In a few days Someone and I fly home to Michigan to attend a family wedding. Brother #4 married a woman previously married to un Cubano. She had two children by him, my (step) niece C and (step) nephew V.  My parents incorporated them into The House of Spo without prejudice. V is marrying  Z who comes from Mexico City.  Their wedding guests will be approximately half Cuban and half Mexican.  I’ve never been to a Hispanic wedding; all the ones I’ve ever attended consisted of insipid Midwestern WASPs and Catholics, known for the reserved composure. I am told V and Z’s nuptials will be quite jolly and muy divertido. I wish my Spanish lessons were more advanced as I suspect my English speaking WASP family is going to be in the minority at this soiree.  Oh well. I suppose I can sit back and watch what’s happening and see if I can understand anything what’s being said.

I am not usually a vain person but when it comes to wedding gifts I buy big. I worry if I give some humdrum middle-budget item the recipients will think I am either cheap or not doing well as a physician. “He’s a doctor, and all he gave was……” that sort of talk. When I was in my early 20s I used to give tool boxes chock-full of nuts and bolts with hammers, nails, screwdrivers, etc.  People were initially taken aback but I can’t tell you how often I got feedback from newlyweds telling me how useful my gift is. They may not often use the good china but the hammer and wrenches continually come in handy.  Nowadays I can’t pull off this gift, more’s the pity.

I recall their registration did not consist of the usual things such as silverware, china, and kitchen gadgets. Either they already got this sort of stuff or they don’t want’em. Perhaps their desire for techie-stuff is a “Latino thing” – or a sign they are in their early 20s. I think in the end Someone and I got them a moss-covered three handled family gredunza. I hope they like it.

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Every evening before I retire I put out next day’s attire. This way I don’t have think about which top goes with which socks etc. all in the wee hours of the morning before I’ve had any tea.  I pack three ensembles:

1 – 5AM dog walk attire

2 – Clothes for the office

3  – Gym clothes for the gym bag.

I am not a fashion plate; I tend to buy the same things over and over and wear them out until I begin resemble a charity case.  My clothes are neither expensive nor fashionable. Wearing the same thing day in and day out has a sort of ‘uniform’ to it – and it doesn’t require much thinking.
Dog walk attire is hardly the height of fashion. The tatterdemalion look suffices for no one sees me in the dark at this hour. Indeed, most of the time dog walk-ware is merely a continuation of what I wore to bed last night. For propriety sake I stop to put on some trousers.  If last night’s slumber-ware is too gamey I change in the morning in to a fresh T-shirt and undergarment. In the closet there is a shelf for ‘gently used’ attire worn for the shorter walks. These can be worn a few times before putting them into the Biz-bag.

For work it is always the same choice between ‘proper doctor garb’ and Spo-ware. The former consists of a pressed white shirt, (bow)tie, and dress slacks. The latter consists of khaki pants and a Spo-shirt. I used to worry about wearing bright Hawaiian-style shirts to work viz. the APA Secret Police coming to arrest me for failing to dress to contemporary professional standards but after 15 year this hasn’t happened. My bosses don’t seem to give a damn and the patients like it. In summer my office feels like an Easy-bake oven so dressing down is more comfortable. I tend to keep the more ‘wild’ shirts at home lest I am seeing a new patient that day who might have apoplexy at the sight of a shrink in kelly green and cherry red looking ready for the beach.

Gym clothes depend on what I plan to do that day. I look loathsome in a tank top so T-shirts are essential, but not too tight.  Mine come in a variety of bold colors in contrast to all the other men who dress in black, gray, black, or black.  While I am not for bringing back the short-shorts from the 70s (oh the embarrassment!) I am tired of the pantaloons-style shorts that go down past the knee making an ersatz dress.  This is a good as time as any I seem to be the only person at the gym who wears a sweatband anymore.  I find these essential for any sort of aerobic activity. I guess the other men are too cool to sweat.

I have to be a bit indecorous now: the subject of undergarments. Walking the dog or using the elliptical necessitates some sort of snug and supportive attire lest I get what Father calls “Bellman’s curse” (oh the pain).  At the office I am a 100% boxer man. At the gym if I am lifting weights I keep’em on – except if squats are on the agenda. Once upon a time this fashion-faux-pas led to great embarrassment and near arrest.

