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.


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…


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. 


Piss and vinegar…

Ever heard that expression? It goes something like this. “Wow, that bitch is full of piss and vinegar today!”

Lately, that’s kind of been me. I’ve been very cranky lately. I have less patience than I used to have, and I get irritated by small things. I have always been easily perturbed by certain stuff, but lately it’s been more of an acute problem. I suspect it has to do with aging and hormones. Or maybe I’m just unusually bitchy lately.

I don’t know how it is for other people, but for me it seems crazy that I’m as old as I am. It seems like I wanted to be older forever. As a child, I couldn’t wait to be sixteen. Then I couldn’t wait to be eighteen. Then, it was twenty-one that was the magic age. I didn’t mind the years that came after twenty-one. I wasn’t even upset when I turned 30 or 40… And now I’m edging closer to my “late forties”, and it feels like I’m on the edge of a mid-life crisis, even though I’m probably already past mid-life. I’ll never be a mother or a grandmother, and I always thought I would. I probably won’t ever be a “career woman”, either, though I always thought I would. Now I’m looking forward to the hormonal storm that I know is just around the corner… I haven’t experienced any hot flashes yet, but I know they’re coming. I watched my mom and sisters have them, and now some of my friends are experiencing them. Some of them are younger than I am.

Things certainly haven’t turned out the way I thought they would. Having Bill’s mom around for the last week is a reminder of how much craziness we have both endured, mainly owing to Bill’s ex wife. I don’t feel the need to write about her so much anymore, mainly because one of Bill’s daughters reconnected and I’ve learned that it wasn’t all my imagination. Ex really is as batshit nuts as she’s seemed all these years… and my complaints about her weren’t unfounded. Moreover, as much as I despise her for the awful, incredibly damaging things she’s said and done, she now seems like a truly pathetic and sick person. I almost pity her now. I certainly don’t fear her. So, since I’m full of piss and vinegar today, here’s a story about Ex. It might be a repeat, but if it is, chalk it up to my aging memory.

My mother-in-law, Parker, told me a tale about something Ex did when she and Bill were still married. At the time, their children were very young, and Ex, apparently feeling spiteful and nasty, took Parker aside and said, “You know, Bill and I don’t think you’re a suitable grandmother for the children.”

As Parker’s face probably registered shock and horror, she continued, “You wear short skirts and high heels, and you dye your hair… and you don’t wear a shawl or sit on the porch in a rocking chair. You’re just not an appropriate grandmother figure for the kids.”

The funny thing is, I don’t think Ex had a grandmother that fit this description, either. In fact, from what I’ve heard, Ex’s grandmother and her mother behaved much like Ex always has, only worse… and since Ex was adopted, this behavior was almost certainly learned, and not caused by organic mental illness. She learned to use her children as weapons to keep other people doing her bidding. And as the children have become adults, she uses her younger children to keep the older ones “in line”. She also has a habit of co-opting the innocent into her accusations. Bill would never ever say that his mom isn’t an “appropriate grandmother figure” to his daughters. He loves his mother dearly, which is probably why Ex hates her so much. MIL, like me, has Bill’s best interests at heart and, because of that, he listens to what she says, which helps him resist Ex’s craziness.

I had heard this story several times before and it’s always outraged me, but this time, Parker put a hilarious spin on it. I told her about how, back in Virginia, on the one occasion I met Bill’s daughters in person in June 2003, Bill said he was going to call his mom in Texas. Younger daughter, then about nine years old, said “You mean, GrandmaMAH?”

I remember thinking that was kind of a pretentious moniker for Parker, although since I’d only known her for about a year, I wasn’t sure what the reasoning behind that was. And the truth was, back then, she had seemed kind of flashy and sexy to me. In those days, she was a competitive ballroom dancer. I figured maybe she was just kind of eccentric and never really questioned it until just a couple of days ago.

