Eighty Never Looked So Young

When my Dad was in his late sixties, he bungee-d off the New Zealand bridge where the first jump took place.

Someone in the group they were with* asked Mom if she was nervous about Dad being attached to a giant rubber band and dropped from a great height over a river.

Mom shrugged and said, “He’s insured.”

What she could have said was that this is par for the course with Dad.  He does things.  He’s always done things and he’s not about to let something like age—or rising deductibles—stop him.

When he was younger, he let the Army take him to Japan, decided not to reenlist, taught in the American School in Tokyo, and had some amazing and hilarious adventures that deserve posts of their own, before hitchhiking home.  East.  I kid you not.

He taught high school back in the states, met Mom, earned his master’s, started a family (hi, there), earned his doctorate, and became a successful clinical psychologist—but decided that he’d rather teach college.

After a couple decades, he decided he was done, turned emeritus, and started taking advantage of the free classes for faculty—botany and voice.

The voice lessons show off his bravery in the face of long odds and adversity.  He wanted to sing in his church choir but was burdened with ears of pure tin and an easily amused and shamefully disrespectful family.**   It might be noted that he persevered and developed a decent, if overly thoughtful, baritone.

So not everything he’s done has been dangerous, exactly, though some things might seem questionable for a man of his, ah, venerability.

Many of you remember the zip-line adventure from last year, right?  The man has no vertigo whatsoever.***

Or, it seems, the ability to slow the heck down.  He might say it, but . . .  He mentioned a month or so ago that it was probably time he let younger Eagle Scout Masters take over the troops—he couldn’t do the hikes the way he wanted to any more.

Two weeks ago, I called up and asked about their weekend.  “Oh,” he said. “They needed someone to take the younger scouts on a bike ride, so I filled in.  It wasn’t much—less than fifty miles.”

“Dad,” I asked out of curiosity,  “you do remember your eightieth birthday is coming up next month, right?”

“Hey—I was sitting down the whole time,” he said.

“Ask him how he’s sitting now,” said Mom and he laughed.

“Do you have any of that Old Ass Soak I gave you for you birthday?” I asked.^

“No, I ran out of that a long time ago.”

No, really?

Not many people accelerate after they retire.  He’s an amazing—and daunting—example and one of my heroes.

Which is why I sent him this as half of his birthday gift:^^

Happy Eightieth Birthday, Dad.  I love you.

And I can’t wait to see what you’re planning for your mid-life crisis!


* I think it was a basket-weaving expedition for Mom, but it could have been a retired teacher’s tour group.  Mom?

**He would go into the bedroom and shut the door to do his vocal exercises—Weebee, weebee, weebee, weebee, weebee—while my sister and I sat at the bottom of the stairs and howled.  Sharp little serpent’s teeth, us.

***That’s Mom on the right.  I’m not sure how she feels about heights, but I do know that the only reason she gave for not bungee-jumping is that they write your weight on your hand.  I argued after the fact that since the number would be in kilos and everyone in her group was American, it would look like she weighed a lot less and no one would remember the conversion formula, anyway.  Not sure she bought that . . .

^I made him a Recovery Kit, with the soak, several packages of Band-Aids, a novel, and various other things that might be useful to a man who keeps getting up every time his falls off his horse—or on a volcano.

^^Thanks to firstmausi for showing me these exist or I’d be frantic right now.  The other part of his present is nearly, almost done, I swear.

Meanwhile . . . (and a subtle reminder)

Don’t forget to submit your entry for the Crapsey Cinquain Contest in the comments of that post.  There are only three names in the hat so far, and John’s counts for two, because he went for a crown. 

I’m not judging quality—I don’t throw stones at that particular glass house—I just want you to give it a try.  It’s only five lines, people.  They don’t even have to rhyme. 

I’ll be accepting entries until midnight CST Tuesday.  The prize will be something poetic, which is my way of saying I haven’t figured that out yet.  But what have you got to lose?


I called Mom tonight to tell her that she was right, I did meet other weird, funny-looking kids have a great time at the conference.  I started to tell her about it, but realized about ten minutes in that she might as well read my posts.

She was pleased to agree, as she had her own stories to share.  While I was in St. Louis, she and Dad were in Ashville, North Carolina.  They were invited to stay at the Biltmore by the president of Miami University* to discuss the problems facing higher education today and so on and so forth.**

But they also managed, as they usually do, to explore the area.  One afternoon, they visited the studio of Jonas Gerard, an abstract artist for whom painting is shared performance art:

For those of you who know my parents, Mr. Gerard is clearly of their tribe.  And it should come as no real surprise that my mother bought canvas and acrylics the moment she came home and is now trying her hand at painting.  She says that they aren’t any good, but she loves doing it. 

I’ve heard this before.

