Another old family photo, my cousin Larry Gould giving me a push in my red wagon. Larry is one of those unsung heroes of everyday life, serving his community in a career in law enforcement as a deputy sheriff for Hamilton County, Ohio. We are both descended from the Conaways, Flemings and Goulds of West Virginia, from James Aaron Gould to George Washington Gould, to Charles Luther to Lawrence Jay Gould and then Larry from my Uncle Robert Lee Gould and me from Patricia Gould both of Loveland, Ohio.
My mom sent me a package this week containing all the old photos and memorabilia from my growing up. On hand it worries me that she would send me these precious memories that she has clung onto for years, but it was a terrific gift. The memories flooded through me as I went through the box. Things thought forgotten were remembered suddenly. I’ll share just one here, the rest I’ll get on flciker eventually. Well, maybe not those old grade cards. Be kind of hard extolling the virtues of good grades to my grandkids if they saw those.
My old fire chief special. I use to pedal like crazy and plow it into the yard where it would stop instantly – the narrow wheels would sink in the ground and it would throw me forward. Which seemed great fun so I tried it on the garage wall. I jammed something somewhere that really hurts little boys. The only car wreck I’ve ever caused.
Well, after my last post I sat down to eat, felt uncomfortably full and retired to bed. I awoke feeling like a boa constrictor had wrapped around my chest, got out of bed, took a half dozen steps and collapsed. Another damn heart attack. So I’ve been stinted again, and I’m home, exhausted, sore and very glad to have how many days I’m given to love my family and appreciate life.
You know, I considered, while laying there in that clackety-clack hospital bed, (the new-fangled kind that shifts under you automatically, supposedly to prevent bed sores but gives a really creepy feeling if you’re cognizant and able to move yourself) why I really love genealogy so much when it’s those darn genetics that are a huge part of my health problems. Dratted ancestors. Did they all have to have peanut butter pipes for arteries?
Okay, truthfully, I have to lay more blame on my own choice of lifestyles, since I smoked from the age of 18 on. And being naturally thin and lanky, I never really worried about what I ate, gobbling buffet lines of fried foods, eggs, butter, cakes, pies, pizzas and pastas without considering what all that fat and cholesterol might be doing to my heart plumbing even if it wasn’t fattening me up. I enjoyed every damn delicious bite, too, so hold the sympathy. I’ve loved the hell outta life and I ain’t done yet, Jack.
All this means is that I am living a new kind of life now, and its one I intend to enjoy just as much – as soon as I can adapt to the taste of skim milk and egg beaters. They say its kind of an acquired taste – foods with no fats, I mean; and once used to “no fat” the old fat-filled foods taste bad. I hope to hell it happens soon, though because the “no fat” varieties of ice cream, for instance taste like crap. Soy meat tastes like crap. Skim milk tastes like whitened water. Someone said to me, try tofu, it tastes good and its great for you. I tried it and spat it out. I wanna ask my friend “What the hell is wrong with you?”
Food, of course, is an acquired taste for all of us. Cultural and personal choices made from early years on tend to accumulate in our brains as tastes we love and crave. My grandkids for instance think raw rolled oats cooked the old fashioned way tastes like crap. They want instant stuff with articial flavoring. Personally I think that stuff tastes like sweetened shredded cardboard.
Same with hamburgers – my grandkids want hamburgers from McDonald’s. When I grill a nice juicy thick hamburger they complain it doesn’t taste like McDee’s. “What the hell’s wrong with you?” I wanna ask.
It’s not just tastebuds that you have to fight if you truly want a healthier diet – its the pocketbook, too. Why is it that foods made with loads of artificial chemicals and a lot of energy intensive processing cost half as much as foods with no artificial chemicals, and far less processing? I’d like to get the heads of some big companies like Con Agra, and Sara Lee, and General Mills together and ask them “What is the hell is wrong with you?” Put the good foods and the bad on equal financial footing and hey- it’s all on you brother. Eat stupid and suffer the consequences. If you can afford the good food and eat the bad anyway I go back to my key phrase “What the hell is wrong with you?” (By the way – I put myself in this category). I wonder, though about young families with children who are struggling with every dime they make, and elderly or disabled on fixed incomes.
All this talk about food has me starving. I’m thinking of phoning in a Pizza Hut Supreme and having a dish of Rocky Road for dessert. After all that hospital blandola I’m due, right?
“What the hell is wrong with you?!”
