memories, nostalgia

Call the COVID Coven!

My friend Sara works as a nurse on the COVID ward at the Mayo Clinic. Back in May, she was complaining about how hot and uncomfortable her extreme personal protection equipment is. I thought her descriptions of it sounded kind of kinky, so I wrote a short story for her. I was mainly blowing off steam.

A couple of nights ago, she said I should write another short story. I was kind of surprised about that, because I wondered if maybe she didn’t think the first one was too bizarre. She said it was definitely “weird”, but also hilarious.

I used to love to write fiction. It was a great way of escaping the world, especially when I was in graduate school. But now, when I write short stories, they tend to be inspired by real life events rather than my imagination. But anyway, just to indulge Sara, I came up with a story proposal on the fly. I asked her what she thought of a story about a “coven” of 19 nurses, living in a dormitory as they tend to the COVID-19 patients.

There could be a core of nurse characters who live with each other in one unit, ruled by a cranky head nurse named Hilda who refuses to watch anything but medical dramas from the 1970s and 80s and has sexual fantasies about Pernell Roberts and Howard Keel. They could wear the same barbaric PPE and develop friendships as they eat bean dip and drink tequila shots on their nights off work.

Can you tell I recently overdosed on Call the Midwife? Now that’s a great show! Unlike Doctor Foster, the laughable drama I watched on Netflix this week, Call the Midwife has excellent and believable writing, likable characters, and fascinating storylines. I’m also a big fan of Doc Martin, another British medical show with elements of quirky comedy. No, I’m not a Brit, but my earliest years were in Britain and I’ve always had a fondness for the original motherland. Too bad all my ancestors migrated to the United States.

I was trying to post something yesterday, but WordPress was all weird and wouldn’t let me publish. I tried several different browsers and nothing worked, so I decided to just take the day off. It was rainy and depressing outside, so I watched the Netflix documentary about the Challenger disaster. I remember when that happened. I was only 13 years old, and living in Virginia, where we were dealing with a severe ice storm. I was not in school the day the space shuttle blew up because of the storm. The extreme cold was also one reason why the disaster happened.

Watching that series made me remember when I was 12, back in 1984. I had a really cool social studies teacher named Mary Kaylor who made class fun. She used games and “munchie days”, as well as videos… and I distinctly remember that before we’d start talking about the Revolutionary War, she’d discuss current events with us. I remember the fall of that year, Baby Faye was born with a rare heart defect. She was given a baboon’s heart in an effort to keep her alive until a human donor could be found. She died having lived a month. We talked about Baby Faye a lot in that class.

I also remember this teacher talking a lot about the Soviet Union and its leader, Konstantin Chernenko, who only lasted a few months before ill health sent him to the grave. He was a forgettable leader, but I remember him well because of that class. I don’t remember that much else about what we learned that year. She was a really good teacher, though. When I had her, she was very young and just starting her career. I wonder where she is now and if she’s still teaching.

It just goes to show you that you never know how you’ll touch someone. I mostly had very good teachers when I was growing up. They were all decent people, at least, but many of them were also good teachers. Some of them went on to do big things, too. My former homeroom teacher from tenth grade is now president of North Greenville University in South Carolina. I knew him when he was just starting his career, and it’s so cool to see where he is today. We keep in touch on Facebook.

I also had the privilege of attending a small college in Virginia (now a medium sized college). Twenty-six years after graduation, I still know some of the professors there, and they know me. My husband, who went to a much larger and more prestigious university, is flabbergasted by that. Of course, he finished college in 1986.

Anyway… lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the “good old days”. I didn’t realize how good they were back then. I wouldn’t want to relive them, but they are fun to revisit sometimes. And I like to post stuff like this on occasion so people don’t think I’m a total nut.

I’m glad it’s Friday, even though I doubt we’ll do anything special this weekend. COVID-19 is ramping up again over here, so restrictions have been renewed. I would rather stay home than deal with them. Fortunately, I’ve got things I can do, like work with the new dog and practice guitar… and write weird kinky stories for Sara. Maybe I’ll do that tomorrow. As for today, we have the heating oil delivery to look forward to… something else that doesn’t happen that much in the United States.

