sky of mottled grey
snow flakes flying through the air
wind that hurts my face
If the pungent stench hadn’t first assaulted my senses, the tiny footprints in the remnants of snow on my deck would have led me to believe that a small feline intruder had been in my entrance way and left its fluidic calling card.
I am no stranger to the repugnant smell of cat pee. I have suffered before and was doing it again as the essence of the foul beast breached the sanctity of my nasal passages and made its way into my throat. Before my morning vision had even the slightest chance of coming into focus the very solemnity of my home, as well as my olfactory nerves, had been violated by my neighbor’s cat.
Now, before you judge me on the basis of these words, I do not dislike cats. I appreciate their ability to be detached yet affectionate. I admire their commitment to their sense of self. And I applaud their propensity to be indifferent and intrigued at the same time.
That being said, I do take offence to a four-legged creature of the non-canine variety befouling a room in which it has no business being present. Cats do not, and will not, live in my home. Allergic reactions aside, I have a colored past with these anciently domesticated beings and, in putting my differences aside, I have come to the realization that we make better strangers than friends.
I have repeatedly admonished my dog for wanting to run into the neighbor’s yard when she sees this territorial interloper, but I have since rethought my initial position. My dog is merely protecting the rightful place that is her shelter. She is simply defending her home against enemies, feral or domestic. And she is attempting to preserve my nose from the offensive fragrance of future feline fearlessness.
I do not consider myself to be a “food snob” but there are certain things that are either right or wrong when it comes to the kitchen and food preparation. Sure, bastardized versions of many dishes have been made popular over the years to appease the increasing number of dietary restrictions, but there is one thing that I find offensive if it is messed with and that is spaghetti.
One of my dear friends shared a story with me (mainly because he knew I would lose sleep over it) about “the incident” that may haunt me for the rest of my days.
We are both twirlers. We take great pride in reaching into that steaming bowl of pasta with a fork and twirling that spaghetti, either on a spoon or in the bowl, until a pleasing mound of pasta is gathered in a beautiful spiral pattern. There is something very fulfilling about the twirling process and the effort to twirl makes the reward of the first bite that much better.
It was a day like any other. He had been out working in his shop and could almost smell the pungent aromas of tomatoes and spices wafting through the air. As he neared the house, the scent of the sauce was accompanied by the fragrance of a fresh baguette, lathered in garlic butter, toasting in the oven.
She was there to greet him with a glass of wine and, as he got cleaned up from his day, she then busied herself getting the table ready for dinner. He was eager to sit down to a heaping bowl of what he thought was going to be a fantastic meal. Once he had seated himself at the table, she presented a bowl that looked very similar to this:
What promised to be a meal fit for a King turned into a meal fit for a toddler. I can only imagine the amount of time that elapsed while he gaped at the bowl in front of him, trying to be appreciative of her efforts but not commenting aloud about the egregious choice she had made. She had sacrificed everything that is good about spaghetti and had broken the noodles into bite-size pieces.
He felt the harness tightening, encasing him in the invisible high chair in which he now felt trapped. He repressed the urge to turn into that toddler and throw the bowl to the floor while he struggled to come to terms with the embarrassment those noodles must have felt. He suffered in silence along with them as he spooned the unrecognizable pasta into his mouth.
Years later, I now suffer, not so much in silence, with him. A law of nature was twisted that day – the day the spaghetti broke.
It is no secret that I love words. I like to articulate my responses in a way that is concise without being too verbose, but I do like to phrase my answers in a meaningful way – especially if I am replying to a significantly valuable question. I want people to know I have truly ingested the words they have spoken and taken the time to formulate a well-constructed response.
But there are those less wordy than I, those who choose to avoid the commitment of a lengthy answer and spare any unwarranted emotion by responding with a simple, one-word comment. While that single word may convey the necessary feedback to the initial query, sometimes the person posing the question is left thinking that the responder cannot be bothered to take the time to formulate a proper retort.
