Rearview Mirror

The Colonoscopy Chronicles

(Don’t worry, nothin’ oogie ….)

Around St. Patrick’s Day, someone at work mentioned that the odds of finding a four-leaf clover are something like 1 in 10,000. I have no idea if that’s accurate. I just know two things. 

1.) I don’t think I ever found one in my life. 

2.) My mother-in-law Betty, on the other hand, found them all the time. 

Before every one of Karry’s nephew’s baseball games, Betty would arrive at the ball field early and, like magic, pluck a four-leaf clover from the grass and give it to Justin before warm-ups. He’d tuck ‘em in the inside ring of his ballcap. By the end of the season, his cap would be lined with four-leaf-clovers like Stargell Stars. Though I never asked him, I bet he felt invincible taking the field.

That story encapsulates everything you need to know about Betty Fordyce. She made everyone she met feel lucky for knowing her. 

Our hearts broke when she passed from colon cancer in 2006. 

When I went for my annual physical this year, my family doctor informed me it was time for a colonoscopy. Wasn’t psyched about the prospect, but I thought of Betty when I scheduled it. Since her Mom’s passing, Karry’s been begrudgingly vigilant with her screenings since she’s deemed higher risk. 

March was Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. As the CCA reminds, about 150,000 will be diagnosed this year with this highly preventable disease. In 2018 a large study found that “colonoscopy was associated with a 61% reduction in colorectal mortality.” 

Those are much better odds than finding a four-leaf clover. And, statistically speaking much better protection, too. 

Many of my friends have either turned or are approaching a big, round birthday milestone this year. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to get your screening. FWIW, the wake-up music is spectacular.

They say you always remember your first time. Just in case, I figured I’d capture a few things for, you know, posterity ….  

__

Karry kicked into planning mode. She’d been through the prep a couple times before. She stocked me up with lime Jell-o, chicken broth, Italian Ice (lemon), apple juice, lemon-lime Gatorade. Made sure I knew my schedule. Made sure I’d heard from the surgery center. 

It seems a crime to me that poems don’t get written about the un-asked for Grace of such selfless gestures. 

She was so genuinely compassionate. 

My daughter, on the other hand ….

The day before, Emma texts Karry and me that she did really well on her PJAS entry. I assume this is a good thing. Evidently not, as it means she has to now do more work on it for the next round, which she was hoping to avoid.  

I attempt consolation, figuring Shakespeare might offer some ennobling perspective. 

Me: Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

She: Eat your Jell-O, Diarrhea Don. 

Ah, my delicate flower. 

__

Since the screening was the result of my odometer turning over, I reached out to my peer group for some expectation management. 

My friend Don texts back: Ah, it’s not so bad. You get to drop a pound or two and get in a nice nap. Also, this is one of those occasions where I’d rather be the receiver than the giver. 

This is why Don was elected class president our senior year.

__

Karry gave me a heads up that the stuff they make you drink is awful. Fortunately, I was able to leverage one of my two legitimate super powers. I can close off my nose to keep from smelling or tasting anything. When the kids were young this came in wicked handy. Changing diapers?  No problem.  Someone puke? Projectile vomit? Lemme at it. 

So, when the moment came to ingest the prep, I chugged it like a cheap beer in the TKE house basement, slammed the plastic cup on the counter and yelled, “Bam!” … causing Karry to run to the kitchen to make sure I hadn’t accidently injured myself. 

Again, poems should be written about such sweetness. 

Oh, my second super power? I have a really loud clap. Like, piercing, ear-splittingly annoying to anyone in a 100-yard radius. 

I’ve yet to find any redeemable value for it. 

__

Speaking of the stuff they make you drink, it came in two 6 oz. bottles labeled, “Bowel Prep.” 

I think they should partner with Trader Joe’s on the packaging. 

Something like this: 

Lucy Schtules’ Colon Tickler. 

I’ve already written, like, 10 taglines.

__

By 3:30 a.m. the second dose of Lucy’s magic elixir was working serious overtime. I was a good 15 minutes into the ‘completely-sh*tting-my-brains-out’ phase of the prep when I ran out of things to read in the bathroom. Desperate, I finally took notice of the brand name of the baby wipes that Karry had bought me special for the occasion.

“Li’l Journey.” 

