It was the last day of rifle season.
The Vikings were playing the Packers.
The weather was nasty… cold and windy. Jim flirted with the idea of staying home and watching the game instead of hunting.
Then a friend called and invited Jim to close out the deer season by going hunting together. That put him over the edge… he chose friendship over football.
After he left the house, I went upstairs to sew, leaving the TV on as background noise so the dogs wouldn’t bark at the noise of the sewing machine. When I finished my project, I came back down and walked into the living room just as the game was going into overtime. I was a little surprised… I don’t understand much about football, but even I knew that was significant. I left the game on and tried to follow it so I could give Jim the highlights when he came home.
It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and we had our Community Thank Offering Service at church that evening. When Jim came home, he’d have to do a quick wardrobe change so we could head out the door and make it to church a little early to help set up the pie and coffee for fellowship after worship.
Jim walked into the house, red-faced from the wind and cold, set his rifle in the corner and shed his blaze orange garb.
“The Vikings didn’t win.” I said.
“Figures… they haven‘t been playing well all season.” He grumbled.
“Neither did the Packers…” I continued.
He stopped cold. “WHAT?!” He exclaimed.
Once inside the church, we carted our pies into the kitchen, and returned to the sanctuary. We had a few minutes before the service started, so I began to relate the details of the game.
“They were tied at 23 at the end of the fourth quarter,” I explained. “The Packers got the ball first in overtime and failed to make a touchdown. They did make one of those three-point thingies, though.”
He stared at me. I’m not quite sure if he was more amazed by the fact that the Vikings and Packers had a tie game, or because I knew the score and was recounting the details with relative accuracy.
I continued to explain…“Then the Vikings’ got the ball and they couldn’t close the deal, either. But THEY made a three-point thingie, too! The final score was 26-26.”
“You’re hopeless!” Nell, seated behind us, interjected. “A three-point thingie?”
“I don’t understand football! I really had to concentrate to get this much out of it.” I defended myself.
“Married to Jim? You don’t understand football and you’re married to Jim?” She said incredulously. “You have a Super Bowl party every year!”
“The party’s about the people and the food for me.”
Nell chuckled. “You’re hopeless…” She teased.
Marilyn, seated next to Nell, and I began to talk as Nell filled Jim in on the game.
“I don’t understand football, either,” she confided.
I admitted that most sports make no sense to me… except baseball.
I understand baseball. The pitchers pitch, hitters hit, catchers catch, basemen play the bases, and the outfielders are in the outfield: left, right and center. “One run equals one point. That makes sense. The only thing that’s a little screwy about baseball is that they run counter-clockwise around the bases… but that’s probably because most of the players hit right-handed so I guess it‘s okay.”
Football is different. I know the quarterback throws the ball… what I don’t get is why they don’t just call him a thrower or something. Just what is a quarterback a quarter back from? And what’s with the half back or the full back? Then there‘s special teams… isn‘t that confusing?” Marilyn nodded. I went on. “The ball is thrown to the receivers. I get that part.”
Marilyn laughed. Nell was trying not to. Jim rolled his eyes.
“And the scoring in football! Six points for a touchdown, three points for something else and one point for another thing. I just don‘t understand.”
“Then, there’s the tailback. Explain that…” I was on a roll. “And I don’t even want to know what a tight end does!”
Jim and I were invited to celebrate Thanksgiving at the home of our friends, Emma and Ralph. We joined their small family for the holiday… there were eight of us: Emma, Ralph, Gary, grandson Jeremy, and Jeremy’s two children, Meg and Nelson.
Meg, Emma‘s seven year old great granddaughter, wrapped a blue fleece blanket around her shoulders and walked through the house, robes trailing in her wake.
“Are you a princess?” I asked.
Her brown eyes lit up and she flashed her gap-toothed grin. “Yes! I am Princess Meg!”
The little girl stood tall, and processed into the kitchen, circled the island and returned the living room. “I need a maid,’ she stated seriously. “Every princess must have a maid…”
In the living room, Emma, Jim and I chatted as Meg paced the room, pausing before each of us, eyeing us up and down, carefully considering our attributes before she making her selection.
Jimbo threw me a questioning glance as the child paused a second time in front of him. She lowered her chin a fraction and brought one finger to her lips, her brow knit in concentration. “You…I pick you! You are my maid.”
