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Holiday Lament

          It’s been a crazy summer where Dudley and I live: From a dearly loved relative having serious back surgery (rods and screws and nerve entanglements) to my own great grandson suffering a broken femur; from birthdays and anniversaries to just weekend dinners with the family, it’s been a rollercoaster emotionally and physically for all of us. Even Dud’s arthritis has been a constantly changing thing that shots and meds don’t seem to help. And now that autumn is finally upon us (well, this month, anyway) we are already seeing the further destruction of some of life’s greayest moments: The “holidays”.

          Dud was waxing nostalgic about the childhood delight in Halloween recently. “I remember how you never really heard about Halloween (All Hallows Eve, as once it was called), until about the middle of October. Then parents let out gentle hints that it might be coming soon, and the memory of it slowly crept into your mind.” His eyes kind of glazede over. “CANDY! The forbidden luxury of it flooded your every waking moment. It was the most excruciating two weeks you could immagine: Waiting for it was as much a part of Halloween as the actual day: Costumes had to be planned to the last detail; the limits of the route you would follow had to be negotated with your mother in advance, so you didn’t (horror of horrors) get your candy taken for going beyond the boundaries!” Of course, he was talking about the days when kids walked the streets in little groups, extorting treats from strangers without the presence of parents looming over their shoulders. In those days, no-one worried about such things as lurking perverts or sick-os who put things in treats to harm kids.

          “Hell”, Dud continued, “That store you work for actually had Reese’s pumpkin-shaped bars on display in mid-August. By the time Halloween rolls around that stuff will be stale as hell or just plain eaten up and you’ll have to buy more, anyway.” Of course, that’s become the point of all the hype over holidays: start early and double your sales! “Even those creeps at Starbuck (whom I used to admire) have already started serving the ‘pumpkin spiced’ abomination they hype every year. Pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving and Christmas-associated treat, and they’re pushing it in September!” “And for my money, pumpkin is supposed to be in PIES, not coffee or cupcakes or (God help us) beer!  I’ve seen everything from pumpkin donuts to pumpkin flavored milk, and it makes me want to puke!” Dud, of course, loves to be blunt, even though I have to admit I find pumkin pie milkshakes a bit much, myself.

          “And there’s Christmas, itself! Do you know I’ve already seen 3 christmas trees in stores? Hell, Hallmark had their Christmas ornament catalogue on display by the end of July this year. And even grocery stores are pushing people to start their Christmas party planning early so they can buy the recipe ingredients early!” I had to admit my own employer has a sign out urging just that. In fact, I’m quite sure the grocery industry is scrambling as we (I) speak to come up with an acceptable replacement for the Thanksgiving turkey dinner. They’re selling turkeys for rediculously low prices, just to get the ball rolling on all those “fixin’s” they’ll sell to go with it. If they could find a new “tradition” to push, they might be able to offer more expensive sides and garnishes to go with it, and increase profits. And while there’s nothing wrong with increased profits, are we to accept loosing our traditions in favor of something “new”? So, too, is the drive to start the Christmas frenzy earlier every year:

          “I remember when NO-ONE in the downtown (commercial) area was allowed to put up Christmas displays before Thanksgiving Day. We even made a family event out of going to Main Street and watching city workers decorate the street lamps and other tall objects with lights and Christmas decorations. That was the day AFTER Thanksgiving!” Dud was on a roll, and I remembered exactly what he was talking aout. There were several major department stores on that street, all of which would unveil elaborate Christmas displays in their large front windows on Thanksgiving Friday (as we refered to it then). Now it’s called “Black Friday”, ironically describing Dud’s point with a name that actually refers to something quite different.

          “I’m afraid that with Christmas decorations showing up in September, and holiday music playing from October to December to inspire shoppers to get fired up, we’ll find everyone pretty much sick of the season long before the event (Christmas) arrives.” I’m afraid Dud is right in that. After all, nowhere in these lines has the significance of All Hallows Eve; or of the national day of thanksgiving for the blessings we – as a nation – have received; or the greatest event in human history – the birth of Jesus Christ – had room to be mentioned, let alone considered.

vince katarzynski

 

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A Father’s Father’s Day

          It seems to me that we approach Father’s Day in the wrong way. It is usually considered to be a time when we honor our fathers for their various contributions to our lives, but we ignore what fatherhood means. When we tell dad how much he means to us, I suggest, we’ve got it backwards. Let me explain how I see Father’s Day: To me this is a day when I should get to let kids, grandkids and even great-grandkids know what they mean to me. If I’m the father figure here, I should get to set the tone.

