Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Bizarre Event Last Fall

I have been kind of on a roll with the bizarre little incidents in my life, which made me recall one last fall.

It began with a phone call from Aunt Susie.  "Do you need bookshelves?"

Welllll, yes!

Susie had been at McDonalds in Junction City and being the friendly person she is she smiled and said hello when she walked past a middle-aged man seated with two younger men.

As I recall, the older man approached her later and said she just seemed so nice and all, that he's wondering if she could use some household items.  It turned out he was from California and had come to Harrisburg with a son and a nephew to dispose of his deceased
 aunt's things.  Susie mentioned Milford's health troubles, and the man offered his aunt's electric recliner.

You know, the kind that lifts up kind of like a dump truck to help an older/infirm person get up.

I think the guy's name was Steve, and he said the chair is practically brand new, and she can just have it.

He told her of more things in the house that they would be happy to give away to anyone who wanted them, and Susie thought of me.

So Susie and I drove into Harrisburg in the van and Susie directed me to the house.

Steve was middle-aged, as I said, kind of short, with a graying beard.  He was also from California, as mentioned, and worked in the wine industry, which is my way of saying that he had a different way about him than the grass farmers I am used to, more artsy and with a few more feelings, illustrated by the fact that in the middle of the conversation about his dead aunt and this houseful of stuff, he looked at me and said, "You know, you are just a beautiful woman.  I just wanted to tell you that."

Poor Susie.  He didn't say a word about her.

I said, "Thank you."

We went into the house and down the hall.  The aunt had moved there from Las Vegas in 1980, I think, and still hadn't unpacked all her boxes.  You could see them sitting around, big and square, with a faded Mayflower Moving Company design on the side.  The aunt also like to shop, and to watch the Shopping Channel, and as she got older she would
order more and more of what she already had.

The house looked full, and outside a 16-foot dumpster was full, and they had taken eight pickup loads to Goodwill.

Steve with his gentle voice took us down the hall to show us the bookshelves in a back bedroom stuffed full of old-lady-with-dementia stuff.

He looked at me and said, "You know, you are just such a beautiful lady, I'm going to play you a song."

He reached past a limp curtain into a stuffed closet and pulled out a recorder, one of those plastic fluty things that children sometimes use in music class.  He looked at me with his California wine-maker in-touch-with-his-feelings eyes and played "Annie's Song," that sweet John Denver melody that makes you think of waving fields of sunflowers and sad walks in the meadow.

Then he put the recorder back in the closet and I said Thank you and Susie just smiled and we talked about how to get the shelves out to the van and his son and nephew hauled them out for us.

He found out we have six children so he filled a Mayflower box with the aunt's canned goods and dried beans and such.

I also snagged an ancient gift box with two lacy handkerchiefs which I gave to Emily for Christmas, irreverently labeling them "from TDL."  The Dead Lady.

So now we refer to the stash of canned food in the pantry as "TDL's stuff."

I still am not sure what to make of that completely bizarre episode, standing in that clutter and having this stranger play Annie's Song to me.  You have to understand that I have never in my life been someone who got attention for her looks, not even as a young woman, and things have gone south since then.  My husband says nice things about how I look but I think the Lord has blinded his eyes, in my favor.

So I don't really have a slot in my brain to file an episode like this or a sensible explanation for what it was all about and why that recorder was right there, within reach, just behind the old curtain.

But then, Susie said the recliner wasn't exactly brand new either.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

May Column

This month's column is about moms in general and Paul's in particular.

Click here.

Friday, May 03, 2013

The Bike Mystery

Yesterday I was outside attacking the edges with a weed-eater.  If you don’t know that American term, it’s a battery-powered device about 4 feet long with a switch on the end you hang onto and a rapidly-whirling plastic string on the other end that neatly clips weeds and grass in places the lawn mower can’t reach.

So I went bzzzzz around the walnut tree and bzzzz along the hedge, and then I noticed the bike.  There in the back yard, not far from Hansie’s old doghouse and Substation Drive, a red bike was neatly parked.

It had a rack on the back with, it looked like, some gear strapped on.

Ok, if there was a bike, there had to be a rider, but where was he?

I looked around carefully, saw no one, and kept weed-eating with a cautious eye to the west.

No movement anywhere, no sign of anyone.  Hansie’s doghouse looks, to be honest, like an outhouse, and the thought crossed my mind that someone may have had an emergency and went in there, only to discover it wasn’t what he thought, so he was in there watching, embarrassed, waiting for me get out of sight.

So I wandered to the other side of the house for a while.  When I came back, the bike was still there.

I had a growing sense of something sinister going on.

I also thought I heard a noise in the house.  I was home alone.

What should I do?

Well, I should probably see if someone was in the house.  But what about my own safety?  As the Bible says, “What is that in thine hand?”  A weed-eater.  That would work.

So, clutching the orange weed-eater in my left hand, I tiptoed through the house, around the downstairs, up the stairs, peeking into closets and bedrooms.  Nothing.

It occurred to me later that fighting off an intruder with a weed-eater might be a little non-non-resistant.  But really, I wouldn’t have been really violent.  I would just have encouraged him to do right.

Back downstairs.  The bike was still there.  Had someone wandered into a field and fainted?  Were they hiding in the shed?

I called Paul.  He said his nephew Austin is working at the warehouse and he’d send him over.

