A Twist of Humor

This is a column with a twist of humor. A new column will be posted every Monday.

Location: Newfoundland

I was born, raised, educated, and married in Toronto. I moved to Newfoundland twenty some years ago with my wife. So far nobody has asked me to leave. My wife asking me to leave doesn't count.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Furry Assassins

I know this will color me peculiar in the eyes of many, but I am not a cat person. Not that there is anything wrong with cats, but the bottom line is that they are animals just like a cow or a goat.

The two cats who freeload off us dispute this notion and consider it heresy on my part.

These cats act like drunken Vikings wreaking havoc on furniture, carpets, and doors, not to mention lawns and gardens.

I think they are going a tad too far when they try to murder me though. Now I know some will consider what I have just written as paranoia on my part, but hear me out.

Sometime back the cats, working together, attempted to kill me using the basement stairs. While one acted as a lookout the other darted between my legs, as I was going down the stairs, causing me to crash down the steep steps.

Once I eventually reached my destination at the bottom, I checked myself for damaged body parts.

It didn’t take me long to notice that the toes on my left foot were at right angles to my left knee. After some judicious consideration I deduced something was amiss. I then did what all husbands do when faced with personal disaster, I shouted for my wife.

As I was waiting for assistance I noticed the cats giving each other the “thumbs” up. The conspiracy was out in the open.

When my wife came to the open doorway at the top of the stairs, she looked down at me with a sigh and a look of resignation. She was no doubt thinking of the burden (me) that was descending upon her again.

As I crawled out the front door, on the way to the car, I looked back to see the two would be assassins looking as if they had swallowed the proverbial canaries.

With every vibration of the car causing pain in my ankle, we bounced, jiggled and thumped our way to the hospital; and because my wife’s aim was particularly good we missed not one bump or dimple in the road. She was suspiciously pleased about this.

The next thing I knew I was lying on my back on a stretcher in the Emergency Department looking out over my toes - the ones still pointing in the appropriate direction, that is, up. The other set of toes was still stubbornly pointed to the side.

I was deliciously contemplating what I was going to do with the cats, once I was on my feet again, when the doctors appeared over my toes.

The doctor in charge informed me that my ankle had been severely damaged. This as you may imagine came only as a minor surprise to me.

The ankle, he went on to say, had been broken and separated and needed to be stabilized so I could be sent to a larger hospital in the city for an operation. He said he could stabilize it by grabbing hold of my ankle and giving it a good yank while turning it. This would put it back in place and my toes would once more be happily pointing in the right direction.

He advised me that this procedure wouldn’t hurt very much and I probably didn’t need any anesthetic; but if I felt I needed some they would have to call in an anaesthesiologist.

Obviously this man had too much testosterone pumping through him that day or else he was an agent of the cats.

Not wanting to seem like a wimp I actually thought of letting him do this without anesthetic when over his shoulder I saw a female doctor frantically pantomiming NO! NO! NO!

Dr. Testosterone snorted his disapproval when I said if I wasn’t inconveniencing anyone I’d just as soon be put under.

They scraped up enough anesthetic and an anesthesiologist, and I soon found myself in the service bay of the city hospital having a metal plate riveted and bolted to my ankle bone.

Much to the obvious disgust of the cats, I was soon at home, gently prodding them with my crutches.

This happened a couple of years ago and the cats are still with us. My wife and son like the cats and I haven’t the nerve to ask them to choose between the cats and me.

You don’t know someone who would like a cat or two, do you?

© Mike Cook 2006

Monday, May 22, 2006

Aging Like Cheap Wine

So there I was a little while back, chatting with this pretty woman who was about twenty years old, when out of the blue I became aware that I was an “older” person.

This revelation came to me when I realized I had a suit hanging up at home as old as she was and socks and underwear, which were at least half her age, decaying in the drawer at home.

This came as such a shock to me that I had to immediately totter off to a quiet corner and sit down and take my pulse. After all, at my suddenly advanced age one never knew when one’s heart would come to a sputtering stop.

After I determined that my heart was (for the moment) still beating, I was, for a fleeting second, cheered by the thought that I hadn’t yet reached the point where I had more body parts on the night table beside the bed, (false teeth, hearing aid, eye glasses etc.) instead of attached to their appropriate places (however tentatively) on me.

