Archive for May, 2008

My Brother’s Battle

May 29, 2008

My recent visit to see my brother in Oklahoma was spurred by more than familial longing. I am not sure how much longer he will be with us. My brother has brain cancer.

I had written a detailed saga of his battle to post here. On re-reading it, I found it good for me to express it on paper, but I was pretty sure, for The Wilds of Ohio…hell, for me!… it would be a wet blanket… a moldy, smelly, wet blanket. GnuKid just can’t do that.

Rather, I still must fall back on the oldest and best defense mechanism known to man—thermonuclear war. Okay, not really…we’ve only known about that for about 70 years. No, I’m talking about that good old humor. How people can laugh in the face of danger and death amazes and emboldens me in life.

So, my brother was diagnosed a year ago after an MRI revealed a shadow in his brain. The doctors decided the best action was surgery to at least do a pathology on the cancer, if not remove it altogether.

I was on the telephone with my brother prior to that surgery, discussing what to expect and offering him hope and encouragement. I guess he didn’t think I believed what I was telling him. So he attempted to reassure me—

“Don’t worry, it’s not like this is brain surgery… oh… wait…”.

They removed a portion of the skull to get at the brain and, at the end of the operation, screwed it back in place. There was my chance at a comeback. On phone calls since, I’m sure to occasionally throw in—

“Ahh, you just have a screw loose.”

My brother’s battle continued, through a second occurrence and radical surgery in January where they removed most of his right temporal lobe.* My brother’s reaction then?—

“I need this surgery like I need a hole in my head.”

I think my family carries a gene… or a full chromosome… for bad and bizarre humor. But, it’s kept us afloat through trying times. And I am thankful for it.

… and, now, a just diagnosed third re-occurrence. [heavy sigh] But, I’m sure our humor and love will carry us through whatever happens…


*And I was utterly amazed that he was on his feet and discharged just 3 days after major brain surgery.


Where’s The Boy?

May 27, 2008

The Boy was a bit precocious in his language skills. He started talking at 8 months and seemed to keep a steady conversation going. When he was 3 years old, he used the word ‘dilapidated’ in a sentence…correctly. It was that moment I knew I was going to have trouble keeping up with this one.

The Girl followed 2 years later and I expected the same thing from her. Besides being unfair, I was also wrong. She didn’t talk until she was about 14 months old. She only spoke when absolutely necessary and then with a great economy of words. Instead of talking, she seemed to hang on every word spoken by The Boy.

There was a transition event which changed all that.

When The Boy was 5 and The Girl 3, a trip was planned to visit a so-so great aunt who had a house on a river. On the trip there, The Boy kept up a non-stop discussion of all the things he was going to do when he got there. The Girl, in consistent fashion, listened attentively.

And it was a great trip, with both kids running, exploring, and playing to their hearts content. Mid-afternoon, The Girl collapsed for an afternoon nap, but The Boy continued to run amuck.

On the trip home, as night fell, the seemingly endless energy of The Boy was finally depleted. The Girl, perched high in her car seat and refreshed by a nap, looked out the window. In the darkness of the back seat, The Boy slumped over in his car booster seat in exhaustion and fell asleep. Without him talking, the silence was surreal.

And in the midst of that silence, The Girl found her voice. She started talking about her day, continuing for 5 minutes using words and phrases I never thought she knew. Finally, she took a breath and, intently looking left and right, inquired:

“Where’s The Boy?”

With him slumped down in the seat and the darkness now complete, she couldn’t see him. I told her that The Boy was asleep next to her and she found his shadowed form in the dark. So she continued her monologue on the day’s adventures. Another 5 minutes of near endless talk, a quick look left and right, and the question again:

“Where’s The Boy?”

Now quite bemused, I again assured her The Boy was sleeping in the back seat with her. She found him and, satisfied we didn’t leave him back on the river, picked up her discussion and talked quite a bit longer. And, yes, there was at least one more

“Where’s The Boy?”

I was just too amazed that this previously quiet, reserved child could carry on such a rich and long discourse. Made for a great smile for me.

Post Script: Not unremarkably, today it is The Girl who does most of the talking while The Boy has become the quiet one. Oh, he’ll still talk, but now he’s the one exercising economy of words.

Weekly Word – Omphaloskepsis

May 26, 2008

I see you out there, reading the subject line and asking, “Huh?” Now don’t go scurrying to your dictionaries to find out what I’m blithering about this time. I will share, young padawan learner.

This is a hurry scurry world with lots of demands on our time. Rarely do we get to just sit with ourselves. If you’re like me, those spare moments are spent reading blogs or, as I’m doing now, working on my own post. While blogging can be therapeutic to us, we still should spend time with the one person we’re always with…ourselves.

