I used to read Shel Silverstein’s poetry to my students because it made them giggle. One of his poems described the persnickety Mary Hume who spent her life finding unforgiveable flaws in her birthday parties, boyfriends and pupils.
Courtesy lies on its deathbed, fading away unnoticed: no letters filled with love and gratitude, no phone calls expressing concern and caring, no bedside visitors with mournful eyes and soothing hands. The windowsills of Courtesy’s hushed chamber display no get-well cards or flowers, and no one has carried a casserole to Courtesy’s door.
When I skimmed a February 2013 feature in Parade Magazine, I recognized column material: The article consisted of a quiz on research-based techniques for reducing family fights from Bob Feiler’s book, The Secrets of Happy Families.
When I can’t sleep, it’s usually because I’m entertaining mind-boggling concerns: What if I my doctor tells me the bump on my big toe looks cancerous? I tried to call Barbara three times, and her line was busy; someone must have died. I’d like to walk to my meeting tomorrow; but if I do, I might be late; and if I’m late, everyone will look at me, and if they look at me, I’ll be sweaty and red-faced from walking.
I’m neither Oprah nor Dr. Phil; but, based on novels and personal ponderings, I’ve developed a blueprint for staying married long enough to finish the leftover wedding cake.
I watched in dismay as a fellow garage sale devotee purchased an item I spotted too late: a set of shiny aluminum tumblers like those that added cheer to my childhood. When filled with cold beverages, the tumblers frosted over like windshields on a sub-zero morning and made everything, even water, seem extra tasty.
All through my schooling, I tested well. When other students complained of sleepless nights, sweaty palms and nervous stomachs during finals week, I remained smugly silent. But lately, I, too, suffer from test anxiety because now a test means having my vein stuck with a turkey baster, my bottom exposed to strangers, or my bosom squeezed to a crepe.
Since the 2007 movie, “The Bucket List,” senior citizens occasionally make the news by celebrating their birthdays with daring exploits or unusual experiences. When I learn that former president George H.W. Bush jumped out of an airplane or that a gray-haired grandmother rode a camel across the Sahara, I think, “Oh, my, that was plucky.”
“Mom, where are my baby pictures?” I asked as I idly turned the pages of a family album. So far I’d found a studio portrait and numerous photographs of the first born, Lawrence, and several more snapshots labeled Carolyn or Bob, but no bald Bray baby called Janet. “Didn’t you take any of me?”
I listen to the national news, and it alarms me: crumbling infrastructure in sprawling cities, abused children in homes where they should be safe, unspeakable murders in peaceful towns, the weak apologies of elected officials involved in questionable acts, counter-claims of racism and police brutality, mentally ill or evil people wielding knives, guns, cars, fire, and poison to harm others.