In a Perfect World

September 5, 2010

Circa 1995, some of my son’s friends matched my daughter up with a date for a high school dance. I spent some time getting to know him. He was nice kid. He passed the “mom test” and I was comfortable sending Sarah off with him for a few hours. The dance came and went, and so did he. Their interests were different, he was a little older, and so it goes.

About ten years later, John and I made our first visit to the local butcher shop, and who do you suppose was standing behind the counter? Although I didn’t make the connection, he did, and came out from behind the counter to say hello and meet John. We quickly became regular customers and got to know the other good folks that work there, but his face is always the one I look for.

One morning, in the first part of 2009, my newspaper had an article about a crash involving two persons. The car had left the road and run into a tree. The driver had a blood alcohol level of .24 and was transported to the county jail after treatment for minor injuries at the local hospital. As it seems to go in accidents like this one, our young friend had to be extracted from the car, was airlifted to a Chicago hospital in critical condition with bleeding in his brain, fractures and other injuries. A month later the paper said he was still in intensive care and unable to speak.

The next time we went to the butcher shop, there was a picture of him taped up on the wall near the cash register with words written in black marker, asking customers to think of him in their prayers. Over the months, we heard updates with slow but gradual signs of improvement, more than often accompanied by “but it was a really bad accident”. At one point last fall, he had been moved to a rehabilitation center down south and the updates became fewer and far between.

Early this summer, the butcher shop opened a produce section in the rear of the building. John and I pulled the car around to the back and parked. Out of the corner of my eye I saw two men standing at the edge of the parking lot, in butcher’s garb. We made our way into the store and closed the door behind us. As I took my hand off of the door knob, it opened right back up and in walked our friend. He had seen us in the parking lot. I got a big hug and a smile.

As we talked, it became painfully apparent that he was having some troubles putting his thoughts together. His left eye was a little smaller and slightly drawn upward, but the sparkle was still the same. I told him it was so good to see him and that we thought about him often. I asked him how long he had been back. He looked at me, and then turned to his friend and asked how long he had been back. I found out I hadn’t seen him because he was working in the shop now a few hours at a time, instead of behind the counter. I told him it looked like he was doing well, and he took off his baseball cap, showed me the bare patch on top of his misshapen head, and said “Yeah and the guy that did this is in prison”. His friend reminded him that their break was over, took him by the arm, and they disappeared into the shop.

And we wept. We wept for our young friend, and we wept for someone at the butcher shop who has a heart of gold. Someone who found a place for him, when I have to think it would have been easier to close the door.


I have started this post several times, but the words wouldn’t come, so I just quit writing. And after all, why would you want to read yet another sad story about the leavins of a drunk driver? It happens all the time. There was a similar accident that happened this spring in a nearby town. The driver and one of his friends were banged up, and the other two were killed. All of them were just kids.

Then last week the driver and his parents released a video “to help other teens avoid what he, his parents and the community have experienced”. I watched it. It seemed sincere to me. But a mother of one of the fatalities objected to it. To her it was “inconsiderate”. This was not someone she wanted her younger daughters “to learn a lesson from”. Lives changed forever. And a mother lode of pain.

Yesterday we made our weekly trek to the butcher shop, and once again I rolled this story out in my mind. As I spit out the last few words, I can finally say that I’m angry. Oh sure, I’m angry at the driver. That’s expected. But I’m really angry at our young friend for making the decision to get in the car with a driver that was obviously drunk.

In a perfect world, there would be no drunk drivers. And if there were, they would be alone in the car.

On Ice

February 21, 2010

The forecast is calling for snow and rain this evening, changing to snow and sleet, continuing through tomorrow with a total accumulation of four to eight inches. I’m one of those strange birds that loves the cold and snow, but I’m finding out this winter that I don’t do so well with ice anymore. I’ve fallen three times so far. The first time I fell to my knees on the driveway trying to get to John with his cell phone for a school call. The second was also in the driveway, on my way to the car heading off to work. We keep the driveway pretty clean, so that’s not the issue. In fact, maybe we keep it too clean. The third was Friday night on the way into a local restaurant. The last two times I ended up on my rump. I’m so grateful for ibuprofen.

It’s a little disconcerting, to say the least. I didn’t think much about it after the first one, or really, the second. But after Friday the only thing I can think of is that commercial where the little old lady says, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”! At least it doesn’t happen in the house, as well. It’s a very humbling experience. Mother Nature – 3, Gene – 0. Moreover, it’s an embarrassment. Sure hope none of my neighbors had their camera ready when I went down. I might end up on the world wide web, like this poor guy.

