Friday, December 30, 2011

The Single Man’s Guide to being sick—they still shoot horses, don’t they?


I can remember a couple years back when Deb (one of my former coworkers) was at her wit’s end.  She had just gotten off the phone with her husband, who was at home in bed, sick with the flu.   Apparently he wasn’t too happy that she had chosen to go to work while he lay there suffering, and wanted to prepare her for the likelihood of coming home and finding his corpse in their bed. 

Some other women quickly chimed in, sharing some of THEIR past experiences with ill boyfriends or husbands, and the consensus was that us guys were absolute wusses the minute we got the sniffles, and would probably be better off if we were just put out of our misery instead. 

(I protested, but being one of only two guys in our group, all I got was a couple blank stares before they continued their death-wish on all sick men.) 

I’m reminded of that now, because for the last few days I’ve been home sick with the flu.  It actually started Christmas Day; I was at my sister Shawn’s house for the holidays and the four of us—Shawn, her husband Jim, my niece Sophia & myself were gathered at the dining room table playing “Wheel of Fortune” while I kept attempting to “swallow away” a sore throat.  At first I just chalked it up to the drier air there (my apartment is muggy year ‘round) or from all the late night Christmas Eve jabber (I was doing most of the jabbering).  But after my eyeballs got hot, my spidey sense began tingling and I announced that I was coming down with something, so I’d best head home.  (It didn’t really hit me for another day or so, but by Tuesday night I was knocking at Death’s door.)

I admit I was unprepared for what was coming—but other than Wednesday night (when my fever broke and soaked my bed, I woke up shaking so hard my teeth were rattling & I may have whimpered for my mom, I dunno) I think I’ve “manned up” just fine.  Here’s some examples:

No medicine:   It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten a bug, and I know this because the Tylenol ‘Cold & Flu Gelcaps’ in my medicine cabinet have BEST IF USED BY MAR 2006 on the box.  (I had an expired bottle of cherry flavored Cepacol Sore Throat Spray in there too, but I tried some and it tasted like old pennies.)   So what!  That stuff isn’t fixing anything anyway, all it does is mask the symptoms for a couple hours—as for my sore throat, I gargled with Listerine-Mint & let a little trickle down my gullet; it did the job just fine!

No cold juice or hot soup:  Okay, some juice would’ve been nice but I DID have a couple Popsicles in the freezer left over from this summer—and while there’s no soup in my cupboards, I did find a couple packets of chicken gravy mix.  Add some hot water & grab a spoon!

No Kleenex:  This one’s a no-brainer, who needs a fancy box of Kleenex when you have 4 ROLLS of the stuff right under your bathroom sink?  Okay it’s Scott toilet tissue and got a little rough on my nose, but anything better & I would’ve felt spoiled.  Hmph!

.         .         .

And finally, who needs someone hovering over you when you have TV to keep you company?  This morning I watched “A History of the Space Suit” on the Science Channel and was surprised to learn that when NASA put out the call for someone to design a moonsuit, who beat out the giants like Goodrich & the military?  The good folks at Playtex, who designed bras & rubber undergarments for women!

Kinda makes me wish I had one of these a week or so ago... then maybe I wouldn’t be sitting at home alone with the flu

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Letters to Santa: we didn’t have email, but we had Paul Shannon

Earlier today when I was at Kuhn’s Market, I overheard two women talking about their holiday plans, and one of them was telling a story about her 7 year old son Toby. She had both the other woman (and me) in stitches.

She’s been after her boy to write a letter to Santa, to give her some ideas on what he wants for Christmas; she said that when she picked him up from her mother’s house the other night, Toby informed her that she can stop pestering him, he sent a letter to Santa on the computer.

She called her mother and asked her if she’d helped him, she said no but her neighbor’s daughter had been over and was helping Toby send an email. The whereabouts of this missing letter was still unknown & Toby’s mom says she’ll be bald before Christmas gets here.

It got me to thinking about writing letters to Santa when I was a kid; we didn’t have email but we DID have a rocket!  Well, courtesy of WTAE-TV & “Paul Shannon’s Adventure Time”.  In the 1960s, when we still lived in town, I used to race home from school to catch this local kid’s show.  Mr. Shannon was a tall, soft spoken man who showed cartoons like “Kimba the White Lion” & “Space Angel”, and always had a studio audience of Cub Scouts or Brownies.  (Oh how I wanted to be one of those kids!)

I’m surprised how little I can find about Paul Shannon online—but this is just how I remember him

But come December (from 1965-1970), he would tell all the kids at home to send their “Letters to Santa” in care of the tv station, and he’d send them to the North Pole-- on Channel 4’s very own moon rocket!