I then suddenly had a supernatural awareness of myself.

I could feel the donut I had eaten at lunch turning to plaque in my arteries, the sugar building up in my blood and inches multiplying on my waist. I could feel the decay set into my teeth, the arthritis into my bones and the weakness into my muscles. I could even feel the hair fall out of my head while perversely, the hair in my ears began to sprout like weeds on steroids.

I now knew why, when I tried out for a place on a slo-pitch baseball team, it was suggested that it might be better to try out as the team mascot because it would be a less strenuous position.

As another sign of my getting older, I remembered that in the first thirty years or so of my life I had seen doctors so infrequently that I could count the times on the fingers of my hands, and now it seemed like I was boarding with them.

Wherever tubes, lights, and fingers could go on my body, they’ve been. I’ve been x-rayed, poked, prodded, and squeezed, sideways, upside down, inside and out.

If a complete stranger came up to me in a shopping mall and asked me to drop my pants, I’d do it, because I would think it was just another doctor wanting to poke, prod and squeeze me.

After I finished commiserating with myself, I tottered off home in the search of further sympathy.

When I arrived home into the loving arms of my family, I feebly said to my wife, “I’ve just realized that I’m past my prime years.”

She replied, “Nonsense - you never had any prime years to be past.”

My fourteen-year-old son added, “I don’t know why you’re getting all worked up about being over the hill now, since you were probably over the hill ten tears ago.”

Obviously, I was in the wrong house if I was expecting any sympathy.

My son chose this moment to inform me that I had better be extra nice to him from now on because when the time came to put me in a home (apparently, in the not too distant future) he was the one whose duty it would be to choose the place.

For some reason I was suddenly reminded of my brother’s theory on raising kids. He had raised two boys through their teen years and he had concluded that when your children reached the age of thirteen they should then be taken out into the desert and lost.

As I wrote at the beginning, this happened a while back and there hasn’t been any improvement in my situation since then. Indeed, in some ways it’s worse. I recently found some disturbing literature stuffed under my son’s mattress. It was information on various old age homes.

The best that can be said is that I found a dandy little electric hair trimmer for ears. Unfortunately, even though I haven’t had it very long, it’s just about worn out from all the use.

© Mike Cook 2006

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Hypochondriac

Let me set the record straight at the outset. I am not a hypochondriac

Not that there’s anything wrong with being a hypochondriac. I just happen not to be one.

I am also not one of those whiny men who have to be babied when they’re sick.

However, I have to say that my health isn’t all that I was led to believe it was.

I think I may well have a terminal illness or something worse that will render me dead at the first inconvenient moment. I might have something called proctosologism or something that sounds like that.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter what it’s called or even if I have that particular disease because I have several other diseases that are just as deadly. I’m very well covered when it comes to deadly diseases. If you need to know something about a deadly disease, then I’m your man.

How did I come to know that my body was invaded by these diseases, you ask?

Well I consulted a medical book that was so large and heavy that it gave me a hernia when I lifted it down off the top shelf of my closet. I also gathered a staggering amount of information from medical sites on the internet.

These impeccable sources are unanimous and adamant that I’m dying of any number of terminal illnesses.

To monitor my conditions, I went out and bought some essential medical equipment that you would find in any prudent home, such as a blood pressure kit that seems to be malfunctioning because it keeps registering my pressure as normal, a stethoscope, diabetes testing kit, thermometer (that also isn’t working properly), blood testing kit, urine testing kit, etc.

The results that I obtained from the urine test happily allow me to report that I’m not pregnant.

It pains me to write that my doctor was less than helpful during these difficult times. As an example, when I phoned her one night at three a.m. to tell her that I was dying, she responded in this way. “What do you mean you’re dying? You’ve just had a complete physical and you’re in perfect health,” she yelled over the crying of her baby.

“ Well it says otherwise on pages 1, 150, 182, 1255 and 1300 of my medical book and that’s not even taking into account the internet sites” I retorted triumphantly.

“You’re an idiot,” she said, and then hung up the phone more vigorously than she needed to.

Now I don’t need the aggravation of phoning someone at three o’clock in the morning and have them tell me that I’m an idiot. I can get my wife to tell me that any time and with less effort.