Without question, this is the funniest f*cking thing I’ve ever encountered at 3:30 in the morning.  

__

Out of mercy I won’t bore you with my 10 taglines for “Lucy Schtules’ Colon Tickler.” 

Just the top three. 

3.) “I’ll give yer bowels what fer.” 

2.)  “Evacuate your premises.” 

1.) “Goochie goochie goo.“

__

Day of, they take me back, I slip into my Uniform, and then wait for an hour as the doctor’s running, um, behind. 

In pre-op, it’s a bunch of open-air beds separated only by pull curtains, so there’s some visual privacy but zero audio privacy. Therefore, I’m part of every patient’s conversation being checked in. In addition to colonoscopies, they evidently do other procedures that I want to know as little about as possible. 

Nurse: So, Mary, have you had a hysterectomy? You’re not having periods anymore are you?

Mary: I’ve not had a hysterectomy, just my tubes tied. But I’m pre-menopausal, so my periods are mild. 

Me: (in my head) LaLaLaLaLaLaLaLaLa! 

__ 

The anesthesiologist lets me know they’ll be starting the sedative and tells me to pick out a good dream. Next thing I know I wake up in exactly the same position I passed out in, but in a different room. Within 15 seconds, I’m stirring. My tongue inspects the inside of my mouth and finds a desert.

Nurse Liz comes over, and asks me if I’d like something to drink. She runs down the choices. 

Me: Oooh, Pepsi. 

I’m a Coke person, but Pepsi holds a special place in my heart at moments of great thirst. Always takes me back to elementary school basketball Saturday mornings at the Junior High, after which, Dad would whisk us to the Dairy Mart on Dixon Boulevard, where I’d pluck a tall 16-oz ice-cold returnable bottle from the cooler, and use the bottle opener that was fixed to the checkout counter to crack it open. For my money, ain’t nothing better than Pepsi on a thirst. 

As I sipped, I take note of the music playing in post-op. It’s The Cars. “Who’s gonna drive you home ….?”

Perfection. 

Followed by, “Hungry Like the Wolf.” 

In my post-anesthesia haze, I think to myself, “Man, I’d like to pay my respects to the DJ here ….”

A different nurse comes over and reviews the procedure’s outcome with me. I’m still a little foggy, but the general gist is that I have an ‘-osis,’ not an ‘-itis,’ which is the lesser of two evils, I gather. Though I have some ‘outpockets,’ that will need to be eyeballed moving forward. 

Once I qualify that it’s nothing serious, ‘Outpockets,’ strikes me as the funniest thing I’ve heard since “Li’l Journey.” 

Liz comes over to check on me. 

Me (slightly euphoric from the anesthesia): Liz, did you curate a Wake Up playlist for me?

Nurse Liz: Um, what?  

Me: Liz, can I ask you a question?

Nurse Liz: (unsuccessfully hiding a wince) Yes? 

Me: So, I assume, the anesthesia, it’s pretty potent stuff, yes? 

Nurse Liz: Yeah. Why? 

Me: I don’t sleep well at all. The anesthesia … was wonderful.  

Nurse Liz: It’s the stuff that killed Michael Jackson. 

Me: No way!

Nurse Liz: Yeah. Propofol. His doctor left him alone, and his heart stopped. 

Me: (processing foggily) So, it’s so potent you can only take it only so often? 

Nurse Liz: Michael Jackson was taking it every night.

Me: (piecing the plan together in my head) No sh*t? So, what you’re saying is … if I had a gajillion dollars, I could hire my own anesthesiologist … but to your good point, the vetting process would be key to make sure my doc wasn’t a ham-and-egger…. 

Nurse Liz: (speeding up my discharge, ripping out my IV [ouch!]) You can put your pants on now.

As I get dressed I begin weighing the pros and cons of putting the kids’ college savings towards hiring a personal anesthesiologist.  

Me: (by the time I’m dressed, the anesthesia has pretty much worn off, and I become aware that my window with Nurse Liz is closing) Liz, so, aside from my “outpockets,” … I essentially have the colon of a 50-year-old man? 

Nurse Liz: You have a rock star colon.

That’s maybe the nicest thing any medical professional has ever said to me. 

See, it’s not so bad. 

Listen to Lucy: Go get screened.

Goochie goochie goo. 

