Monday, March 28, 2011

Got Friends?

The other day I got an email telling me about the death of someone I’d known my freshman year. Garrett had played Buffalo Bill in our student theatre production of INDIANS. I liked Garrett. He was an upper classman and I was a mouthy freshman who happened to be the assistant director for the show. I think he mostly humored me…but he was unfailingly nice. And he was a terrific Buffalo Bill.

The sender of said email was my best friend that first year of college. We ended up actually talking on the phone, something we rarely do since the advent of email, but I'll admit I was happy to listen to that voice and the very distinctive laugh that goes with it.

This got me to thinking about my collection of friends. I've been pretty good about keeping up with friends from my previous lives. I know where they are, where they've landed and usually how to reach them in a heartbeat. But in reviewing the list, I noticed one thing has not changed: pretty much across the board, my closest friends have been guys

I never was very interested in topics of girl-speak. In high school, I was terrible at hair-dos and mindlessness chatter. I was looking for witty repartee and sharp erudition. I wanted to provocation, not prevarication. I wanted to argue philosophy and ethics, not debate the merits of mini versus maxi, or whether or not to go to second base on a first date. By the time I went to college, I knew I didn't want to be relegated to the granola tent with the rest of the women doing weird stuff with sprouts; I wanted to be at the table planning the demonstrations.

My first guy best friend was in high school. Billy drilled existentialism in my brain and let’s just say it stuck. That first year of college, Randy drove me around in Baby, that wonderful red MGB-GT and kept me from doing whatever it was college froshes do when they’re about to go over the edge. I met Saeed the first week of grad school, and he showed me the world was not black and white, but rather endless shades of grey and teeming with contradictions. Ziggy was there, too; he kept on me to lighten up and laugh more at the follies and the foibles of academia.  And Joel, my erstwhile study partner, that constant presence at the family dinner table, challenged me to be a better all ‘round partner instead of just chopping up commentators for study salsa. 

"Okay, she's all yours."
Of course, being one of the guys had its downside. I wasn't the girl you took out; I was the one you called after the date. I became a veritable wealth of information about the opposite sex for both sides. I listened, I laughed, I even railed when railing was needed. I heard deepest, darkest secrets and I have never, ever repeated them. And for the sake of full disclosure on my side, I should probably mention I ended up married to one of those guys... for 32 years …until he had the poor form to make me a widow.

Those guys were, first and foremost, my friends. I trusted them, drove them all crazy with endless questions, and relied on them for telling me the truth even when I didn't particularly want to hear it. They were part and parcel of forming me into me, and even after zillion years, I still trust them without hesitation. 

None of the remaining four are in Minnesota, but their presence is always felt. As for the one who is here and will be forever more, I have to admit I miss him most of all. 

Wifely Person's Tip o' the Week 
Today marks the 2nd anniversary of the day we knew something was really wrong.
Last year, I was too numb to notice. This year, slam; right in the kisser.
And y'know what Ziggy would say about that?
Lighten the f**k up.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ol' Doc Siegfried does not look 90!

Sundays around here are usually pretty quiet days filled with laundry, cleaning catch-up, and other assorted chores. But not this Sunday. This one was special. We were gathering to celebrate Grandpa Sieg's 90th birthday.

My father-in-law has been living with us for a while now, and over the course of the last two years I have come to know and truly appreciate my husband's father. He is the salt of the earth, the kinda guy on which you can always depend, rock solid and nuts'n'bolts practical. He has seen it all, survived to talk about it, and you have to stand back and admire that resilience.

Lt JG Francis E. Siegfried
Just being born on a farm in Renville County in 1921 was enough to give anyone a steel spine.  But Franny wasn't about to be confined by the farm and went out of town to attend high school before he did the most unexpected thing: he went to college to become a teacher. The war got in the way, and he joined the Navy V-7 program that allowed him to finish college before heading off to Notre Dame to become an officer. As a Lieutenant JG, he shipped off on an ocean-going LCI. He crossed the Atlantic and was in the Mediterranean in time to witness the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius before heading for England. He was a navigator during the second wave of landings on Omaha Beach. And if that wasn't enough, when Europe was over, he was sent to the Pacific via the Panama Canal. He was off Okinawa awaiting battle orders when the Japanese surrendered on August 15th, 1945 (in the US, however, it was still August 14th.)

