Thursday, February 28, 2008

Apple Annie

She sat across from me in the crowded, waiting area. She looked so sweet with her fluffy, white, Q-tip hair and her grandmotherly, wrinkled apple cheeks. Her tiny gnarled hand held a delicate handkerchief with a tatted lace edge to her nose. Then like lightning from her maw erupted a tornado of CHOO! Tiny, colorful, microscopic, bucky ball, shaped orbs spewed into the air.

I tried to be polite and not wrinkle my nose with distaste. I fought the urge not to grab the ridiculously small hankie from her hand and jam it down her throat while screaming “Cover your mouth!” I slunk deeper in my chair, buried my nose deeper in my book and tried not to breathe the contaminated air.

I could see her over the top of my book. She looked embarrassed and she mumbled an apology to those around her. As if we , the captive audience to her snufflings, could escape the confines of the tiny, waiting area. She coughed, a dainty dry sound like tearing cloth that would not stop. I pulled my feet under my chair.

Her solicitous husband went in search of a cup of water for her.

“She doesn’t need water, idiot!” I almost shouted at his retreating back. “She needs to be doused with bleach!”

He brought her a cup of water and tenderly helped her to drink it. She smiled at him and he smiled back, his eyes shining brightly at her, most likely from fever.

This weeble couple didn’t act like my weebles. Dad would have solicitously offered to massage Ma’s throat for her.

Two seats opened up in the far back of the waiting area and he helped his wife to the back of the room.

The kitty is not prone to give or take cuddles. He hops onto my chest and butts my chin with his head in a kitty greeting. He settles under my chin and extends a silky paw to caress my face. His purring rumble settles into a soft drone of “there, there.” Animals can sense things. He knows I’m dying from the Junta virus. The Junta virus Apple Annie infected me with.

I don’t have the strength to lift my head from the pillow. My face feels as if it is being crushed. I reach for a tissue and snort loudly. The kitty explodes from my chest in puff ball of black fur. On the floor he arches his back, gives me an emerald green stare and hisses at me before he slinks off to some hidey hole.

“Yeah? See who cleans out your liddahbox when I’m dead.”

I hope Himself remembers I would like a Viking funeral. A single flaming arrow arcing overhead buries itself in the folds of the death sail. The sail erupts in a ball of flame lighting the twilight sky. The current steers the burning death ship out to sea. Across the sky, the Valkyries, raise their voices in song and escort the soul of the warrior princess to Valhalla.

Another snort and explosion rips from me. I can feel all the intercostals, the muscles between my ribs, rip. There is a tearing between my shoulder blades. I see Apple Annie’s face floating in front of me. I crochet colorful curses in granny square patterns in every language I can think of including Klingon. Filthy p’tak!

I have filled up a wastebasket full of tissue. My nose is scrubbed raw.

Himself is going shopping and asks if he can bring me anything.

“Yed, could you ged me some Buffs?” I gasp.


I hold up a tissue. “Buffs. Da kind wid da lotion.”

“Oh, Puffs. I thought you were allergic to those.”

“I am, bud I don’t dink it will make much of a difference now.”

“Ok. Puffs. Anything else?”

I shake my head. “Buffs. Wid lotion. Nod wid Vicks.”

“The Vicks might make you feel better.”

“I’d radder die.”

He laughs.

I clutch the box of Puffs to my chest like the Holy Grail, and I again curse the sweet Apple Annie . I know she is Typhoid Mary. She blows in spreading her disease and then happily prances off to bingo.

Day Six. I still feel like….punk. My nose is still stuffy, but thank to the Puffs it’s not raw anymore. I have gone through a box and a half of Puffs. I’m hoarding them. Using them only if I absolutely have to. There seems no end in sight to this Junta virus. I start to feel better and then crash on the sofa for hours on end. An alarm alerts me to drag my butt to the car and pick the Young One up from school. Once home, I retreat to my cave.

I haven’t eaten much through the week other than tea and toasted bagels. I’ve gone through two liters of ginger ale, a carton of orange juice, a bottle of white grape juice, and endless cups of tea. If I’m not wheezing into my Puffs, I’m in the bathroom weeing. After all this loss of fluid, and feeling like a balloon head, there had better be some significant weight loss to make this all worth it.

I think of Apple Annie again. The filthy p’tak!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Weeble Tech Support

“Oh, could you come a little earlier before mother’s appointment?” asked Dad

“Sure, what’s up?”