Jim gulped. “Me?” He stuttered. “Why me?”
“Because YOU will make a very good maid! I will pay you fifty dollars.”
“Fifty dollars?” He asked.
“Okay… one thousand dollars,” Meg replied in a matter of fact tone.
“A thousand dollars?”
“Two thousand!” She declared.
“A thousand dollars is a lot of money… what would I have to do?” Jim inquired.
“You would have to carry my dress… keep it from dragging on the floor.”
Meg handed over the imaginary money and ordered her new maid into service.
Soon, she was strolling through the house, followed closely by Maid Jimbo… who, despite his six foot three inch frame, did his best to prance daintily behind Princess Meg.
While Emma and I were being entertained by Princess Meg and Maid Jimbo, Jeremy was busy in the kitchen, creating our Thanksgiving dinner. We were treated to good company and a wonderful array of food: spiral-cut honeyed ham, twice-baked potatoes, dressing, sweet potatoes, asparagus, and more. Everything was perfectly seasoned and absolutely delicious.
First, he gave me the boot. Then, he banned me from the fitness center. I cannot participate in water aerobics class on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I am forbidden from teaching on Fridays. The gym is off limits, too.
In the five-and-a-half-plus-decades I have walked this planet, no one, especially a health care professional, has ever told me not to exercise. Until now…
It happened today…on about lunchtime.
My right leg has been giving me grief lately. That’s nothing new…that leg’s been through a lot, and most of it’s been my fault.
It started when I was young…about six years old… My brother and I were riding bikes down the driveway, side by side. He got a little too close and I panicked and fell to the left. He fell to the right. I was wearing rubber flip-flops on my feet… my right foot got tangled in the spokes of his rear tire and my little toe was cut to the bone. I spent the rest of the summer getting up at oh-dark-thirty so my dad could doctor my wound before he left for work. I had to wear my own sneaker on my left foot and my brother’s on my right. It was quite the fashion statement.
As an adult, we’ve dropped a door on the instep of that same foot at the local building supply store. Then there was the loaded boat incident where I broke three toes, and the time I bashed my foot into a door frame and broke my baby toe. I’ve had that knee replaced, then had revision surgery. Finally, I bashed my shin into the trailer hitch on the pick-up when we were picking our apples a few months ago… I bruised the bone that time.
That leg’s seen better days. Thankfully, I’ve been kinder to most of my other body parts.
The pain in my shin has been hardly noticeable for a month or two and I haven’t given it a second thought. Until four days ago. Then it got a lot worse when I was stacking firewood in the basement. I applied ice, took Tylenol, sat in my recliner with my legs elevated for most of the evening. It felt better on Monday morning so I went to water aerobics.
It didn’t hurt when I got out of the pool so I thought I was good to go. I went about my Monday routine and joined a few other ladies in the church basement for our weekly quilting session. I walked on concrete floors for two-and-a-half hours or so. That’s when my leg began to talk to me. Loudly. It may have used foul language…or maybe that was me. By evening, I could barely walk.
My husband became concerned. He thought my prosthetic knee might be getting infected so he offered to drive me to Urgent Care to get it checked out. When I refused, he suggested I dust off my cane.
I can be stubborn. I resisted. Jim was not surprised.
Rest, Tylenol and ice helped yesterday, so I figured they’d help me out once again. I used them for a day and a half with little relief. This morning, I hobbled out to the car and went to pool class…admittedly not my best decision. I believe in having a back-up plan, so I left Jim a note saying that I might need him to drive me to the clinic after class.
The doctor examined my leg, diagnosed me with shin splints, and read me the riot act for not coming in sooner. I was happy Jim decided to stay in the waiting room; I wouldn’t have wanted a witness!
Doctor Anderson told me I needed to wear the boot religiously for two weeks, take Tylenol for pain and ice at least twice a day. If it doesn’t improve, I am to see my primary doctor.
I have a feeling it’s going to be a long two weeks. The boot makes my leg feel better, but the altered gait causes my knee and my back to hurt.
I have promised my dear husband that I will try to refrain from crabbiness…a tall order, indeed, but I‘ll try my best to keep my word.