 

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Fathers and Sons

Angels and the Outfield

He just brought it home one day after work and presented it to me. No set up. Not born of a previous request or conversation.

The Glove. 

Reggie Jackson model, waffle-pocket Rawlings. The Finest In the Field. 

Said he’d bought it from an acquaintance. Some guy he knew from the store. Paid $25 for it, used.  I remember him feeling shrewd about the deal.

It was huge. The finger holes were like catacombs. My 10-year-old digits barely reached.

And, oh, it was really used. The traditional method of breaking in a glove is to place a baseball in the pocket and tightly tie the glove closed with string so that you preserve a sweet spot for the ball. The Glove must’ve been given a Swedish Massage and then placed, empty, under the tire of a dump truck. Its pocket folded over its fingers like pages in a book. Its leather soft and pliant. It was so broken in I could clap with it. What padding it had was massaged into sweet surrender (presumably by the Swedes). But given that my fingers barely filled 25% of its real estate, padding wasn’t really relevant to the equation. 

Dad’s timing was impeccable. The summer after sixth grade our township was admitted into the recreational baseball league across town, and all the neighborhood dads couldn’t resist signing us up. 

Not to over-romanticize, but it was the 10-year-old-boy equivalent of eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Up until then kids in the neighborhood had spent summers on the asphalt of Areford playground — just kids, no adults (and therefore – blissfully – no coaches). Self-procured rubber-coated baseballs, shared bats, slow-pitch. Every afternoon. Every day of the week. If we were short players, we’d improvise – opposite field automatic outs, pitcher’s hand, ghost runners, all-time catchers (mostly reserved for little brothers). The biggest argument always over which of the two teams got to be the Pirates, the other usually picking the Reds (who were great) or the Mets (who were awful, but whose lineup we’d memorized courtesy of WWOR Channel 12).  We’d play all afternoon either until dinner time, or — as was more often the case — we’d run out of baseballs. Balls usually met one of two fates – either they carried over or rolled under the barbed-wire fence of the football field in deep right, or, if they were the cheap, $.99 K-Mart specials, they were beaten into unplayable, lopsided submission.

However, in the summer of 1981 we traded all that for grass fields, uniforms, coaches, organized practices and pitchers who tried to get you out themselves, and helmets, for when their attempts missed high and tight. My friend Andy and I got drafted by the Angels (sponsored by Parks Moving and Storage). After a couple of practices, I remember the head coach instructing his son, one of the stars on the team, to show me the basics of playing first base: how to reach for a throw while keeping a foot on the bag, where to stand with a runner on first and when no one’s on base, and how to hop into position once the pitcher goes into his windup.

Pretty sure I earned the audition for one reason only: The Glove. 

I was a scrawny 10-year-old, which made my Rawlings seem even bigger. When I stood straight The Glove comically hung below my knee, almost to my calf. But it shortened my learning curve at first base, compensating for my lack of stature by extending my reach for errant tosses by several inches. And it swallowed – absolutely swallowed – the invariable short hops from third or deep in the hole from short.

I fell in love with scoops. Secretly hoped throws would bounce in front of me so I could stretch and rescue them from the dirt. My favorite moment was between innings, throwing grounders to the infielders while the pitcher warmed up. I especially liked when Bobby Madison played shortstop. He’d throw big looping curve balls back to me, and I loved tracing their glorious arcs into short hops that I’d sweep up in a plume of infield dirt. 

In full disclosure, fielding was pretty much my only appreciable skill. I had a rag arm, and owing to my stature, zero pop at the plate. Without The Glove, I was pretty much Bruce Wayne. 

The Glove, though? A veritable vacuum cleaner. I held on to everything

At Hutchison Park, first base was close to a set of bleachers where all the dads would sit. They got a kick out of the skinny kid with the big glove. I remember one of them yelling, “Hold on to your cigarettes, or that glove’ll suck ‘em right outta your hand.” 

Ah, the days when bleacher dads sat and smoked under summer suns, watching their sons re-enact the Greek Tragedies of their own youths.

___

My Dad’s investment in my Little League career didn’t end with forking over $25. 