Not to be deterred, I went to the doctor’s office the next day.

The waiting room was full of people who were coughing, sneezing and snorting away, and even to the untrained eye were obviously quite sick and didn’t need a doctor to tell them that. They should have been at home in bed and not infecting the waiting room with their germs or hogging the doctor’s time so that she wouldn’t have time to see me and get to the bottom of my deadly ailments.

As it turned out it didn’t matter how many people were in the waiting room or what they were there for, because the doctor had left strict instructions that I wasn’t allowed to see her.

When I got home and told my wife what had happened she said the only doctor I needed to see was a psychiatrist and the sooner the better.

She then proceeded to burn my medical book, put my medical paraphernalia in the garbage, and disconnect the computer from the internet.

With each succeeding day that I survive I concede that maybe I was overstating the seriousness of my ailments just a tad.

Mind you, I have this pain in my lower abdomen that I’m sure I’d be able to diagnose.... if only I could get my hands on a medical book.

© Mike Cook 2006

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Antenna In The Attic

One day my wife and I had nothing better to do than bore our 14-year-old son with reminiscences of times past. This is great fun and I highly recommend it as a family activity.

I should warn you though, that you may have to track down and tie your kids up before they willingly take part in this enjoyable family pastime. This is a minor point and is well worth the effort.

My wife told the story about when she was a little girl living in rural Newfoundland where they had access to only one television channel, and the quality of the picture on the TV was dictated by the precise positioning of the antenna that was improbably located in the attic.

One Saturday night a hockey game was to be played between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

I should explain to readers who may not know, that hockey in those days for a Canadien or Leafs fan was more of a religious experience than a game and that while marriages between the two denominations were occasionally heard of they were frowned on.

Anyway, as luck would have it the reception was very poor that night and the antenna needed a lot of hands-on attention. After some preliminary fiddling with the antenna it was decided by my father-in-law (a devout disciple of the Canadiens) that someone would have to go up into the attic and hold the antenna in place for the duration of the game if there was to be any hope of receiving a clear picture.

As my wife was too young for this important job, and it would, of course be illogical for her father to climb into the attic because he wouldn’t be able to see the game from there, this left only one person.

That was why when Billy, the next door neighbor, walked into the house, the first thing he saw was my mother-in-law stuck halfway into the small opening that led to the attic. My father-in-law (a small man) was standing on a chair with his shoulders under his wife’s bottom trying to shove her, the rest of the way into the attic, but without much success.

“My gawd” said Billy “what game are you playing at?”

Peering over his glasses and with a cigarette dangling from his lips my father-in-law replied, “It’s no game I’m playing at. She’s got to get up there and hold the blessed antenna if we’re to see the hockey game.”

Billy responded to that irrefutable logic by saying, “if you wanted her up there, you should’ve greased her first because she’s not going up there any other way.”

After much argument it was decided that my father-in-law, because he was the smallest adult present, would have to go into the attic. First, though, my mother-in-law had to be pulled out of the ceiling.

This took more effort and was more hazardous than you might imagine.

Billy took hold of one leg and my father-in-law the other and they tugged and pulled for what seemed like the longest time, but with no effect. At this point my father-in-law was losing patience with what he perceived to be his wife’s willful stubbornness in not coming out of the ceiling so he bawled out, “for gawd’s sake woman, cooperate and pull in that stomach of yours.” At this suggestion she tried to insert her foot in her husband’s ear.

After a temporary peace treaty was negotiated between the parties the pulling and tugging resumed.

All of a sudden there was a loud popping sound and out she came. The three of them landed in a heap upon the floor with my mother-in-law getting the best of it because she alighted with one cheek of her bottom on Billy and the other one on her husband.

Following some more negotiations and a frank exchange of views on each other’s character, Billy and my mother-in-law sat on the sofa relaying the progress of the game to my wife, who sat on a chair under the opening in the ceiling.

She then shouted this information as loudly as she could to her hard of hearing father, who sat in the dark attic holding the antenna steady as a rock, with only the red glow from his cigarette visible.

By the time my wife had gotten to the part about the Canadiens losing and the gloom that descended on the congregation because of this, our son had untied himself, and had made his escape.

© Mike Cook 2006