  Nice, clean rooms, pool, exercise room and free breakfast.  Good deal.

My wife shot down my running away plan.  I simply asked, “How bad would it be if I got me a room over at the Hampton and just brought you all stuff when you need it?”  Her answer:  “Very bad [cough, cough, cough].”

PLAN B

I have a friend who will occasionally come up with an idea for something.  He will call these ideas “Plan Q.”  Why?  I don’t know.  I considered calling this Plan Q, but–while a fine fellow–he is a litigious sort who would likely take umbrage at this.  So, I call this Plan B.

Here are the steps of Plan B:

1.  Wife and Son retreat to the master bedroom of our home on the second floor (now called the “Phlegm Chamber”),  It has a queen-sized bed, television, sofa, ample books and a bathroom.  In keeping with today’s lingo, we will call these wretched souls the “Ratchet.”

2.  Dry foodstuffs, MREs, liquids, medicine and supplies will have been previously stocked in the Phlegm Chamber.  This will include, but not be limited to, Theraflu, Tamiflu, Kleenex, NyQuil, Advil, Tylenol, magazines, newspapers and a legal pad in case they want to draw.

3.  Once the Ratchet are safely ensconced, duct tape will place along the door facing.  This will ensure that the deadly miasma produced by their constant breathing and coughing will remain contained within the Phlegm Chamber, unable to escape to the rest of the house, now known as the “Clean Zone.”

4.  Cell phones will be provided to allow text messaging and limited phone calls to me.  I will guarantee a response within two to three hours of any message left with me, unless I am napping.  In that case, I may respond the next day, if at all.

5.  The Ratchet will not be allowed in the Clean Zone until they have gone 24 hours without a fever.  This is a bit of gamble, because I’m not insane enough to check their temperatures myself.  However, if they venture out while still feverish, I’m sure there’s some app for constantly monitoring a rectal thermometer.  If not, I’ll get my egghead kid at Carnegie Mellon to invent one.

6.  Once the Ratchet are able to leave the Phlegm Chamber, they will immediately visit a doctor to confirm that they are no longer contagious.  Once this is confirmed in writing, they are free to venture about the Clean Zone wearing appropriate surgical masks until all coughing has subsided.  Since the Clean Zone is likely to be a bit messy, the Ratchet are then expected to help straighten up a bit.

The problem with Plan B, despite its ingenious detail, is that it requires cooperation from the Ratchet.  Thus far, that cooperation has been lacking.

HOWARD AND ME

The name Howard Hughes likely doesn’t mean much to young folks.  To people of a certain age, like me, his name conjures up the image of fabulous wealth, daring adventure and, of course, crippling lunacy.

Hughes made fortunes in the tool, film and aviation industries.  He once declared that his goal was to be the greatest golfer, pilot and film maker on Earth and the richest man in the world.  Except for golf, he could at various times have laid claim to all those titles.

When Hughes was in his 50’s, he developed, at the very least, serious obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Eventually, he retreated to one of his hotels, sitting in the dark, naked, watching the film Ice Station Zebra over and over.  He was so obsessed with germs that he wouldn’t wearing clothes or even bathe.  He covered his body in Kleenex and put the empty boxes on his feet.  His hair grew to his shoulders and beard to his chest.  He collected his bodily waste in jars.  He hired a staff of Mormons to serve him, because he believed them to be clean.  He had a good point about that.

A dramatic recreation of Howard Hughes's last days.

A dramatic recreation of Howard Hughes’s last days.

I’ve thought about adopting Hughes’s lifestyle, at least until the plague passes.  But, I’ll have to pass.  First, I’m concerned that I would quickly become enamored of living the life of a billionaire and not be able to return to my Regular Joe existence.  Second, being naked bothers me, especially in front of Mormons.  Finally, although it sounds like it would be effective defense against influenza, I suspect that I might expose myself to other equally deadly germs.

FULL COURT PRESS

I’m left with an all-out defensive effort to protect myself.  Here are my tools:

  • MASKS:  I am wearing a surgical mask at all times.  Two, on occasion.  The downside is that I’ve discovered that I have foul breath.  My breathing also fogs up my reading glasses.
johnboy

Your author fends off sure death.