Anyway, Bill called his mom. Younger daughter was the only one of the three– we also had Bill’s then teenaged former stepson visiting– who would speak to Parker on the phone. Sixteen years later, I told Parker about how younger daughter had referred to her as “GrandmaMAH,” and Parker laughed heartily and said she was surprised that younger daughter had remembered that name. Then, she told me what had prompted it.

After Ex had told Parker how “inappropriate” she was as a grandmother to the children, Ex then asked Parker what she wanted her kids to call her. I’m actually surprised that Ex bothered to ask, since she usually just does whatever she wants without regard for anyone else’s input. Parker was so pissed off and offended by Ex’s declaration of how she wasn’t a suitable role model or grandmother for the kids, that she snapped “Just tell them to call me GrandmaMAH!”

And, in a rare show of compliance, Ex did just that. Six years later, younger daughter was still calling Bill’s mom “GrandmaMAH!” Of course, it didn’t really matter, since Ex cut MIL off from the kids and, for many years, they basically considered Bill’s stepmom their grandmother. They call her Meemee, and Bill’s dad is Pawpaw.

After talking with Bill’s stepmother, we learned that Ex had pretty much done the same thing to her. She’d imply that Bill’s mom was a “better grandmother”. Since SMIL and MIL have never gotten along and don’t speak to each other, this triangulation effort brought about by Ex was highly effective in further alienating them from each other and hugely successful in keeping SMIL “competing” with MIL to “win” the role of the Ex approved “grandma”.

SMIL needn’t have bothered, though, because Ex has always hated Bill’s mom and did her best to ruin their mother-son relationship. In fact, though Bill’s mom tried hard not to interfere in Bill’s relationship with Ex, MIL finally told him he should get a divorce. Why? Because months before the divorce, Ex had set it up so that Bill and his mother would spend Christmas together, then she called Parker before Bill got to her house and told her she shouldn’t let Bill stay with her over the Christmas holidays, after all. She said he was an abusive pervert who hates women and that he would probably try to kill her.

Ex said similar things to Bill’s stepmom, who actually believed her for a time, and she no doubt also told her friends, church members, and most importantly, the children, these egregious lies. When Ex did finally drop the divorce bomb on Bill, and much to her surprise, he readily accepted, she blamed MIL! She said Bill was only agreeing to the divorce because his mom had told him to! Sure, Ex… it had nothing to do with your setting up a Christmas visit between Bill and his mom, and then telling Bill’s mother ahead of the visit that he was an abusive pervert who wanted to murder her! You know what? I suspect that Ex’s comment to MIL was actually projection, but that’s just me…

For years, I have been full of piss and vinegar about Ex to the point of obsession. But now, since there’s been more talking and the truth is coming out, I have less… at least when it comes to Ex. Now, I just think she’s a ridiculous fool and I feel sorry for everyone who is forced to be in her sphere. She’s truly a sick woman.

Parker is no longer known as “GrandmaMAH”. Since younger daughter is back in contact with Bill and his mom, she asked Parker how she’d prefer to be addressed. Parker told her to call her whatever made her comfortable. She says younger daughter finally settled on “Nana”. They have had a few Skype chats and traded emails. Younger daughter is now getting to know her long lost grandmother and her father after way too many lost years.

Parker and I shared a good laugh about that story. I admire her for having a little piss and vinegar inside, too… a little spunk. Sometimes, people need a spritz of it when they step over the line.

Lately, I fear I’m full of more piss and vinegar than usual, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. I’m getting older, which means I have less time for stupidity and bullshit. When people give me a hard time, I’m inclined to give it right back to them. Why not? I don’t usually go looking for it. They almost always come to me. And if it means people think I’m a sour old bitch, so be it. As long as I’ve got Bill and a steady influx of canine company, I’m doing alright. I don’t like to be bitter and nasty, but being nice doesn’t always yield good results. And sometimes tossing off a little nasty spunk yields hilarious results… like telling your narcissistic ex daughter-in-law that the children need to call their grandmother “GrandmaMAH”!