Obituaries Aren’t Us

Death is never humorous. It’s the obituaries that sometimes are.

Years ago when someone died, forms were filled out by the deceased’s loved one at the funeral home, then it was sent to the local newspaper for the obituary editor to compile into a well-written, just-the-facts, notice. Within the last fifteen years or so, our local paper has allowed self-written essays (for a fee, of course. The more words the better) in the obituary section. This has produced the gamut of writing styles and decimation of the English language. It also gives the reader insight into the family’s dynamics, whether the writer intended to or not.

This morning I was sipping my jolt of high-octane coffee when I nearly choked. Not from the hot liquid, but from a 95-year-old woman’s obituary. It ran three half-page columns exhorting her privileged life.

This is the part of the obituary that had me just about spew my coffee:

“Despite recommendations and pressure from bank trust officers to diversify the family’s (stock) portfolio, (deceased person) followed the wishes of her parents and held the (certain company) shares, some of which were purchased more than 100 years ago. The company continued to pay through the Great Depression. It is a quintessential long term investing story of which the family is very proud. The family is grateful for her faith and vision in the benefits (of) long-term stock investing.”

I’m sure the family is very grateful.

And then, about a year ago, another family seemed to have a hard time expressing how bereaved they were. They lamented that the deceased woman’s children and grandchildren now “lost a piece of their minds” over her death.

I am so sorry brains were wasted in the process.

There is also the improper use of grammar that has me become apoplectic. But that, since I wish to remain calm, is for another day.

Lost Among the Gurneys

December 9

7 am–I’m at the hospital, wondering as I wander. My older son needs minor surgery today. As he’s whisked away on a gurney,  I’m told to sit in the waiting room, right around the corner.

Five minutes later and I’ve lost my way. I finally meander into a waiting room but the lights are out and the coffee machine is stone cold. I am in desperate need of caffeine and a map of the place. I wonder if they’ll find me.

7:45 am–After flagging down another lost person, we find our way to the correct waiting area. I settle in but realize that I lost my purse. A wonderful young man who works here probably sees a woman who looks like she’s in the early stages of dementia. He helps by walking me through the hallways to where I first sat, then after retrieving my errant purse, guides me safely back, past patients being wheeled on stretchers and gurneys into the sunrise. At least they know where they’re going.

9:30 am–After three cups of coffee and four bathroom breaks, I see my son being wheeled on a stretcher down the corridor. I rush after them. The transport person eyes me and says, “We looked for you. You must have been in the wrong waiting room.”

December 10

My older son is out and about. I’m on the couch, resting up from yesterday’s ordeal.

 

Meal-in-a-Box (Pass the Wine, Please)

After seeing so many ads for how I could be my own chef with ingredients picked out just for me and a few hundred-thousand others, I was ready to order at 50% off my first shipment.

But wait. I had to choose whether I wanted shellfish, meat, vegetarian, vegan, non-GMO, organic, natural, low-sodium, gluten-free, or surprise-me. Instead I picked up the phone and dialed Pizzas Are Us, poured a glass of healthful red wine, and composed this ditty about my vexation of too many choices with these boxed ingredients for a meal. (The names have been changed to protect the innocent.):

House Chef, Blue Chef,

isn’t there a Wine Chef?

Day Basket, fruit basket,

I think-I’m getting-looped basket.

Hi Fresh, farm fresh,

I really want a pizza fresh.

Carnivore, herbivore,

are there any fries du jour?

Black Apron, burnt apron,

too-close-to-the-stove apron.

Gluten free, cage free,

I’m-terribly-confused free.

Chop, stir, flip, stir,

the-meat-fell-on-the-floor stir.

Peas roll, carrots roll,

another glass of wine roll.

Fast food, quick food,

I-really-need-my-fix food.

And so the doorbell rang, and my boxed pizza came to me, cooked and piping hot, and my gleaming appliances and perfectly pressed apron stayed clean.

Cheers!

HOLIDAY OVERLOAD

Holiday Goodies

There’s always something

last minute to do,

like dashing downtown

only to stand in a queue.

Or tying up packages

with bells and some bows,

then forget what it was

we had wrapped–oh no!

The sound of sweet carols

fill the night air,

but try as we might,

our minds are elsewhere.