  • GLOVES:  I’m wearing latex gloves.  That’s right–latex.  I don’t have a latex allergy.  Or a gluten allergy, either.  In fact, if they made latex gloves infused with gluten, I’d wear them just to prove what a bad ass I am.
  • HAND WASHING:  I’m washing my hands every minute or so–even with gloves on.  My skin is now like that of radiation burn victim, but I’m germ free.
  • LOOK, DON’T TOUCH:  This is simple.  Don’t touch anything. If you have to touch, use your elbows or feet.  The one exception is the remote control, of course.  You can scrub it with bleach and it’s as good as new.
  • BOILING:  Boil things.  You’d be surprised at how many things can be boiled.  Food, for example.  Toothbrushes. Shoes.  Some clothes.  Your hands.  When in doubt, boil it.  Caveat: It doesn’t work well with electronic devices.
  • MEDICINE:  Take all manner of medication.  If the Ratchet have prescriptions, take those.  Buy your own.  Just keep taking them.  Yes, the flu is incurable–as far as we know.  You might hit the right combination and win a Nobel Prize to boot.

This last plan, like many good ones, was born of desperation.  Yet, it has been remarkably effective so far.  Of course, the germs are everywhere, stalking me, crawling on me.  I am certain that all of this will ultimately fail me.  What now?  I wonder if Ice Station Zebra is on Blu-Ray?

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

How To Stay Married: Secrets of a Married Man

I’ve been married for almost 25 years.  That’s almost half my life.  Arguably, marriage has consumed the best half of my life.  That said, I’ve had a long, happy marriage.

People often ask me:  What is the key to a successful marriage?  Okay, that’s a lie.  No one asks me that.  Ever.  Not once.  I wonder why.  People ask me about other things.  What’s it like to be a lawyer?  How are your kids?  What’s wrong with you?  I’ve answered these and many other questions, usually truthfully.

I’ve always believed that the most annoying advice is the kind you don’t want.  Maybe marriage is like that.  Folks just don’t want to hear about it.  It’s probably because they are either happy themselves and need no advice or they are miserable and hate people who aren’t.  Surely, young, single people want advice.  I doubt it.  When I was young and single, I knew most everything, especially when it came to the opposite sex.  What could some old guy tell me? He doesn’t know that I’m in love and that’s all that matters.  Fools.

People write books about marriage.  I’ve seen them, but I’ve never read one.  There are marriage counselors. Marriage therapists. If you belong to church, you can talk to your minister about your marriage.  Even Catholic priests–who have vowed to God never to marry–counsel couples before and after they marry.  Yes, there is much advice.  Add me to the list of experts.  The difference is that I have a quarter century of inexplicable success backing me up.

Much advice is useless.   A chimp could tell you–if he could talk–that things such as infidelity, violence and disappearing for days at a time can break any marriage.  Those things set the bar far too low.  Marriage requires many more subtle precautions to flourish.

MARRY UP

This is also known as “out-kicking your coverage.”  Marry a woman who is more attractive than you.  Of course, what I mean is that she is more appealing to the opposite sex than you are.  Why?  Isn’t the conventional wisdom that an ugly woman is likely to be more faithful?  I call B.S. on that one.

At some point in your marriage (probably a day or two into it), patience will be important.  Very important.  If you are about to say or do something untoward, one look at your ridiculously beautiful wife will make you pause and think: “Whoa!  I need to be careful.  There’s no way I can duplicate this deal.”  Those pauses are one of the key components of staying married.

Let’s say you look like Brad Pitt.  It’s almost certain you are prettier than every woman you’ve ever met. Not only are you irresistible to women, most men find you attractive, too.  The first time your wife does something stupid–like lose the remote–you are likely to explode, thinking:  “Why did I marry this hag?  She can’t even keep track of the remote!”  I’m certain that’s why Brad and Jennifer Aniston split.  As beautiful as she is–and she IS, by God–can anyone, male or female, honestly say that he or she is prettier than Brad?  I guarantee you Brad doesn’t think so.  Nor should he.

Personally, I married WAY up.  My wife has even become prettier over the years, while I’ve simply aged.  I’m a troll compared to her.  When I introduce her to people for the first time, the typical response is:  “This is your wife?”  I once overheard someone talking about me, and she said:  “Have seen his wife?  She is really pretty.  Really.”  Shocking.

Conversely, when she introduces me to people, they get a look of pity on their faces, as though they just met that kid from the movie, Mask.  They all assume I am incredibly wealthy, but I’m not.

This works well in our marriage.  Sometimes, I’ll be about to say something about the remote or her cooking and then I’ll catch a glimpse of her.  I’ll still say something, but I try to take the edge off it.  I’m simply not going to be able to duplicate my success.

