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Posts Tagged ‘humor’

By Bob Chrisman



After my father died in 1984, my mother made semi-annual trips to Southern California to stay with her step-sister-in-law, Aunt Gladys. Uncle Roy had died a couple of years before my dad did. I would fly out to spend some time with them and then accompany my mother home.

During my first visit, Mom and Aunt Gladys announced their desire to decorate Uncle Roy’s grave at the VA cemetery in Westminster, California, near the Pacific Coast. At 90 my aunt had stopped going. “I’m not as quick on the highway anymore. I’ll leave that to you.”

We loaded the car with grass trimmers, scissors, throw rugs, plastic buckets, dishwashing liquid, sponges, old rags, and rolls of paper towels. My aunt directed my driving.

“Take that exit. Now be careful, Bob. A lot of these people aren’t paying attention. Lucile, look. Honey, did you see those mums in front of that grocery store? Weren’t they beautiful? Roy loved mums.”

I moved into the right lane to head back to the store. Aunt Gladys wanted mums. And my mother would want to make Aunt Gladys happy. One right turn, three left turns, and 15 minutes later we pulled up to the store. They climbed out while I parked.

When I caught up with them in the store, they had removed all the pots of deep red mums from the rack and lined them up for inspection. My mother and my aunt handed me the mums they eliminated as possible choices.

“Here, put this back where it belongs.” While I redecorated the mum display, they narrowed the choice down to three.

“Bob, you pick the one you think is the best one.”

I chose, but my choice wasn’t the best one so they bought the one they had already agreed on.

That done, we headed toward the cemetery.


A sign greeted us at the entrance:

The level of the cemetery has been raised by several inches. If you have trouble finding the gravesite of a veteran, please contact the manager located on the property.


We drove to the spot closest to Uncle Roy’s grave. My aunt and my mother tottered across the grass. I, the beast of burden, unloaded the trunk and followed.

“Now, he’s here somewhere. Lucile, you don’t think they’ve moved him, do you? That sign said something…”

“No, Gladys, they only put more dirt on top of him.”

I found the spot. “Here it is.” I dropped all of the grave decorating equipment and took the bucket to get water.

As they spread out the throw rugs, Aunt Gladys said, “Lucile, I don’t remember the grave being this far from the road.”

“Gladys, it’s always been here.” Mom yelled at me. “Don’t fill the bucket too full. We don’t need that much water.”

They had donned their gardening gloves and hats and set to work. They trimmed the grass around the stone. They scrubbed the marker with old rags and dried it with the paper towels.

“Roy and I bought an in-ground vase. I can’t remember exactly where it is, but I’ll find it.”

She pulled out a knife with a long slender blade and stabbed the ground like Anthony Perkins slashed at Janet Leigh in “Psycho.” Stab, stab, stab.

“Aunt Gladys, please stop.” Mom didn’t say a word. Stab, stab, stab.

“I need to find that vase. It’s buried here. They better not have removed it. We paid good money for it.” Stab, stab, stab.

“Wait. Put the knife down. I’ll go to the office and find out where the vase is.” Stab, stab, stab.

My aunt worked up quite a sweat. “Okay. I’m tired. Why don’t you go to the office. We’ll keep ourselves busy while you’re gone.”

I ran to the car. I knew they wouldn’t wait long to do whatever they wanted to.

I drove to the office. As I entered the building, the air-conditioning hit me in the face like a block of ice. The hot and humid outside air vanished in a room where you could have hung meat without it spoiling.

A cheery young woman asked, “Hello. May I help you find your loved one?”

I smiled. “My aunt is stabbing her husband’s grave with a knife to find the in-ground vase. To avoid injury to her, can you tell me where the buried vase is located?”

The woman’s mouth dropped open.

“Let me speak to the manager.”

She disappeared only to return with a rotund man dressed in a robin’s-egg blue polyester, double-knit suit. The exertion of walking from his office to the desk had turned his face beet red and he mopped his brow with a white handkerchief.

“I’ll show you where it is.”

I asked, “Do you want me to drive?” I wasn’t sure he would fit in the rental car.

“No, I’ll take my car. Suits me better.”

He climbed in a huge car, exactly the same color as his suit and rolled down his window.

“Lead the way.”


When we arrived at the gravesite, I pointed to my aunt and mother busily working.