June 5, 1947
Mustered out in  January of '46, he returned to Minnesota and took at job teaching high school in Hanska, where he helped his college friend Marilyn Owen find a job teaching English and PE for fall semester '46... they got married in June of 1947.

Somewhere along the line, Franny was dropped and my father-in-law became Sieg. And it was Sieg who was accepted to the University of Minnesota veterinarian program for the fall of 1949.

Steve and his dad
Steve was born on May 29th, 1953, and a couple of weeks later, Sieg became Doc Siegfried.

My father-in-law is a retired big animal vet. Dogs and cats are just not his thing. He knows about cows. And horses. And, oddly enough, chickens. He's the only recorded case of a human having contracted Newcastle diseases..a poultry kind of thing.  He worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for most of his career, and oh, the stories he can tell. To this city girl, they are fascinating, scary, and make me strongly consider becoming a vegetarian!

We lost Steve's mom while I was pregnant with the junior son, but Pop was lucky enough to find love twice more...the first time, albeit sadly and so briefly, with Helen, and then with Vivian. He lost them, too, but managed to keep his feet firmly planted in the land of the living, something both Steve and I watched with great respect for his unflagging fortitude.

Grandpa, Misha, and Steve
When Vivian died, and it became clear that his eyesight was failing, we decided to ask him to come live with us. There was never a moment's hesitation, and I am forever thankful that we made that decision. The boys really got to know their grandfather and he got to know them. There is no substitute for that.

LeAnna, Dave, and Grandpa
Pop has buried three wives, and lost his only child. I don't know how he managed to stay upright. But he did and he made sure I was upright, too. My father-in-law has be an incredible pillar of support for me these past two years. He was beside me, in Steve's place, to walk Dave down the aisle to his own wedding.

So, we had an in-gathering o'guys this weekend. Misha flew in from Milwaukee, Dave and LeAnna were home from their holiday in Mexico, and we convened here for dinner on Sunday afternoon. There was a turkey (whose real purpose was to be turned into turkey soup after the fact) and stuffing, and the long awaited German Chocolate Cake.

90 is nothing to sneeze at.  My own Dad is 90. And today, my father-in-law joins him in that august company. Any day we get to laugh is a good day. Any day we get to sit down to dinner and split a Bass Ale is a good day. Between the two of us, we certainly could muddle into maudlin but we've decided against that. Nope. We're going to laugh whenever we can.

Happy Birthday, Pop! And here's to a whole bunch more!

Wifely Person's Tip o' the Week
Know someone turning 90?
The gift of your time is the best present possible.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Joys of Pre-Dawn Dog Walking

Peri, our Canaan dog
Last Thursday the hour before dawn was about as beautiful as early spring gets here on the tundra . The air was just right, not too cold, and the beauteous Pleasant Hills Perach was positively prancy. We strolled down the driveway just as the newspaper lady showed up and with a chipper "G'morning!" she handed me the S'trib through the open car window.

Since it was still early and we had a bit of time, Peri decided she wanted to walk a little more than usual. We went up the block, then cut over and I said, "Come on, let's walk on the sidewalk." BIG mistake. Ten steps and the next thing I know I'm flat on my back looking up into a dark, starry sky, with my leg at an angle not known to normal humans, and the dog is staring down at me like I'm some sort of moron. 

Laying like a turtle turn-over on one's back, knowing full well that at 5:15 in the morning the chances of someone happening by are slim to none, makes one consider one's own fragility. Still looking up at the sky, I will admit to a string of very colorful epithets as I attempted to take inventory of my assorted parts. 

What exactly would happen if my leg is broken? Who would take care of my father-in-law? Who would walk the dog? What if I couldn’t drive to work…or even work at all? What if I died right there on the sidewalk? What if I lived in Japan?

I did not considered any alternate reality, and if you wanna know the truth, I’m not about to do it now, either. Those thoughts are totally petrifying and not ones I wanted to seriously entertain whilst sprawled on a sheet of ice, or anywhere else for that matter.

It never occurred to me that I might actually be hurt.  I am impervious to all pain. I’ve survived living in Minnesota for some 35 years. I’ve survived childbirth…twice. I’ve survived the death of my husband. And I just keep popping back up, unwilling to let this kinda stuff knock the stuffings out of me. That would just never do. After all, I am Spartacus.

Oh, really? 