To that end, I’m focusing on starting a new fashion trend: mismatched footwear. Who’s with me?
My grandson, Joe, was born with an innate understanding of all things sports.
Then there’s me. As a kid, I played baseball with my brothers, my grandmother, and the neighbor kids, so if I try really hard, I can follow that, but I’m baffled by basketball, hockey, and football. They just don’t make sense to me…
I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve inadvertently cheered for the wrong team on several occasions.
That’s embarrassing…it’s much better to keep my mouth shut!
I prefer to remain confused… My poor husband has tried to explain football to me on any number of occasions, but I. Just. Don’t. Get. It.
Today, I understand more about football than I ever have before, but it’s still so confusing…and violent. When we’re watching a game, I’ve learned to take my cues from Jim…if he starts cheering, I’ll follow suit and cheer along too. Sometimes I’ll ask him if that last play was good for our team and if our team isn’t doing so well, he’ll give me the look…the one that says ‘don’t you get it?’
That man takes his football very seriously.
He’s much more patient with me if the Vike’s are winning. Then he’ll patiently explain the intricacies of the game and…I. Still. Don’t. Get. It.
The players are moving too fast for me to follow and there are so many rules. I’d never even heard the words ‘touch-back’ until about a year ago…and to this day, I don’t know what they mean.
At our house, we host a Super Bowl Party every year. Jim sets up the ‘stadium seating’ in the living room, and I take care of the food and the activities for the non-football followers. We usually play Bingo…that I understand! And, to my credit, I can play Yahtzee and Scrabble, and Cribbage, too.
As a kid, I was always more of a girly-girl… I was in gymnastics in junior high, but I was never good enough to compete in a meet. Mostly, I did it for fun. It was something to do after school. I was best at the floor exercises and the trampoline. I liked swimming, too, and if I hadn’t had Plantar’s warts on my foot and been banned from the pool for most of the year, I’d have tried out for the diving team.
My brothers didn’t play ball in school…the younger one, Dale, was on the wrestling team for a few years, but that was difficult for me to understand as well.
I remember one time, back when Joe was about five years old…he was spending a few days with us and he and his grandpa were watching the Vikings play one Sunday afternoon.
I was in the kitchen fixing supper and I could hear them cheering as Dante Culpepper threw a pass to Chris Carter and he ran the ball in for a touchdown.
The Vikings were playing well that day and it was a close game. A bit later, Joe dashed into the kitchen…
‘Grandma…it’s first down and ten!’ He told me excitedly.
I didn’t have a clue. ‘Is that a good thing?’ I asked him.
His head bobbed up and down…‘Uh-huh…really good!’
‘What is a first down and ten?’ I inquired.
‘I can’t explain it, Grandma,’ he said as he ran back to the game, ‘but it’s REALLY GOOD!’
My mirror is EVIL. She lies to me. Every. Single. Day. Without fail.
She lures me close with her sparkly glass…
I can hear her calling me; ‘Come closer.’ She beckons. ‘Closer…closer. Yes, that’s right…just a little closer, my pretty.’
She cackles her evil laugh as I gasp at the sight.
A slightly plump menopausal woman stuffed into a plum-colored one piece swimsuit is reflected back at me. Parts of this woman spill out over the edges of the purple spandex.
‘Who is this broad?’ I ask. ‘Where did she come from?’
I can hear gales of laughter coming from the mirror as I gaze into the glass.
The scale has not always been my friend. Currently it, surely an evil relative of the mirror, and I have called a truce. We are on speaking terms for the moment. That could change at any time.
I have the skin of a woman three sizes larger.
In the looking glass, I have a muffin top. The skin on my thighs sags and a six inch scar on my right knee stares back at me, reminding of a failed knee replacement followed by a successful one. I have varicose veins. Spider veins, too. If I look closely, I can see the skin around my eyes crinkle when I smile and I have a bit of a turkey neck.
I’ve got nice elbows, though…and very little gray hair.
‘Who is this chick?’ I demand. ‘And WHAT is she doing in my bathroom?’
This can’t be me, I think. I am young and vital…in the prime of life. I am careful about my diet and lifestyle. I spend six hours a week in the pool. Exercising…doing water aerobics: toning and cardio. I rarely eat sweets and I don’t smoke or drink. This just can’t be me!