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memories, mental health, politics

Get the woman a snack…

A friend of mine shared this today on Facebook…

Good advice. I would also advise proofreading.

When I saw this, I was suddenly reminded of a story Bill told me about his ex wife. Bill’s ex is quite narcissistic. She has a way of turning the most trivial and ridiculous issues into huge dramatic events. She would take any mundane situation and turn it into a test of Bill’s love. Inevitably, he would fail, because nothing he did was ever good enough. And sure enough, that’s what she did one day when they stopped at a gas station and she wanted a soda.

Bill went into the gas station and bought his ex wife a plastic bottle of Dr. Pepper. When he handed it to her, she immediately got upset. Why? Because it wasn’t a fountain drink. Ex claimed that if Bill had really loved her and cared about her feelings, he would know that she prefers fountain drinks with ice in them to bottled ones. The rest of the road trip was spoiled by the heavy cloak of resentment that hung over them as they sat in the car, fuming at each other over the wrong soda.

Naturally, this seemingly insignificant event in their marriage turned into a huge row that Bill still occasionally talks about years later. It wasn’t so much about the soda, and the fact that Bill brought her a bottle instead of a fountain drink. It was about her constant need to test him, and to find ways to criticize him for anything and everything. It was her way of trying to stay in charge by turning on her rage machine and forcing Bill to be on the defensive. That kind of behavior, which she frequently indulged, was crazymaking. He never knew what would set her off.

I have experienced the same kind of treatment. It mostly came from my dad, who was not a narcissist, but did suffer from alcoholism. There were times when he could be very reasonable and calm. Then, there were times when he would freak out over something totally innocuous. And it was hard to tell when he would be calm and reasonable, or when he would blow up in my face. It caused a lot of anxiety. And then the anxiety would turn to depression, because there was nothing I could do to anticipate or stop the surprise attacks. All I could try to do was avoid my dad, who was supposed to be a “loved one”.

I think that’s why today, I have such a hard time with people who are verbally abusive. I can’t deal with people who yell at me. That’s a very quick way to get on my no contact list. Verbal abuse is not acceptable. It causes invisible psychic damage that makes it harder to trust. If you’re a decent person, and you don’t enjoy conflicts, you’ll soon find yourself walking on eggshells around this type of person– people who are always looking to be disappointed and critical.

Fortunately, I don’t really think that much about Ex anymore. It’s amazing how liberated I feel from her now, since Bill’s younger daughter started to communicate with him. I now see her as more pathetic than anything else. But I know that she still wreaks havoc toward anyone who is forced to be around her or deal with her. And she is remarkably similar to other narcissistic types we know… like Bill’s wartime boss, who delighted in fucking with people’s heads in Iraq. As if being at war isn’t bad enough!

A person has to be pretty miserable to ruin a road trip over a bottle of Dr. Pepper. Frankly, I love it when Bill brings me snacks. He knows what I like, and even if he brings me something unexpected, I usually end up enjoying it. Because if he brings me a snack, it means he thought of me. That, in and of itself, means he cares. Now, if he brings me something loaded with mushrooms, that would probably hurt my feelings. Bill knows I have a phobia of mushrooms. But Bill would never do that, even if we were fighting. He’s just not an inconsiderate person.

Moving on…

I didn’t actually mean to write about this today. There’s a lot I could rant about. For instance, I saw the below picture on Facebook as I was waking up this morning…

Absolutely unacceptable! Shocking this this is going on in 2020! Sadly, I don’t think contacting the police will even help, since a lot of police departments are staffed with the same types of thuggish creeps.

And I could also write about the dipshit white supremacists who plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, supposedly to put her “on trial”. What the fuck? Where do these people come from? And what gives them the idea that they have the right to kidnap elected officials? What did they think the outcome would be?

I think Donald Trump, who is also a narcissist, emboldens these people into thinking that he’s going to let them turn America into their warped vision of what they think it should be. Sad to say, their ideals are steeped in racism, sexism, and classism. On the other hand, if Gretchen Whitmer were a man, I doubt they would have ever tried this. These white supremacist fuckheads think women are inherently weak. I’m just glad they were dumb enough to reveal their plans on social media, so they could be dealt with properly before Governor Whitmer was hurt.