Upon chatting with a friend, he told his tale of how he had fallen victim to the easy out of a one-word answer. He had received a rather detailed text and he simply wrote back “Sure”. After I had admonished him for his complete avoidance of all other words in the English language, we both had a good laugh.
He was incensed by his own lack of effort and every time he repeated the word ‘sure’, we laughed even more. After we had expelled all the laughter we could, obviously at his expense, he thought it would make a great idea for a blog post and asked if I would be able to write about it. I said the only thing I could think of – “sure”.
For those unfamiliar with the bird in the above picture, this seemingly benign creature is a Black-Capped Chickadee. They are tiny in stature and extremely friendly once a level of trust has been developed. I would spend countless hours as a child sitting outside on our deck with a handful of sunflowers seeds charming these little creatures to land on my hand. I would marvel at the heat produced by their tiny claws as they gripped my fingers and admire their courage to trust a human feeder.
I became much smarter as time went on and removed the actual bird feeder altogether. I was the only source of food for these feathered friends and slowly became the Chickadee Whisperer. These beautiful little birds would jockey for positions on my outstretched hands and graze on the seeds that I willingly provided. More often than not, I would have to leave my perch to fill the supply of food but they were anxiously fluttering around the deck awaiting my return.
On one particular occasion, I had gone inside to replenish the supply of seeds and had unwittingly left the screen door wide open. One lone Chickadee flew into the house through the open door and, like a Kamikaze pilot on a suicide mission, thrust itself straight into our living room and landed squarely between the shoulder blades of our long-haired Lhasa Apso, Misty. She had been sound asleep on the couch but the shock of having a foreign object entangled in her fur was immediate and Misty leapt off the couch to shake the intruder loose. The more she shook, the stronger the bird held to her hair.
Not knowing which creature was more terrified, I watched Misty go from disbelief to panic in milliseconds. As Misty began thrashing like a bull being ridden in a rodeo, the bird held fast. The movie 8-Seconds had nothing on this bird. It was going for the World Record and the seconds began to tick on the clock. Misty, realizing that a mere shaking of her shoulders was unsuccessful, jumped off the couch, taking off like a shot into a full run. She lapped around the circuit from living room to kitchen to dining room and the chickadee hung on for dear life, riding that poor Lhasa Apso like it was going for Gold in the Olympics. (I had to stop writing for a moment because I’m laughing too hard to type)
If you’ve ever watched a horse race and really concentrated on the jockey’s hands on the reins and position on the horse – this is what the poor Chickadee looked like riding my dog through the house. I made vain attempts to catch the dog so we could rectify this unsettling but extremely hilarious chain of events but I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to focus on the task at hand.
After I finally caught up with the dog there was a great deal of panting. I was panting trying to catch my breath after laughing so hard. The dog was panting because she was probably moments away from having a stroke, and the bird was even panting – perhaps thinking a few more seconds would have garnered that coveted position in the Guinness Book of World Records.
With a great deal of wrestling, we finally held the dog still long enough to cut the hair in the death-grip of the birds feet and finally took that poor Chickadee back outside to give it the freedom it so rightly deserved. World record or not, that was one hell of a ride! After this scene, that could only be described as something from a movie, my mother and I both had to change our pants. It will live as one of the most cherished memories of my childhood and I think about that rodeo ride every time a Chickadee graces my feeder.
What is your funniest childhood memory?
I may not always follow the letter of the law when it comes to my health. I have been guilty of eating things that are more processed than my hair after it has been freshly dyed. I have been known to imbibe in some alcoholic beverages which is frowned on….depending on which new study you read. And I have been culpable of using over-the-counter nasal sprays that wreak havoc on my blood pressure.
Thankfully I am not a hypochondriac and I only take up space in my doctor’s office when I truly have a medical issue or need a prescription refilled. The moments are few and far between that I will put myself through the painstaking process of arriving considerately early at the office, getting in exceedingly late for my scheduled appointment and then feeling like I am taking up too much of my physician’s time by asking questions.