A few days ago I stumbled onto one of those on-line lists. I usually skip over these things, knowing they are mostly fronts for advertisers to expose me to their products.  However one of them caught my eye. It was titled ‘Ten things old people regret most”.  I was curious enough to go have a look-see. I was also dubious about the credibility of the list – who made this and how well was the research – that sort of thing.  I thought I would print the list here, adding my own editorial for the amusement of Spo-fans well over four feet.

10. “I wished I had learned a second language”.  This one was a bit surprising to me as Yanks tend to feel everyone else should learn to speak English dammit.  I am fairly well at speaking German, and I can sign some ASL. I am learning Spanish now albeit not well.  Indeed if it were easier I would want to learn as many languages as possible.  For no good reason I would like to learn Norwegian. No doubt due to my Nordic genetics.

9. “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard”.  This reflects on our regrets of not having had more fun in our lives. I am fortunate I like my work. However, I can see the value in less work and more time shouting and rolling down grass hills.

8 .” I wish I had been better at expressing how I felt”.   Women more than men reported this one viz. keeping quiet/mum and stifling one’s voice for the peace or whatever.  This is regret I don’t have. I think mine would be more along the line of “I wish I had kept my big mouth shut more”.

7. “I wish I had taken better care of myself”.   This one touches on better physical health habits, but I  include mental health too.  I am always watching on the physical health part.  However it is in conflict with the unwritten regret “I wish I had eaten more brownies in life and less kale”.

6. “I wish I had been more selective with my romantic relationships.”  Meaning one should have asked a few logical questions before jumping into bed or marrying someone. I think this one a tough one as how people turn out to be is mostly live and learn than the ability to choose good partners.  I don’t regret any of my exes with the one exception of an Iranian fellow (whose name escapes me) as his manic-depressive boyfriend stole my wallet.

5.  “I wish I hadn’t worried so much.”  On my tombstone they can write:  “Finally stopped worrying”

4.  “I should have gone more outside of my comfort zone”.  Amen to this one!  I challenge myself on this one all the time, especially when it comes to curried dishes.

3. “I could have given more”  At first I thought this meant money to charity, but it means giving one’s time and talent towards others.  Since I do this all day long in my job it is hard to do in my spare time. However, volunteer work sounds good.

2. “I wish I had pursued more of my personal dreams and not what other expected of me”. I spend a lot of my career trying to get people to grow into individual beings and not just become good members of this or that Tribe.  I personally connected the dots on this one in my early 30s – thank the gods or at least the demigods. Since then life is jam-packed and fun-filled. When I look back I try not to be bitter.

1. “I wish I had spent more time with people I cared about.” I can see why this was ranked #1. Seriously this I need to keep constant reminders of to not let slip through my fingers.

So there is the list.  I am curious to hear from Spo-fans what they think of it.

I finally finished a book.* This is no small task given all the other things that wave at me at day’s end, wanting my attention. I am currently reading some lofty tomes, none of them ‘going quickly’. Mr. Pepys’ diary goes oh-so-slowly. I am up to 1664 with many years to go.

We have a houseguest this Sunday – our first visitor in ages. This inspired us to give the place a proper cleaning. If I had known this would do the trick I would have invited someone/anyone over sooner.

I am pleased as Punch to report the refrigerator is running and putting out ice and filtered water. We are returning to proper levels of hydration, which is the panacea of all ills. ** There is nothing in the fridge but ice, as its contents  was tossed when it went on the fritz.  We are discussing now whether or not to go to Albertsons and buy some stables for the sake of filling it up or purchasing items for specific menus.  Mundane grocery shopping and housecleaning always evokes in me the desire to get a houseboy or somebody like him. I vote we turn one of the guest bedrooms into a separate living area for said servant.  Someone, always the Sancho Panza to my Don Quixote, find this absurd. The young lads for hire around here are all of Hispanic background.  We would end up looking both wicked old screws AND first world exploiters.  The neighbors would think we’ve gone GOP on them.

Last week Big Brothers or somebody like him came by to pick up our unwanted clothing. After ten-plus years living in AZ my sweater collection has dwindled down from a dozen to two. Goodness knows what the local charity is going to do with our heavy woolens but that’s their problem now.

