Today I feel like complaining. You might be wondering how this day is any different and, actually . . . it’s not. Even my complaint is recycled, but it’s a fan favorite and one that never grows old. At least for me.
Before I get started, I must preface my grievance with a simple statement that, in fact, I like one of the two subjects I am about to criticize. You might even go so far as to say I love my husband – he is an extremely affable chap. The other, *sports, is a horse of a different Cinderella story. Maybe it’s because I live with three males and grew up as a coach’s daughter, but I find my tolerance level for locker room talk has waned. *The term “sports” includes, but is not limited to: sport’s teams, sporting events, sporting arenas, players of sports, commentators of sports, spectators of sports, TV and radio shows regarding the aforementioned, etc.
When I put sports and my husband, Craig, together, I get a headache a mile long. We have left weddings early (our own) in order to watch a basketball playoff game. I labored my third birth in front of a hospital TV watching a baseball game (for kicks, I just asked my husband what game: Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, October 14, 1999 – Sox lost). He has a photographic memory when it comes to stats and for some reason he thinks I am as interested in how many touchdown passes that Peyton Manning threw in a single NFL season as he is. I’m not. (55 BTW)
His bucket-list is comprised solely of having “his” Cleveland team win some big title, playoff games he wants to attend, players he would like to shoot a round of golf with and historical plays, that if granted the power, he would change. When I once questioned him about a 1985 boxing match he was re-watching on ESPN Classic, mentioning that he already knew the outcome, he replied proudly, “Even better, I was there.”
When I first met Craig and declared that I didn’t watch much TV, he claimed the same. It wasn’t until our first holiday together when I received a new color TV and cable, that I found this not to be the case. He fessed up and shared that there had been more than one Sunday when his day started at 7:30 am and lasted until midnight watching pre, post and who-gives-a-rat’s foot, ball related programs.
Even though I am not a big fan of any game (though I play a mean game of PIG), I know how much these games mean to my husband. And now, how much they mean to me – the biggest bonus of having two boys with a fanatic is (say it with me, ladies) my free time. This year’s birthday gift to Craig was a weekend in front of the TV watching football playoffs. Between lunching with girlfriends, shopping with my daughter and a bedroom TV all to myself, it was his best birthday ever,
Some say I married my father, a star athlete in high school, college and even the minor leagues, who, at 77, still ref’s high school basketball. There is no sport he is not proficient at and excels at most – from golf to tennis and everything in between. But more importantly, he set an example of being a good-sport to his children, as well as the many young athletes he picked up and dusted off along the way.
I will admit to enjoying a great ball game every now and then – that kind of excitement invokes the nostalgia from a time long-gone. As a child, I remember falling asleep to the unmistakable radio voice of the Detroit Tigers, Ernie Harwell, as he called the game. And from my dad, as he coached the Tigers in the dark, from our living room couch.
I am a lover not a fighter. Even though I don’t always love what I don’t always fight. To explain myself, I am referring to fighting a bear. I do not love bears and I do not want to fight them – much to my mother’s chagrin.
There is a story behind this rambling mess and it begins this past summer in the small, idyllic lakeshore town of Frankfort, Michigan. My mother and step-father, Pete, have retired there and a summer visit is a must, though my sisters and I like to double up as it is easier to do battle with my mother when it’s two against one.
One of the highlights of Frankfort, besides the Dairy Freeze, is biking along a beautiful path that runs inland from Lake Michigan and my sisters and I are no strangers to this pleasurable ride. But choosing between my parent’s only two bikes is a lose-lose situation. For this particular ride, I won the throw-down and chose the men’s ten-speed from 1979 with a seat so high so that my feet left the peddle every time the wheel turned. First gear was the only gear in my sister Becky’s bike and to watch her peddle ferociously like a mad circus clown was definitely the gift that kept on giving. But neither handicap was a showstopper – see, in my family, we consider it a personal challenge to overcome the most inane and ridiculous obstacles. To break down and buy new bikes would be admitting defeat. Some call it stubborn; we call it winning, just like Charlie.
So, we’re halfway through the ride, enjoying the incredible scenery and, because I am a multi-tasker, I was talking on the phone. I did notice a couple approaching us riding extremely close together and it was only after my sister said, “Holy shiznet,” that I realized that the close-knit twosome looming ahead was actually a large black bear.
We cautiously slowed our bikes and Becky and I stared at the impressive beast, trying to put the surreal scene in perspective. He was on all fours, maybe 250 lbs, and stood in the middle of the bike path about 20 yards out. Now, I wasn’t sure how fast bears can run, but I had a feeling it was faster than I could peddle and certainly faster than Becky could. The gravity of the situation swept over me – I knew it could go either way and I am not ashamed to say I was scared shiznetless.
“Becky,” I whispered, never taking my eyes off the bear, “turn back.” I didn’t have to tell her twice – she whipped that clown bike around like a professional from the X Games and took off like a slow bat outta hell.