One such method is Omphaloskepsis. Derived from some ancient language like Hittite or East Si-ede*, it roughly translates into ‘Contemplating One’s Navel’. No, not naval, as in “Ahoy, Mate” or “Buy Me A Drink, Sailor?”… navel…belly-button…tummy-tunnel…

Omphaloskepsis is just one way of getting yourself into a meditative state (which is where all the mental healing and revelations are supposed to happen). Concentrating on your navel, while pushing out external annoyances, can help you achieve the ‘nothingness’ required for a good meditate. Sort of like repeating “Om” over and over.

The benefit of meditation, of course, is that even if you don’t have those super flashes of insight (“I remember where my car keys are!”), you usually get a sense of relaxation and calm.

While the phrase ‘contemplating your navel’ is typically attached to this deep self-psychological examination, there is the physicality–or action–of the phrase as well. I would wager a round of good beer or Scotch that many of you engage in the latter. For example–

Our fine cotton and wool clothing will shed tiny bits of fabric which, mysteriously, find their way to take up residence en masse in our navels—the ubiquitous belly lint. I’d further wager that there are likely more than a few of us who, on removing said lint, feel a sense of awe if it’s a big wad… or even share it with our significant others. “Look at the size of this hunk of lint, dear!”**

Or, how many of you have stood in front of a mirror bemoaning the spare tire (bicycle sized for some, monster truck for others) which has snuck its way around our midsections. Then, while standing there, you grab your gut, and your eyes seem to focus on the navel…”Hey, I can make it dance!” or “Look how I can make it talk—‘Hi, Honey, how are you?’.”***

I find that exercising either aspect of omphaloskepsis, whether physical or mental, is a great way to a sense of well being, even if briefly. I recommend you take a few moments sometime today and give it a shot…if even for a minute. You’ll feel better.


*Yeah, I made those up…it’s really from the Greek

**I’ll need to ask for a hand count. Raise ‘em high. Oooo, lots of you.

*** Yep, I need another show of hands…don’t be shy, the rest of the folks can’t see you…seven…eight… yep, a few of you, for sure.

OK Weather

May 25, 2008

No, the wind is not sweeping down the plain here in Oklahoma, despite what the song says.

After a great evening with my big (sic — i’m 4 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier) brother, i finally have a crack at the internet. 

It’s 10:50 local time on the 25th of May and the temperature is at 78 degrees Furnaceheight… which makes it 26 degrees Censelessgrade.  Pretty toasty for a May evening (in the northern hemisphere) in my book.

The weather news of the weekend was in the front page of this morning’s paper (along with all the news about local sports, but nothing of an international or national nature – – did nothing happen yesterday of note?).  Oklahoma is a primary state in ‘Tornado Alley’ (as dramatized in the noted flying cow movie, “Twister“).  Although there were none in my area, the state had at least 6 tornadoes yesterday.  Nobody, thank goodness, was hurt.

Well, that’s not quite true… many of you know what a soft-hearted doofus i am, so it was with great sadness i learned that a nearby pig farm was destroyed.  Luckily [GnuKid breathes a sobbing sigh of relief], most of the sows and piglets survived the twister.

Sow with piglet.jpg

So, in a tender memoriam for those swell swine not so fortunate to have survived, GnuKid enjoyed several strips of crispy and tasty bacon for breakfast.

Flying back to the Wilds of Ohio tomorrow…see you on the range there…

Travel Games

May 23, 2008

Off to visit my brother in Oklahoma today.  No, not nearly as wild as the Wilds of Ohio, but it will do. 

Sitting in the Chicago airport, waiting on my connecting flight.  I admit to not being as seasoned (paprika or curry, please) a traveler as others.  Should have brought my laptop, but didn’t.  So I was lowered to writing a post with some arcane literary weaponry known as “pen and paper”.  Thank goodness i was able to bully invite my way onto my brother’s internet for this quick post.

So, sans laptop (didn’t know I was bilingual, huh?  yeah, i can speak in tongues, but that’s another post), i wrote furiously (but did calm down soon).  Tiring of that, i engaged in a favored airport practice.  Too shy to chat up a stranger, I revert to ‘lurking’ of a different sort and just people watch.

Where else can you find such a broad specturm of people willfully sharing space when, in the ‘real’ world, they would never want to mingle—Bikers and Bookworms; Sk8ers and Soccer Moms; Rednecks and Hippies; the brutally pretty and the terminally homely;  Businessmen and Sluts… wait… well, yeah, okay, that last one doesn’t count because they mingle all the time…

Yes, i indulge in the standard thoughts of “Who dressed you this morning?  Helen Keller?” or “Whoa, but she’s hot…would love to tap that!”.  But i also play a few other games – –

–  Make eye contact and smile, just to see the reaction.  I’m still at a loss as to why so many people avert their eyes as if i’m some perverted menace… well, i am, but that’s besides the point.  Too few return the smile.  A couple nodded and said “Hi.”, but not enough.  Where did our humanity go?