You would think that people could see that our leader, much like Bill’s ex wife, is toxic, crazy, and turns little problems into big ones. This morning, I actually saw a news article about Trump demanding that Hillary Clinton’s emails get made public. Why? I guess it’s because he’s losing big time in the polls and is scrambling to get people to talk about something other than the pandemic. But honestly, in 2020, who cares about Hillary Clinton’s emails? She’s not running for president. It’s a lot of much ado about nothing. Same as the bottle of Dr. Pepper versus a fountain drink.

“Anna Mae, just take the cake please.” I feel like people like Ex, Trump, and Bill’s wartime boss are like Ike Turner, force feeding everyone their bullshit.

And good people– good leaders– like Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who enacted policies for public health reasons, end up being targeted by dipshits with guns who think that America should be a place where the women are kept in their places. They’d prefer them to be beautiful, quiet, and docile… and just take the cake, please. It’s positively sickening. But it’s always sickening when abusive jerks get the upper hand.

Anyway… it’s time for breakfast. Bill made me a big snack. ūüėČ

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dogs, memories, obits

A year without Zane…

We had kind of a scary day yesterday. Our dog, Arran, didn’t seem to be feeling very well. He had a tragic look on his face, seemed to have trouble jumping, and when I touched his back, he yelped in pain. Arran is ten or eleven years old. He’s always been very healthy, but he’s not getting any younger. We also had a rather active weekend. He got walks and went with us to our visit to a winery on Friday night, as well as a day trip to Kallstadt, which is where Donald Trump’s grandparents were from.

Bill was worried enough about Arran yesterday that he took him to Tierklinik Hofheim, which is a really high speed veterinary facility near us. Our former vet down near Stuttgart told me, back when I was struggling with our other dog, Zane, that Tierklinik Hofheim is one of the best veterinary hospitals in Germany. I used to worry about how I would get Zane there, if he needed their services. It’s a good three hour drive from where we used to live. Now, we only live about twenty minutes from Hofheim, and about a year ago, Bill took Zane there and got the devastating confirmation that he had canine lymphoma.

We had hoped for one last month with Zane, but he was gone a week after our regular vet told us she suspected the disease. August 31, 2019 was a sunny, hot day. We found Zane that morning, exhausted and curiously bloated. It turned out he was bleeding internally from a ruptured tumor in his spleen. By noon, we had said goodbye to him. It was very sad for Bill and me, but as dog deaths go, particularly from cancer, it wasn’t as horrible as it could have been. Zane had a good last week. He was able to eat, bask in the sunshine, and even take a couple of walks.

We have now lost three dogs to canine cancer. Zane’s death, while certainly not easy, was much kinder than the deaths of his three predecessors. Our first rescue died of a very rare mycobacterial infection that required special testing by the Virginia Department of Health. Our second had prostate cancer. Our third, wonderful MacGregor, died of a spinal tumor. All three of those dogs endured excruciating pain that was barely touched by pain medications before we helped them to the Rainbow Bridge. I did not get the sense that Zane suffered pain as much as he did exhaustion and discomfort.

It was a terrible shock to lose Zane so quickly after finding out how sick he was. Zane was always a very special dog to me. I’ve loved every dog we’ve had, but Zane and I had an incredible bond. He was like a ray of sunshine most days… always friendly, mostly laid back, often hilarious, and happy almost all the time. He loved to play games and had a comical side to him. He also loved to snuggle, especially in my lap, and he loved running and playing, even though he was kind of fragile and needed a lot of veterinary care over his almost eleven year lifespan.

This is all Zane.

I usually get a new dog about a month after losing one, but this time, it’s taken a lot longer for a lot of reasons. We tried to adopt a new dog a few months ago, but he escaped before he managed to come into our home. I knew he was doomed as I watched him run away. We live close to two Autobahns, and the new dog, who was from Sardinia and apparently not very socialized, didn’t know us. Sure enough, he was killed before twenty-four hours had passed.