I, on the other hand, couldn’t get my feet on the peddles. I fumbled and stumbled and dropped my phone. Because of the high bar across the bike, I couldn’t easily lean over and when I tried, the large bike fell to a 45 degree slant. I knew if I didn’t get my shiznet together soon I might soon be dead. Or at least playing dead.
I took a deep breath, got up and turned the bike around, jumped on as elegantly as a middle-aged woman can and rode off, never looking back. Becky was 10 yards ahead, but as she heard me huffing and puffing to catch up turned her head around and called out, “Did you get a picture?”
I, unfortunately, did not. Oddly enough, it had occurred to me, but in my haste to make a speedy exit, the time to snap a photo escaped me. As I was later explaining this to my mother, she announced, “Well, you could have easily done it. Black bears are a dime a dozen around here. They’re very friendly, more of a pest actually. If you want them to move, you just shoo them away.” And then, like a cheerleader at a pep rally, she clapped her hands out in front of her and chanted, “Shoo, Suey. Shoo, shoo.”
Becky and I looked at each other with that familiar “okay, she’s nuts” face. “First of all, Mother,” I began, “We don’t know if was it was a ‘he.’ It could have been an angry female protecting her cubs. Secondly, why would I want to poke a bear? It’s not like I need to prove to him how tough I am. I admit it – a bear is tougher. In a fight he would definitely win.”
“And isn’t ‘Suey’ a pig?’ my sister added.
“You girls are making a mountain out of a mole hill. Make a little noise,” she clicked her teeth as one might do to call a cat, “they just run off. They’re scared of people, you know.”
“He didn’t look scared to me,” Becky offered, then added, “Have you ever seen a bear?”
“A thousand times.”
“Really, Mom? When?” I asked.
“I don’t remember, but I know I have.” She looked around for my step-father and then screamed, “PETE! PETE! When was the last time we saw a bear?”
“Never saw a bear, Claudia,” Pete answered from somewhere in the house.
“Well, he’s wrong. I know we have. Hmm . . . unless I’m thinking of a bobcat.” She adjusted her glasses. “All I’m saying is you had nothing to worry about. They’re harmless.”
Not two weeks later my mother, the fearless seventy-two-year old bear hunter, sent an article about a young girl that had been mauled by a black bear, 50 miles from where Becky and I were riding. Thank goodness the teenager was okay – apparently you can fight a bear and win.
As awesome as it might seem, expecting another baby, my fifth, at age 52, does not excite me. In so many ways it does not excite me. And, I know for a fact, it would not excite my husband, as we purchased and used that bag of frozen peas a number of years ago.
But in the haste of getting my last blog published (it was 2 years late), I mistakenly gave folks the impression we were anticipating another hellion. I, of course, did not realize this, until my ears exploded as people quietly discussed my state of mind behind my back, then called my parents to share their disbelief. Now, I blame them not. I, too, would question anyone’s sanity who thought getting pregnant in the throes of middle-age would be fun.
It’s not that I don’t care much for children. I like other people’s just fine – it’s mine I have an issue with. They’re a lot of work. Maybe I’m just tired – I’m going into my 33rd year of motherhood and have another six years before the last one heads out to college, the army, or prison. At that time I will have had children in my house for almost forty years.
But once again, I digress. Let’s see . . . tired, crazy, old . . . oh yeah, my parents. So, after my blog faux pas, I get an email from my mother that says, “Ha, ha ha!!!” Then she sends a shout out on social media that I am going to be the oldest woman alive to give birth, which is totally not true.
Then my dad called. “Honey,” he said nervously clearing his throat. “I just had dinner with Aunt Carol and,” he cleared his throat again, “well, this is a little delicate, but we think you’re just plain idiotic and a raving lunatic to have another baby. But we’ll support you, no matter what,” he added. “Just not financially,” he whispered.
I tried to explain to both of my parents that my blog about having a December baby is a subtle way to let people know that my new book (Merry Birthday plug) is now published and available on Amazon and at Barnes&Noble.com (Merry Birthday plug).
“Well, that’s just silly,” my mother snorted. “Why don’t you just come out and say it?”
“Social media doesn’t work that way – you need to establish relationships.” I told her. But trying to explain today’s marketing technology to the elderly (Ha ha ha) is never easy. “It’s like asking someone you just met to be your husband.”
“It worked for me,” my mother said, before covering the mouthpiece and screaming, “PETE! THE TOILET’S PLUGGED AGAIN!”
She has a point. And she has been known to think she’s always right, so here goes.
My new book, Merry Birthday (Windy City Publishers, 2013) is now for sale. It’s a children’s picture book about a young boy who has a late December birthday and is frustrated when his special day gets lost in the holiday shuffle. It has great pictures and is lots of fun to read. I think you should buy it, because, not only will you enjoy it, but it will make me feel good about myself and I have notoriously low self-esteem. It’s really a win – win for everyone.