It’s the tenth of the month. The cosmic calendar tells us it’s time for Harper’s heartworm pill. Oh the pain. Somehow she knows this; she quietly disappears even as we think about it.  Getting the damn thing down her is a challenge. Wrapping the tiny pill in a folded cold cut or a treat etc. doesn’t work well. Clever dog! She  has the knack to take it apart in her mouth and spit out the pill and dare ask for more. The effrontery of dogs!   Anyway this is Someone’s job. I pick up the poop so he can deal with problems at the other end.

 

*Lore – Wicked Mortals. Jolly good fun!

**Right after Lying down and avoiding things.

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good. Last month during our ‘no working fridge’ phase (oh the pain!) we bought a small refrigerator to tide us over until we figured out what to do. Happily the big fridge is repaired and we are back in business. Praise the gods – or at last the demi-gods.*

Now the little icebox is as obsolete as a temp agent; we wondered what to do with it. Taking it back to Lowe’s and pretending it was faulty would be a lie. I thought of using it as a sort-of liquor cabinet, given the high temps of AZ are not good for booze, but we already have a wine fridge, so that ain’t good. Today we brought it to my office, where it now proudly stands next to the tea things as shown below. It makes the room feel a bit like a college dorm.

There is a perfectly good fridge just down the hall in the community kitchen, so I feel a bit silly to have such. I am not certain what to put into it. I suppose I can stock The Frigidaire with beverages and fruit snacks.** The Personal Trainer wants me to ‘eat something before working out’ so this may be the means to oblige him. Perhaps I can fill it full with tiny bottles of water so when patients are thirsty I can give them something to quench their thirst. After all, I went to a medical school where the panacea of all ills was to push fluids.

It would be jolly good fun to keep a jar of Luxardo cherries with a bottle of vermouth (no rubbish) for impromptu Manhattans after those more difficult appointments, but I think not. Imagine the looks of the bosses and the APA Secret Police should they discover such was on the premises! I will stick with protein drinks and Vernors and Evian (my favorite) and leave the Buffalo Trace at home.

 

* It is not clear which god/goddess in the Greek Pantheon is in charge of refrigerators perhaps because they didn’t have such things in their day. The Norse Pantheon may fair better; one of the nine realms must have someone in charge of keeping things cool, although one could argue the entire realm is one frozen icebox in no need of refrigeration.

**I had a colleague in Seattle who kept bottles of wine in his office fridge. I never asked what he did with them.

In a world of fluidity and change constancy is a comfort. We like a lighthouse in our lives that stands still in the inconstant weather.  Alas there aren’t many of them; every year something we thought unwavering dissolves. The riddle starting with “This thing all things devours..” has for its answer “Time”.

I have been at the same job since 2005. Barring some severe lapse of judgment on my part or disaster to the clinic my postion is likely to last as long as I do. Patients find this reassuring. The ones who go away for a few years only to return are grateful “I am still there”.  Sometimes I think the ‘success’ of Medicine is to be with patients on their Journey more than what I do along the way.

I recently got a memo from The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections proposing ‘changes’. They made modest proposals to change the format, the font, the direction, and (if I don’t behave), get a new writer. This sounds like a classic case of Verschlimmbesserung* and should be resisted. There were no reasons given; I suspect they are just bored with the ‘same old thing’ and they want something new and shiny. After all they are Vikings: they are used to traveling and seeking out new places for ransacking and rapine.

While I ponder what to do with this Hobson’s Choice, I reflect on my own mixed desires for ‘same old comforts’ vs. ‘things new and adventuresome”.  I like seasonal constants but I also yearn for new things.  As I age my desire for novelty wanes. However I don’t want to become ‘set in my ways’ like an old geezer who won’t eat anything but four items and wears the same shirt over and over.  Now more than ever my inner-Auntie-Mame tells me to open a new window every day.

As for TBDHSR, I am going to delay their polite request as long as possible, hoping it slips their pugnacious Nordic memories in their next round of drinks at the Heirat.

*Verschlimmbesserung is a lovely albeit hard to properly translate German noun describing an action or intervention that is supposed to improve something, but it ends up making things worse instead. While there is good intent to better the situation it only makes matters more of a mess.

