Wednesday, December 26, 2012

HE'S NOT ANONYMOUS ANY MORE


 
 When I first started writing this column back in 1994, Jeff, my editor at the time, advised me not to use my husband’s name. He said by keeping him anonymous, more women would be able to relate to him as if he were their own husband or boyfriend.

For years, I picked on “my husband” in my columns, joking about his habits and antics, and many women wrote to tell me how much he reminded them of the men in their own lives. So I guess my editor’s way of thinking was right.

My husband, however, always was pitied by men, who often addressed him as “you poor guy.”  Many also said they would file for divorce if they were in his shoes, because it seemed as if nothing he did was sacred…or private.

Little did they know that my husband always enjoyed being written about in my columns. When I would write about the dogs or someone else and not mention him for a week or two, he’d say, “Don’t you love me any more?”  And then, more often than not, he’d remind me of something  embarrassing he’d done so I would write about it.

Take, for example, the night he woke up and thought he heard a prowler out in the yard. Still half-asleep and wearing only his underwear, he grabbed the ornamental sword he kept by the bed (especially for burglars) and ran outside, where the neighbors’ motion-detector floodlight popped on and bathed him in enough light to enable the entire neighborhood and passengers in low-flying aircraft to see him…standing there in his BVDs and holding a sword over his head.

I laughed about it for days. When he saw how funny I though the incident was, he insisted that I write about it. Thank goodness I married a man with a great sense of humor.

Last week, on December 13, I came home from Christmas shopping and told my husband I was going to take the dog for a short walk. He said, “OK, but hurry back and feed me. I’m hungry.”

I returned 15 minutes later and found him slumped over in his chair. He passed away two days later from a massive stroke.

His name was Joe.

There have been several times during the 18 years I have been writing my column when I’ve thought I’d never be able to write anything humorous because something sad or stressful had happened that week. But Joe would always encourage me by saying, “You can do it. People are counting on you to make them smile and laugh every week. And if you can make even just one person smile, then you’ve succeeded and can feel really proud of yourself.”

After hearing his words, no matter how depressed I was feeling at the time, I’d manage to write something that actually did make people smile. And as an added benefit, I discovered that writing humor turned out to be cathartic in many ways. So I’d usually feel much better afterwards.

But this is one situation when I know that no matter how much of a pep talk I give myself about laughter being the best medicine, I just can’t write humor at the present time.  Therefore, I have decided to take a leave of absence from writing this column until I can smile and feel like my zany old self again…and then I promise I’ll be back.

Joe would want it that way.



 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

DR. WHO? WHAT? WHERE?


 
I was in the town hall the other day and saw the Christmas Wish tree, which was decorated with paper ornaments listing area children’s Christmas wish lists.  I selected one, a four-year-old girl’s.

Last year, I selected a 10-year-old girl to shop for. She wanted craft items, and I had a lot of fun buying everything from paint sets to jewelry-making kits. So I figured I’d have fun this year, too.

I left the town hall and headed directly to a department store in Concord. I didn’t look at the wish list until I was inside.  It said, “Doc McStuffins items.”

I just stood there, having no clue whatsoever who or what Doc McStuffins was.  My first thought was pajamas – like the Doctor Dentons from my childhood days. I headed to the kids’ sleepwear department.  There, I approached a female clerk about my age.

“Do you have Doc McStuffins?” I asked her.

She stared blankly at me.

“I think they’re pajamas,” I added. “For little girls.”

The clerk helped me look through the pajamas.  We found every type imaginable, with pictures on them of every children’s character ever created, but there was nothing about Doc McStuffins.

“Well, if Doc McStuffins isn’t pajamas,” I said to the clerk, “what could it be?”

She looked thoughtful for a moment. “Maybe it’s a stuffed animal! It might be a teddy bear or something dressed up in doctor’s clothes.”

That sounded logical. I rushed to the toy department and searched through a virtual zoo of stuffed animals but didn’t see anything that resembled a doctor…although a couple of them did remind me of my own doctor, especially when he doesn’t comb his hair.

