“Relax, weisenheimer!” she insisted. “We’ll find a hotel soon enough!”
Sheldn fell asleep. Myrna, anxious to prove a point, kept going. Eventually they ended up on Route 40 by the West Virginia borderline.
“Um, honey,” she started to explain.
“Now what’s going on?” he asked.
As soon as he noticed the folksy rural setting he knew they were in trouble.
“Oh well,” he uttered. “At least I have my banjo and vittles.”
I’m fifty four years old. The older I get the more I’m required to associate with very old people. When I was still actively involved with Our Lady of Perpetual Help’s Knights of Columbus council 794, in Lindenhurst, I was constantly surrounded by a significant number of couples who were well into their seventies and eighties. My oldest living relative, Uncle Frankie, will be ninety years old in August. He was married to my mother’s older sister, Aunt Mary Theresa. My parents both died last autumn when they were eighty. I’ve learned from having to associate with them all that old age brings with it a combination of extreme good and extreme bad. Old people can be quite a source of story telling, humor, wit and insight into bygone eras. Because of all the physical, financial, emotional and other problems that come with the passage of time, though, they can also be very hard to handle. Their habits, because of the passage of time, are so irrevocably entrenched into their lives that they can’t get rid of them. I’ve never liked the Willard Scott mentality, that refers to the very old as a hundred (or whatever) years young, as if to refer to someone as old is somehow an insult. This does a major disservice to both the young and the old as it renders the concepts meaningless. Language must never be exploited as an ideological tool. It must be used only at the service of the truth. To the degree that a culture has been infected by liberalism it inevitably respects neither the old nor the very young, the ill nor the handicapped. I agree with what I recently read in Communio, the International Catholic Review, that the left’s ideas, influenced by John Locke, want a world populated only by young, healthy, autonomous, self-sufficient adults. They want a world where the only people who really count are the kind who are the equivalent of Adam before Eve showed up. In order to be worthwhile, each individual must be entirely self-sufficient. Our culture now puts children into school as soon as possible in order that the state can have as early and as thorough a control over them as possible. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s claim that “It takes a village to raise a child” is lethal to healthy family life. The old and otherwise incapacitated, thanks to the mentality espoused in Obamacare, are subjected to treatment based on what’s cost-effective rather than on the absolute dignity that inheres in each specific individual simply because he’s a human being. We desperately need more people like the little sisters of the poor, at Queen of Peace Residence in Queens Village, New York, and the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm, at the Little Flower Manor in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. I’ve never liked the idea of being young at heart, as young as you feel or any other such cliche’. That type of language reinforces the ideas, espoused by the left, that only the young are worthwhile. I like the idea that each age range has a share of beauty, truth and goodness that are intrinsically proper to it. I can also understand, though, that it seems so odd, and gets odder with passing time, that I’m as old as I am now. Whenever I see my sixteen year old niece, a high school junior , or my two nephews in their twenties, I have all sorts of flashbacks to when I was that young. It seems as if it were only yesterday. Minutes go by too slowly and decades go by too fast. I should really like to think that by the time I am old enough to qualify as undeniably old I shall have more of the quick-witted story-telling throwback in me than the self-pitying creep who lets his aches, pains and regrets mess up what’s left of his life. Maybe I shall be like Arte Johnson’s Tyrone F. Horneigh character from “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in”, who’d always hit so hysterically on Ruth Buzzi’s Gladys Ormphby. I’ve always been quite a walking anachronism anyway. By now I know quite well that hep Larry always seems to have ideas that are much better than what real Larry puts into practice though. I should imagine that people will find me quite seriously ornery and cantankerous. They will be expected to put up with even more references to how my current surroundings stack up against Jackson Heights and Lindenhurst, and what the current administration is like compared to those of Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter. Pain and death are as scary for me as for anyone. Eventually I shall have to succumb to them. That will be the hardest thing for me.