I have two daughters, and like most fathers I am blind to their faults and think they are too good for any guy they meet. Luckily I actually like Dobie and Brian, their consorts, but that doesn’t mean either is actually worthy. When I had a heart attack and open heart surgery Aimee and Mandi were at my bedside throughout the thing, staying for hours on end even when I told them to go home. They are also blind to my faults, those legion, because that is the way fathers and daughters are. A wise man once said – “No other success can compensate for failure in the home”. In life my greatest success has been as a father. That’s not because of any great thing I did when they grew up, but, despite the fact it was their own choices that have made them into such terrific adults, I get the undeserved but welcome feeling “Hey, we did a pretty good job with them” whenever I’m around them. Plus, they made incredible grandchildren!
Back to the beginning – of adulthood anyway. It was the Marine Corps for me. I was stationed in Yuma, Arizona for much of my duty. Yuma is just about the most god forsaken place on earth, at least in the USA. The town’s main claim to fame is an old adobe prison for crying out loud. It’s scorching hot in the coolest part of the year and surrounded by orange groves claimed from the Mojave sands by the miracles of irrigation, and a whole lot of unconverted barren desert.
Recreation is mostly by bottle, toke or mattress. In summer the place shrivels into itself as the snowbirds head north and the sun sears everything left behind. Summer is Chicano time – most of the people left are Mexican born within a generation or less and Spanish becomes the common language.
In October and November the wealthy and retired return trailing their motor homes behind them in a dazzling stream of glinting Winnebago colors, filling empty desert lots with row after row of metallic winter suburbs. Restaurants, apartment complexes and hotels come to life and the winter wealth of minimum wage service jobs brings throngs of illegals across the border to do the drudge most Americans won’t for wages none of us want.
It’s hardly a hopping spot for a young Marine to pass spare time so most of the guys just get drunk when they arrive and stay that way until their hitch is up. Whore chasing in San Luis Mexico’s infamous “boys town” and javelina hunting in the desert are the biggest sports around. I tried both. The javelina hunts were fun. The other? Well I was young…..
Despite it all, I loved the desert. Maybe it’s the artist in me but I found the desert very beautiful and compelling. In the midst of beige sands stretching forever a tiny orange bloom would spring alive atop a sharp spiny cactus and delight me.
I used to love running (in those days I ran marathons and could basically run forever –Forrest Gump’s long run in the movie always reminds me of those runs in the Mojave) across the desert floor from the outer camp near the big orange groves northwest of town back into the main base stopping along the way to play with horned toads or to examine a strange stone cactus or extravagant wildflower that found a tiny breath of moisture and sprang to life for a day or an hour. The paucity of life in the desert makes each thing you find all the more precious and glorious to behold.
The desert in Arizona is big, too. Wide open, sprawling, harsh expanses that stretch your soul out like laundry hung in the breeze to freshen. I still love to visit Arizona, though mostly I get to Phoenix which has become such a huge city most of the beauty it inhabits is spoiled by power-lines and manmade eyesores. Now that my son is stationed at Davis-Monthan maybe I’ll get to visit the area more often.
Anyway, during my stint in the Corps I got married. I was 19, she was 16. Lasted 12 years, 3 kids. We simply grew apart and she ended up meeting a guy where she worked and that was that. No battles or anything. He became a big scandal later but that’s another story. Her dad was my Gunnery sergeant in the Corps and his hometown was KC so that’s how I wound up in Missouri.
Remarried 6 months later because I hated being alone and that was a huge mistake. I married a party girl who kept right on partying after we got married. She was an obsessive/compulsive at everything- gambling, drinking, drugs, check writing. After 2 sons and 4 years I knew I had to get out or she would destroy me too. Yes, I tried to get her help, counseling, she was in court and they got her counseling. Nothing helped because she wasn’t ready to change. I finally left when she wrote a couple thousand dollars in bad checks and drained our bank account.
All that kind of put me off women for awhile. I mean, I knew intellectually it was my choices of women and that not all women were like that but emotionally? Yeah, you know what I mean. After a while I got my head together and quit blaming it on the woman and made myself accountable. I learned right there that no one else can ever hold the key to your own happiness.
I met my third wife, a nurse, and had a wonderful marriage that lasted 14 years. I got a call at work one September morning telling me my daughter found her in bed. She had a massive coronary a half hour after I left and died. I wanted to die with her. I quit work, wouldn’t get out of bed, spent 3 really bad months and then began to come out of it. I had kids and grandkids and in this world God decides when we come and go and He was telling me it wasn’t my time yet. So I came to peace with my life. She was a nursing home nurse and always feared living until she had a stroke or Alzheimers or something so maybe God granted her the wish to go out sudden and spared her that. We didn’t have a perfect marriage because no such beast exists but it was solid and loving. I have known the love of a good woman. I thought the cosmic rules were you only get one.
