Something is bothering me. It has to do with words. Though I’m a word person, I’m concerned that I may be calling the kettle black as I write this. But It won’t let me go. It has to do with cussing. So here goes.
Ever since I was a kid the F word was a no no in polite company. It was like the most disgusting word you could use. I never had the guts, but I heard that the soap came out and some of my friends were bubbling at the mouth before they knew what happened when they dared to use it. Now I know we were kids, but that word wasn’t heard when there were women around. Just didn’t happen. In fact, if some ruffian deigned to speak it when somebody’s wife stood there, it was a fightin’ word.
Okay, fast forward. Bake and I are out for a nice Valentine’s dinner and the table across from us is graced with a dude who can say the F word two or three times in one sentence, loudly. He had other talents, too, but this is about cussing.
I couldn’t help it. I looked up how long the F word has been around. Since 1475! In all those years it was saved for impolite company. Well, until lately. Now I know, there are lots of cuss words, and Facebook will attest that I have said at least one myself, darn it. But I think we’re losing ground when the big F loses the impact it used to have. When the young folks tell me that it means nothing.
It doesn’t mean nothing. Words have meaning. And I, for one, would like to see that one return to the darkside. Okay, I’ve said my piece.
I just can’t resist. I’m looking at my blog, and there’s an ad for something that gets rid of toenail fungus right under my post. Toenail fungus! I must write a story.
Fred was a lucky little fungus dude, born on a beach like that. He spent his days dodging crabs and those weird sand bugs and big feet. He hid under driftwood at noon, preferring dark; and ran from the high tide laughing like a fool. He enjoyed the leavings of picnickers and lived in children’s sand castles until the waves obliterated them. Livin’ the good life.
Until that fateful day. He had climbed to the keep of his current castle to check the weather when the world went dark. And collapsed on him.
He squeezed between skin and sand until he saw light, crawled up in a space and climbed up to a rock, or what felt like a rock. Acutally it smelled like food, so he dug in. And then the food began to jerk and jump, a roller coaster effect. Fred hid in a crack and hung on for dear life. After a wild ride, the food finally stopped in a ray of sun. Fred wasn’t crazy about sun, but suddenly a black cloud covered it. He went back to consuming the delicious yummies he’d been so fortunate to find. Only, it wasn’t long before something hard and smelly squeezed him back into the crack.
Oh well, there were munchies in there, too. He kept chewing, day after day.
Until another fateful day that reminded him of that Raid commercial. First, there was this dagnasty smell. Then he was swimming in acid, screaming for help. He climbed up on the rock and shook himself off, breathing hard. Here came that black whatever that was again. It wiped up the acid and the smell dissipated.
Fred, who was developing a pot belly, but we won’t mention that, resumed his meal. About every 24 hours he gets an acid bath, but he doesn’t mind. It doesn’t affect the delicacies he dines on.
I’ll tell you one, and you feel free to tell me one.
I saw her inside the front window. She wept openly. Huge sobs shook her shoulders and tears drenched her cheeks.
Do I pretend I don’t see her, or chance that she’ll suck the life out of me if I ring her bell? I heistated on the sidewalk, my little dog bouncing to continue our walk. Do unto others … “This way,” I directed my pup, and we headed up her front walk.
Her bell chimed, and I could see her lift her silver-haired head, a look of wonder on her face. She placed both arthritis-grissled hands on the arms of her rocker and lifted herself to a stand. I waited, while the pup danced on the porch.
At last, she spoke from behind the still closed door. “Yes?”
“Hello, my name is Jane. Are you all right?”
I heard her turning the bolt, and the door opened a fraction. “Hello” She had swiped most of the tears from her face. It appeared no lights were on in the house. The pup began to jump at the screen door when the woman spoke.
“Hi, I live down the street. This is Aime. We were going for a walk, and I noticed you in your front window.”
She opened the door wider and I could see one hand on a walker. “I’m Golda.”
Getting her out of that dark house might help her. “Maybe you’d like to finish our walk with us?”
She glanced down at Aime and looked uncertain.
“I can keep her on the other side of me from you if you’d like.”
Her face brightened. “Let me get a sweater.” She closed the door and we waited a few minutes.
The thought crossed my mind that we could have been home by now, just as the door opened to Golda, wearing a red sunhat. She wrestled her walker over the threshhold, turned and locked the door. I backed down the steps, keeping myself between Aime and Golda.
She placed her walker on the first step, then one foot after the other. “Thank you for offering to take me on your walk.”
“You’re welcome. Actually, I was hoping to meet you. I’d seen you putting your car in the garage, and sometimes watering your flowers, but we never seemed to be able to meet.”
“I’ve lived on this street for fifty years.”
I wasn’t sure whether she was scolding me, or making small talk. “We’ve only lived here ten years. Your family are all gone?”
“Yes, my husband died fifteen years ago. My children are scattered all over the country.”
“My husband works in the Bay Area. My kids are still here, but today they’re at school.”
“I lived in San Francisco as a child. My family left after the big earthquake.”
Holy cats! I’d like to hear about her life. We positioned ourselves to negotiate the sidewalk, Aime on my left, Golda on my right, and ambled on our way.