Unquestionably, my best times with The Glove were shared with him, after work during the week. We’d drive up to the junior high so he could arch fly balls over my head, and far to my right and left for me to chase down. I’d catch my breath from the last one and yell for another. “Make me run, Dad.” He had this knack for perfectly timing and aiming his launches to allow me just enough time in full sprint to snatch ’em from the air or just before they’d hit the ground. I can still hear his voice pitching up into an exuberant, “HeyyyyyYYY!” when I’d pluck one from my shoetops or snow-cone one destined for beyond. 

He got as much joy as I did from what The Glove held on to. 

We’d always outlast the sun – “Last one….” — and then celebrate with ice-cold, glass-bottled Pepsis in the darkened Dairy Mart parking lot off Dixon Boulevard.

___

As far as Little League went, the Angels were a pretty decent team. We had two bona fide stars — Doug and Mike — who took turns pitching and playing shortstop, and a bunch of really solid players. Our head coach was fair and a pretty nice man. If I remember correctly, we finished in first place during the regular season. We beat the only undefeated team — the hated Red Sox — in dramatic fashion when the coach’s son launched a game-winning homer into the pond behind the outfield in the last inning. That set up a rematch between our two teams in the playoffs for the league championship. 

The Red Sox were like the Yankees of Little League. They were stacked, and they took things very seriously I remember. My 10-year-old-self recalls their coaches yelling a lot, and their players mostly sneering (except for my friend Jerry, who, like me was a stature-challenged Areford asphalt alum), where I remember a lot more smiles and laughs coming from our dugout. In retrospect, I’m sure the Red Sox had as much fun as we did, but that’s how 10-year-olds see the world.

Anyway, I distinctly remember an added gravitas to our pre-championship practices. We knew who the Red Sox were going to pitch – their ace. He was that kid from central casting who was literally a head taller than the rest of us, and whose early-maturing frame could launch puberty-grade home runs. On the mound, he fired fastballs that popped like thunder when they hit the catcher’s mitt, missing often enough to put the foot in the bucket of, and fear of God into, lower-in-the order hitters like me. 

As a result, our coaches came with their middle-age velocity during batting practice. Discussed where and how to play in the field when certain Red Sox came to the plate. Went over the signs again and again. I was told to keep an eye out for the bunt sign, since (a.) it was assumed that base runners would be precious, (b.) I was left-handed, and (c.) otherwise unlikely to do much damage against The Puberty Express. The coaches even discussed some situational strategy with some of us, me included. 

The game itself played out as expected, tight and low-scoring. We were tied going into the top of the seventh and last inning. The Red Sox managed to get a guy on third with the potential go-ahead run and only one out.

As fate would have it, the kid from central casting strode to the plate.

Our coach called time out and huddled the infield at the mound. He made a defensive switch. 

He ordered me to centerfield. 

This was one of the situational strategies that came up during our pre-game practices. I was ready for this moment. I had The Glove. I’d logged countless hours under fading suns chasing balls in every direction and rescuing them before they found the ground. 

Game on. 

Our star pitcher went into his windup. Central Casting swung with all his might and made good contact.

A roar swelled up from the Red Sox fans as the ball rocketed into the sky…. 

__

For literally decades after that, Dad would delight in bringing up the story, with David and Goliath relish, of Central Casting launching that ball — Central Casting, the team who thought they were so great, who treated Little League with such Major League fervor – and me tracking it down and silencing the Red Sox faithful in a heartbeat. The Glove — the best $25 he ever spent in his life – coming through when it mattered the most. 

He got that part right. 

I held onto the ball.

But, in truth, I held onto it a couple heartbeats too long. 

In the ensuing micro-moment, I registered the right-to-left soundtrack swell of the Red Sox faithful going silent and the Angels’ smoking Greek Chorus section erupting in euphoria when The Glove swallowed the ball in its waffle pocket. I’d never been responsible for a cheering crowd like that before, and it promptly filled my 10-year-old heart full. For a moment I basked in it …  just long enough for the opportunistic Red Sox third base coach to send his runner home. When I finally broke from my reverie and launched the ball with my rag arm to the plate, it was too late. The runner scored standing up with the go-ahead run. 

We failed to score in the bottom of the inning and ended up losing the game and thus, the league championship.

The winning run scored because I held on to the ball too long. 

In his re-tellings over the years, Dad never remembered how the story actually ended.

I cringed every time he brought it up. 

Never had the heart to correct him. 

____

What you find has an awful lot to do with what you’re looking for. 