I found a young male clerk in the toy department and asked him about Doc McStuffins.  Again, I received a blank look. I was beginning to think that this doctor character was only a figment of the four-year-old’s imagination. Either that, or the little girl had just moved here from some obscure country where Doc McStuffins was some kind of local cult hero.

“I haven’t heard of it,” the clerk said. “Is it a game?”

I shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine. It could be a brand of mattress for all I know!”

He told me to wait a minute and he’d see what he could find out. He disappeared for a short while, then returned and said, “It’s a doll from Disney… and we’re all sold out. From what they tell me, it’s sold out everywhere and going for big bucks on eBay.”

I groaned. Leave it to me, I thought, to pick a child who wanted a gift that would require me to get into a hair-pulling match with a bunch of other women who were determined to buy the doll for their kids…that is, if I ever came across the doll. The problem was, I wouldn’t know it if I did because I had no clue what Doc McStuffins looked like. Was it male? Female?  Knowing Disney, it even could be something like a talking wart hog.

I was about ready to admit defeat when I decided to stop at Toys R Us, just for the heck of it.  Once inside, I headed straight for the doll aisle.  I checked out so many dolls, I began to forget what a human face looked like.  Finally, I tracked down a clerk…who appeared to be human.

I was so tired by then, I mistakenly blurted out, “Do you, by some miracle, have any Doctor McMuffin dolls?”

He smiled in amusement. “You mean Doc McStuffins?”

I burst out laughing. “God, I sound like I’m at McDonald’s!”

“I think I saw one in the preschool department,” he said. “Over this way.”

The entire time I was following him, I silently prayed he was leading me to what probably would be the last Doc McStuffins doll in the state.  We finally arrived at an aisle that had a lot of empty spaces on the shelves. My heart sank. If Doc McStuffins had been there, I was pretty sure he or she now was one of those empty spaces.

The clerk stood there, rubbing his chin and staring at the shelves for a moment, then he moved aside a couple large Playskool toys and pulled out a small plastic package with some tiny figures in it.

“Here you go,” he said, smiling, and walked off.

I clasped the package to my chest and frantically looked around, making certain no one was going to jump out and grab it away from me.  When I was certain the coast was clear, I finally looked at what I was holding. In the package was a small African American doll wearing a white lab coat and a stethoscope. A glittery pink and purple doctor’s bag was in her hand. She looked no older than five or six.  Next to her were several tiny stuffed animals sitting on an examination table.  I figured she must be a veterinarian…for toy animals.

Clutching my newly found treasure, I rushed to the register to pay for it. The minute I got home, I looked up Doc McStuffins on eBay. The clerk at the department store had been right. The doll I’d just bought was selling for three times what I’d just paid for it. A variety of other Doc McStuffins toys were selling for even more.

Now I’m wondering if I should include a note with the gift, telling the little four-year-old, “Merry Christmas! But do not play with this! Wait a few years and sell it – it just might fund your college education.”

 

 

 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A LESSON IN FATE, FAITH AND LOVE



I know my column usually involves humor and zaniness, but I’m going to step totally out of character this week and be serious for a change. That’s because I want to share an incident that happened last week…and give credit where credit is due.

I enjoy shopping at the Ocean State Job Lot stores in both Hooksett and Concord because I never know what bargains I might find there.  The stores also have an entire aisle of inexpensive dog treats, and believe me, with my two “horses,” I go through a lot of treats.

At the store in Concord, there is a young clerk who really stands out. His name is Kalan, and he is always cheerful and sociable. Whenever I buy dog treats, he and I end up discussing our pets and joking about them while he rings up my items. His warm personality seems a hundred-percent genuine.

The other day, I learned just how special Kalan and the other Ocean State Job Lot employees in Concord are.

Two days before Thanksgiving, I headed to the store to pick up some birdseed for my feeder and of course, to stock up on dog treats.  To my dismay, the minute I set foot in the store, I had a sudden need to use the restroom. I thought it was very strange because first of all, I pride myself on my bladder of steel, and secondly, I hadn’t had anything to drink all day (a bad habit of mine), and had gone to the bathroom just before I left the house only 20 minutes earlier.