          When my kids came into my life they accepted me into the household with open arms. With each there was a different set of rules, a different set of needs and a different set of expectations that had to be met. All siblings, but as unique and separate as any group could possibly be. Yet they all allowed me to pester, help, anger, guide, annoy, embarrass, protect and love them equally … but each on their own terms. And when the grandkids came along, one-by-one they asserted their wants and needs and unconditional love and seemed to know instinctively that whatever they did was OK with me. And now THEIR kids (the great-grand kids) are well on their way to wrapping me around those little fingers as the others had done before.

          With each of these wonderful people there is a deep, personal relationship that is to be celebrated on Father’s Day. THAT’S the magic of the day. The individual, private history of love and admiration I feel for each of these people IS the real gift of Father’s Day. And no matter who is near and who is not, those relationships are the only thing on my mind on Father’s Day. Those relationships that have taught me the meaning of joy and hope and belonging are the ones that have been the basis of the concept of fatherhood to me. I actually learned how to be a father from my kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. And to all of them I say not only “Thank you for being a part of me”, but “Thank you for taking me into your lives.”

          It seems odd to note that some of you have moved on to your own families, your own homes and oftentimes some great distance away, but the bond doesn’t seem to loosen between us. You are always still in my heart and remain as close as a phone or a visit. You are not lost to me even when I feared you would be, only sometimes it is still hard to let you know how you are missed and cared about. I hope you know this, and understand that it often goes unsaid because speaking the words can make it harder on all of us. Again, the nature of our relationships is the key. The love and closeness we feel can’t be broken because you have all become part of me and I of you. Please help me celebrate MY Father’s Day this year by letting me remind you of how very much I owe you all. And that applies no mater how far afield we go or for how long we’re apart.

Vince Katarzynski

Another Modest Proposal

          With apologies to Jonathan Swift, I have another “Modest Proposal” to put forward for consideration: Tee kids. Unlike Mr, Swift’s tongue-in-cheek suggestion that the children of London’s poor be (uh, let’s say…) used to nourish their families’ futures, I propose that poor kids be put to use on golf courses across America performing a vital and useful service as “Tee Kids”. For a modest fee, say between a quarter and a dollar, the kid would be called on by golfers of a certain age to insert the tee into the ground and balance the ball on it so the golfer could then hit it.

          Let me explain my inspiration: A week ago Dudley and I went to visit a friend in Uniontown, Ohio, who graciously took us to a local 9-hole golf course for a little much-needed practice (since neither of us had even swung a club in a year). Well, Dud and I are among the many golfers who suffer from arthritis and stiffening joints. It’s a common enough condition and one that makes bending to insert the peg (tee) in the tee box a genuine struggle. Well, when Dud tried to tee his ball for the seventh hole, it kept rolling off the tee. Each time he picked it up and replaced it the ball would again fall off and roll a little farther than it had before. Now, with his knees and back begging for mercy, Dud refused to straighten up for a second to relieve the pain and stayed bent over chasing this ball. Eventually, of course, the ball was just beyond his reach and as he tried to extend farther he simply began to fall. (I should mention here that Dud has fallen several times in recent years and has actually injured both shoulders trying the break the falls.)

          Dudley is nothing if not inventive (and of course cranky and argumentative), so he instinctively rolled as he went down to avoid “jamming” his shoulders. He ended up (quite comically) on his back, trying to get rolled over to be on his stomach so he could get back up. The trouble was that once on his stomach, he couldn’t get his arthritic knees under his rather portly self to stand. He had to kind of walk his hands backwards (towards his own belt) to get his ample backside up in the air to allow his knees to get under him. But once he was on hands and knees, the arthritis prevented him from getting a foot on the ground and forward enough to push himself up. Finally, after about three minutes of maneuvering (during which I stood behind him, laughing so hard I was completely incapable of helping in any way) our host very kindly stepped-up and held his driver on the ground like a post so Dud could climb up it with his hands and eventually get upright again. “Bastard!” he shot in my direction as he yet again teed his ball and finally continued with his round.