That was my Dad, though. Without fail he always looked for the best part of the story.  He raised his son to do the same. 

I just wish it hadn’t taken me all these years to realize that I had it all wrong. 

Me holding on to the ball was how the game ended. How the season ended.

Not the story. 

The best part of the story is a Dad who remembered that I caught the ball. 

In the end, he got as much joy from what The Glove held on to as I did.

 

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The Road Ahead

Saving Time

Springing forward always makes me think of Sad Sam Jones, who pitched in the major leagues from 1914-1935. 

In Lawrence Ritter’s “The Glory of Their Times,” Sam tells of how he never threw over to first base to chase back a runner.  He once went five years without even attempting a pickoff move. “I once heard Eddie Plank say, ‘There are only so many pitches in this old arm, and I don’t believe in wasting them throwing to first base.’”

That’s how I feel about the clock in my car, the one clock I have dominion over. I never turn it forward and back. Although I don’t have the extension of my major league career to think about, I dedicate the occasional stray thought to the preservation of one of my few useful services to my family: I’m really good at opening jars. “Dad?” Karry will call from the kitchen. “Help.” 

Given that the vast majority of my contributions to the house fall under a loose category I like to call, “Intangibles,” I’m mindful of getting the most from my meager talents.  This is why I never complained all those years we went without a dishwasher. Any excuse to stand next to Karry.

So, for going on 25 years, I’ve saved myself two turns a year (fifty jars if you’re keepin’ score). My car clock’s in permanent Spring Forward Mode, so it’ll now be accurate for the next six months.  For the rest of the year, it’s always an hour earlier than my car says it is. During the winter, every time I turn the ignition I experience a small satisfaction realizing it’s not that late. Always makes me feel a little ahead of the game. Though it mostly has the opposite effect on my passengers, each of whom tends to experience an ‘Oh sh*t, what time is it?’ momentary freak-out. 

Like most of my idiosyncrasies, it drives my family nuts. But I like having an excuse to think about Sam Jones when I think about spring. I’d like to think that Sam would appreciate that, too.

There are only so many twists in this old wrist.

Can’t wait until Opening Day. 

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Righteous riffs

Just another Saturday morning ….

Karry catches the rising sun spotlighting the frost on the trees, says I’d appreciate, implying more than her, she hates all of winter … but as the sun continues to rise, she thaws, and is broken by its beauty, how the backlit frost glows, how the trees just glisten, like the sun has cast the morning in moonlight, and for an unspoiled moment we just stand awed in our old kitchen and stare at an older sun we’ve never seen before kissing the backs of the bare trees good morning.

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Righteous riffs

No Great Hurry, Not Soon Enough (a meditation)

In my imagination, this is where we are tonight ….

Walking into Potter’s, glancing left and finding enough open, old, red stools at the bar to accommodate us (whoever’s available, whoever wants to come), their acquisition by our keisters a confirmation, the most formal, capital “A” Arrival I can think of right now, the granting of official permission to leave everything else outside for Here … Now … the simple This.

In my imagination Robert, the forever bartender, towel over his shoulder, who spent contented decades pouring and washing, fills our glasses full of Pabst — all that our thirst has required here since 21.

Yes, we make a point to clink each other’s glasses. There may be toasts, but everything that has ever needed said is whispered in full measure by just our being together.

There is no clock on the wall.

If we’re lucky an old regular may shuffle in on cue to check the daily number off the TV, letting us know it’s seven. In the right company, in the right place, such a sun dial is sufficient.

We don’t bother with the menu, remembering it like we recall the Gettysburg Address Mr. Landman made us memorize in 8th grade history.

Everyone orders their regulars … there may be a cheeseburger, maybe wings, maybe a Greek Western, maybe a Double Giant Whammy Doodle.

For me, it’s a Poor Boy (what Potter’s calls their grilled ham and cheese topped with lettuce and mayo) without tomato on a hoagie roll. Unostentatious and perfect, the sandwich and the setting. Small salad (with beets, because, you know, Uniontown) tossed in their homemade Italian whose taste is worth any indigestion later, and their legendary fries sprinkled with seasoned salt, to share.

But the nourishment I come for is not on the menu.