“That’s them.”

He nodded and waddled off, wiping his head and neck as he went.

When I arrived at the throw rugs, grass trimmings and dirt covered both women. The manager stared at the ground, his jaw agape.

Aunt Gladys said. “Honey, we don’t need him. When we couldn’t find the vase I paid for…” she looked up at the manager. “…we simply dug a little hole and planted the mums on top of Roy.” She looked very happy. They both did, but the manager didn’t.

“You…you can’t do that.”

“Can’t do what, young man?”

“Can’t go around digging holes in the cemetery. It’s…well, it’s grave desecration.” His color had grown much redder. Sweat poured off his face. His handkerchief looked sopping wet. “It’s against the law to dig holes here.”

“If we had been able to find the vase, which, I will remind you again, we paid for, my sister-in-law and I wouldn’t have dug this hole.”

He took out a pocket knife. My aunt grabbed her knife, prepared to fight.

He stepped next to the stone. He jabbed in the ground and dug out some grass.

“Here. Right here.” He stood up with a smug smile on his face.

My aunt ignored him. “Lucile, look. It was right there all the time…under a foot of grass and dirt.”

“Next time, ladies, please don’t dig a hole.” He snapped his knife shut and waddled back to his car.

“I think I’ll report him. Grave desecration? What a bad attitude these young people have.” She extended her hand to me. “Help me up.”

With both of them on their feet, I brushed off their clothes. I gathered everything, wrapped the knife in an old rag and dropped it in the bucket. I packed the stuff in the trunk.

When I went back to help them to the car, I heard my aunt ask, “I think we did a lovely job, don’t you? Roy would be pleased.” My mother agreed.



About Bob: Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer who frequently writes memoir about his mother, her three sisters, and their influence on his life. Desecration Day is about his Aunt Gladys and his mother. Other pieces about his aunts include Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters and The Law Of Threes. He published two pieces about the life and death of his mother — Hands and In Memoriam.

He also wrote a trilogy about his father: My Father’s Witness, Bearing Witness, and My Life With Dad. Bob’s other red Ravine posts include Growing Older, Goat Ranch, and Stephenie Bit Me, Too.

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Moms are the best
to hug and to nestle
My mama’s bad ass
She can arm wrestle







Bobbi goes up against MOM...

Bobbi versus Mom, in the First Annual Arm Wrestling Holiday Championship, December 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





...and the winner is MOM!

And the winner is Mom!, photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





The holidays are just around the corner. We have tamales to make (after Thanksgiving) and biceps to beef up. Last year Mom beat at least five of us—my two daughters, myself, Dad, and my sister Bobbi—in a jolly game of arm wrestling. Mom is 83. (Did I mention she’s bad ass?)

What’s on your list of things to do before the holidays? And, what family traditions are you most looking forward to?

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Baby quenches her thirst (one), Baby the Bullsnake drinks her fill of water on a warm spring morning, April 2009, photo © 2009 by Jim. All rights reserved.




The other morning Baby the Bullsnake was lying in her empty water dish, breathing hard as if she were panting. (Do snakes pant?) I’d gone into the potting shed to water the geraniums, and as much as I wanted to open her cage and relieve her thirst, I was afraid she’d moved suddenly and send me fleeing from the shed, screaming. So I did what any sane person would do; I called Jim.

Psst…have you ever seen a snake drink?

A snake walks into into a bar and orders a beer. The bartender tells the snake he can’t serve it. “Why not?” asks the snake. “Because you can’t hold your liquor.”



Jim poured the water into her dish while Baby was in it. I expected her to jerk forward and come slithering out. But she lay there, letting the water swirl all around. She got to the task of drinking right away, floating in the water like an alligator, eyes and nostrils above the surface, mouth below. Then she appeared to inhale deeply, breathing the water in as if parched.


  




Speaking of water, Jim irrigated earlier in the week and ever since a hundred or so Mallard ducks have been frollicking in the field. They really do look like those shooting range carnival games where the little duck swims back and forth, back and forth. These Mallards swim along the channeled grooves dug into the field for the purpose of irrigation.

They’re fun to watch. They dip their heads underwater and shake vigorously. Jim says they’re pulling up the grass to eat. That’s why property owners chase them away, he tells me. I ask him why he doesn’t mind having them. Because they’re part of nature, he says.