Ouching all the way, I slid to dry pavement, got up, made it back across the street and into the house, whence came the next revelation: my pants were soaked through. I took one look at the stairs I would need to climb to get dry jeans, and decided I'd rather stand under the hand dryer in the ladies' room at the office.

Nothing is broken, only bruised including my belief in my own imperviousness. I may have to rethink some of this stuff. It's not easy admitting I can be wounded physically, or even emotionally. Okay, it can happen. Occasionally. Rarely. Doesn't mean I like just means I will concede that there may be a small chink in the armor.

With the help of a whole lotta Advil, a donated cane, and that marvelous Jacuzzi corner tub in my bathroom, I am healing quickly. I have yet to miss even one dog walk, but she is getting used to walking very slowly down the very dry street. 

Wifely Person's Tip O' The Week 
Walking in the dog in the dark? Use one of those little penlights.
That way you'll be sure you've picked up all the poop.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Smile ---We're On Candid Camera!

While doing the scut-work for a client's upcoming trip to India, I tripped across an interesting piece of information: certain factions in Hyderabad were planning “Cairo-like” demonstrations. Since it's my job to stuff people into little silver tubes and launch them toward strange and exotic locations, I thought I should check it out.

Hyderabad Legislative Assembly

 My first line of inquiry is always, the source of all things internationally scary. Nothing except a brief mention in the India national profile.  So I checked the English language newspapers in Hyderabad. Not much there either, only a mixed bag of “eh” and “factious clashes.” 

(Note: This afternoon it was announced there is an event scheduled for March 10th -  something called the Telangana Million March. And even the newspaper qualified the march by saying the parents of students expected to participate were requesting a rescheduling of the march because it conflicted with set school examination dates.)

I also queried several of my road warriors, a couple of whom had just gotten back from  nearby Bangalore. No one had anything major to report. Finally one of my intrepid  voyageurs put it into perspective. “Would you tell them,” he asked, “not to go to Madison?”

Okay, fair enough, but it got me to wondering: what kind of press are we getting? Finding out wasn't as easy as I thought when there are far more serious demonstrations going on around the globe. Still, I think the question should be asked: how does the rest of the world view events here?

The had several articles and lots of opinions, not the least of which was Jeffrey Sommers who said, "A month into office, he was keen to establish himself as the new sheriff in town... Walker... presents himself in a way that could be right out of Frank Capra's central casting..." while Clancy Sigal of the same paper calls "Wisconsin's governor Scott Walker, a dim bulb but ultra-reactionary ...with obvious political ambitions."  The Guardian mentioned “Tens of thousands of demonstrators" were gathered in the Wisconsin state capital. 

Wisconsin State Capitol Building
Not surprisingly, El Nacional de Venezuela had pretty substantial coverage, (I have to say I love their word for protesters: manifestantes. It just sounds so…so… Marxist.. and soooo Spanish!) They reported there were 70,000 manifestantes marching for their rights in Madison.

Aljazeera actually had a pretty balanced report, estimated “close to 100,000” demonstrators.” They offered no opinions whatsoever. Not much of anything in Le Figaro which surprised me because France is such a hotbed of union protest.

Rome’s la Repubblica, however, seems to like Governor Walker a great deal, “The governor's plan is literally more than drastic anti-union. The brave Republican wants to close the current gap of 137 million that in a couple of years should exceed three billion dollars…”   

What was missing from almost all these reports was the reasonably peaceful nature of the protests and counter protests. No bullets, no mace, no water cannon...okay...that would've been cruel and unusual punishment in winter in Wisconsin. I guess I just wanted them to talk about what didn't happen. But then again, that nothing ugly happened probably removed it from the news cycle and I guess we should be thankful for that.

Stepford Wives  - 1975
Michele Bachmann - 2010
On the other hand, Michele Bachmann’s performance on MEET THE PRESS was beamed out to the immediate world. (Kinda reminded me of that scene in CONTACT when the Vegans beamed back the opening of the Nazi Olympics because it was the first thing ever broadcast.) I am ashamed to admit I actually live in the place that would send that Stepford automaton to congress. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o' the Week
Doubt she’s from Stepford?  Just watch her eyes while she blathers. 
It is just too scary for words. 

The Wifley Person's Bonus Tip
Do not compare Jesse "the Gov" Ventura to Michele Bachmann.
Apples and oranges.