I’m not suggesting that marrying up is easy.  Few worthwhile things are.  It takes work, and–in my case–alcohol.  Attractive women are no different from ALL men.  They often exercise poor judgment under the influence of strong drink.  Use this to your advantage.  Of course, you may be incredibly wealthy.  If so, this is no problem.

You may think that an attractive woman married to a physically repellant man is more likely to stray.  I guess that’s possible, but it beats the hell out of looking at an ugly woman all the time.  Also, remember that it is all relative.  If you are an extremely ugly man, you can marry up by marrying a plain or even homely woman.  The point is–aim high.  It works.

THINK FIRST

As noted above, a brief pause before speaking can make the difference between a long marriage and an annulment on your honeymoon.  Here are examples:

WIFE:  Let’s go see my parents tomorrow.

HUSBAND: For God’s sake, we just saw them two days ago!  My parents are dead, but yours are some kind of immortals!  I don’t get it.  Maybe it’s because they are Hell beasts….

By responding immediately, this man has made a critical mistake.  He has spoken his mind on a subject of great sensitivity.  The better, more reasoned response goes like this:

HUSBAND:  It seems like forever since we’ve seen Mom and Dad.  Let’s go today.  We should cherish our time with them.

By pausing just for a moment, this husband’s ludicrous response has prevented marital discord. This type of answer has the added benefit of possibly preventing the visit.  How, you ask?  Simple.  When the wife sees the husband enthusiastically embrace this suggestion, she is likely to cancel the visit altogether and focus on a request the husband may dislike, such as yard work.  Even if you can’t muster such an impressive response, you can always choke out a simple:  “Yes, dear” or “Whatever you say.”  These responses, while not preferable, are always good in pinch.

BRING ON THE NOISE

I have a White Noise app for my phone.  It’s great.  I go to bed before everyone in my house, but this doesn’t stop the other residents from being quite loud.  This app allows me to turn on “white noise” to drown out the mad cacophony.

You can do the same thing with your wife.  Once you’ve been married for a while, you may hear the same things over and over.  For instance, you may leave towels in the floor or be incapable of properly folding them.  If so, you are likely to hear about these shortcomings many, many times.  One approach is to say something like:  “For the love of God, would you just shut the hell up about those [expletive deleted] towels?!?!  Honest to God, I can’t take it anymore!”  Honesty, despite its value in general, is definitely not the best policy.

With practice, you can turn up the white noise in your own brain to filter out such offending exchanges.  Personally, I am unable to properly use a sink.  I splatter water on the fixtures or even the mirror.  No matter how I try or how much I wipe it up, it’s still no good.  I have trained my brain to deal with it.  If am asked this question:  “Did you use the sink in hall?”  all I hear after that is the soothing buzz of white noise.

Men have a well-deserved reputation of being poor listeners.  You will be reminded of this.  DO NOT FALL INTO THIS TRAP.  If you become a better listener, it is a recipe for disaster, for you will then listen to the very things which threaten marital harmony.  It is better to properly condemned for one flaw than to pay heed to many things best left unsaid.

YOUR OLD LIFE WAS A WASTE

Sure, your enjoyed your single days.  You lived as you wished.  You had friends.  It was a good time.

Think again.  Your old life was useless.  When you get married, get rid of every piece of furniture you owned as a single man.  If you don’t, your wife will begin a systematic purging.  Just get it over with.  Same goes for your clothes.

You will be asked about girls you dated.  You hated them.  All of them.  They were horrible people.  Unattractive, too.  They may have been sluts.  I don’t care if you dated Kate Upton, never even hint to your wife that she was the least bit appealing.  It is best to humbly express regret for your poor judgment.

Your friends were idiots.  Your wife may actually like some of them, so you can still like those few.  The rest of them are fools.  Plain and simple.  Stay away from them. Your wife is now your best friend.  If not, she’s likely to be your only friend after a while.

What does it say about you that you dated worthless women and your friends were all idiots?  Nothing good, my friend.  Your wife saved you.  You should appreciate that.

When you took your marital vows, you abandoned your old life.  Keep it that way.

KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON

This one is simple.  Stay married, unless you just can’t do it anymore.  That’s what we’ve done.  I can assure that I annoy my wife.  I know that I enrage her on occasion.  I’m sure she does all the same things I suggested above.  If not, she should (Expect the marry up part.  She’s screwed on that one).  My best advice would be to marry my wife, but you can’t.

I hope this has been helpful.  If not, hey, I’m no expert on any marriage but mine.