Happy New Year!
It is officially 2009. It is the New Year which I celebrated by sucking snot all night. Midnight came and the ball went up at Times Square. Meanwhile, here Dan Jello’s nose wasn’t running – it was sprinting. He slept fitfully, he couldn’t breathe. I could hear him wheezing in his bassinet set up in the Lucretia’s room.
It sounded as if he was trying to drag a milk shake through a straw up his nose. By the time Times Square revelers were cheering 2009 in (and I was looking for Frankie and Jennie in the crowd but didn’t see them among the zillion revelers), Dan Jello’s nose was completely clogged. Lucretia got out the snot-sucker and assigned me the “hold im down” task. I am sure my nephew will be scarred by this, and probably hate me forever for immobilizing him as the snot-sucker is rammed up his nostrils. It looks like he has an onion sticking out of his nose. The trick is to squeeze the onion bulb first before putting it in the nose or else you might blow snot out of the baby’s eyeballs or something. Then release the bulb. It vacuums out a long, disgusting strand of thick goo. Dan Jello screams very well, even when sick. My ears hurt. I am not supposed to have to deal with this stuff anymore. I am reminded that I am old, I do not like screeches, squeals or prolonged noise for the sake of noise any longer. Lucretia repeats in his other nostril. Another gloopy gob of snot pops free. Surprisingly, Dan Jello snuggles up to me and quiets down. He sleeps. I sleep. At least until 1 am. Then 2. Then 3. So on and so forth, snot sucking on the hour. Lucretia sleeps. She has to work in the morning. I don’t wake her after the first snot-sucking. She will have many, many more nights like this ahead of her. I will have very few, if any more. In my mind there is some homily about the beauty of the small things in life. This morning came and I picked up a basket full of wadded Kleenex. Dan Jello is peaceful, his sinuses have been defeated in this battle and tiny guy’s defenses are regrouping as he sleeps.
I am taking this chance to write, listening for any gurgling from the other room that alerts me to the need to grab the trusty snot sucker plunger thing and deplumb my nephew again. His head is so small. How many pints of snot can it hold anyway? I am rather amazed.
New Years morning and I am sober. I am one of three or four people in town who are not retching in the New Year. Why do people find it so much fun to make themselves sick? Drunk watching is a fun sport, though. They are such idiots and, I smugly think, I used to be one of them. I survived. I still get idiotic once in a blue moon. Then people watch me and think smug things.
My house is a mess. How can one two year old and a baby upend the order of the universe so quickly? I forgot what it was like to have a wee one underfoot (literally). Lucretia and Renee think they are on vacation because they get to escape to work.
There is gurgling in the other room. I am being called.
The snot sucker is broken. I wonder if a turkey baster will work. I am not repeating my Wal-Mart nightmare to go get another one. I disassemble the snot sucker onion bulb thingy and clean it out and super glue it back together. Voila! It is working again. Dan Jello is plunged out like a tiny toilet bowl and is back asleep. I am still thinking the turkey baster might just work…but the bulb is awfully big. It might suction out his adenoids or something so I better not try. Besides I could never use it on another turkey in good conscience again.
I just fixed eggs and toast. Now I am full and I sit here listening through windows fogged with cold to boots crunching in snow, and the smooshing sound of car wheels plowing through slush, and the tinkle of icicles falling to the sidewalk from the eaves. My feet are dry from the forced air heat, they itch, I lotion them and think of tomatoes. Fat, red, juicy tomatoes, ripe from the vine, hot from the sun. For a moment it is July in my mind. I could eat a tomato from the icebox but it will have the cardboard taste of hothouse produce. Could I have a more unattainable thought on January 1st than garden grown tomatoes?
In Iraq the war drags on. It will rage forever as it has for two thousand years. As long as religion exists men will ignore its teachings and kill each other in its name. Over 3000 sons and daughters of America have already died and my son is at risk. I do not want to hate my country. I think I will if I lose one of my sons over this insanity. I saw Vietnam. We have traded a jungle for a desert. I watch the news daily looking for reports out of Iraq and Afghanistan. My son Jay goes to Kuwait in a couple weeks, he has already done a tour in Iraq. Now they send him back to the area. There are few things I can find nothing to laugh about but this war is that. I try to ignore it most of the time. Understand, I am a patriot. I served, my father served and my grandfather and great grandfathers, clear back to the revolution. My sons are the nth generation of Elledge men to have served in the Armed Forces. Right now I am sorry I ever encouraged them when they were young, or told them I expected them to do their part. I am also proud of them, for ignoring their parent’s fear and doing their duty anyway.