(You have to remember, this was the 1960s—hippies, Vietnam & civil rights may have been on the news every night, but so was the excitement of astronauts and rockets.)

The shows (in those weeks leading to Christmas) would end with Mr. Shannon and a “rocket hatch”; we’d see bags of letters already inside the compartment, and Paul would still be holding a few, reading off the names and addresses of the senders before tossing them in with the others. We’d then be treated to some stock footage of one of the Apollo moon rockets blasting off from Cape Canaveral—I mean Pittsburgh, cough—on it’s way to Santa. And I swear to God, as a kid in the first, second & third grades, I didn’t doubt where that missile was heading for a second.

What I lived for though was the “transmissions from the North Pole”. We’d see Santa in front of his workshop, waving hello and telling Paul Shannon, yes, the latest batch of letters arrived safely. He’d then read off a couple of ‘em, remarking on the fine penmanship or telling the writer how proud he was of them for helping their mom around the house.

George Heid, 1902-1973: He not only played Santa on Adventure Time, but donated his time to work with hundreds of handicapped kids in the Pittsburgh area

I can’t find any clips of him online, but I can still hear his voice; always loving & genuine, I didn’t doubt he was the real deal for a minute either. I can still remember one year panicking over my letter not being read on the air & asking my mom “what if mine got lost somewhere on the way there?” and her telling me “It didn’t Doug, your dad talked to him.” Thank God!

Well, this Santa may not have read any of my letters, but thanks to some very generous parents (and one very attentive mom), I know SOMEONE certainly did.

I love you, Mom & Dad 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Can Nana walk in Heaven? I sure hope so, Sophia

This past Friday night, my sister Shawn & her husband Jim took my 7 year old niece to a Christmas “Open House” in Waynesburg, where Sophia witnessed a caricature artist & asked (more like pleaded) to have her likeness done too. 

My sister sent it on to me that night with a note of dismay (which made me laugh) & I promptly posted it on Facebook & wrote:

“My 7 year old niece got her caricature done at Waynesburg’s Christmas Open House—she loves it, thinks it makes her look like a teenager.  My sister doesn’t like it, thinks it makes her look like a teenager.”

It got some nice feedback.  Personally, I think it does look like that little glamour-gal, right down to her strong jawbone and pronounced chin.

So last night around midnight, I had just finished e-mailing with my sister & shut things down and crawled into bed when my phone rang—who’s calling me at this hour?  It was my sister Shawn of course, her husband at her side, and they were trying to determine if one of those “Amazon sellers” were legit.  (They were looking at karaoke machines for Sophie for Christmas but not liking what they saw.)   And the next thing I know, Jim is asleep and Shawn and I have been on the phone for 3 hours.  

We spent the time talking about gift ideas and Sophie’s love of technology, among other things.  Gadgets like ipads and Wii’s and smartphones don’t faze this kid in the slightest, she’s seen it all and wants to know when she’s getting her share.  I remarked how Sophie seems ‘wiser beyond her years’, especially in comparison to us at her age.  (But then again we grew up with younger parents and a house filled with brothers and sisters, where a ‘color tv’ was about as newfangled as things got.)  And privately I worried a little that Sophie was growing up too soon, too fast.

Then my sister told me something which broke my heart, but set things right.  Shawn said  “Doug the other night, Sophie came to me and said ‘Mom I need to ask you something important.’  She asked ‘Can Nana walk in Heaven?’  It was really important to her to know if Mom was able to walk about in Heaven on her own two feet.  All I could tell her was that I didn’t know, but that Nana was there for sure.”   

Sophie never got to know her Nana; Mom left us when Sophie was barely 2 months old, so Sophie only knows her thru pictures and memories we’ve shared with her. 

But the thing is, her heartfelt question was a sweet reminder that this may be the 21st century, and she may be more comfortable with technology than her fifty year old uncle, but the innocence isn’t lost.  I hope she continues to believe in Santa Claus & the Tooth Fairy and that her Nana is with Jesus for as long as she’s able.

One last thing--Sophie is getting an operation in a few days, for an ‘inguinal hernia’ which doesn’t really bother her now, but if left untreated, will get worse down the road.  She’s scared of course (who wouldn’t be?) but last week, Shawn was telling someone about it with my niece in tow, and afterward Sophie said “Mom just tell them it’s a hernia, ok?”  (She didn’t think anyone needed to know about her lady parts, and I couldn’t agree more.) 

I may not be a praying man, but for this little soul I will gladly make an exception.

Merry Christmas Sophia