          So you can see, out of respect for Dudley and for the sake of smoothing my relationship with him, I came to the conclusion that a little help on the tee boxes would be a good thing. I’m sure there are enough of us in the “senior” ranks to provide a decent income for enterprising young kids (boy or girl) who would be willing to sit in outdoor chairs at each tee box, assisting the elder golfers and preventing the disastrous (if hugely funny!) situation above from being repeated ever again. I would, however, interject a word of caution here for any course owners considering using “tee kids” for their businesses: Don’t allow cell phones in the hands of the kids: The ring tones would distract golfers teeing off; the kids would get entranced by games and texts and would resent being called away to do their job; and they might be tempted to “stream” their favorite “song” (which at their age would involve some nonsensical rant that is spoken, not sung at all, at the top of someone’s lungs and would become nothing but unintelligible noise that distracts serious players from figuring out what they did wrong on that last shot.) Come to think of it, Maybe Mr. Swift wasn’t all that far off the mark!

 

vince katarzynski

 

It’s Kflembeauski Time!

          Yes, sports fans, it will soon be Kflembeauski time here in the flatlands, and this year there WILL BE a tournament.That’s right, The Championship of the Universe will take place in the Toledo Ohio area on July 21st. It’s been some three years in the making, but it finally seems all KFBGA members have been notified and with one possible exception (I SINCERELY hope not, but what happens – happens) all seem read to compete.

          In addition, Dale Tornes, a relative by way of Marge’s cousin Carole, has graciously agreed to give us all a brief tutorial and join the tourney. In view of the lack of acceptance by Tiger (a conflicting event) and Jack Nicklaus ( who no longer competes in tournaments), Dale will represent the rest of the universe. ET, as you know, is unable to use equipment designed for humans – our only restriction on entry. (I had considered asking my friend Dudley to join us, but his rather “filterless” antics on the course might be viewed dimly by both course management and other golfers alike.)

          There are, of course, details to be worked out. Location is at the top of that list, and I look to local experts Dan, Daniel and Adam to put their heads together and pick just the right (hopefully forgiving) course on which to stage the great event. Tee times can then be set. Also, although I’d like to host the association festivities afterwards, my apartment is much too small for such a crowd. I will again look to Dan and Adam to decide to post-round venue, and offer whoever hosts access to Grammie’s baked beans and Papa’s sloppy Joes if they are wanted or needed. Out of town players are welcome to contact the local member of their choice for accommodations for overnight stays. And for those who wonder about the type of course we have to choose from, simply print out a copy of this post, turn it over, and you will be looking at a topographical map of the Toledo are. If you have a choice of terrain for your particular game, by all means pick an area of the map that best suits your needs.

          Finally, I’d like to remind all (except a certain overly well-developed athlete who quite unfairly makes us all look foolish and has kept the coveted Kflembeauski Cup for FAR too long) we HAVE to figure out a way to rattle Cory enough to beat him! Remember: refer to him as “Woody”, make jokes about tattoos, comment on guys who wear those silky shorts everywhere, anything to distract him. (Sorry, Cory, it had to be said!)

          Finally, good luck to all in the tourney – yes, even Cory. And keep in mind that papa is old and racked with arthritis and probably deserves some kind of special break.

Vince Katarzynski

Socrates and a man known as Dudley

          (For the first time since I initiated this blog in December 2015, I start this posting with no title at the top of the page. That’s because there are many things to cover, and I’m sure I can connect everything smoothly. If you receive your copy with a title at the top, I guess I will have come close.)

          Greek philosopher and teacher Socrates, whom I have always admired as the ultimate believer in democracy and civil obedience and order, once said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” But I find Dudley has gotten himself bogged down in self-examination and come to some startling conclusions: “I’m a miserable failure, and I can’t deal with it,” he told me the other day. “There are so many people whom I’ve loved and held close for years who are now bolstering me and making my life a pleasure again, and I have had no hand in my own revival.”  I said I doubted that was true, but he insisted it was accurate: “Out of the blue my family and friends have scooped me up, moved me to a new home in a new town and set me up with new goals and new hopes and a fresh chance to start life over again. And I can’t for the life of me see where I ever deserved all this. Sure, I love my family and friends and try to help them if I can, but this is like a whole different level. I’ve been picked up and literally set down in a different life … a different universe.”

          He went on, rambling about how he was struggling to get someone on the right track; struggling to make a comfortable life for his wife; struggling to understand what drives some people to take contrary paths and see nothing wrong in that; and struggling to remain calm and focused while his world and most people in it seemed farther away with each passing day. Then a bunch of us packed him up, moved him closer to family and great grand kids, and gently showed him how to re-organize his life and affairs to accommodate his new life. And for the first time in his life the sarcastic, often feisty old guy found he was no longer in charge of his own destiny.