The sad fact is that I grew up on the ice. From the time I was old enough to don the double blade skates, my dad had me out on the ice at my grandmother’s house on Lake Dale. Before that, I slid around in boots. He would clear a big space so I could skate while he would ice fish. I would move from his space to mine with ease, and enjoyed every minute of it. We also skated on Turkey Creek, the little winding stream behind our house. Ah the memories we made there. I hung up my skates when my kids were in elementary school, but never ever had a fear of the ice. Maybe that’s really the issue. I like to think of myself as invincible. I don’t like thinking that I can’t move around with the same confidence and freedom that I’m accustomed to. Hate that.

And I don’t want to use the O.L.D. word. Not yet anyway. I’m thinking I might give these a shot. No laughing. Better to bruise my psyche rather than my posterior. Again.

firing on all cylinders:

February 8, 2010

having all its cylinders working and thus providing the maximum amount of power. The old car is firing on all cylinders despite its age. This thing’s not hitting on all cylinders –  The Free Dictionary.

One of the things I enjoyed most about last week was watching how my grandson connects thoughts. That’s the neat thing about grand-parenting. Living a distance away that allows for snapshots of development, I am constantly intrigued by things I took for granted with my own children.

His mother told me to have the waffles ready when he got up in the morning or he would cry crocodile tears. I had the waffles ready, but I forgot about the cup of milk. He instantly opened the drawer where the plastic cups are stored and offered one up to me for filling. He scooted into the living room when he was finished eating and when I called him back to get his hands washed, he responded by walking back to me,  then shifting the cup from one to the other while I wiped them off. When the television screen went blank, he looked at me and then the screen with hand extended.

At not quite 18 months, the thought process is all there even though it is not displayed verbally. At least not in any form that I can understand. Yet we communicated wonderfully. I loved watching how he thinks through things and adjusts appropriately. Friday afternoon I sliced an apple and asked him if he would like a piece. He had the cup in one hand and a car in the other. He handed the cup to me, put the apple in his mouth, took the cup back, and headed into the living room to watch television. This car is firing on all cylinders despite its age.

This thing’s not hitting on all cylinders. Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

Where’s the Beef?

April 1, 2008

We spent the day yesterday with some housekeeping kind of stuff. We drove the area to refresh our memory on where everything is, and isn’t. There is so much new construction here, some of the familiar landmarks seem a little out of place. In addition, there are many more hills than in the flatlands of the North, so it’s always a learning curve driving a stick. And there is always a stop light in the middle of a hill. On the incline. And there’s always some huge truck right on your bumper. Glad we got that under our belt.

Really, we’ve been here so many times that Willi has the layout down pretty good. I don’t worry much, or pay attention to street names – just buckle up and enjoy the ride.

The Dogwoods look like they’re ready to pop. It hit 70 yesterday, and if that continues maybe we will see some before we leave. Many of the other spring bloomers are dead on. I’ll have some pictures tomorrow perhaps. A big storm came through last night, but it is clearing now.

We stopped by the local grocery to pick up some breakfast goodies and coffee. We’re pretty much self sufficient for breakfast now. I’ve decided that even though the cost of living would appear to be high down here, I must have had the wrong impression. The cost of beef certainly is outstanding!


Wish we had a grill, and a few friends. We could have had one hell of a cookout. Just add a few taters and a cold one!


We’re headed down to lower Broadway for the day, if the weather holds out anyway. If not we may venture over to the Hall of Fame Museum for an exhibit on the Williams family, all three Hank’s and their kin. Tin Pan South begins this evening and we have our shows picked out and passes in hand. Now comes the beef!

Upper Deck has released a series of eight cards called the Presidential Predictors which will be distributed along with their 2008 baseball cards, one for every eight packs. You may have been reading about this today like I have. The one that seems to be getting the most press depicts Hillary Clinton as Morgana the Kissing Bandit. Remember her? This would not be a comparison I would have come to easily. Well really, I never would have gotten there at all. Upper Deck’s public relations manager indicated that the set was to be “light and humorous”, but at the last minute “there was a concern about having the card misconstrued as being in poor taste.” As a result, employees began manually pulling the cards from the assembly line. Not quick enough though, since you can already find it on ebay. The card will be replaced with a new design for release in May. I wonder if she will be around that long.


I’m not a Hillary fan, but have to agree that this is nowhere near tasteful. At least not when compared to the others in the series. Mitt Romney is seen as Carlton Fisk in the 1975 World Series. John McCain is compared to Ted Williams. Quite a different portrayal, wouldn’t you say?


Obama’s card is the one that caught my eye. Not because of the toothy smile, but because of the position of his hand in relation to the baseball and the outstretched mitt. Do any of you remember Steve Bartman* from Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series between the Cubs and the Marlins? Maybe it’s just etched in my mind being so close to the Windy City, and the daughter of a die-hard Cubs fan. Giuliani’s is similar.

Edit: *Guess I wasn’t the only one who saw the resemblance.


Edwards is Moonlight Graham, depicted in that tear-jerker of a scene in Field of Dreams. And Huckabee is nowhere to be found. Ah, well. It’s all “light and humorous”. Right? Who do you think Upper Deck would predict our next President to be?