Unlike the Hooksett Job Lot, where the restrooms are located right near the front doors, the Concord store’s restrooms are in the farthest corner at the rear, concealed behind display shelves. Usually I won’t use a public restroom unless I’m on the verge of exploding, so I tried to talk myself out of using this one…but my bladder had other ideas. So I embarked on the 10-mile hike to the back of the store.

I finally made it to the ladies’ room and opened the door. There, on the floor, was an elderly woman. A walker, on wheels, was near her, but not within her reach.

“Thank God!” she said and burst into tears. “I have been sitting here, helpless, for nearly 20 minutes! I just finished saying a prayer and begging God to give any woman in the store a full bladder, so she’d come in here and find me – and here you are! My angel!”

Her words actually left me momentarily speechless. “Are you hurt?” I finally asked her. “Do you need an ambulance?”

She shook her head and sniffled. “I was shopping with my husband and we were about to leave, when I felt sick…stomach cramps. I came back here to use the restroom – but I didn’t quite make it. When I tried to clean up my mess, I fell!  I’m so embarrassed! Just look at this bathroom!”

“Bathrooms can be cleaned with soap and water,” I told her. “All that matters is that you’re all right.”

“Please, get my husband,” she said. “He’s waiting for me at the front of the store. And you’ll have to find another strong man to help him lift me. As you can see, I’m no small woman.”

I rushed out of the restroom and ran toward the front of the store. On the way, I passed a female employee who was arranging items on a counter.

“There is a woman who fell in the ladies’ room!” I shouted at her as I ran past. “I’m going to go find her husband!”

Without a word, the employee dropped everything and darted toward the back of the store. 

At the front, I saw a tall, elderly man and explained to him that I believed it was his wife who’d fallen in the restroom. He said he’d been getting worried because she’d been gone for so long, especially since she’d just had both knees replaced and was having trouble getting around.  He said he didn’t know exactly where the restroom was, so I told him to follow me. First, however, I asked the employee at the courtesy counter if he could find another man to help lift the woman.

When the husband and I arrived in the restroom, the female employee was there, kneeling next to the woman on the floor and rubbing her arm, trying to comfort her.  The woman started crying the minute she saw her husband. “And to think we had to come here all the way from Indiana for me to do this!” she sobbed.

The door opened, and Kalan appeared, rushing to the woman’s side.

“Can you help me get her to her feet?” her husband asked him.

“Are you hurt anywhere?” Kalan first asked her.

She showed him a skinned right elbow. “This is all, just a scrape. I’m so embarrassed about what I’ve done to your restroom!”

“The fact that you’re OK is all that matters,” Kalan said. He gave her a comforting smile. “Now, give me your hand and let’s see if we can get you back up on your feet.”

Instead of extending her hand, the woman hid it behind her back. “I-I messed on my hands, too,” she said. Fresh tears ran down her cheeks. “Don’t touch them, they’re disgusting!”

Kalan, without any hesitation said, smiling, “Ma’am, I have a two-year-old at home.  Stuff like that doesn’t bother me.”

And with that, he took her hand and, along with her husband’s help, got her to her feet.

I just stood there in awe, watching.

“We’ve been married 53 years,” the husband said, looking lovingly at his wife as he got paper towels and soap and started to clean her up.  As he did, the female employee immediately set to work scrubbing and disinfecting the bathroom and making it sparkling clean. The cleaner the bathroom became, the more relaxed and less embarrassed the woman who had fallen seemed to appear.

The woman’s walker had a seat on it, so her husband helped her sit on it and then, collecting all of her belongings, wheeled her toward the restroom door. Both of them thanked the three of us over and over again before they left.  The woman then turned to me, gave me a big smile and said, “And bless you for your full bladder!”

I laughed and said, “Speaking of which, there may very soon be another accident to clean up if I don’t use the bathroom!”

“Get out of here, Kalan!” the female employee jokingly said to him.

Kalan, chuckling, finished washing up and left the restroom.

While I was shopping afterwards, the female employee came over and thanked me for helping the woman.

“I didn’t do anything,” I said. “You guys did it all…and I’m very impressed.”

I have to admit, the incident really made an impact on me. I learned a lesson in fate, faith and love that day…and it was because, of all things, I finally used a public restroom.

Life certainly is unpredictable.