It took me a while to warm up to my doctor’s “desk-side” manner but I truly appreciate the fact that she does not sugar-coat her curative banter. I have had my share of real health issues that warranted a trip to the hallowed dominion of her office and I came out wondering if there were a few chapters in her medical books that other doctors had not been privileged enough to read.
I had a severe case of Pneumonia two years ago that could have possibly been diagnosed as a lung infection. I had been so sick that I purposely subjected myself to a walk-in clinic…..in the middle of the afternoon…….on a Saturday. After being prescribed a drug that made me feel like I had been chronically licking a tire-iron for a week, I made an appointment to follow up with my doctor.
I was given the good news that the intensely strong medication had its desired effect and my lungs sounded relatively normal. During the course of my regaling her with my intermittent trips to the office while sick with Pneumonia she casually expressed a few primitive medical terms, obviously from the book that only she received in med school.
The first archaic phrase was uttered and I was called an “idiot”. This is a much shorter version of the 19th Century diagnosis that was identified as a “profound intellectual disability”.
Approaching with caution, I summoned up the courage to then mention the truthful number of times I had been to the office, and out in public, during my illness and I was then diagnosed as “stupid”. I have since examined an alternate medical journal a little more closely and found that analysis of my symptoms to be defined as Fecal Encephalopathy which, roughly translated, means “shit for brains”.
I have always held on to the hope that my doctor has remained on the cutting edge of technology, that she is one of the few rural doctors that truly has her finger on the pulse of modern medicine. What I had not prepared myself for was the fact that she was reverting back to honest medicine and just calling a spade a spade.
For those about to panic and skip by this blog, this is not a collection of words about childbirth. This musing is about Magnetic Resonance Imaging or, on an alphabetical scale, an MRI.
I had reason to have an MRI on my knee two years ago after it had swelled to the size of a slightly deflated football. In hindsight I should have contacted Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, but instead I opted for the less challenging task of calling my doctor. After her skillful medical prodding determined I was not a hypochondriac, I was placed on a waiting list for an experience I am hoping to forget but probably never will.
I am not new to hospital procedures. I have had my fair share of expensive medical equipment scan parts of my body that only a skilled technician should see. I just regaled a few friends with this tale about how a mammogram and an ultrasound have been the cause of many laughs. (If you need a good laugh, click on the link. It’s a really good story). But having an MRI is an experience like no other when you are prone to enjoy open spaces and breathing normally.
I had done my best to mentally prepare for what I assumed was similar to a Sensory Deprivation Chamber. I arrived early to undertake the task of filling out reams of paperwork which only made my pulse race faster than it already had been. I dressed myself in the latest hospital fashion and was led to the room where I would spend the next 45 minutes trapped in a small vessel that made up for its size with its sound.
I can only be grateful that I was not fully immersed in the tube-shaped magnet that would send pulses through the layers of my being. My head was allowed to be free of the cage in which my body was being held hostage. With headphones blasting horrific music and the thrum of the machine making me wish that I had chosen to be thrown from an airplane, the scan ensued.
I tried my best to close my eyes and concentrate on the disconnected notes playing on the music channel they had chosen for me. But I am a curious sort of person and that doesn’t always bode well. After mistakenly hallucinating for the duration of the scan, I realized, after the torture was over, that the wall to my left was a live-action wall and that birds had been flying across the screen while I lay, coma-like, on the bed of the scanner. I was relieved to know it was the hospital’s sick sense of humour and I was not having an aneurysm. At the end of the process, I was birthed from the giant womb that is the MRI machine and sent, in my swaddling clothes, to the change room to retrieve the belongings that represented freedom – my clothes and my car keys.
I have a dear friend who, as of this morning, will have undergone his first of two MRI’s last night and I can only hope he weathered the first of his two storms with as much of a consequent sense of humour as I now have about my encounter.
And although it is an unpleasant experience, I do hope his womb with a view can provide answers that will help him move forward and begin to feel like himself again.