It’s to hear everyone’s laughter again. Bill throwing his head back in full cackle. Tom’s revving up and going silent in high gear. Matt’s high-pitched giggle. Homer, ready with his quick squirrel chuckle. Andy’s shoulders heaving when he gets going. Chris, fighting through his laugh to throw more logs on the fire. Wolfie just shaking his head.

We go a little quieter when the food comes, order seconds of Pabsts, and are in no great hurry once the bill comes, carrying on the conversation we started here as teenagers.

Cheers, boys ….

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Righteous riffs

Catch Before Fall

Tuesday, November 13, 2020

I plant the black camp chair firm

in the back yard grass just

as the sun and I tip

our hats good evening to this,

the season’s last warm day.

From 70s, 60s now and falling fast,

fall’s full fragrances mingling with the mix tape of neighbors’ bustling,

whispering to me that this is indeed a great, shared secret.

A lawn mower over yonder pushed from front to back,

growling louder and receding,

like the wave of a season’s coming and going….

Neighbor kids squealing just beyond the reach of each other’s tag,

the barking dog so wanting to break free from its leash to join this,

its favorite game in the world ….

The pork chop dinner through the kitchen’s open screened window wafting,

soon summoning the congregation ….

The wrist-revving motorcycle, racing up the street

chasing the last of the jacketless daylight.

50s now, and falling fast,

I rise from my chair and lay down,

surrendering so the grass can pillow my head,

and draw in the deep breath of …

the neighbor’s finished mow,

pork chops on the table,

the fallen leaves scenting the air and promising

a Last. Satisfying. Crackle. Crunch.

When I recluctantly stand back up,

fold the black camp chair, plant it ‘neath the porch,

and shut the back door behind me, turning the lock.

The leashed dog still barking, wanting to play.

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Righteous riffs

Over. Time.

So, THIS would have been the day 

When we would stretch after-school Nerf football 

On the perfect patch of Connor Street between the power lines 

Until the very last drop of daylight … and then some.

Until 

You could smell dinner on the table from each of the houses 

along your deep post pattern.

Until

our moms would yell us inside, 

and we’d beg or ignore for five more minutes.

Until 

we could run under just one more tight spiral 

on that perfect patch between the power lines.

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Righteous riffs

Murder, She Polled ….

(Season 3, Episode 6)

On Friday nights, we’ve taken to watching old episodes of Murder, She Wrote. 

As one does. 

As an aside … happy belated 95th birthday to Dame Angela Lansbury. As an aside to the aside, I found Em the most awesome t-shirt in the universe to honor the occasion. 

To give you just a taste of our recent bliss, last week we dialed up Season 3 Episode 5, and watched the sublime “Corned Beef and Carnage,” [how there isn’t a statue built to the person who came up with that title is a crime that should have merited its own two-part episode ending with a part-one cliffhanger, but I digress…]

… featuring a cast that would rival any Love Boat episode … Charles from MASH, Larry from Three’s Company, “The Man” from Chico and the Man, Kenickie from Grease, and the lovely Susan Anton (insert purring cat sound here).

After last week’s carnage, our expectations were highest-level-before-infinity as we curled into our comfy living room chairs to fire up episode 6 last night. It guest-starred Leslie Nielsen, playing David, an old-high school crush of Jessica’s, who was returning to Cabot Cove as a four-time-divorced smooth-talking debonair shyster, having hired a quartet of young scuba divers to plumb the depths of Cabot Cove in search of forgotten, sunken Pirate treasure.

As one does.

Oh, how high the piles of cocaine must have been in their weekly writer’s room? 

Anyway, here’s where I need you to pay attention and weigh in …

… the episode opens with Angela chatting with Amos (Tom Bosley’s dim-witted sheriff character who Bosley inflects with the absolute worst Maine accent ever attempted) and good ole’ Seth (the town doctor whose relationship with Jessica always almost-but-never-quite teeters beyond the platonic), when David (Leslie Neilsen’s character) spies Angela, taps her on the shoulder, and … 

… gives her an impossibly-hard-to-watch full-mouth excruciatingly long kiss. 

Out of nowhere. With no context.  

For context (as if it even matters to the scene) …  Jessica is a widower, who turned to mystery writing only after the sudden, unexpected death of her dear husband, Frank.

Needless to say Em and I were as taken aback as Seth and Amos. 

In full disclosure, one of us may or may not have blurted out: “What the EFFFFFF is happening right now?” 