“I’m having trouble with the computer.”

“What’s the problem?” I expected to hear ‘They don’t give me my email.’

“I don’t get anything.”

That’s an understatement.

“I turn it on, and I don’t even get a welcome.”

The computer must be on Ma’s side.

“Ok, I’ll come early to see what I can do.”

Dad greeted me at the door and we scurried like mice upstairs to his office. I booted the machine up and sat back in his office chair to watch the screen. There was the happy little Microsoft chime and the Welcome. I was wondering what kind of welcome Dad wanted. ‘Welcome, I’m so glad you’re here. Welcome, we couldn’t get through the day without you. ‘Welcome, you’re gonna pay.’

When last I played computer tech support, Dad’s trial subscription to the antivirus program had run out. I pay enough for him to not turn the computer on much, so didn’t want to pay for a subscription. There are plenty of good, free, antivirus programs out there. I had deleted his antivirus program and had tried to download one of the free programs to get slammed with the ever delightful Windows has encountered a problem and needs to shut down.

The computer went through it’s bootstrap routine. All the little doodahs appeared in the tool tray, but no icons appeared on the desktop. What the…? I revered to the old programmer’s standby. I shut down and rebooted the system. Again, no smiling icons on the desktop.

“See?” he said smugly with his arms folded across his chest.

“What did you do?”

“I didn’t do nothing!”

Standard reply. These things don’t just happen like magic. IE was pinned to his start menu and I could access the Internet. I went into the program list to try to make a desktop icon. It didn’t appear. I seemed to recall this happening once before, but nothing was ringing a bell for me. Well, first things first, let’s try to get that antivirus program. Crash! I went into my Gmail account and fired off an email to Himself for ideas. A Google search for missing icons gave me the simple solution that somehow Dad had executed a right click and chosen hide desktop icons. Well that was easy enough to fix. Right click. Arrange icons by name. Show Icons. Ta Dah! The laying on of hands worked.

Fingers flying across the keyboard, I accessed my Yahoo Briefcase to see if I could download a file. No problem there. So, the machine had a problem with .exe files. I went into System Control and checked to make sure all the updates had been done. Dad’s eyes were beginning to spin in his head. I was told all updates had been done, but I was skeptical. I have a free virus program in my downloads folder at home. I’d have to transfer that to my thumbdrive and see if it could be executed from there.

Ma was getting antsy downstairs. Yelling at us that we were going to make her late for her appointment. We had a clean 45 minutes and it only takes five minutes to get to the medical building. She doesn’t like it when I play with Dad, and not her. Another quick email to Himself stating I had solved one problem but was still stuck with a solution to the download problem. Asked if he could talk to the IT guy at his school.

One last check to see if somehow, Dad had removed the administrative protocols from his account or added a second account that didn’t wear the admin hat. Nope, one account and it had admin privileges.

“I’ve sent a request to Himself to talk to the fellas in his computer department to see if they have any answers.”

“Ok. Get me my email.”

We went through his email deleting stuff from November.

“Hey! You were going to get me a glob.”

Que? “Oh, you mean a blog.”

“Yeah, I want one.”

I’ve done this twice before. I had set him up on Blogger and for reasons which should be quite obvious, I don’t want him there now. Blogger had been in the beta phase and had been too confusing to him, so I set him up on 360Yahoo. A nice, easy, social network for boomers and oldsters. Even made him a cartoon avatar that looked like him when he was younger. Nope, he couldn’t negotiate that. Turns out Yahoo is abandoning the 360 site.

“There is a site called Eons,” I called up the site. “You can read about it and sign up here.” We stared at their homepage screen. I don’t know much about this site as I don’t use it. I do know it is for older folks so you won't have to deal with teens.”

“Well, when you find out about it you can…”

“No, Dad. I don’t want to find out about it. I don’t have time to write your blogs for you. If you want to do this, you need to get in there and play around.”

He frowned.

“Fine. I punched the sign me up button. Filled out the form. Asked him what he wanted for a screen name, gave him a password, and noted all this on a piece of paper that will surely find its way to the bottom of a pile or the wastebasket.

“Where do I blog?”

“See the button that says ‘Create blog’? Push that and follow the bouncing ball."

By this time Ma was hollering that we were going to be late, so I shut the computer down.

“You know what?” Dad said in frustration. “Just get rid of this. I don’t use it. Don’t need it.”

“Hate to break this to you, pal, but you're stuck with this for two years.”