When I told my wife that I was starting a blog, she responded by saying “One of those things full of trivial [expletive deleted] that no one wants to read?”  Thus, I think it is unlikely that she’ll read this.  On the off chance she does, please read the following important disclaimer:

The foregoing is meant only as general advice and any reliance upon it is at your own peril, as I do not know your wife nor do I know if you are a jackass or anything.  More importantly, any resemblance between the above scenarios and my own wife’s behavior are mere coincidences.  She would never do anything of the sort described.  Plus, I listen to everything she says, because she is always right.  And she really is very pretty.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

The Wonderful World of My Mother

I have written here before about my Dad. Twice in fact. He was an interesting, quotable character and a fine, fine fellow. Great father, too. I haven’t yet written about my mother. Until now.

Why not? It’s not because she wasn’t a fine person. She was. Certainly, it’s not because she wasn’t a great mother. Of that, there is no doubt. The reason, I think, is because–unlike Dad–she is difficult to capture in words. But I’ll try.

Mom died in 2003. Her life was probably unremarkable by most standards. She was born on January 19, 1930 in Detroit. (Coincidentally, my father shared the same birthday, being born in 1925). Her parents were in Michigan, because my Papaw was looking for work. Shortly after her birth, they moved back to Eastern Kentucky. She grew on Island Creek in Pike County and in Cumberland in Harlan County. She graduated from Cumberland High School and then Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee in 1951. After a year of student teaching at Benham High School, she taught at Evarts High School in Harlan County for the next 30 years. She was a Home Economics teacher. She married my Dad in 1957, and they stayed married until her death. They had three sons, of which I am the middle one.

Mom in 1945 in Cumberland, Kentucky

Mom in 1946 in Cumberland, Kentucky

She had a brilliant mind. After her retirement, she became something of an expert on investing and taxes. She was my primary financial advisor. If my Dad was the engine that drove our family, Mom was the brains of the outfit.

She survived breast cancer and the resultant toxic chemotherapy, although she suffered neurological damage from the treatment which left her with a bizarre set of symptoms for the remaining 20 years of her life. She also weathered the death of her youngest son. Overall, she had a life like most folks–ups and downs, good time and bad times.

A rare photo of Mom with all three sons.  Your author is on the right.  Note my dutiful older brother holding the purse and bottle.

A rare photo of Mom with all three sons. Your author is on the right. Note my dutiful older brother holding the purse and bottle.

She was, by turns, funny and sad; inspiring and discouraging. She could make me angry enough to yell at her (which I would NEVER have done with Dad) and the next moment be kind and thoughtful. She was generous and genuinely tried to let me know that she cared. She probably wasn’t different from a lot of mothers in that regard.

What made her different, at least to me, were the things she said, the stories she told and the myriad eccentricities to which we all became accustomed. To give you a better picture, I’ve decided to share some of those:

HAZARDOUS WARNINGS

Like most mothers, Mom had a vast library of cautionary tales which were repeated over and over and over…. Here are some of the classics:

Poor Cousin Stubby: Around the 4th of July, I would hear about Mom’s cousin, who lived in Chicago at some time in the distant past. He was just called her “cousin.” If he had a name, I’ve long since forgotten it. Cousin had a penchant for setting off dangerous fireworks. One year, he set off some particularly deadly explosive and “BLEW HIS FINGERS OFF.” That’s how it was always described to me. Not one finger, mind you (which still seems unlikely, unless he was playing with blasting caps). In my child’s mind, this meant every, single, damn finger. My little mind imagined Cousin fumbling about for the rest of his life with his stubs–all because of fireworks. Some years later, a short-fused firecracker went off in my hand. Other than making my ears ring and slightly burning me, it was no big deal. Oddly, I was a little disappointed at the lack of maiming. Just a little.

I actually did have a cousin who cut off his finger in a door. He was never presented as any kind of example. He was just an idiot.

The Medicine Cabinet Moron: We lived in a house with an old-fashioned bathroom. It had a steel tub and steel sink with a medicine cabinet over it. The toilet probably used about 10 gallons of water per flush. As a lad, I would climb onto the sink to access the medicine cabinet. This was, as Mom taught me, one of the most dangerous stunts a child could pull.

It seems there was a boy in an unspecified part of the world who also liked to climb on sinks. Coincidentally, he was about my age at the time. Sadly, he lacked my sure-footedness and fell while reaching for his medicine cabinet. He crashed to the floor, cracking his head on the tub. The result? “BRAIN DAMAGE!” No, he didn’t just split open his head. He had BRAIN DAMAGE. As a result, as Mom said, he became a moron. Not only that, but he was also a “VEGETABLE.” THAT, my friends, is a bad deal. I am now 50 years old. A few weeks ago, I was at my in-laws house (which is very similar to my childhood home). I looked at their medicine cabinet and could not help but glance at the tub to satisfy myself that there was enough distance between the two to prevent a moron-inducing fall. Oh, I didn’t climb on the sink. But I thought about it.