There are cookies to bake

and eggnog to buy,

yet we haven’t a clue

what we put in the pie.

Remember the reason

our homes are bedecked,

so sit down awhile

and take time to reflect.

May you and your loved ones

have joy, love, and peace,

and in the new year

may blessings not cease.

(Now go put your feet up!)

–Anne Skalitza

SUMMER’S OVER (hear me sigh)

The air is crisp,

my walk is brisk,

to lose the weight

from funnel cake.

I breathe in deep,

the climb is steep,

 summer’s over,

must get over…

…chocolate ice cream,

(now a dream),

 cannot forget

 sweet baguettes.

Boardwalk food–

cannot brood

for greasy fries,

 tomato pies.

Oh, barbeques!

I pay my dues,

and exercise

for waist resize.

~ Anne Skalitza~

SLINGING THE RAILROAD BLUES

We, the traveling family of four, lurched through several train cars to the dining car. Somewhere between the Asleep-By-Six car and the Beware-Of-Children-Screaming car, part of our party became separated. You’d think we were on different continents, the way a few of us reacted once we were reunited (oh thank you dear God!) at our assigned table. As we readjusted to this wonder of finding our family members on a speeding train where no one can get off or lost (except maybe among the bathrooms on the lower level), a server marched over to us. Directing her words at me, she remarked how I have to enjoy the trip, not get my britches in a knot, and well, chill.

I was puzzled. I was the one who was okay; I had known where everyone was. I was merely looking forward to a meal and a glass of wine. The server parted by rubbing my back. Hey, if I wanted a massage, I’d go to a spa, and bumpy train rides were in no way spas.

As she moved on to the next hapless family, she wore a satisfied smile like she changed the leadership of the state we were traveling through. The three members of my entourage debated what just happened and segued into who of our little group was at fault. I drank my wine.

Needless to say, the Pinot Grigio was especially refreshing. We held on to our plates and glasses and silverware as we swayed along with the passing houses, farms, and fields. We, the passengers, refrained from singing the railroad blues, and chatted and laughed and drank. We wrestled cutting the sirloin steak with butter knives since on a jolting train, steak knives could be lethal. Needless to say, with all the energy directed toward trying to eat and half the food landing on our laps, our caloric intake rivaled that of a two-year-old’s.

After dinner, I made my way through the dining car, sidling past the server, and thankfully she didn’t rub my shoulders. But I could have sworn I heard her whisper, “Don’t get upset about food stains. It’s all good.”

I wished I had saved my strawberry ice cream. It would have looked lovely on her crisp white shirt.

Haunted Groceries

I like ghosts just as much as they like themselves. Occasionally they put on a show, either for our entertainment and theirs (they’re bored perhaps, watching us dull humans), or they want to make a statement. I believe it’s more of the latter.

For instance–two of the houses I’ve lived in have had ghosts. One house had  the spirit of a small child who padded around in the middle of the night, ringing bells that hung on the inside of the doors, playing with my sons’ toys (he or she loved trains), or opening kitchen cabinets, playing with the mixing bowls, then walking away. The house I live in now has a spirit who likes to play with some sort of tiny ghostly metal ball in the attic, rolling it across the boards while we (try) to sleep. Or once when I was angry, she shoved my shoulder so hard I lost my balance. (And yes, a ghostly hand feels very real.) I told her to knock it off and she floated away.

Today I shopped at my favorite supermarket, the kind where the employees know my name, my sons’ names, and my husband’s job. It’s like meeting up with old friends every Tuesday (discount day). I stood chatting with two employees at the head of Aisle Nine when a package of candies flew off a hook nearby, as if thrown by an unseen hand. Laughingly, I said, “So you have ghosts here now.” One of the employees nodded her head and the other said, “We’ve always had them here.” Mind you, this is a store that is only twenty-eight years old, built on a horse farm. What spirits would wander a 24-hour, brightly lit, supermarket, where horses used to roam?

I must have looked bewildered because they began to regale me with stories of framed pictures of their coworkers being flung from the wall, or, like in the tossed bag of candy I witnessed, throwing a pizza or two at a passer-by.

So now when I push my shopping cart up and down the aisles, I’ll be watching the shelves and my head. I really do hope, though, that the people I meet there are all on this side of the grave.