Bill and I are now expecting to bring a new dog into our home in about a month. The new dog is from Kosovo and, for now, is known as Noizy. I’m not sure if we will change his name. I don’t always change my dogs’ names when I get them. It depends on how fitting they are to their personalities. I have heard that Noizy isn’t actually very loud, either. Anyway… I expect Noizy will also be special because all dogs are in some way. I have yet to regret adopting a dog. Even the one we tried to adopt in March ended up doing something positive.

First off, the lady who runs the Tierpension where we board our dogs when we take trips thought of Bill and me when a German family “dumped” an elderly cocker spaniel named Maxl. Maxl’s human “dad” had died, and his “mom” was unable to take care of him. Family members brought him to the Tierpension and asked the staff to help them rehome him. Maxl had some health issues that were neglected, plus he’s about twelve years old. A couple tried to take him, but Maxl was too “stinky” and, for whatever reason, they decided not to take him to a vet but, instead, brought him back to the Tierpension.

Since Bill and I had already committed to taking in Noizy and I know that Noizy will probably cause angst for Arran, we declined to take Maxl. However, I did share Maxl’s information in one of several Facebook groups I joined because of the dog that escaped. I had been wanting to spread the word and ended up staying in the groups. A group member in the Pets of Wiesbaden group decided she could take in Maxl, and within a couple of days, he was in his new home. If not for the dog who got away, I probably never would have joined that Facebook group because my experiences with Facebook groups in Stuttgart had kind of soured me on them– especially the ones affiliated with the U.S. military.

And secondly, there’s Noizy, who’s about two years old and was found wandering the streets of Kosovo when he was a small puppy. He’s missing most of his tail and part of an ear. His rescuer thinks maybe some kids mutilated him. I haven’t met Noizy in person yet, but I’ve seen many pictures and videos. I have a feeling we’re going to get along fine, although Arran may not be too happy to have to share us with a new friend.

As for Arran… he seems somewhat better today. We are going to take him to the vet. He’s due for a checkup anyway, and we’re going to update some vaccines that we stopped giving after he had a mast cell tumor. Zane also had mast cell cancer and that was probably what led to the lymphoma, but Zane’s mast cell cancer was much worse and more active than Arran’s was. Arran just had one lone tiny tumor that was low grade. That was five years ago, and he’s not had another since. Zane, on the other hand, had lots of lumps and some systemic involvement. He held on for three years until lymphoma took him– lymphoma often strikes dogs who have had mast cell tumors. It’s not recommended to give vaccines to dogs who have had mast cell cancer, although we have kept giving the rabies vaccine because it’s the law. Since both dogs had mast cell tumors, we stopped most vaccines for both of them. Arran hasn’t had another tumor, so he’s probably alright to get boosters now.

I still think about Zane every day. The house has seemed kind of empty with just one dog around, although it’s also been peaceful and Arran has kind of morphed into a better behaved dog. But Arran is mostly Bill’s dog. Bill is Arran’s favorite person, even though Arran does his best to pay attention to both of us. All you have to do is look at the many photos I’ve posted of Arran and his habit of worshipping Bill every day. I don’t need to be worshipped… neither does Bill… but it would be nice to have a dog of my own to snuggle while Arran basks in his love for his “daddy”.

Hopefully, Noizy will like me as much as Zane did.

Anyway… for those who are curious, here are a couple of videos I made to remember Zane. They show his progression from adorable “teenaged” pup, who was originally named Einstein and fresh from Atlanta Beagle Rescue, to venerable old man living in Germany and acting like a brilliant canine ambassador. We were very privileged to know him and have him in our lives from December 13, 2009 until August 31, 2019. Sometimes, it even feels like he’s still hanging around.

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book reviews, memories

Repost: Reviewing John Peale’s Just How Far From the Apple Tree…

This is a repost of a book review I wrote in 2015. The book was written by my former philosophy professor, Dr. John Peale. I am posting the review as it was originally written in 2015.