The Boy Who Made Out With The Toaster: I have had a lifelong habit of looking at myself any time I pass a mirror. This isn’t because I am particularly handsome. It’s just a habit. My Dad did the same thing. When I was small fellow, I used to look at myself in the side of the toaster. I know that’s weird, but the toaster had a dent in it, and you could treat it like a fun house mirror. Besides, I just liked doing it, okay?

There was once this boy who, like me, stared at the toaster. One day–for reasons I didn’t understand–he kissed his own reflection! Much like Narcissus, he was done in by his own beauty. How, you say? By ELECTROCUTION. That’s right, he was electrocuted. Immediately. Dead. Just like the other kid who tried to get his toast out with a fork. D-E-A-D.

Here’s a secret: After she told me that, I kissed the toaster. What the hell? Life on the edge. Don’t tell anyone about that.

To this day, when I see a shiny toaster (you know, the silvery chrome kind), I’m tempted to plant one on it just to see. I don’t. Usually.

Sputum: If Mom saw me touch the bottom of my shoe–even for a split second–she would say “Oh, there is nothing filthier than the bottoms of your shoes. You have walked in people’s sputum.” Not spit. Nor phlegm. Not even snot. Sputum. When I got older, I would do it just hear the word sputum. She’s the only person I ever heard say it.

THE CATCH PHRASES

Mom had a habit of saying the same things over and over about particular people or situations. I considered these to be her catch phrases. This is best described by the following examples:

Social Disgrace: This was something to be avoided at all costs. A social disgrace would bring shame upon your family name. Divorce was a good one. Marital infidelity was another. Getting arrested was a biggie. Mom’s description was “Honey, you know that’s a social disgrace.” I’ve done my best throughout my life to avoid these.

The Lowest of Trash: One big step below a social disgrace was behavior reserved “the lowest of trash.” This behavior included drinking, drugs, premarital sex, children born out-of-wedlock, foul language, poor grammar, bad table manners and general trashiness. Normally, this was used as follows: “Honey, the lowest of trash wouldn’t do a thing like that.” Often, a woman who looked like a “floozie” would be used as a living example of the lowest of trash.

Stomped-Down Moron: To be a stomped-down moron may or may not involve social disgrace or the lowest of trashiness. All it required was poor judgment. Then, Mom might observe that “You act like a stomped-down moron.” This is not to be confused with a brain-damaged moron.

As an aside, Dad once observed during an argument with Mom: “Anna, I know that it’s important for you to get the last word, but you’re the only person I know who has to get the last scathing insult in any conversation.” Stomped-down moron fell into that category.

He Wears A Diaper: My parents knew a man who became involved with a much younger woman. It was a social disgrace, of course. This guy was about Dad’s age, and the gossip horrified Mom. Naturally, she talked about it all the time. Every time it came up, her description of this fellow included this tagline: “He wears a diaper.” WHAT?!? Evidently, this fellow had suffered some sort of hideous medical condition or that’s what folks said, anyway. As a result, “He wears a diaper.” Sometimes she would say “You know he’s incontinent. He wears a diaper.” Did he? Who the hell knows? How would Mom know this? I have no idea. It’s not like he was a close family friend. He was just some guy they knew. I doubt that he ever told Mom he wore a diaper. Regardless, his name was never mentioned without reference to his diaper.

Some years later, I happened to be in Harlan on business. I was at the Hardee’s and guess who I saw? Diaper Dandy! We exchanged banal pleasantries. I must admit that I checked him out for any tell-tale signs of diaper-wearing. You know what? I think that man was wearing a diaper.

The Ugly Man: Mom went to college with a man so ugly, so repellant that he was denied admission to medical school. This man was so hideous that the mere thought of exposing him to the sick and infirm was a shock to the senses. Since Mom was quite a few decades too young to have attended school with Joseph Merrick, the famed Elephant Man, what could this man’s affliction have been? Bad teeth. Yep, poor dental work. So bad–or “deformed” as Mom always said–that he couldn’t cover them with his lips. It seems to me that if you couldn’t cover your teeth, the lack of saliva would cause them to rot. Maybe they did or maybe he licked them frequently. Either way, it had to be really gross. I tried to envision this man’s appearance, his grotesque twisted teeth protruding. By the way, I’ve seen a lot of ugly doctors. Think about how bad this guy had to be.