His eyes went round and glassy.

“You wanted FIOS. You wanted to bundle with your phone for a flatrate. You signed a 2 yr contract with the phone company. You opt out of this and you breach the contract. I don’t know what penalties are involved.”

Another sigh.

“I just wish I could type,” he whined. He was wishing for his old Olivetti.

“You can.


“You go into Word.”

“But they don’t give me an 8 ½ x 11,” he wailed.

I’ve used computers in my work my entire adult life. I started working on them when machines were the size of a Buick. I learned to program on IBM cards. I ran a teletype machine and thought paper tape was the wave of the future. I forgot what it’s like to be a beginner. How much is second nature. All of this is like Buck Rogers to Dad.

“You know, I wish we could find you an old typewriter. The real problem would be finding ribbons, because they just don’t make typewriters and ribbons anymore.”

Deep sigh. Forlorn look.

When Himself got home that night, he gave me a rundown from the IT fellas.

“See if he created an account without admin privs.”

“Did that. He just has the one account, and that says he’s an admin.”

“Make sure all the updates are done.”

“Yup, did that.”

“There’s probably spyware.”

“Yeah, I thought of that too, but until I can download the antivirus program, I won’t be able to find out.”

“See if you can download the antivirus to your thumbdrive and run it from there.”

“Yeah, I thought of that too.”

“The only other thing they said was to upgrade to IE7”

I was pleased that for a dinosaur of a computer programmer, I was on the right track. I still had it. I just wish I could upgrade Dad.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Three Hole Rule

I first learned the Three Hole Rule when Himself and I were first married. I was folding laundry and noticed there a hole in a pair of his briefs. I was about to toss them in the trash.

“What are you doing?”

“Your underwear has a hole in them, I’m tossing them out.”

“You can’t toss them out! They’re still good.”

“But there’s a hole.”

“It’s just a little hole. You only get rid of holey underwear if there are three holes or one really big hole.”

The Three Hole Rule.

I was talking to Ma to the other day.

“I’ll need you to get me some elastic,” she said.

Elastic. Sounded like a mending job.

“What do you need elastic for?”

“I have to fix the elastic on my bloomahs.”

“But I just bought you a dozen pair.”

“Oh, I know. Those are good ones. I’ve set them aside.”

Aside? For what? A trousseau?

“The ones I have,” she continued. “Are still good. They don’t have any holes. The elastic is just stretched out.”

Himself must have told Ma The Three Hole Rule. I don't ever remember her telling me. Maybe I just never paid attention.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I Have A Dream

Recently, a friend had been pipe dreaming about winning a million dollar lottery. She said she would plan a wonderful vacation, and generously included me in her plans. I have to admit my plans wouldn't have been so altruistic. Embarrassed blush here.

What would I do if I won the lottery? First thing, zzziiiiiiiiiiiiiipppppppppppppp, Weebles go into an adult gated, assisted living community. They do not pass Mahket Basket, they do not collect any promised millions from Auntie Rose.

They would have their pick of a cottage or condo apartment. Heck, they could even have separate cottages! There would be no more trips to Mahket Basket because all meals are included. Meals may be taken in the luxuriously appointed diningroom, or sent to your living quarters. There is no cooking. The units are furnished with a small refrigerator and a microwave if you wish to make tea, or popcorn. Microwaves, no worries for building super about people leaving the stove on. A community van is available for trips to a local supermarket and shopping, not necessarily Mahket Basket to pick up incidentals. Medical facilities are on site, and assisted living if necessary is provided for an extra fee. Laundry service is available or you may do your own laundry. A cleaning service is available once a week. Each living unit is wired for high speed internet access.

There are community activities to participate in. Dad would just thrive in a place like this. If they didn't have a glee club, he could start one. Ma might not like the social aspects, but then again maybe she could teach the other ladies and gentlemen the words to the "You're Stupid" song.

Looking at all the features available, maybe I should book Himself and I a cottage, but not in the same community as the Weebles. Tonight, Mass Millions jackpot is worth $220M. Who said money can't buy happiness? Maybe not, but it sure can buy a lot of dreams. Now, I wonder if I have a dollar to buy a ticket.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Ultimate Chauffeur

Himself and I watched the new Knight Rider I loved the show the first time around. No, not for The Hasselhoff, but for the car. I loved KITT. Loved his snooty voice and his sometimes smart ( ! ) comments.