Yesterday, I¬†posted about my old philosophy professor, Dr. John Peale. ¬†My post was about my initial impressions of a book he wrote in 2012 called¬†Just How Far From the Apple Tree: A Son in Relation to His Famous Father¬†as well as a couple of memories I had of college, when he taught me. ¬†I admit my first post about Dr. Peale is a bit critical and negative. ¬†Having just finished his book, I think I can be a little less critical with my review, which is what I’m going to write today. ¬†I found the second half of the book more engaging and interesting than the first part, which was mostly about his long academic road to being a full professor of philosophy at my alma mater, Longwood College (now Longwood University).

Dr. Peale’s book is mainly about his life and some of his experiences growing up the son of famed preacher and author Norman Vincent Peale.  He writes Just How Far From the Apple Tree as I would expect a professor to write.  His style is scholarly and somewhat formal, with no contractions or slang.  Though he does use the first person as he relates his life story, the book comes across as more than a bit dry.  There were a few times when I swore I read the same passage twice.  I hadn’t read the same passage twice; instead, Dr. Peale had repeated himself.  My guess is that this book didn’t get much attention from an editor.

The second half of Dr. Peale’s book, the part I hadn’t yet read when I wrote yesterday, shows a side of him that is more relatable to me.  In that portion, Peale comes down from the academic high horse and writes about things he’s faced.  I mentioned yesterday that Dr. Peale has battled cancer and alcoholism.  He writes that he has been diagnosed with cancer three times.  The first time was in 1991, after a trip to China.  His wife spotted a crusty lesion on his back that turned out to be melanoma.  I believe he was dealing with the melanoma when I had him as a professor.  Ever since 1991, he’s been living with cancer.

Dr. Peale is also an alcoholic.  Having read about his battles with alcoholism, I have a bit more empathy for him.  I grew up with an alcoholic father who exhibited a lot of the same behaviors Dr. Peale describes in his book.  In fact, in some ways, I think Peale’s situation was worse.  My father, to my knowledge, was never arrested for drunk driving.  Dr. Peale was stopped three times.  The first time was in 1971 in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.  A lawyer managed to get the judge to reduce the charges to reckless driving, sparing Dr. Peale’s record until many years later, when he got drunk in his office and decided to try to drive to Hampden-Sydney College.  He ended up running off the road and passing out in the car, where he was confronted by a police officer who spotted the almost empty bottle of gin next to him.

I must admit, I was surprised to read that Dr. Peale was caught drinking and driving, was arrested, and had come very close to spending the night in jail.  He was charged with a DUI and finally entered treatment, but continued to drink.  The third time he was stopped, the cop let him off with a warning.  It took a little later before he finally hit bottom and admitted his problem.  He went into rehab and joined Alcoholics Anonymous.  Unlike my dad, Dr. Peale was able to quit drinking entirely and has apparently been off the sauce since March 2000.  I applaud him for that.

Reading about Dr. Peale’s struggles with drinking reminded me of my dad…  finding him in various positions in a state of extreme inebriation.  Like me and my mom, Dr. Peale’s wife found her husband passed out more than once.  Like me and my sisters, Dr. Peale’s children had to deal with their father’s anger issues, much exacerbated by booze.  Dr. Peale writes that most alcoholics are angry people dealing with deep, unresolved pain.  I believe it.  I saw it firsthand in my own immediate family.  Dr. Peale’s pain apparently came from his experiences being his father’s son and feeling like he couldn’t measure up.  He writes that he once felt like his life amounted to nothing.  He didn’t appreciate or value his accomplishments.  He felt ashamed of who he was and drank to try to erase that feeling of shame and despair.  His story is one I can relate to. 

I think Dr. Peale’s book improves dramatically beyond the 45% mark.  The first part of it was off-putting to me and reminded of me of my in person impressions of him.  The second part, the part where he actually reveals part of himself that is painful and personal, redeems the effort that went into reading his book. 

Dr. Peale is obviously very committed to A.A.  He is one of the many people it’s worked for, although not everyone is as successful with it as he’s been.  I think it helps to believe strongly in God for A.A. to work.  Dr. Peale believes in a higher power and I think that, along with having a sponsor who is a good friend to him, has helped him overcome his addiction. 