–  Name the faces… along the same lines as the ‘standard’ thoughts above, but trying to match up to the facial expressions:

  —  “It looks like someone stole your cupcake”

  —  “No, you’re not remotely as gorgeous/handsome as you’re convinced you are”

  —  “You got laid last night, didn’t you?”

  —  “No, I don’t believe you do have a clue.  Thanks for trying, though.”

These are all great games until i notice, while walking to my gate or for a bathroom break, i’m being given the same appraising looks by others.  They’re playing my games, the bastards! 

Sheesh, i hope i look like i got laid last night…

Mal Mots

May 21, 2008

Working in an office environment, you have ample opportunity for interaction with co-workers.  If you’re not a boss with a private office, you’re also likely—like me—to be sharing an office full of cubicles with those co-workers.  This leads to ample opportunity to overhear intended and not-so-intended quips.  Our office has taken to putting up a ‘quotable quotes’ board for this repartee.  Thought I’d share a few—


  I want to get some of those soundless headphones…



  Hey! Come out and look at my schnauzer!

       [I don’t know if she meant it as a euphemism…but, with her, I wasn’t going to take the chance] 


  Oh, shit…who did I send it too?

       [Usually heard right after the sound of a mouse click.  I have to admit I’ve done this with e-mail as well…but this seemed to be a daily occurrence for this lady]


  I can’t cut the mustard anymore.  Hell, I can barely butter the bun!

       [There’s a certain poetry to this one.]


  Where’s Room 101? 

       [This one was said by a lady who had an office in…wait for it…Room 101]   


  …about 10 miles as the fly crows…

       [Can one actually hear a fly crow?] 


  He who laughs lest lifts lofts…luff . . .ummm…

       [Poor lady tried her best to get this one out…and failed] 


  GnuKid has good things attached to his pants.

       [Yes, a lady said this.  No, I’ll neither deny nor explain… {grin}] 


  We’re working glove in hand with them…

      [What, so you can challenge them to duels?] 


And finally—


  L:  How come I’m just getting Thursday’s e-mails?

   Office (in unison):  Because it IS Thursday…

The Gift

May 20, 2008

Many years ago, when The Boy was about 3 years old, some friends came to visit.


Being good and thoughtful guests (I’m not sure I’d qualify, but they sure did), they brought a small gift for The Boy.  Their 3 year old daughter came along on the visit as well.  To be safe, avoiding the high potential for jealousy over the gift, the guests brought one for her as well.*


The wife of my guests was a very anal retentive and bitchy fastidious and deliberate woman and it was she who wrapped the presents.  Now, she used some colorful, if heavy duty, mylar wrapping paper… likely the same kind of stuff used to coat the protective shields of the space shuttle.  She secured every seam of the present with about a furlong of industrial grade tape… the kind with adhesive strong enough to make a barnacle envious.


She didn’t do this to achieve the results we got, but, oh…my…


Anyone who has seen a kid… or been one**… knows the unbridled avarice and pleasure a child has in getting a gift.  The kids energetically*** attacked the presents… and continued their assault… and still for a full minute more they pitched into opening the presents, getting almost gymnastic in their gyrations to open the packages.  But, still no visible breach in the wrapping was in sight.


Now, normal parents**** would at this juncture leap in to help their offspring open the stubborn package.  Not so, us.  We were all disabled by paroxysms of laughter, tears of mirth streaming freely down our cheeks.


The kids, mindful of and not the least dissuaded by our merriment, continued to rip into the gifts.  They rolled and grunted, looking like monkeys trying to open a bowling ball. 


Finally, the girl’s Mom took pity.  Using her fingernails*****, she deftly unsealed the adhesive tape on one end of each gift.  The kids made short work of retrieving the prize inside and toddled off to enjoy, blissfully unaware of their contribution to our joy.



*In retrospect, it was a brilliant move due to the unintended result of helping the kids bond while playing with their new toys.  This also kept them happy campers, allowing parental units to focus on catching up instead of amusing the kiddles.

**Show of hands, please?… Wow!… that’s a lot!

***Would that scientists learn to bottle such energy…we could run cars for miles on one bottle. 

****Show of hands on this, too, please?… Hmmm…not too many…

*****Sharpened to the point of lethality and bringing to mind a chapter in The Other Side Of The Mountain