Maybe it’s not quite the single most nightmarishly annoyingly painful task I’ve ever been subjected to, but taking out the garbage has always bothered me. When my father was still alive we used to do it together each week. As a general rule, the garbage men in Wyoming, Pennsylvania show up during the very early hours of each Wednesday morning. That meant that every Tuesday afternoon, no matter what the weather was like, I’d always be expected to get all the last of the bags garbage together, from each room of the house, to take them out into the garage, after having already taken out several full white plastic garbage bags during the course of each week, and to make sure that all the white bags got put into much larger dark green bags in order that they may be conveniently be put out onto the curb in time for Wednesday morning. I could usually fit three or four into each large bag. It’s such a physically taxing job in the sense that things have a tendency to feel even heavier than they really are for someone after he has spent a significant length of time constantly picking up weights. Besides that there’s the unpleasant smell of old food combined with the boredom of such a dreaded chore. Bags always have to be closed as well as possible for fear that birds, rodents and other animals will be able to tear them open either overnight or during the early morning. Along with the normal garbage, there are all sorts of other distinctions too that must be observed in order to keep things running smoothly. Newspapers have to go out separately twice a month. Recyclable materials are done separately. Neither cold weather, a dark and gloomy night, nor precipitation qualifies as an excuse to avoid any of this either. A concrete garage, on a bad day, may feel like quite a depressing environment but duty still calls.
A while after my mother’s death my father and I got things ready to put a marker upon her grave. We only got a few chances to visit her grave together and to take care of a few official details. He died on November 7, 2014, forty five days after her death, after having been suddenly taken ill. He was rushed to the Veteran’s Hospital in Wilkes Barre and died there. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to see him on his last day because he told me on the phone, at about 7:30 a.m. , not to bother to drive to the hospital in the bad weather. It was raining and very foggy that day. I went to the hospital after his death to sign some paperwork and to make official arrangements to get certain things done. Uncle Frankie, Fran, and Mary Anne and her family all showed up a very short time after his death to help with the funeral arrangements. His funeral, as well as my mother’s was at Our Lady of Sorrows Church at St. Monica’s Parish on Eighth Street in West Wyoming, and Gubbiotti’s Funeral Home in Exeter. Father Leo McKernan celebrated the Mass. Many of the same people at his wake and funeral had also attended hers. Because he was a veteran of the Korean Conflict, there was a very impressive military honors ceremony, with some men from AMVETS, at the gravesite. The aftermath of each death was a busy time because of all the people calling and visiting and all the extra responsibilities that accompany that kind of change. I spent my first Thanksgiving since my parents’ deaths at cousin Michelle’s house in Dallas. All of Aunt Lauren’s family were there. I spent Christmas with Mary Anne and her family in Long Beach and have been here ever since then. Life without either of my parents has brought with it many very drastic changes.
Until the middle of last month, I had never once, in my thirty~three years of driving, through both New York & Pa. , gotten a single ticket for a moving violation. One morning last month, though, a policeman on Tenth Street pulled me over for failing to yield to a pedestrian at the crosswalk in front of the school. Unlike most schools around here, there was no traffic control. The very next day I made sure I sent a check in the mail to West Pittston because I wanted to make sure that everything was paid for & over with as soon as possible. Yesterday I got a notice in the mail claiming that no one had ever gotten my payment. I called the police department in West Pittston. A woman answered. She claimed that they could find no record of my ever having paid. Two minutes after we hung up she called back & said that the secretary who was in charge of that had never bothered to put it into the right place. Everyone knows how much trouble I could have gotten into for never having bothered to pay for a ticket like that. It’s a lot more trouble than it’s worth so I didn’t dare to take any chances. Although I was technically in the wrong, I still say I didn’t do anything that was the least bit dangerous. Besides that, Luzerne County always has been among the most corrupt places in the state so I like to think I was framed.
Last night I went to the St. Monica’s men’s group meeting at O.L. Sorrows parish. The women were also there for their group’s meeting. We met in the sacristy & they met in the church’s hall. It was quite a nice short meeting. I was especially pleasantly surprised when one of the men recommended that we try to start a bowling league. I’d always especially enjoyed the days when cousins Larry, Gary, Java & I used to bowl with the Knights of Columbus’ St. Jane Frances de Chantal Council’s league in Wantagh, New York. We’d always had such an especially nice time back then. If this proposed league is going to work out we shall have to make specific arrangements about whether it should be only for men or co~ed, since the ladies may be interested. We shall also have to get a specific minimum number of people involved because we shall have an obligation to meet the bowling alley’s requirements for that & other things. After the meeting ended we held our usual fifty~fifty raffle. I drank a can of beer & ate a donut.