I have it on good authority that I am healthy. The doctor said so just yesterday when I went in for my annual physical. My lipid profile is excellent, as are my liver and kidney function tests. My blood sugar level is acceptable, and I have the blood pressure of a much younger person (116/72).
Both my parents had high blood pressure before they turned forty and heart trouble runs rampant on both sides of the family. My mother died at fifty-seven from COPD. As of July 4, 2013, I have walked the earth longer than she.
In the pool, I am graceful. I feel slim and pretty as a mermaid when I glide through the water in my plum-colored suit with my never-dyed hair stuffed beneath a black Speedo swim cap.
There are no mirrors in the pool area at the fitness center, thank the Lord!
I am always surprised when I see my reflection.
I feel toned and fit…youthful. The woman in the mirror doesn’t look bad for her age, but I feel young and vibrant…not menopausal!
The evil mirror knows I do not believe her. I tell her so every day.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the course of my life, all five-and-a-half-plus-change decades, it’s this: do NOT believe everything you see.
As a child, I remember sitting on my grandmother’s lap at the kitchen table. In front of us sat my mother’s brown Singer sewing machine, circa 1952.
I was young…maybe five or six when Grandma decided I was old enough to learn to sew.
Before I could start my project, I needed to learn the names of the different parts of the sewing machine. Grandma taught me how to thread it properly…and how to put the bobbin in correctly. She showed me how to set the stitch length and which lever to flip to stitch backwards.
Always a patient teacher, Grandma calmly instructed me, telling me how to position the fabric and guide it under the needle while keeping my fingers out of danger. She controlled the speed for safety reasons and because my feet didn’t touch the floor.
I don’t remember what my first sewing project was…I’m sure it was something simple like a potholder or perhaps a blanket for my doll.
What I clearly remember is the time and patience my grandmother spent teaching me. I remember the love. She and I were in a world of our own during those precious times.
As a teenager, I made most of my clothes, and quite a few for my mother. Occasionally, I made clothing for my best friend.
I’ve sewn many things over the years. Everything from Barbie doll clothes to wedding dresses…curtains to dog beds. I have made quilts and replaced broken zippers. Friends and relatives count on me to do their mending.
None of those things would have been possible without my grandmother’s patient tutelage.
In the late eighties, I made my husband a camouflage fleece jacket. He and I worked in the same hospital. Jim was in maintenance and I was a nurse.
Jim’s co-worker, Gregory, admired that jacket and wanted me to make one for him. He never really asked me though, it was more of an order, at times a demand…
Gregory would approach me saying, ‘Honey, make one of those jackets for me.‘
That grated on my nerves… First, I was not his ‘honey,‘ and second, I needed to be asked. I would calmly reply ‘Gregory, all you have to do is ask nice and say please.’
The banter continued…Gregory would tell me to make his jacket. I would tell him to ask.
Weeks passed; they stretched into months. Spring turned to Summer.
The duel dragged on…Gregory demanded a jacket; I told him to ask.
It became a standing joke at work, both in the maintenance department and my unit. Co-workers stopped me in the hall and inquired about the interaction. Had Gregory asked for his jacket yet? They encouraged me to stand my ground.
Three long months passed…
Gregory stepped off the elevator, strode around the corner, through the double doors and onto my unit. I was in the medication room, across the hall from the office. I heard him ask for me.
‘Jim said Karen is working today. Is she around?‘ Gregory inquired.
My co-worker could have sent him to find me, but curiosity got the better of her…later she told me that she wondered if this was ‘it’…the moment when Gregory would ask nice and say please. She chose to fetch me herself.
As I approached, Gregory stepped into the hallway.
He has a loud voice, one that carries, and it resonated in the corridor. People began to nonchalantly gather near. The unit secretary came to file documents into charts. Other nurses needed to do their charting. The unit manager had a message for his minions.
‘I have to talk to you,‘ Gregory said. I nodded. ‘Karen, will you please make me a camouflage jacket like Jim’s?’
‘Sure, Gregory. Ask your wife to call me and I’ll let her know what supplies to buy.’
Gregory thanked me and made his exit. Once he was gone, my peers applauded and congratulated me.
I had gained respect.