The new KITT is a Mustang Shelby. The very first car I bought myself was a Mustang. I loved that car.

During the movie pilot, NBC was running a contest. Answer questions about the movie on a website and you'd be entered to win one of 5 cars.

"There, why don't you enter the contest. You might win the Mustang, and then you could be cool again," said Himself while reaching into the popcorn bag.

My first instinct was to upend the popcorn bag on Himself's head. Be cool again. As if I lost my coolness. I decided to take the high road and ignored the remark.

"Entering the contest! That's a great idea!"


"I could enter Dad! Not only would he end up with a cool car, but he wouldn't have to drive! KITT would drive them wherever and whenever they wanted to go. It would be so great. Can you just see it?"

"KITT, we'd like to go to Mahket Basket today."

"Very good, sir. Will the Mrs. be joining us?"


I figured I had about as much chance of winning KITT as I do of convincing Ma to shop Peapod, but I can dream. Now, where did I put the matches so I can light a candle?

Friday, February 15, 2008

I'm Not Able to Take Your Call

Wednesday it poured. I alternated between speaking in tongues and humming ditties as I manned the shop vac. It wasn’t a flood of water. Just enough of a continuous puddle under the washer to make a pain in the ( ! ) of itself. The rain was coming down heavy. The ground was frozen with a recent snowfall with ice that turned to rain. The water had no place to go and the interior drain is either clogged or just couldn’t take the amount of water.

This was not a Little Princess job. I wanted to be Chip Morton, the XO on the Seaview. I wanted to give orders. “Chief, close off frame 34 and get a detail down there with pumps and clean up the mess!” I wanted to hear a snappy “Aye, aye, sir, I’ll get right on it.” No one but me around she said as she raised her wrist to her forehead.

As I was about to empty the vac, the phone rang. It was Prissy.

“What am I going to do?” she said her voice rising in panic.

Help me, Lord, I don’t want to play 20 questions now.

“Do you have water in your basement?” That’s one.

“Yes, the water is seeping under the cellar door. Oh what should I do?”

I thought of several answers. Drop back fifteen and punt. Bend over and kiss your ( ! ) goodbye. Sing Nearer My God to Thee… Sell the damn house and move in with your daughter…

“Should I turn off the furnace?” she said interrupting my clever musings.

“Your furnace is on blocks, right?” Two


“Is the water up to the blocks?” Three


“Has the water reached the blocks?” Four

“No, the water is just seeping under the cellar door.”

“Then for Gawdsakes don’t turn the furnace off.”

“Oh, what should I do.”

I almost started to sing the ditty from an old McDonald's commercial. Grab a bucket and mop...

“Do you have a shop vac?” Five

“Yes, but my son took it.”

Figures. At this point, I didn’t want to be helpful. I wanted to be the kid and to call some adult to come and take care of my problem. I no longer wanted to be the designated adult.

“Call your daughter and have your son in law come down to help you out. Look my moat is overflowing and I have to go.”

“Oh, ok.”

Friday morning, I had dropped the Young One off at school. Showered, and was having a cup of tea and playing on the computer killing time until it was time to leave to pick the Eldest up from her college. She wanted to come home for the long, holiday weekend.

The phone rang. It was Prissy.

“Is your refrigerator running?”

At first I thought she was joking. Like the prank telephone calls we played as kids. Is your refrigerator running? You better run after it. I heard a note of panic in her voice.

“My refrigerator is running.”

“Yeah, they do that.”

“It doesn’t shut off. What should I do?”

Buy a new one?

“What if it stops?”

“At least it’s a good time of year if it does. You can put all your food on the porch.” I said helpfully.

Evidently my suggestion wasn’t good enough. She wanted me to go over, but I had to leave to pick up The Eldest.

While taking a break before I had to cook supper, the phone rang. Prissy, again.

“Is your refrigerator running?”

“Yes, it does that from time to time.”

“Does it shut off.”

“Yes, after it goes through it’s cycle.”

“Mine doesn’t. What should I do?”

I was so tempted to say “Pretend I’m dead.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I think I may have come up with a permanent solution to keep Ma from calling Jamaica. Firefly! Oh, it's not my original thought. I believe awhile ago when Ma first began calling Jamaica, BVMom had suggested getting the Weebles this kid's mobile phone service. The idea must have gotten buried and resurfaced last night as an original thought.