No lie, we exchanged at least two rounds of astonished rejoinders by the time those suddenly carnal 50-somethings pulled away from each other.

It was then that we realized that, evidently, we care more about the character (not to mention Frank, her widower, who is probably still spinning in his fictitious grave) NOW than the writers did THEN. This is where we welcome your perspective to balance ours.

Knowing what you now know about the scene (also, if you want to appreciate the following question in its full context, we wholeheartedly encourage you to dial up Season 3, Episode 6, watch it beginning to end, and then return to the polling question. Better yet, start at Season 1, Episode 1, and work your way through the massive pile of dead bodies that Jessica amasses leading up to her randy street encounter with Lt. Frank Drebin.) …

… please weigh in the following. Thanks (as always) for the gift of your time and attention.

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Excursions

To be continued ….

It was significant, though it was nothing fancy.  

Actually, she made just about every detail significant, though none of it was fancy. 

She let me take her to lunch today, just the two of us (since we went out to dinner as a family on Sunday). She got dressed up just a little bit. Wore the brown blouse that she knows I have always loved her in. Was ready a couple minutes early. She let me drive. Let me hold the door for her as she got in, and also as she got out. Took my arm as we negotiated the parking lot slush. Let me pick from the menu, even though she wasn’t interested in anything other than breadsticks and tea. 

Truth be told, she hates Pizza Hut. Has ever since she got the most violently ill after a visit years ago. As has been her custom consistently across the 26 years I’ve known her, she gives you one shot, and that’s pretty much it. 

But she has been known to make the occasional annual exception on or around February 14. When she lets me coax her into a victory lap over some breadsticks and tea. 

That was the precise fare on Feb. 14, 1991, when we spent our first ever Valentine’s Day together gazing out at some fat snowflakes from a booth at the Waynesburg Pizza Hut.  

She’d forgotten about the snow then, she confessed as I recalled the weather report from 26 years ago. 

We both fought the urge to take the full measure of this annual pencil-tick-on-the-doorjamb moment. 

But I made myself vulnerable before her … with the same ease that convinced me 26 years ago that she was The One and Only. I could always tell her anything. 

Confessed to her how embarrassed I was about forgetting how to surprise her. I’ve lost it … from lack of practice. Couldn’t come up with anything for Valentine’s Day for her. Not that we’re big V-Day people. We’re beyond the hype you might say. Still, though … I used to have game. Used to knock her socks off. When I couldn’t afford roses, I once made her a bouquet of roses I drew, told her they were better than the real thing because they would never wither. She kept them for years. Once saved up for a diamond necklace, though the biggest one I could afford was the tiniest one they had.

She wore it to lunch today. 

The waiter brought us our breadsticks and iced teas. 

We said Grace. Clinked our breadsticks. 

The ceremony reminded us of not just who we were, but who we still are, underneath the responsibilities and have-to’s of the 40-something versions of us that are still struggling to Figure It All Out.

When we pulled back in to the garage so I could resume my work day and she could share the leftovers with the kids, she paused before getting out. Leaned over and gave me a kiss.

It was nothing fancy. But it was significant. 

She’s still very much capable of surprising me.

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Righteous riffs

Reminiscing in tempo ….

I can’t remember when I found them, I just remember as soon as I saw them I had to get ’em.

For him.  

That was us for a good 14 years, from my first gig as a 14-year-old until I gave up my spot on the bandstand a couple years after getting married.   

I think I made them a Christmas present. And I was right. He treasured them. 

For years afterwards, whenever I’d visit, he’d always point ’em out from their privileged perch on the mantle in the living room. “I smile every time I look at them,” he’d say. “They make me think of all the good times we had.” 

And then we’d reminisce about those good times

I know exactly what he means.

I took them back when we cleaned out the old house four years ago. Gave them a privileged perch on the shelves leading upstairs, so I’d see them every time I came home. 

I smile every time I look at them. They make me think of all the good times we had. 

That’s what I’d tell him if I could call to wish him a happy birthday today. 

I can hear the sound of his voice pitching up the second he recognized it was me, as pure as the tone of his horn.  

“Peeeeeeete!” 

He was always genuinely glad to hear from me every time I’d call. What a gift that was.

That’s what I’m missing today.

I’d call him to wish him a happy birthday, and he’d be the one making me feel good.

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