Trust me—commission something from her now. She’ll have her own one-woman shows and be winning awards within a year.

*No, the one in Ohio. The one that was a university before Florida was a state.  Sorry, it’s a family loyalty thing:  my mother earned her BS at MU and later met my father in grad school;  I met my husband in the Miami Fencing Club, of all things, long story; and my father-in-law was a mathematics professor there for many years.  He’s buried in the faculty cemetery, as my MIL will be.

**At this point, my parents could tell me they were personally invited to Camp David and my only reaction would be to ask Dad to swipe something embossed with the presidential seal for me.

Home is how you hide your hat

My parent’s visit was, if you’ll pardon the pun, relatively mellow.*

They arrived early Thursday—as most of you know from the panicked note at the end of Thursday’s post—and stayed downstairs in my MIL’s domain, as she has a guest room and a cleaner bathroom.

Janie did get up at 4:30am to wake them Friday morning but was sent back upstairs until six-thirty. Misery loves company, so she decided to crawl into bed with us and ask me if it was time yet every five minutes, having apparently lost her ability to read a digital clock. She finally fell asleep on my husband’s pillow—he’d abandoned it sometime after 5am in favor of the couch—and missed breakfast.

As did I.   Good thing I’d taken the day off.

The rest was full of good conversations and the small, defining exchanges that happen around families:

Early Saturday, when I was spending my Mommy Alone Time honing my Plants vs. Zombies skills instead of writing, my husband came in and said, “I found your Dad’s hat under the gorilla last night—one of the kids must have hidden it. I put it on the banister at the top of the stairs so he’ll find it when he comes up.”

“Okay,” I said, killing a couple of zombies with a shooting star fruit.

Not five minutes later, Dad walked through.  “Where’s my hat?”

“It’s at the top of the stairs,” I said, planting a cabbagepult behind the wall-nut.

“Oh. I put it under the gorilla last night so the kids wouldn’t hide it.”

Well of course he had.

Where, I wonder, do families without gorillas hide their hats?

Saturday morning was also full of a seven-mile road race which is a few towns away and—aside from their grandchildren—the reason my parents usually visit in late July. I have no personal pictures of the race, as I dropped them off and went to the nearest library to write for a couple hours until they called.** I was going to try the two-mile fun walk this year, but the weather, the crowds, and my total lack of interest in chafing certain areas down to the bone defeated me. Maybe next year.

The best and worst part of my parents’ visit was that they took Janie home with them. She’s there for a week, so I figure I’ll miss her by tonight, unless I start prepping her room for the Big Move, which may ease the Mother-Child bond somewhat. Sunny, however, operates on a schedule all her own:

“Mommy? When are Grandma and Grandpa coming back from church?”

“They started driving to their home after church, sweetie—remember? They’re headed back to Cincinnati with Janie.”

“But when is Janie coming home?”

“Saturday. You have a whole week of school before you and Daddy go to pick her up.”***

“Oh.” Big sigh. “I’m tired of waiting.”

In her defense, it had been a whole three hours . . .

Gonna be an interesting week!


* I didn’t get the weight lecture, but Mom did “practice” her speech about Curves’ new weight management program once while I was trapped in the car. I gritted my teeth and complimented her on being word-perfect and let it go without even the opening lines of Ben Jonson. This is called Maturity, or so I hear. It helped that the kids were also in the car.

**Having used up all my morning writing time fighting the undead with sunflowers and pea shooters . .  .

***They’ll meet about halfway, which I believe is around Champaign-Urbana. There’s apparently a pretty good Ryan’s Restaurant there. I always seem to have to work those days—it’s not deliberate, I swear—so I don’t actually know.


If you’d ever like to talk to both of my parents at the same time, good luck to you, but the odds are best on Friday evenings around five central.  Dad will most likely answer the phone chewing, but will reassure you that they’ve just finished dinner and Mom is even now heading for the office extension.

Yesterday, after the usual catch-up and mandatory exchange of cute grandchildren and animal stories, I asked them what they’d done for their anniversary last week, besides listening to me sing the ‘happy anniversary song’ through their answering machine.*

Mom had spent the entire day at work** and Dad had been at a scouting thing with his troop.  This inspired several lame jokes—see?  Genetics!— about minimum face time being the true secret to a long marriage and happy anniversaries.

“But your Dad did buy me a great gift,” said Mom.

“Good!  What?”  I asked.

“Two heavy duty toilet plungers. One for each Curves.”

“That’s so romantic, Dad,” I said.

“I know.”

Mom laughed.  “No, it was—he drew little happy faces on them with markers and everything.”

I asked her if she was going to make earrings out of them, and she said, “No, I’m going to plunge toilets with them.  The pipes are having problems at the eastern Curves, and our little plunger doesn’t work very well.”

I asked Dad if he’d received a gift.