Golda stopped and pulled a rose blossom to her nose. “I love roses. Guess it won’t be long before they’re gone. I can feel the chill of winter coming in my bones.”
Might be a good time to find out what had caused her to cry. “I noticed you were crying when I saw you in the window. Did something happen?”
“I just got a phone call that my roof is going to cost $15,000 to replace. I don’t have $15,000. And they told me if I don’t replace it now, the damage to the house will cost far more than that. I think I’m going to have to sell out and move. But the thought of one of those nursing homes where I don’t have flowers or cats just makes me want to die.”
Speaking of cats, Aime noticed one of the ferals that roamed our neighborhood on the other side of the street, and jerked at her leash. “Aime, heel.” She settled back into her walk, but glanced across the street now and then.
Golda’s pace was slowing. We’d only gone half way down the block. Maybe it was time to head back. “Ready to head home?”
“Yes please, my old legs aren’t what they used to be.”
“You know, Golda, there are several men on our street who might be able to replace your roof just for the cost of the materials. And I think there’s a roofer at my church who could show them how to do it right. Would you like me to check?”
“Oh no, I couldn’t impose. But thank you.” We approached her front steps.
“Here, let me give you a hand.” I put my arm under her elbow to help her lift herself. She climbed the two steps.
It sure would be nice to leave her with a little encouragement. “Would you like to give me your phone number so I could check on you now and then?”
“I would, Jane. Thank you.” She found a pad of paper inside her door, wrote the number, and handed it to me.
“Thanks, I’ll be in touch. How about if I give you mine in case you need anything?” I pulled a business card I used with my little freelance writing business from my purse.
“Thank you, Jane.”
“You’re welcome.” I needed to talk to the guys about her roof. This lady was definitely not a life sucker.
For about ten years, my husband, the marriage and family therapist, and I led Stepping Stones, a support group for adults abused as children. It was peculiar in that we didn’t sit around commiserating, but studied Scripture on how to climb out of that pit together. The topics are:
Face the Problem
Assess the Damage and Make the Commitment to Recover
Correct Your View of God
Set Healthy Boundaries
Improve Your Self-Image
Learn to Control Anger and Depression
Increase Your Capacity to Trust
Deal With Sexual Issues
Give and Accept Forgiveness
Determine Whether to Confront Your Abuser
Life Beyond Survival
So, we’re thinking about putting the material online for people who don’t live near us to use to recover. Anybody out there interested in something like this? If so, what do you think would be a fair price? If you’re out there feeling alone with your secret, I’m talking to you, and praying for you.
And when I don’t feel serious, I write stories that I don’t plot. They just …
What if I were thin and could get a wet suit on without major surgery, and I just happened to be on Kauai.
She slid her right arm into the wetsuit, grabbed her board, and ran down the beach to the water’s edge (and for a 68 year-old woman with a knee replacement, that’s sayin’ somethin’). She dropped the board into the surf.
A golden-skinned surf bum yelled from beyond the ten-foot breakers. “You don’t know what you’re doing, do you?”
She yelled back. “First time.”
“You don’t need a wet suit in Hawaii. Water’s warm. Sharks will take you for a fish.”
She peeled the wet suit off. Man, she could have done this, thin or not. Think of the frozen yogurt she’d missed for nothing.
The surf bum scanned her granny swimsuit. “Lady, this is Hawaii, you don’t have to wear all the clothes you’ve got.”
She pushed her board out to knee-deep water and lay down on its shiny surface. “Hey, if you’re so smart. Teach me to surf.”
“Start paddling. Where you from?”
She was coming into the breakers. “California.”
“Duck your head, make sure your mouth and eyes are closed, and just hold onto the board.”
The breaker passed over her.
“Keep paddling. North, not south, right?”
“California, north, not south.”
She paddled up next to where he sat on his board, legs hanging in the water. “Central, but the water’s pretty chilly.”
“Ok, first get on your knees.”
“I can’t, one of them’s artificial and won’t bend that far.”
“Man, you got a lot of guts, lady.”
“You only live once. How about if I just stand up?”
“OK, your funeral.”
She grabbed both sides of the board and hoisted herself up. And lost her balance and fell off. Eighteen times.
The surf bum laughed so hard he had to take a swim to keep from embarrassing himself. I won’t go into the details. (You may be wondering whether this story has a point, I certainly am.)
“If at first you don’t succeed.” She climbed back on the board, and lo and behold, wait that doesn’t sound like Hawaii, and hang loose, baby, she stood and didn’t fall, though she wobbled like a weeble.
“Hurry, hold your arms out for balance and bend your knees a little. You can do that, right?”
She really wanted to tell him what she thought of that remark, but she didn’t want the lesson to end abruptly. She stuck out both arms and kind of waved them the opposite direction of the way she felt she might fall. She stayed on the board and standing, until …
A wave rushed her high, and she was flying. Dude, she screamed toward shore, literally. A 68 year-old speed demon. “Kayabunga!”
The beach was nearly at her feet when she realized he hadn’t taught her how to dismount. So, she recalled when she learned to ride a bike as a child that she just ran into the neighbor’s Japanese gardener who happened to be pushing a lawn mower down the sidewalk when she needed to stop. (Yeah, that’s a true story.) Maybe she could just run right off the board, hoping to land on the couple making out on beach towels.