A duck walks into a pharmacy and asks for Chapstick. The cashier says, “Cash or credit card.” “Just put it on my bill,” the duck replies.




Ducks in the field (one), pairs of Mallard ducks frollicking in the field after irrigation day, April 2009, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




Ducks in the field (two), you can just make out Mike and Mallary Malloy to the left of the Ortegas, April 2009, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





-related to posts Baby Wakes From Her Nap, Who Said Snakes Aren’t Cute?, snake awake haiku, and sticks for legs and arms.

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stress incontinence

yellow rivers by I.P. Freely, doodle © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




I had a flashback the other day. I had to pee badly, so I ran into the bathroom, unzipped my jeans, peed, wiped, flushed, and walked out of the bathroom while pulling up my pants. Suddenly I saw my mom, 30 years earlier, doing the exact same thing.

She did it all the time. Ran into the bathroom, peed, walked out while pulling up her pants. No closing the door. Just pee and run.

One time I had just come home from school with my boyfriend and two friends in tow. We walked through the front door, turned the corner toward the kitchen, and there was Mom, heading out of the green bathroom off the entryway while pulling up her Bermuda shorts over white nylon panties, the toilet flushing in the background.

She must have said something like “Oh my!” but all I remember is, she was embarrassed, I was deathly embarrassed, and my boyfriend and two friends were speechless.

Yet, that was such a “Mom” thing. She never closed the bathroom door when she peed.

And now, I seem to have inherited that trait.



tinkles 2tinkles 2tinkles 2tinkles 2




Besides the obvious aspects of our peeing proclivities (the fact that we don’t wash our hands when at home and that we’ve fallen into this loosey goosey don’t-care-if-someone’s-in-the-next-room groove whenever our pants are down) I’ve gained another insight from this flashback.

I realized that I never bother to close the door when I pee because, frankly, I don’t have time. I’ll be standing at the sink washing the dishes and then, BOOM, it hits me. I have to pee! (In Spanish, they say, “Me estoy meando,” which literally means, “I am peeing on me!”)

Maybe it’s a familial thing. Maybe it’s from having babies. Maybe it’s the last thing I ought to be sharing about myself on the blog, but for whatever reason, once my brain registers “I need to pee,” my pee seems to scream, “I need out!”

Sure, I can wiggle and squeeze and even do what my sister (who used to work with toddlers) fondly calls “the pee-pee dance.” And in a professional setting I somehow manage to hold it until I reach the bathroom. But when I’m in the comfort and safety of my home, I have a tendency to push the envelope and barely make it to the bathroom.

So I’m thinking, if I have this problem, I bet Mom also had it; ergo, Mom never closed the door when she peed because, like me, she suffered from stress incontinence.



                       tinkles (one)
                                                                              tinkles (one)



There are other signs, too. Jim plays this trick on me whenever we shop for groceries where when we get to the aisle with toothpaste and shampoo, he waits until someone is within earshot and then yells, “Honey, don’t forget your Depends!” Then he zooms off with the cart in the other direction, leaving me facing the person who’s just come down our aisle.

And there was that one time I got a coughing fit at the grocery store. I was eight months pregnant with Em, and Dee was about three years old. With an almost baked eight-pound baby pressing down on my uterus, every time I coughed I peed just a bit in my pants. (Actually, I was wearing leggings over a maternity top.) Fortunately the coughing finally stopped, allowing me to finish up our shopping and head to the check-out line. 

There we were, standing in line. One lady was in front of us, one man behind. Being shy around strangers, Dee clung to my legs. I could feel her little hand probing around the spot where my leggings were soaked, so I tried to push her away, but before I could she looked up at me, eyes wide, and said, “Mama, you peed in your pants!”

I tried to ignore her but that only made her think I couldn’t hear, so she backed up a bit and yelled this time.

“MA-MA, you’re wet DOWN THERE, you PEED in your PANTS!”

I bent down and whispered in her ear that if she stopped talking and went over to find the kind of gum she liked, I’d buy it for her. As she disappeared around the point-of-purchase display, I looked at the three people staring at me—the cashier, the woman checking out, and the man behind me—shrugged, smiled, and gazed back down at my cart.