“I’ve never been ‘looked after’ before,” he said. “And I don’t know that I can or should live like this. I’ll never be able to pay back all the caring and love, let alone the support, and It makes me crazy. I’M THE ONE who’s supposed to do those things, and this all seems upside down. Backwards!” Dud was actually misty, now, and I had no words to help him.  He was gazing off into the distance and breathing heavily. I tried to tell him that all that was really happening was that the people he’s taken care of over the years were simply returning the favor, but he would not hear it. “I drew my life force from those people,” he said. “Looking after them was what completed my own existence. I got more out of caring for them than they EVER got from me. And now it seems to be over. I’m expected to share my doctors’ reports with them and admit what new part doesn’t work right this week. They want to know what I’m eating and what exercise I’ve gotten this week and they don’t seem to care that what bothers me most is what ALWAYS bothered me most: other people”

          Dud has long let it be known that the quirks and foibles of others drive him bonkers: He hates whistlers (they never whistle a whole song, just the same notes over and over); and what some call “fashion” (like the new stretch pants that look and fit like colored long-johns), or men’s suits and jeans with legs so narrow they look like the guy wearing them stole them from his sister’s closet), and anyone eating anything with mouth wide open (so we have to HEAR every smack and chomp!). And now the guy with all these criticisms of others finds himself no longer in control. No longer “superior” to those who irritate him, and he can’t adjust to the new human side of himself. I suppose I should feel sorry for old Dud, but somehow I don’t: I’m happy for him. I just hope he sees that some day,

 

The Most Devastating Betrayal

          We suffer betrayals throughout our lives, and generally come to understand their reasons and even accept them: A school chum tattles on us to save his own behind; a sweetheart is completely smitten by another and “young love” is crushed; a co-worker sees a chance to improve his (and therefore his family’s) prospects, and makes us the scape goat for his ambitions. We’ve all known these betrayals, and perhaps been guilty of much the same kind of offense against others. And betrayal brings it’s own repercussions that “even up” most scores. Eventually we see the betrayer’s reason, and forgive the offense, however grudgingly.

          But the cruelest, most intimate and devastating of all is the betrayal from within. Most youngsters haven’t the vaguest of clues as to what I might be saying, but the slightly older among us have begun the process of waking to the crushing assault. It comes from within us: our own bodies attack our selves and our worlds with the stealth of a military operation: One day you find your arms are just not long enough to read a letter or bill in the mail; you find yourself stopping to rub a cranky knee or elbow that has never bothered you before. One day a doctor tells you to start taking this or that medicine because your annual tests suggest a problem that you’ve never felt or been aware of. Your body has started (subtly at first) to abandon you. It is exacting it’s revenge for too many smokes, too many drinks, too many skipped meals in favor of sweets or stimulants.

          Then the day comes when you’re told your pancreas has started to break down and diabetes is in the frame. Or you have a heart attack and it hits you that that’s a too-accurate description: Your heart has attacked you, as mine did years ago. And you realize this as if through a flash of light, and you feel completely and utterly BETRAYED by your body – your self. The idea that this meer extension of yourself could not only let you down but actually endanger your wellbeing and your life suddenly slaps you in the face. “I’m really not indestructible! I could really DIE from this! The feeling is not one of fear or one of anger. It manifests itself as a stark epiphany of the ultimate betrayal and changes your view of the world forever. For me it’s knowing I can no longer drive a golf ball well past 250 yards: I can no longer trust my body to react to an outside assault on me or my wife while in public; I can’t even simply walk here and there while my worthless pile of Jeep is in the shop – legs just won’t make it! And for my pal Dudley it’s knowing that his gruff, blustering manner is fooling no-one. He can’t get his way by simply insisting, because people just see him as an ill-mannered old man.

          Many, many things have been written about this aging experience, but it’s the being let down, being betrayed by the one entity on earth you could always count on to support you that is the ultimate betrayal. In my mind I’m a slightly overweight, athletic man who can put the clubhead on the ball at just the right point in the swing to send the ball soaring to the green. The fact is that I’m a grossly obese 72-year-old man whose right foot slaps when he walks  (botched tendon surgery) and whose knees have lost the ability to flex and support that swing while his arthritic hands errantly guide the clubhead in any random direction for no apparent reason. (I still love the game, of course. I just can’t hope to play it with anything like consistency and skill.) That, too, is a betrayal by my body, but one not so directly related to my own survival and wellbeing. It just pisses me off.