My sister is staying. Yee gads. We decided today she’d stay til around April. Her husband, Joey, is going to be in training until then(Army) and she wants to stay here rather than live alone with nobody to help with the kids. That means my niece and nephew are staying, too. My neice came in and descended upon me, all hugs and giggles and sniffs and snotting. She has a cold. She is a little faucet of phlegm. She hugs me tight and holds my ears and sneezes. I blink and she coughs. She is so adorable, I am thinking. “Cover your mouth, honey” I tell her. I cover her mouth for her, then she wipes her hand on my head. I am wondering if it is safe to wrap her in plastic. It is time to exercise my “Uncle and Grandfather” rights. I love nieces, nephews and grandchildren so much exactly because they are returnable.
I decided to take Ezzie, my niece to WalMart with me. I forgot it is New Year’s Eve. Saint Joseph has gone shopping (buying liquor for tonight or returning Christmas stuff they really didn’t want) and its 75,000 inhabitants are at Walmart. My sister and wife are the only people not at WalMart, and I realize that I am insane for coming here. Only “Black Friday” could possibly be busier.
I managed to wend my through the first few grocery aisles, darting around like Pacman when we are hemmed in by a crowd going nowhere. We are standing in the aisle, unmoving. We are not moving because the woman in front of us has quit moving. She is either studying a label very hard or else she has had a paralyzing stroke and cannot move. I am not sure. I have to pee very badly. The other side of the aisle is blocked by a large black lady in a wheelchair shopping cart. She cannot steer very well and has locked up her cart on a gondola full of baking supplies. She is reaching for pumpkin pie filling with one hand, cursing, and trying to steer the wheelchair free with the other hand. Her wheels are spinning. I have to pee very badly. Ezzie is crying. The paralyzed lady is still bent over the Sweet-n-Low boxes. The 37 people directly behind me are trying to go around. I cannot move. My cart is blocked on all sides. Shoppers at an impasse. I have to pee in that worse kind of way that only happens when you know you can’t get to a restroom.
Ezzie is still crying because we are not in the toy aisle which is where she wants to be. There is a traffic jam on aisle thirteen. Really. I hear that over the loudspeaker. There is also a special on Rotel and Velveeta in aisle 9. Now there is another traffic jam between me and the bathrooms. I do not care about groceries any longer. I want to go home. I want to reach the bathrooms up front. I want to move. I have to pee! I am not kidding, I really have to go! Finally I break free when wheelchair lady suddenly bounces off the gondola and shoots through the carts in front of her upending several Walmart shoppers in the process.
I ditch our cart in the center aisle, grab squawling li’l Ezzie from the seat and dart through the opening like a fullback following his lead block and head for the front of the store. I have abandoned the groceries as a futile exercise and am concentrating on the endzone – the Men’s Room! I get there while alternately squeezing my bladder and wiggling my knees together as I walk – rather odd looking but it works – when I remember I have Ezzie with me. I know she is only 2 but somehow the thought of holding her in one hand and whizzing with the other in a restroom full of men seeking similar relief is impossible. Wildly, I think for a moment of handing her to a clerk or a passing shopper or hanging her from her suspenders from the door knob but I know I can’t. I CAN’T. I have to pee and worse – I quit the kidney stopping exercises when I got near the goal line and now it is REALLY hard to hold on. Oh Lord. Help me hold it in. Please. I promise you – I’ll never take your name in vain again. Just keep me dry. Lend strength to my bladder. When you pray because you have to pee so bad you are definitely in trouble. Running to the car also helps. Rapping knees together while driving helps. Bouncing up and down on the seat while driving helps. I make it home, tossing Ezzie to Lucretia as I run past and enter a state of nirvana in the bathroom. Nothing quite has that feeling of blessed relief….
There is always time for a love poem, and for me, that means my wife Renee.
The Swan and the Drake
You sustain me,
You sustain me through tribulations,
through trouble and trials
when no other can.
Thus vast yet empty
I walk naked
And alone in the night.
I step into ether
And am two-as-one,
The joy of the crowning find,
Rises the white bird of my soul and hers
From hopes and smoke
And words flung into electrons,
I am phoenix’d.
Flys she with me,
From the stark white life,
She learns to swim,
The swan and the drake.
: I love you
I love you
I am.. .amazed by you
In so many ways.. .
Its snowing like crazy outside now, already a couple inches down and more falling fast! It’ll be sledding time tomorrow!