“Sure,” he said.  “I don’t have to drive across town with our heavy plunger and fix their toilet anymore.”

“He gave himself a gift this year,” said Mom.  “Two gifts— he also gave me a little ratchet kit so I’ll stop borrowing his.”

“You know, Dad,” I said,” traditionally, when a man gives himself an anniversary gift, it involves lingerie.”

“She doesn’t need lingerie,” said Dad.

“I need plungers.  He gave me what I needed—I think that’s pretty romantic.”

There was a moment of silence and all three of us said, “Plungerie!” at the same time.

Nature versus nurture—you decide.

Regardless, I would like to nominate the following word for possible inclusion into the vernacular:


(noun, pl. plungerie)

A needed, practical gift (such as cleaning supplies, kitchen tools, or gardening equipment) given on a romantic occasion, with or without the appreciation of the recipient.
Example:  “As the trauma center staff attempted to remove the blender, Chet realized his mistake in giving plungerie to Vanessa for Valentine’s Day.”

And yeah, I know it sounds a like a little number in satin and leather with more neckline than garment , but there might be rare times when a polite term is needed for situations like these.  Or even an affectionate one.

Of course, not everyone can find romance in the everyday, especially after forty-eight years of marriage . . . but I’m pretty sure that’s the real key to making one last that long.


*This is their punishment for not being home.

**I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but she owns two Curves locations.  Curves is a franchised circuit-training gym for women.

Random Thursday: Duck Tales!




Today is my parents’ forty-ninth wedding anniversary! 

How about some applause?

They met at Miami University, in Ohio—both were school teachers taking a summer graduate course.  They sat next to each other in class, but hadn’t spoken much.

One day, it was very hot in the classroom, and flies kept buzzing in through the open windows.  My father, being a man of many diverse skills, killed the flies that landed on his desk by flicking them with his pencil.  After each kill, he would take the corpse and place it on Mom’s desk.  She was either too embarrassed to protest or was trying not to laugh, depending on whom you ask. 

By the end of the class, Mom had a small mountain of dead flies and Dad had a ride back to Cincinnati.  Their relationship was strictly platonic, at least on Dad’s side—he was dating someone else.  Mom only says that he was very good-looking, if a bit slow on the uptake for a guy destined to be a psychologist.

Mom drove him back and forth throughout the entire summer,  until it finally dawned on Dad that he was having more fun with her than the girl he was dating.   So he stopped dating her and started dating Mom.  Finally.

The rest, as they say, is history and a lot of hard work.

Congratulations to the two coolest people I know!  Thank you for setting such a high benchmark!


For those of you who didn’t choose the fourth option in today’s poll, here’s your chance:



Sixteen days until the (arbitrary) deadline for my first draft of Pigeon.^   There’s a lot to do, but I know I can make it.

This isn’t another shipwreck.   I finally know how it’s going to end.^^  I know whodunnit and why and how.

I’m almost afraid to tilt my head in case the last chapters fall out of my ear and the twists unravel and the logic balloon collapses like a soap-bubble.

Please let it work. 

Please let it work.


A Fanfic Recommendation.  No, seriously.

My friend Siobhan (she of the double dog dares) has been on bed rest for the last two weeks of her pregnancy,* which has given her a lot of time to cruise fanfiction.net.  Fanfic is her alternative to daytime television, because, as she says, some of the stories are actually good.

She’s particularly fond of strange crossovers and alternative universes—because she doesn’t have to stew about canon—and sends me links to the weirdest things, like the stars of Supernatural as dolphins fighting demonic tuna, or something.**

But I have to admit, she finds some awesome stuff in there, including a story she sent me two days ago.

If you enjoyed the BBC’s Sherlock series, or at least the original stories, and have read Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimon’s Good Omens, then I highly recommend this story,  in which Aziraphale and Crawley feed some rather unusual ducks.  Ducks who behave completely in character.***

It’s eleven in a random (hey-oh!) series of BBC Sherlock shorts by a talented and extremely well-read writer who goes by Silver Pard.

C’mon—humor me.  Give it a try.



Janie thanks everyone (with blushes and giggles) who congratulated her on passing the third grade and agrees that she was a cute baby, though she thinks she looks better with hair.

She would also like for me to hurry up and post this, so she can play Barbie Fashionista Grand Prix, or whatever it is.

What’s the magic word, kid?


^Yes, I am counting today, because my main writing sessions are in the evenings, after the kids go to bed.

^^With a $#!%load of editing, right.  Besides that.

*They had the date wrong, apparently, and pushed her due date back an extra three weeks.  I’m not sure she was told to stay in bed for the baby’s sake or because her OB was afraid she’d seek revenge.  And neither is her husband.

**No.  No.  I’m making that up—but I promise you someone out there is working on it already.

***No duck slash, I promise.