          I think the trick , here, is to know and accept the betrayal not as a betrayal at all, but as a sign that we’ve used-up our bodies in the process of living our lives (however irresponsibly) and what remains to us is still worth using well.

          vince katarzynski

Perpetual Anticipation

          I found Dud frozen in his living room the other day. No, not physically frozen to death, even though the outside temps were in the minus digits. He was just   staring into space, a glassy look on his face. When I asked what he was doing, he said: “Waiting.” “Waiting for what?” I asked. “Anything; something; I don’t really know. Just waiting.” And I had to admit I understood his meaning.

          It is an odd thing, but having recently moved from our home town to a new environment entirely, we seem to be in a constant state of waiting for the next thing to come along. Now, these are usually good things: A birthday party; a dinner planned for weeks; a visit to a nearby town for a meeting with loved-ones from far enough away that a “meeting place” between becomes practical; doctor’s appointments or tests; etc. There seems never to be a time when there isn’t something coming up that will require attention. And in new surroundings, a new town and new State, there is much more of the air of adventure involved than would ever be involved in the old familiar stomping grounds.

          Even as I write this, I’m waiting to hear about the fate of my old pile of Jeep as it sits in a garage waiting to be checked. It didn’t start again last night, necessitating another call to Triple A. Then a call to my son to beg a ride home while I wait to hear the news. This is the same car, you’ll understand, that wouldn’t start in December and had a new starter put in as a result. And it didn’t start  again  about 2-or-3 weeks ago. That time the tow-driver did me the favor of playing around until he got it to start, so that the garage mechanic couldn’t trace the problem in a car the started fine. Finally, this time I threatened tantrum and even bodily harm if the tow-truck driver tried to “fix” anything before the garage looked at it. All I have to do now is wait for them to call.

          And through all of this I am waiting to find out how recent efforts to re-organize new living arrangements and pay down some bills will effect my plans for summer visits and (hopefully) arrange a Kflembeauski Tournament this year. (For those who don’t know, that tournament is a golf outing I invented years ago to get my family – the Katarzynskis, Beaumonts and Flemings – together for a day of golf and dinner and general fun when they are scattered farther afield each year. It works some years because time off works out, and sadly not other years because of outside obligations.) Waiting to find out if the tourney will happen is the biggest nail-biter of the current year, since it’s been FOUR years since we competed. Grandson Cory won that one, and currently still possesses the coveted Kflembeauski Cup – a used ice cream bowl that I bought in Waterford, Pa. so it could be called Waterford crystal.

          Finally, those of you silly enough to anticipate and even (dare I say it) wait for my next posting, have done me the great honor of waiting for this little message. For that I thank you, and if you haven’t really been “waiting” as such please let me go on thinking you might.

vince katarzynski

Sanity, Of Sorts

           It’s been a tough year ( “hectic” is probably closer to the truth ) and when  things pile on quickly I tend to get down on myself, and eventually I get a little depressed. I begin to dread dealing with people, dealing with problems that shouldn’t be all that big of a deal. Finally I don’t want to talk to people at all, I just want to mull whatever problem or challenge is on my plate until I over think it and make it into something huge and monstrous. Luckily, that’s usually when I remember one of the wiser things that I’ve heard come out of Dud’s mouth: “Badger’s Drift, you ninny,” he said. I had asked him how to get out of the funk I was in and he let loose in a flash: “Just go to Badger’s Drift for a while, and it’ll all start to make sense, again!”

          “But that’s a fictitious town,” I said. “Charlotte Graham created it in her Midsomer County mystery Novels.You can’t just GO there! It’s mostly just become the Midsomer Murders series from the BBC Network.

          “Of course you can, dummy, up here!” He tapped his forehead with his thumb and it slowly dawned on me what he was saying. “You said you thought it was a neat place as described in that TV series you go on about; so GO there in your head. Or to that amusement park you liked as a kid (Waldemere Park), or even that hunting camp you saw in that magazine. That’s what I do when things get me down: I go off in my mind to somewhere I couldn’t possibly be depressed for long, and before you know it reality doesn’t seem so bad. I mentally come home and start seriously working out what needs to be done.”