I can go out with the grandkids and fall on my tookus a half dozen times just to let them laugh. Kordell will be happy – he got a new Rocket Sled from Santa.
Santa themed in blue and silver this year but all the kids can think of is getting to those gifts!
They were ripping ‘em open as fast as they could, then tossing them into piles behind them,
forgotten once open so they could get at the next one.
Hey, hey the gang’s all here…sister Lucretia, her hubby Joey, home on leave from the Army, and Renee, baby nephewDan Jello (DeAngelo but I like I’ve said, Grandpockets nicknames em all), Sadie and Ezzie – and the paper shredding is just getting started.
Lots of presents, lots of presents, makes us happy so far
at least ’til we’re sixteen and wanting a car…
Princess is the hot thing for our girls, I’m ready to puke princess pink if I see one more gee-gaw done up in “Princess”.
Niece Ezzie is going to ride that dman bike, now, inside or out – and woe to the fool who gets in that girl’s way! Up and down the hall, into the kitchen, and did you know, if you’re 2 and very small you can turn a bike so sharply it will make a huey in the bathroom?
Grandpockets isn’t stunned. Really, I always have that glazed over half dead look on my face. The T-shirt was Sadie’s gift to me – it has her picture on it and on the back it says “Daddy’s Little Princess” Can you say thumb and wrapped around?
I try not to but she can…and does. Her mama was gonna spank her the other day and she twists around and says “I want Daddy to do it!” Tell you anything?
And someone always does, too. Babies always get there way. Spoiled li’l things.
He’ll pelt me…I’ll pelt him. It’s a war no one can win. See? Lessons in world politics right in the front yard.
Yuck! @!*@! You ate that right off the car! I wonder how many hydrocarbons a grandchild can ingest before becoming an environmental hazard in their own right? It’s not the hydrocarbons he swallows I am so worried about. It is the noxious emissions.
Sister Cissy hasn’t learned how to be devious yet. She telegraphs her intentions quite clearly. Unfortunately, the necessity of snapping the picture required that I stand bravely in the line of fire. I think she knew that. Perhaps she’s more devious than I thought. She’s a child creature. Of course! She is both brazen AND devious! You can’t win with these little guys – on a primal level they are smarter than us – and they know it!
Sadie has retreated to the safety of the car. I will still get her back. It will be a most satisfying splat, too. A big wet gishy snowball right upside her pink hooded lil’ head. What worries me is I think she is luring me on. Payton must be lurking behind the car. Ezzie is smart. She’s getting the hell outta Dodge.
Just when you think you might have to put ‘em back under that rock they came from they go and clean up after themselves. Ezzie shows her housekeeping skills. If the child learned to vacuum outside of that one single track it would help, but, oh well, at she does help. You may have notice that my children – nieces, nephews, daughter, all love being half nekkid. We consider it a major accomplishment to just keep a diaper or shorts on the damn little nudists.
It all just wore Dan Jello out. A kid can only scream at adults for so long then ya gotta get some shuteye so you can get up fresh and start all over again. Babies – ya gotta love ‘em. The only creatures known who do nothing at all except shit, scream, snack and sleep but manage to look cute doing it.
the gifts unwrapped,
the snow wars won
It’s time to snooze without a care
In hopes St. Nick will soon be there.
After all it’s never too early to start dreaming of next year…
I love the zoo. Now is a great time to go see the polar bears. I love the zoo in winter. No one else is there. That is because they have more sense than I do. Some exhibits are closed, of course, but lots are open. Polar bears, and penguins and wolves. Even reindeer. Really. Real live reindeer. I tried to talk to them but they pretend not to be able to. Sometimes you can find a Lion to Ride.
Sometimes its fun to give a glance to the giant funny elly-phance. They huff and puff and give great blows from their funny pachydermal nose. And even if the only thing you see is a marmet chirping happily…
Don’t Feed the Animoes!
At the zoo, I never feed the animoes
Afraid they might eat my feet or my noze
Striped Tigers are snacking behind too-tall fences
They bolt down their food until it’s past tenses
Lion’s are gnawers – I don’t want any closer
Being lunch for a lion isn’t good for composure
Hippos are hippy, and fatty, and huge
But the thought of us in the potamus doesn’t amuze
Those horny ol Rhinoze – how grandioze
Who’d want a nocerus to step on their toze?
After a while, we got to the ‘dile
A child for breakfast would make that croc smile!
Now speakin of lunch I can hear a low rumblin
All this walking and gawkin has my tummy a grumblin
So, lets take out a samwich and pull up our chairz…
But I’m keeping an eye out for those darn Grizzly Bearz!!