Firefly is a small, mobile phone designed for kids. There are only five buttons on the phone: Answer, Hang up, call Mom, call Dad, and the phone directory. The phone will store 20 telephone numbers and only those 20 can be called. There are no number pads to dial. Calls are paid for in pay as you go plans.

What a great solution! We get the Weebles a Firefly, and program only those numbers that they would need to call. Doctors, me, the Brother (just to share the joy), Peapod Online Food Shopping Service (we can dream). The house phones would be removed, though the wiring would be left intact. Since Dad bundled the phone with FIOS, there's a 2 year contract for the phone, and I'm not sure what penalties are involved with breaking the contract early.

Anyway, back to the solution. It's simply perfect. There'd be no worry that either of them would be able to reprogram the phone for unauthorized telephone numbers. Hell, Dad can't even program the clock on the electronic thermostat. They would be able to make contact with the outside world, if there was an emergency.

The downside would be Dad wouldn't be able to call all over the country for a flat phone rate. He has thoroughly enjoyed that feature, calling our State senators at their Washington, DC offices instead of their local state offices. The remaining time on the phone/Internet bundle would have to be paid off. That's a bit of a waste. On the other hand, I've been paying the Internet portion of the bill every month, even though Dad rarely turns the computer on because "they don't give him his email."

Then there's possibility of them misplacing the small phone. They wouldn't be able to call me to find out if I remember where they put it down, or if I took it with me. Hmmm, I'm not really seeing a downside here.

Dad's birthday is coming up. I'm thinking Firefly would make a perfect gift.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Dad's phone bill arrived. Yup, near the 15th of the month, his phone bill hits my mailbox. Open it up and do a double take at the total due. That can't be right. I must have forgotten to pay his bill last month. Look at past due charges. Goose egg. I paid the bill last month so WTF? Long distance. Long distance $37.92 WTF? Don't tell me. She didn't. She did. Another call to Jamaica. Ma hasn't called Jamaica since October. Deep sigh, forlorn look. Guess this must be another one of those, "What the hell, he's paying for it!"

So all together now, "Hey Mr. Tallyman, tally me banana. Daylight come and me wanna go home."

Monday, February 04, 2008

Hold That Line!

I should have realized what was happening. If I had looked at the Wereweeble calendar it would have been instantly apparent. It was not until this morning, Monday morning. Monday morning quarterback. The approach of the New Moon. The full moon we can’t see.

Ma called yesterday morning while Dad was off to church.

“Are you coming through today?”

“No, why?” I did know the reason.

“Well, I thought you’d leave your husband to his football game. I need to get to the store, we have no food.”

Ten cans each of French cut green beans, Regular cut green beans, and corn, not the creamed kind from the last expedition. I think the beets are all gone.

“I told Dad I was coming on Tuesday. I would take him to vote, and then we could go to Market Basket.”

“He didn’t tell me you were coming!”

“That’s not my fault.”

“I know, but we are out of everything.”

“I thought the checks didn’t come in until Monday.”

“The bank lets us have them on Saturday if the third is on a Sunday.”

The fans in the stands were chanting, Hold that line! Hold that line!

“Well, the game doesn’t begin until tonight. Today, would not be the day to go shopping with the place being jammed with people buying last minute stuff for their Super Bowl Parties. Besides, I won’t take you to Market Basket on a weekend. The place is ridiculous during the week. No way will I go on a Saturday or Sunday.”

Sunday night. The Young One and I were watching “Ghost Hunt”, an anime cartoon a bit like the “X-Files”. We were engrossed in the weirdness when the phone rang. At a quarter to nine, I didn’t even have to look at the caller ID to know who was calling.

“How’s things going?”

A deep sigh. “The same.”

Dad’s conversation meandered around the usual topics. Being marginalized, the cost of fuel oil, paying bills, paying Auntie Rose and on and on. "

"She wants to go shopping.”

There was a subtle pause indicating Ma wanted to shopping on Monday.

“I told you I was coming on Tuesday.”

A flag was dropped. Dad was waiting to see if the Ref was going to call a penalty and move the team back to the Check Out Line of Monday.

The fans were screaming Hold that Line! Hold that Line!

“I’ll take you voting on Tuesday, and then we’ll go bless the meat. I’m not going tomorrow when every old person and their social security check will be out in force shopping.”

The line held.

In analyzing the game, I realized I was double teamed. First Ma tried and failed. She figured I wouldn’t refuse Dad so she had him call.

OPD is a game of control. The game is won by having a strong defense. Hold that Line!