Man talking on the phone I Antique Design IllustrationsCalls home have become crafty: I have to ferret out from my parents what the hell is going on. Father’s lifelong phone protocol is to tell me the news about what my brothers are all doing, followed by some general pleasantries what he and Mother are doing. My parents are not guarded nor are they ‘deep’. This is their mode of operation for decades. In the past couple of years calls to my brothers let me know our parent’s physical limitations are more than they let on. A typical call home goes along the line Father cheerfully tells me the weather is good, they had a call from the Couks remember them?, your Mother had a fall, and how’s the weather in Arizona? I interrupt and tell him to back up to that item about Mother.  He always sounds a bit surprised I would be interested in that little leaf of news among the pile. Next I play twenty questions with him and slowly extract :

Last week Mother had a fall

While he was away  -for a while

He couldn’t get her up

He had to call 911 to hoist her up

But oh everything is fine now so how about the weather?

It’s not that they are in denial it’s just that my parents are cheerful types who never complain and they don’t see things as ominous.  If I am blunt with my concerns their two leveled house is ‘too much for them’ and they should move they listen politely and never tell me to f-ck off but merely dismiss matters with ‘Well, we are happy where we are and things are OK”. Offers to personally come fetch them and drive them both back AZ to our abode (sans stairs and sans snow) are politely dismissed on the grounds they would be away from the grandchildren. 

As the eldest, I am Time-keeper, Whistle-blower, and Chief of Police. I am glad Brothers #3 and #4 are good sons nearby to watch them better than I can. Mother’s maladies and doctor appointments are run by Brother #2, a radiologist, whom my mother considers a ‘proper doctor’ (although she doesn’t admit this).  

This makes me meditate on my own decline. I am likely to drop dead from a heart attack than waste away. Boy scout like I must be prepared just in case.  I hope I am conscious to to call it quits to independent living when that time is realized. Perhaps I won’t see a problem living among piles of unopened junk and tasks that won’t ever be done and eating directly out of cans.  

I see the parents in a few weeks when we fly home for a wedding. I may tactually forgo my role as the family Thanatos for the sake of the nuptials and the thrill they will have for having all their chicks home. 

All the same I wait for the call from one of the brothers informing me Father’s vision and/or Mother’s decrepitude has gone past the point regardless of their wants and we must do something – now. I have the guest room waiting for my share of the season rotation.  

I have a patient who tells me she routinely visited at night by ghosts. She doesn’t seem psychotic or delusional, and she is sees me for her ADHD – not for an exorcism so I don’t inquire into this much. In the appointments she tells me what’s been happening since her last appointment and this includes whose recently visited. “I was talking to my mother last night…” that sort of thing. 

I seldom remember my dreams and what I do recall never have ghosts in them. I wouldn’t mind a visit from my dead relations (well some of them anyway) but either they don’t exist or they aren’t interested.  It might be a bit awkward if they did for I am now at an age when I am older than some of them when they died.  I am now old enough to be Grandfather’s older brother. Then there would be all the explanations. I sleep with my cellphone at the ready lest I am paged.  Conversations with my great uncle Milo (who died in the 70s I recall) would probably be blighted by having to explanation things like cellphones, the internet, and Donald Trump.*  If there is enough time to get through these sort of talks and around to how they are doing and where are they are the next set of awkward conversations  would be how did I turn out and where is my wife and who is that man next to you etc. 

Maybe the reason no ghosts (kin or otherwise) disturb Urs Truly’s slumbers is I’m boring and they are away conversing with our more interesting relations. I was never the centre of attention at parties so why would it be any different for the dead?  

After I kick the bucket I think I would like drop in on my loved one’s descendants. I would be curious if they remember or have heard of me. If I should predate Someone I’d like to have a look-see at who has taken my place – hopefully someone who allows him a TV in the bedroom. 

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*I can imagine these things would be hard to believe. 

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This one is written while whizzing down (up) the highway on the road to Cedar City Utah. We are going to The Utah Shakespeare Festival.*  Typing on the laptop atop my ghost bag is challenging as I-15 is a tad bumpy. Someone is doing the driving as you can guess. As he likes to drive (code: he doesn’t like my driving) this gives me plenty of time – five hours to be precise – to type out Spo-thoughts and reflections. 

It is hard to remember there is a population problem for the drive between Lost Vegas and the Utah border has nothing in sight for hours. Although Someone is driving 80mph it feels like we aren’t moving at all for there is no parallax to remind us we are moving. 