Anyway… ¬†I’m not sure his book is something that would appeal to a lot of people. ¬†I think it could appeal to people who are interested in the Peale family, but only if an editor revised it and removed the redundancies and stiff, formal, academic style Peale uses. ¬†However, as a former student who attended the university that employed him for so many years, I will say that I found some value in¬†Just How Far From the Apple Tree. ¬†If anything, it was a good reminder to me that everyone has a story and everyone is fighting a battle of some sort. ¬†While I didn’t necessarily appreciate Dr. Peale as a professor, I can appreciate him more as an author.¬†

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memories

The times my dad taught me about enemas, hemorrhoids, and prostitutes…

Today’s post may be disturbing or triggering to some people… Personally, I choose to laugh at these memories, but some readers may not find them very funny, since technically a couple of them are about what many people would consider child abuse. Anyway, you’ve been warned… proceed with caution.

In the interest of writing something that doesn’t have anything to do with current events, I’m going to share a few stories about my dad. Regular readers of this blog may know that my dad and I didn’t have the easiest relationship. He was basically a very good man and he was an excellent provider. But he was also controlling, uptight, and an alcoholic who was occasionally abusive to me. Despite that, he definitely had his moments of hilarity… especially since he was so uptight and military, and I was… well, I was kind of outrageous and frequently shocked him. Case in point, people who know me well, regularly send me this kind of stuff on social media. For some reason, they think I’ll like it.

For some reason this morning, I was reminded of South Park and the episode during which the South Park kids ask Chef (RIP) about prostitutes. He doesn’t want to tell them, and expresses exasperation that they’re putting him in the position of having to explain such a thing. The kids finally goad Chef into bursting into a song about prostitutes, which includes a poor impression of James Taylor…

“Dagnabbit!”

This morning, after I enjoyed a hearty laugh at this memory, I was reminded of the time I asked my dad about prostitutes. Picture it. The year was 1981, and I was about 8 years old. I’d been riding on the bus, where I endured daily bullying from the asshole kids who had grown up in Gloucester County. My parents had just moved us to the county months before, so to those kids, I was a “come here”. However, as Gloucester didn’t then and still doesn’t have a maternity ward in its hospital, a lot of those kids were born “over the rivah”, like I was.

I was born in Hampton, Virginia, as were some of my Gloucester native classmates. A lot of the other “natives” were born in Newport News or Williamsburg. Those nearby cities all have maternity wards. The difference was, they were raised in Gloucester from birth, while I moved there when I was eight. But since my parents ended up staying there for 29 years, I think a lot of them think of me as a “native” now. Anyway, I digress…

Those kids picked on me mercilessly every day, both at school, and on the bus. I used to come home in tears all the time. I was different. I was also obnoxious, but I was just trying to fit in and make friends. For some reason, one day I told one of the kids about the time one of my male cousins offered me money if I’d show him my private parts. To put this in perspective, when this incident happened, I was six or seven years old. He was two years older, so he was eight or nine. I doubt this was anything more than pure childhood curiosity. It was definitely innocent on my end, although I don’t know what my cousin was thinking. We never got along and I’ve never asked him about it. He’s probably forgotten all about it.

Before we lived in Gloucester, we lived in Fairfax County, up near Washington, DC. University Mall, a glorified shopping center that was kind of like an enclosed mall without a roof, was right behind our neighborhood, and I was allowed to go there by myself– completely unthinkable today. There was a Giant grocery store and a High’s convenience store, where I could get candy. My aunt and her family lived in our neighborhood, so I saw my cousins regularly. They were close in age to me and used to walk me to and from school. So when my cousin offered me what seemed like a lot of money just to show him my vagina, I trusted him. Because, at that point, I was not taught that any part of my body was “private”, per se… Remember, it was the late 70s, and he was my first cousin.

Some hours later, my parents found the money and questioned me about it. I told them what happened, and they returned the money to my aunt. I think she gave my cousin a spanking, and that was the end of it. I never came away with the idea that there was anything weird about the story, so I guess I told it in an attempt to fit in with those kids. But the kids on the bus laughed at me, and called me a prostitute. I had never heard that word before, so I didn’t understand why it was so “funny” for eight year olds to call another eight year old child that.