 
                                                                                               tinkles (one)




Truth is, though, I don’t think I technically suffer from stress incontinence. I mean, stress incontinence is a pretty serious issue, and once you get to reading about the many incontinences there are—stress, urge, overactive bladder, functional, overflow, mixed, transient—well, I’m not ready to go there. 

My little problem? A bad family habit of peeing and fleeing. Or fleeing, peeing, and fleeing. That’s all.

I just need to listen to my body and get to the bathroom more frequently. And I need to start closing the door before my girls inherit our trait.

I know. My apologies. Too much information.

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Ready for Take-Off, this angel baby pooch stops to pose before marching on in the Harvest Festival Pet Parade, photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



Every year in early fall, our little village holds a Harvest Festival. This used to be a farming community, and although many fields have turned into big houses with lawns, you can still find acres of apple orchards and corn and chile crops. Not to mention the good-sized gardens and non-commercial farms that produce a bounty of fruits and vegetables. It’s definitely a time to celebrate.


My favorite part of the Harvest Festival, hands down, is the Pet Parade. The first year Jim and I moved here, we heard that the festival always kicked off with a parade for pets down the main road in the village. I’d never been in a parade before, and something inside me was hankering to walk with our dog, Roger, as observers lining the street cheered and clapped wildly.

I tied a red paisley handkerchief around Roger’s neck and headed to the staging area where parade participants were gathering with dogs, cats, goats, chickens, turkeys, and horses.

Roger, of course, was chomping at the bit. This was the most exciting thing to happen in his life, too. He pulled me from one animal to another, sniffing the spray paint on their coats and their silly wigs, hats, tu-tus, flower arrangements, polka dots, shoes, and tuxedos. Clearly, Roger was underdressed, and I towered two feet above the tallest human participant.

Still, we marched. We smiled and waved. We posed when Jim snapped our photo and then watched him stagger off holding his stomach from laughing so hard.


Nowadays, entire families march in the Pet Parade. This year there was a “wench wagon” with showgirls dressed in velvet corsets sitting in a horse-drawn carriage. (Forget the kids and pets, I’m taking my bosom to the parade!)

There’s still the odd assortment of animals. One year I saw an iguana in its glass terrarium atop a chariot, looking like Cleopatra. This year my favorite was the Chicken-Mobile (a chicken perched on a Playskool car) and the weiner taco (weiner dog in a taco shell). The goat in a straw hat was a stand-out, too.

After the parade everyone scattered for other parts of the festival. Some headed to the food court—all that clapping worked up an appetite for turkey legs and Indian tacos—while others jumped on hay wagons heading in the direction of the three-mile-long corn maze.

We made our way to the Old Church and Casa San Ysidro, where we bought tamales and burritos from a woman who scooped extra ladles of red chile meat onto your plate if you asked.

We took our food to a bench under an old quince tree and talked about how cool it would have been to take Azul and the Toms, or Sony, Otis, Rafael, or even Baby to the Pet Parade.

There was a time when I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Maybe next year.





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First, Rafael.


Oh, there’s the human taking my picture. Lemme give him this profile.





Oh no, my schauze looks big in that one. This side’s more flattering.





Wait, what am I thinking? Straight ahead is always the most dignified.






Next, Otis.


I’m here to save the day! Aha! I knew he’d love my Rin-Tin-Tin.






Finally, Sony.


Sony of the River. Strong, fast, deep. Wait, why don’t I get to stand in the meadow?





Way better. Man, mountain grass is good. Purple asters and daisies…yum-my!





I LOVE the mountains. Please, Mom, please, please can we move here??








Rafael, Otis, and Sony in the Pecos Mountains on July 22-24, all taken by Jim except for last two, photos © 2008 by Jim or ybonesy. All rights reserved.

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Oh, look, it’s the humans. They’re watching us.
Let’s give ’em a show, BOYZ!



Exhibitionist Turkeys...Ready...




Strut, aha, strut, aha…
Funky turkey, yeah, funk it up, yeah…
Ready, set…







MOUNT!
Oh, look, they’re running away screaming…
Mission accomplished. Good job, BOYZ.
Duck, get lost. You’re such a peeping tom.




Ready, Set, Mount…, Eagle Eye and her toms mating on the patio,
June 2008, photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





Other Things I’ve Learned:




-Related to post WRITING TOPIC – LIGHT AS A FEATHER.

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