Austin is a fine young man and I was happy to see him.  He looked inside and behind the lamb shed and the doghouse.  Nothing.

Then he looked at the bike.

“Hey, I recognize that bike, I think!  It’s that old guy that comes around.  Larry Something.”

All my vague misgivings and inflated fears dissolved into amusement.  All that drama for Larry?!!  And concern.  Where in the world was he?

Larry, I should add, is a lovable fellow who is probably 60 and was somewhat brain-injured through a childhood incident.  He can take care of himself pretty well, and rides all over the neighborhood on his bike.  But if his bike shows up without him, you worry.

I don’t know that he’s ever wandered off, but who knows?

Austin and I looked around some more, in and behind stuff, and across the field and in the ditches.

Finally I called Aunt Susie who knows everything.  “Who should I call?” I asked her. 

“Well, not his dad, he’d be upset,” she said.  “Maybe Titus.”  Titus works at the pellet mill next to our warehouse.

I didn’t have his number.  Would she mind calling?

She wouldn’t.  We waited.  Austin said, “Oh, I remember now.  Larry was over there this morning helping Titus work on something.”

Susie called back.  Everything was fine.  Titus had come by and seen Larry on his bike and offered to take him out for lunch, so Larry parked right there and off they went.

Wow.  Praise God, everything was ok.

Later I was out working some more when I heard a car door slam and saw Larry marching over to his bike.

I walked over.  “So, you went out for lunch with Titus?”

He grinned.  “Yah!”

“I see you have some pop cans in your basket,” I said, making conversation.  “Do you take them to Safeway?”

“Yah!  I get money for ‘em.”  He was in a hurry to be off, and wheeled the bike to the driveway, mounted, and rode away.

It was a happy ending to the story.  But I think I will, for some time to come, feel very foolish about prowling around ready to fight off good-natured Larry with a weed-eater.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Castoff Groceries--Yes or No?

I have a theoretical question for you.

Let’s say we have a family of, oh, maybe six children.  They are busy people and they eat a lot.

But then time passes and, just hypothetically, three children move away, the mom tries to eat less sugar, one daughter goes gluten-free, and the remaining two children are picky.  In theory.  The dad will still snack on anything immediately visible, but nothing that requires digging or shuffling or opening of opaque containers.

So one day the mom cleans out the pantry.  She finds food that is not being eaten, such as, maybe, some off-brand candy bars and Oreo-type cookies.

Now we assume she has felt and seen enough poverty that it horrifies her to throw food away.

So she thinks, who would eat this? 

“Well, maybe hungry teenage boys who are less picky than mine.”  [She tastes a cookie to make sure it’s not stale, since even teenage boys have their limits.  It isn’t.]

We’ll assume the dad is a teacher, so the mom thinks, “Hey! He could take this stuff to school and set it on his desk and let anyone eat it that wants it!”

The dad forgets to take it, hypothetically.

So the mom asks the gluten-free daughter who is going that direction today.  Would she mind?

The daughter doesn't think this is a good idea.  She compares it to sending worn-out clothes to Africa.

The mom wonders, “Is she right?”

The mom also remembers, just hypothetically here, a neighbor lady named “Alice” whose children were leaving home just as this mom’s were entering the high-calorie-consumption years.  Alice would call and say, “I feel so stupid even ASKING this, and ‘Larry’ thinks I’m crazy, but we have this stuff here that’s just not getting eaten and I hate to throw it away.  There are two bottles of barbecue sauce—I have NO idea why we bought so many—and some potato salad and dinner rolls from the family reunion, and some cheese that I’m afraid is going to go bad if it doesn’t get eaten.  I feel really dumb even offering that because it’s already opened, and it’s FINE if you say no, but . . . is there any chance…???”

And this mom would be hopping up and down with impatience through all this at the thought of FOOD of any kind arriving that she didn’t have to buy or make.  She knew it would disappear almost immediately, and very quickly would assure Alice that YES that would be WONDERFUL and she did NOT have to APOLOGIZE for it, it was fine if she just ASKED.

So Alice or Larry would bring the food over [hypothetically] still apologizing as they handed it over, and it would get woofed down rapidly and the mom would be so grateful.

Which brings us back to the current dilemma.  If such a scenario were to show up in your life, and you were on the receiving end, either as a high schooler or a neighbor, how would you respond??

a--EWWW. Are you KIDDING me??
b-- Only if it’s brand name and unopened and before the sell-by date.
c-- Well, maybe, if it’s from a clean home and something we’d actually eat.
d-- Sure, why not?  We can always quietly toss it.
e-- YES!!! FOOD!!!! ANY FOOD!!!! THANK YOU!!!

After school today I had a few extra children in the house.  I posed this question to them.  The teenage girl gave a slight but polite grimace and said softly, “Wellllll, I don’t knooooow.”  The 12-year-old boy responded with a simple nod and a thumbs-up. 

Maybe that’s my answer right there.  Maybe moms and teenage boys are united on this one.

Theoretically of course.

Quote of the Day:
“. . . That means it’s nine-sixty-fourths of an inch in diameter.  Then air blows past and the light stuff blows out and then it falls down on this screen and the flax goes through and the peas go over the top.  It’s basically one-twenty-second of an inch there.  The third slat is rectangles, one-thirteenth of an inch by half an inch.  The flats fall through and the rounds don’t. . .”
--Paul, describing to a customer how he cleans flax seed