That afternoon, my dad was working in his frame shop, the business he ran out of our house. I asked him what a prostitute is. Our conversation went something like this.

“Dad, what’s a prostitute?” I asked.

“What?” He was pretty shocked at the question, and his brow furrowed because I was so young to be asking.

“What’s a prostitute?” I repeated.

“Where did you learn that word?” he demanded.

“I heard it on the bus.” I replied.

My dad got a look of disgust on his face as he explained.  “A prostitute is a woman who sells her love to people.”

I was a little confused, since love is supposed to be a good thing.  Selling is legal.  So is loving.  So is fucking, for that matter.  But I didn’t press him for more details, because he looked kind of pissed.  

This was the very first issue of Mad Magazine that I ever read. I recently read that Mad has ceased production.

A few years later, the neighborhood pervert, who used to refer to his penis as “the home of the Whopper”, gave me my very first issue of Mad Magazine. I loved reading Mad, back in the day, and I still enjoy it, even though it was introduced to me by a person who used to regularly show me pornography, completely unbeknownst to my parents. They thought of him as a good neighbor and a friend. He even babysat me once or twice, even though he used to show me Penthouse, Playboy, and a strange quasi-medical book called The Sex Atlas. Again, I was very innocent, so I didn’t think what he was doing was wrong. I used to watch whatever I wanted on HBO and was rarely monitored by my parents. It wasn’t until I was much older that a mental health professional told me that what my neighbor did was technically considered sexual abuse of a minor.

Anyway, there I was reading Mad Magazine… I was maybe ten or eleven years old. And I came across yet another word I didn’t know. The word was “enema”. There was a feature on doctors and the running gag was a physician who would prescribe enemas for everything from a sore throat to hemorrhoids.  Naturally, as a somewhat sheltered kid, I didn’t know what enemas were.  I also didn’t have access to Google in those days, so I asked my dear old dad.

My dad was a somewhat formal guy.  He had a sense of humor and could be funny when the mood struck him.  But he was also very military and conservative and he didn’t approve of my raunchy sense of humor. To put this in perspective, my dad– who served almost 22 years in the Air Force– once blushed seven shades of red when Bill told him what “Charlie Foxtrot” is a euphemism for in the service (cluster fuck). My dad didn’t like swearing or other “inappropriate” talk. In retrospect, he probably didn’t like it because it reminded him of his father, who was also an abusive alcoholic, and swore a lot. He and his father did NOT get along.

Still, I was totally innocent about enemas, and my dad didn’t mind teaching me about such things.  I had never heard of them and simply wanted to understand what they were so I could get the joke in my favorite magazine. Our awkward conversation went something like this…

“Dad,” I asked, “What’s an enema?”

Dad put down what he was doing and said, “What?”

“What’s an enema?” I repeated.

He got a strange look on his face and said in a rather matter-of-fact tone of voice, “An enema is a very uncomfortable and unpleasant procedure in which someone forces a tube up your behind and flushes out your bowels with liquid.”

“Huh?” I asked, suddenly shocked and grossed out.

“It’s very unpleasant and uncomfortable.” my dad reiterated.  I guess he hadn’t heard of Fleet’s, which are somewhat less horrifying than the old fashioned enema bags he was likely thinking of.  

I started thinking about it and wondered if my dad was speaking from personal experience.  He probably was, come to think of it.  But somehow, I knew better than to ask him more specific questions about enemas. To this day, I haven’t yet experienced an enema. Certainly not one like he had described. I have witnessed Bill going through them, though, since he’s a man of a certain age.

And then there was the time I asked my dad about hemorrhoids, but all he told me about that was that your intestines come out of your ass and bleed on your underwear.  That happens to be factually incorrect as well as disgusting. 

I really could have used Google when I was growing up, but if I had, I wouldn’t have these funny memories of asking my dad about inappropriate things like enemas and watching him struggle to tell me about them without blushing.  At least I never asked him about douching.  And at least this post has taught me how to spell hemorrhoids. It takes practice, that’s for sure. 

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