THE ECCENTRICITIES

Mom had a number of peculiarities or eccentricities or whatever you want to call them:

Car Sickness: Mom usually got car sick when she opened the door of the car. Sometimes, she would just puke in a plastic grocery bag. (Oh, the word “puke” is only said by the lowest of trash). Other times, you’d have to pull over to let her “get some air.” Once, we when she was a child, her father drove their family from Pikeville to Cumberland, Kentucky. When asked at the gas station how far he had driven, Papaw replied: “Nineteen pukes.” Normally, when my parents came to visit my home in Lexington, the first thing Mom did upon arrival was go to the bathroom and vomit. My wife thought it was odd, but I was so used to it that I rarely even noticed.

Camera Shyness: I suspect that there are more photographs of Howard Hughes and J.D. Salinger than there are of my mother. She hid from cameras like you were the Paparazzi. She would turn her head, hold up her hand, run from the room–anything to avoid the camera. Future generations will wonder why we have so little photographic evidence of her existence.

I took this photo of Mom in 1990.  She is telling me to leave her alone.

I took this photo of Mom in 1990. She is telling me to leave her alone.

Burning Paint: She had no sense of smell or at least that was the claim. There was one notable exception to this malady: She could smell burning paint–and she often did. It was like a super-power. Unfortunately, she would smell it when it wasn’t present. Or maybe it was but only her heightened sensitivity. “John, do you smell that? I smell burning paint.” There was never any burning paint, as far as I know. Then again, I don’t know what burning paint smells like.

The Pre-Planned Funeral: A lot of folks pre-plan their funerals, but not many do it without the help of a funeral home. Mom did. Shortly before her death, she gave my brother detailed plans, including a budget. No embalming (“It’s not required and a waste of money.”) We followed her instructions with one exception. We didn’t tell the funeral home to get all the gold out of her mouth (“They’ll steal it, if you don’t.“). But someone might have:

After Dad died, I found these in a jar.  They were Mom's.  Maybe Dad fulfilled her final wishes.

After Dad died, I found these in a jar. They were Mom’s. Maybe Dad fulfilled her final wishes.

THE TALES OF WOE

Mom had a vast reserve of maudlin stories, most of which involved her childhood. Here are the best–and most repeated–ones:

Jitterbug: She had a dog named Jitterbug. I don’t remember what kind of dog it was. Here’s what I do remember: Jitterbug go run over by a train or a big truck or something like that. It was horrific. The story had a tremendous build up of how wonderful and loved Jitterbug was. Then, he got killed. I hated that story.

The Bracelet: When Mom was a girl, her father bought her a bracelet. She got mad at him one day, took off the bracelet and threw it at him. He weeped. He didn’t cry or sob or tear up. He “weeped.” That’s how it was always said, like a Bible verse: “Daddy weeped.” My older brother so hated this story that he refused to listen to it after a while. (Dad, being cynical as he was, observed “Can you imagine what a cheap piece of junk that bracelet was?”) Nevertheless, Mom never got tired of telling it.

Poor Little George: Mom’s Uncle George was about the same age as she was. He had some kind of awful liver disease. He died when he was 8 years old while his parents were driving him to a specialist somewhere. This is a legitimately sad story. The kind of story best told once. Once.

Papaw: My grandfather–her father–was one of the finest people I’ve ever known. Kind, caring–just a nice guy. He did, however, have the cardiac history of Fred Sanford, having suffered innumerable heart attacks. Mom would recount some of those to me telling me how he barely survived each. Once, he had one while working underground in a coal mine. Again, he barely cheated death. My Dad’s version was much different: “When we got to Cumberland, your Papaw was flaked out on a lawn chair listening to a transistor radio. He didn’t look too sick to me.” Papaw later moved to Utah and any time we visited him, he cautioned that it could well be the last time we saw him. He reminded us of that, too. He died in 1998 at age 91. Oh, and I never knew him to have a heart attack.

So, that’s Mom. It’s easy to say you love your mother. I did, but I also liked her. She was funny. She cared about what happened to me. She always tried to help. She rarely raised her voice. In her later years, I don’t think she could yell. She spoke barely above a whisper, often prefacing her comments with “Oh, Lord, honey…”

When my younger brother died, sadness infected her like a bad cold she couldn’t shake. She got better but never well. Even with that, she was a good mom and grandmother. She is greatly missed but left me with a lot of good memories.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012