          Now, Badger’s Drift isn’t specifically what I use to straighten myself out, but I’m almost certain it would work. You see, it’s not the “memory” of a happy time or place that helps, it’s the joy and comfort that was felt there. It’s the knowing that there were conflicts and problems back then as well, but I was able to compartmentalize things and enjoy the good while not really ignoring the bad. I usually find that what brings me back to the here-and-now isn’t the escaping from conflict and trouble, it’s actually the LACK of those things that make “Living” in Badger’s Drift lose it’s attraction very quickly. Midsomer County is a lovely, idyllic place where head-scratching mysteries abound and beautiful scenery and people flood the senses. But ultimately you know the solution to the mystery, you know what ride you’ll like best at the park and you know what joys the hunting and fishing have in store for you. It’s all right there in your own head, and you can’t really make yourself wonder how any of it will turn out.

          Without really intending to, Dudley had shown my how to retake control of moods: By placing myself (for just a while) in a place where problems are eliminated, I start to see the value in them. I begin to realize that life without conflict is dull and becomes unattractive quickly, and that actual worries – however vexing and even maddening they can become – are what keeps the heart beating and the juices flowing. Badger’s Drift is at it’s exciting best when I’m watching a new episode and really DON’T know the solution. The real world is full of depressing, upsetting things. But it’s also part of the fabric of our lives. And yes, we can and should find a place like China or Salt Fork or a West Virginia river that was MADE for kayaking under huge bridges – any of which we can retreat to for a break. But as long as we see that simply reliving a happy memory doesn’t make NEW happy times, I think we’ll be alright.

          This, anyway, has been working for me for some time. If it ever stops helping I don’t know what I’ll try next … but I’m pretty sure I’m not likely to tell all of you about it. You have your own problems.

vince katarzynski

 

 

 

 

 

Dudley on Safari

          The sudden, distant “snap” sound as I was trying to get to sleep reminded me of a rather unusual (I was going to say “odd”, but what follows involves Dudley, and is therefore always odd) conversation I had with my pal Dudley some 20 or more years ago. Dud, like me, had been a hunter for a good part of his life, and we were talking about our “old timer’s” view of hunting. This involved ammunition ads in Field and Stream  and other magazines where men in red plaid shirts sat smoking pipes next to a quaint fireplace (always lit and warming, of course) with ancient bamboo fly rods and lever-action carbine rifles readily at hand. That was how my generation seemed to see the “outdoorsman’s life”.

          Well, Dud was saying how he missed those days at hunting camp, and the associated adventures we had there. “And I still have a hunt every fall,” he said, “even though I gave up the camp and quit going to the woods.” Obviously I had to ask how he hunted without going to the woods. “Mice.” He was actually straight-face and serious when he said this, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

          “Oh, yeah!”, he said. “Every fall the damn things come into the house from the field across the street, and they scare the bejeebers outa the wife!” He got that far away look in his eye that meant a story was coming and I had to hear the rest. “So, missing the fall hunt as I do, I grab the kid’s old BB rifle and park my butt in a corner of the kitchen and I hunt ’em.” He was actually enjoying the mental image  as he related the details. “It’s me against them,” he said. “I sit real quiet and after a while the critters think I’m gone and begin to move. They’ll stick their nose out from behind the stove or the cupboard just far enough to look around.” He was seriously into the story by this time: “I studied them over the years, and they always do the same things. They smell the food and water in the kitchen, and that’s always where I get  ’em.”

          Now, you have to know Dud to understand this, but to him this all seemed like a mini hunting trip and he was glad to recount his adventure. “I hate to brag, (actually Dudley LOVES to brag about just about everything) but even with the simple sights on a kid’s BB gun, I usually managed to get them all. I even got seven in one season two years ago!” He was absolutely beaming at that marvelous feat! “Damn wife still sets the traps, so I sometimes don’t get them all myself, but most years it’s down to me to outsmart the things and get rid of them.” (I should say here that I’m sure that, except for Mickey – who made Walt Disney the Donald Trump of  comic books, I believe Dud could outsmart any mouse I ever met.)