In said ghost bag is another handful of Gourmet magazines reserved for road trips. The goal: ripping out recipes for ‘someday’. It looks like I am getting to the end of them – finally. As I get easily car sick I can’t read in the car but I can play games on the iphone.  That’s good for while but my hummingbird brain doesn’t focus for long. To avoid the deplorable road trip pitfall of eating nasty chips out of boredom I am glad to have my laptop. I can tidy up the photos and the half-made lists I made on the last road trip to pass  the time. 

If all else fails I can stare out the passenger window and go into a dwam. My mind is seldom sitting still so it is both refreshing and uncomfortable to be ‘off’. I imagine it is what yoga or meditation is like. It does make the miles and hours whiz by as if in a dream – or a dwam. 

It’s been said the destination is not as important as the journey. Whoever said this hasn’t been on a five-hour road trip through the Mohave desert sans billboards sans exits sans everything.  Besides, at the end of this trip is theatre with contraband whisky. I am counting the miles. 

 

 

*They do a find job but there is no booze. It is definitely BYOB Bard. Some of us are going to need a little fortitude getting through “The Merchant of Venice”. Someone says it is probably illegal for me to sneak in one of those little bottles of whisky the type bought on airplane trips. I don’t think I am so much an alcoholic but a malapert. 

Today after work we drive to Utah to attend The Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City. [1] I plan to pack a deck of cards; I hope to get Someone interested in playing some games. I am not very good at cards – any of them. Even at solitaire I tend to lose. All the same I enjoy them immensely if only for the comradery and the bridge mix. [2]

My paternal grandmother was an avid card player. She was The High Priestess of Bridge. [3] She was so serious about it she would get impatient and cross at partners who were slow or bunglers. I asked her once to teach me how to play but she refused. She believed if I learned how to play Bridge I would neglect my school studies and become an card-addict. Ironically no one played Bridge at my age then or now so there wasn’t a good chance I would degenerate into a street two-hearts-trump sterno bum. My parents play Bridge in a variety of Bridge clubs. I’ve often wondered if the social glue of these parties is what’s kept them going into their 80s happy and well.

Another card game often played in the Spo-house is Cribbage. Father still occasionally grumbles on the phone he’s been ‘skunked’ again by Mother but I daresay he lets her win at times (or it is through him I get my poor card playing skills). Someone and I have a cribbage board but I can’t right remember right how to play.

The third card game Spos play is Spite and Malice. It is a sort of two-man Solitaire. Someone and play this one and he always seems to beat me. I joke he has more Spite and Malice in his temperament than I do.

On the rare occasion when we play with others Euchre is popular which is another card game of which I have no grasp. Three-quarters through every round of euchre everyone seems to divine how it is going to end and throws down the cards in the sudden revelation what’s the point in going on it’s done. This always leaves me bewildered how the hell does anyone know so let’s back up. [4]

Brothers #3 and #4 are very fond of Poker. I have never played poker. I tried to learn Bezique but there is no one to play with. I read in the old days Bezique often led to arguments ending in murders and suicide. I think this alone is worth having a look-see into the game. Scottish Bridge has a similar bad reputation with less bloodshed but more curse words.

There are some store-bought card games too. Uno is fun, easy to play, and better played in a large group – like my men. It is another card game that sometimes leads to fisticuffs. Someone and I are fond of Sushi-go! in which you make sushi plates for points. This one tends to whiz by like pinochle but the cards are pretty. I have a vague memory from my youth of a card game involving car trips and mileage. The card directions were in French and it had tire punctures on the cards.

Currently my eldritch nephews are playing a couple of morbid sounding card games. One is called Guillotine. [4] The other is something about Werewolves. I’m told the loser of the game is deemed a werewolf by the winners and shot at dawn. Perhaps it is a good thing card games are on the way out.  Between Bezique and the werewolf thing it’s just too dangerous.

 

Spo-fans are invited to tell me what are your favorite card games. Are there any you recommend I try?

 

[1] They do a fine job, but there is no booze for sale at intermission. It’s definitely BYOB.

[2] I like the chocolate covered raisins most.

[3] I don’t remember if this was Auction or Contract Bridge. I don’t know the difference really.

[4] Needless to say I am not invited to euchre games. Stirges.

[5] I can only imagine the goal of the game.

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