          He went on to explain how he’d sit for two or three hours at a time, waiting for his quarry to show itself. His wife insisted he was insane (which she still often does), and once accused him of trying to kill her with the BB gun when a ricochet tapped the wall next to her. His son also thought he was crazy, but he was a teen when he said that and all teens think the old man is crazy. But apparently this annual hunt for the dreaded mice went on for several years until it was noticed that one of the rare(?) misses had hit the gas line running to his stove and his wife said she’d leave him if he fired it in the house again. She was afraid he’d blow the house up if he hit the gas line in just the wrong way. It was useless trying to explain that the lead pipe running gas to the stove wasn’t likely to be damages by an air rifle.

           And so ended Dudley’s last desperate attempt to keep the sporting life alive. He doesn’t talk about it much, and I probably won’t tell him my trap has bagged three of the critters this “season”. And at least once one of the sly little creeps has eaten all the peanut butter off the trap WITHOUT setting it off. That, of course has MY wife speculating about evolved, intelligent mice who can outwit man-made traps. I don’t want to tell Dud about her theory, because he’d bring a lunch and set up a stand in my kitchen and we’d have to eat out for weeks until he was convinced we were rodent-free. Sigh! I guess once a thing is romanticized and gotten under your skin, it will always be with you.

Vince Katarzynski

Prescription Sun Glasses

          Prior to moving from Erie, Pa. to Toledo, Oh. I had cataract surgery on both eyes (not simultaneously) and found a “deal” on two pairs of glasses, with blended bi-focal lenses, and had one of the two tinted to make them sunglasses. (I remember calling them “shades” as a smart-guy teen, even though “tinted windows” would have been much closer to the truth.) Well, in the hectic days before moving the dark glasses predictably disappeared. Left, I thought, somewhere in the old digs for the landlord’s crew to find and toss in the trash.

          I spent the best part of the last 3 months trying to remember where I might have put the extra pair, hoping to find I’d actually had the wits to pack them with other must-haves to move with us. Now, at 72 and still getting older (thank God) I didn’t have a snowball’s chance of remembering where they were. I even went through boxes which we’ve still not emptied and found nothing. I gave myself a good talking-to about the folly of buying prescription sun glasses at my age. The EGO! The out-and-out self-indulgence of the thing began to weigh on me. And now they were gone, as if someone “up there” was teaching me a lesson.

          Well, if you’ve ever moved to a new town in a new state you’ll realize the disruption it causes in everything you do. 3 1/2 months later we’ve come nowhere near settling in and finding a “normal” for ourselves (wife Marge and I) and almost every day I find myself changing a long-held practice to accommodate either the new apartment or the new geography I find myself in. (Yes, I know about that infinitive!) And that’s why yesterday, after grocery shopping, I decided to try my wife’s idea of putting the items in the trunk of the car instead of the back seat as usual.

          As I put the first bags in,I noticed two things: First, the pocket on my golf bag where the shiny new white golf balls are kept (I don’t get to keep many of them long enough for them to get dirty), was partially open. Second, as I reached to close it I saw that there was something black showing through the opening: It was the eyeglass case I kept the tinted windows in! I’d actually put them in the place I’d need them the most – with my golf clubs. But in the turmoil of moving and adapting to a new world, I haven’t played golf this year! At all! And so sat the sunglasses, waiting patiently to be found. Sadly, it’s November 6th, with overcast skys predicted until some time in early May of next year. Dudley, my closest friend, thinks all of this is a scream. He laughed so hard when I told him that I had to loan him my handkerchief (yes, I carry one) to dab away the tears. “Serves you right for ever moving, ” he said. I should mention that Dud still resents my move, even though he pick-up and followed me to Toledo.

           Oddly, the sunglasses aren’t the only “found” thing in my life right now. For some 23+ years I worked in the Pennsylvania Liquor stores. Not a career I’d recommend to anyone, but a career none-the-less. Well, it was clear from the start that I’d have to find work here in Toledo to make ends meet, so I dutifully filled out job applications on-line (they all seem to insist that you apply on line, and that opens up another can of worms which will undoubtedly be the subject of my next blog post.) And I was delighted Kroger called me for an interview. I was tentatively offered a “shopper’s” job, and asked about work history. The next day I received a training schedule in (you guessed it) the State Liquor store attached to (leased to) the Kroger store. After rejoicing some 11 years ago that I’d never deal with another drunk, or another obvious alcoholic with that specific attitude, here I am! I’m working 4 or 5 days a week part-time, doing the same old thing. I feel like the glasses: Free for a good long time, only to have my nemesis find me hiding and start the whole thing over again! Maybe I should have left the sunglasses where they were until next season!

 

vince katarzynski