Thursday, May 11, 2017

Mom Pushes a Ford

The piece below is a  memory of my Mom in her fifties.  It is taken from my nearly completed and upcoming collection of farm stories. 

Mom Pushes a Ford

My Mom was so strong.  When I was little and had finished my bath, I would stand up in the tub and she would wrap a towel around me and swing me up into the air with a whoop and stand me on the toilet seat.  It was our bath time ritual.  Then she would give me a big hug and towel me off.  I loved it.  She only stopped lifting me out of the tub that way when I thought I was too old and asked her to stop, not because I was too heavy for her to lift.  It’s my favorite memory of my Mom.  So big, so strong, so loving.  Love in a rough way.  Her hands were always cracked and rough.  She would rub me with a hard towel, dried on the clothesline and rough itself.  Mom wasn’t gentle.  But both she and her love were so strong.    

 My cousin Robert came from Tampa Florida to our farm for a summer when I was in eighth grade.  I think his Dad, my Uncle Eldon, wanted him to experience farm life.  Darwin had an old Ford, a 54 I think, in the garage that we wanted to mess with.  It was a work car that he stopped driving.  He had switched to driving a pickup truck to work.  Darwin always had a lot of vehicles, trading, repairing, and reselling them all the time.  We wanted to wash it maybe.  Pretend we were driving it.  We needed something to do.  The garage was so small you had to pull cars all the way to the front wall, bumper almost touching, in order to shut the door.  Robert and I couldn’t push it out.  I said I would ask my Mom to help.

“Your Mom?”

 From the way he said it I could tell he thought that was crazy.

“Yeah.  Mom. She’s strong.”

Robert’s Mom was small, blonde, refined, and always dressed up.  She was southern and spoke slowly in what I thought was a superior tone.  Aunt Doris would never try to push a car out of a garage.  That would be nonsense to her.  I went in the house to get my Mom.  She was cooking, stirring something on the stove, wearing a cotton print housedress I bought her.  I always bought her a house dress at Livingston’s in Bloomington for Christmas.  Size 22 and a half.  I picked them out myself.  She had a dish towel draped over her shoulder. 

“Hey Mom, Robert and I want to push Darwin’s work car out of the garage.” 

“What for?”

“We just want to mess around with it.  Maybe clean it up.”

She looked hard at me for a minute.  She could look through me almost.  But her look softened.  She knew Robert and I were having trouble being occupied, and he’d only been there a few weeks.  We had a long time to go.

“Okay, but I don’t want to hear that thing start up.  No messing with the engine and no driving it around.”

“It won't start Mom.  No battery.  No fan blade or belt either.  I think Darwin is using it for parts.  Can you help us get it out of the garage?”

“What, you can’t push it out, the two of you?”

“Not even close.”

“Are the tires flat?”

“No they’re fine.”

“Well you should be able to push it out, you two boys.”

She huffed as she said that.  Mom got huffy when she talked about shortcomings.  She always thought I could do more.  She thought she could do anything and that I could too.  It wasn’t easy.

“All right, I’ll help.”

It was a hot day and hotter still in the garage.  There was a tire rack on the wall above the hood of the car and you had to stoop down to get under the tire rack but between the front bumper and the wall.  She looked the situation over like a puzzle she was about to solve.

“OK, Robert you get in the car and keep the wheels straight.  Is it in neutral?  Yeah?  Well at least you knew it had to be in neutral.”

 “Heck Mom, did you think I didn’t know that?”

She ignored me.

“OK David, you get in the corner and push by the headlight, I’ll get in the middle, and we’ll get this thing rolling.”

Back then you didn’t see women do these things.  Maybe that’s what made such an impression on Robert. Now we have women boxers and weight lifters and basketball players but back then at the start of the sixties there were not a lot of strong women role models.  Mom was solid.  Big legs, big chest, big arms.  Overweight, but solid.  She was beginning to sweat before she wedged herself between the wall and the hood of the Ford.  She planted her feet squarely on the floor with her legs spaced shoulder width.  She got a good grip on the hood and before she began to push she took a big breath and held it.  Her chest flattened out some against the hood and she threw her weight against that big Ford which had been sitting for months without moving.  As she pushed her face reddened.  A vein on her forehead began to grow.  Big drops of sweat formed on her face.  I was so taken with watching her push I think I forgot to. 

And then I looked at Robert.  His job was to just sit and steer the car, but doing so put him face to face with Mom.  Only the windshield separated them.  I was looking at Robert who was staring straight into the red, sweating, strained and contorted face of my Mom.  Her eyes were squeezed shut but Robert’s eyes were big.  He looked scared.

The car slowly began to roll.  As it did Mom extended her arms, pushed away from the car and moved her hips lower.  She drove the car forward with her legs, her face now just above the level of the hood, still straining, eyes still clamped shut.  Robert couldn’t take his eyes off her face.  The look in Robert’s eyes went from fear to what appeared to be awe. 

Now that the car was moving I began to push and it rolled out of the garage and into the sun. A dirty old two tone, dark blue and light blue, Ford Crest Liner with its best days behind it.  I thought it looked great.

Mom took the dish towel from her shoulder and wiped her face.

“See that wasn’t so hard.”

And with that she walked back to the house and disappeared inside.

 “Wow.” You’re right David.  Your Mom really is strong.”

“Hey.  I helped, you know.”

That’s the way I like to remember my Mom; strong, confident, and willing to do anything for you.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Read the Labels on Your Drugs

How about a short miscellaneous blog entry to stay on schedule?  I fell off there for a while.  In my mind I have the idea I should write you more or less once a week, and the longer I’m retired I lose track of the days.  But here’s a rare Saturday account of this and that just to stay in touch. 
Last night my wife took me for a car ride in the belief it is good for me to get out.  I’m not sure that’s the case but I went anyway.  I sit in the back with my foot on the console while she drives.  It’s like a scene out of “Driving Miss Daisy.”

Both our Dads farmed so we find comfort driving on country roads.  We took the blacktops north into Wallace Township and wandered around from there, cruising quiet roads between the empty fields of Waltham and Dimmick before finding ourselves near Mendota.
“Well since we’re here, and it’s Cinco de Mayo, we might as well stop at El Zarape,” I said.

You don’t have to twist my wife’s arm too hard to get her to go out to eat.  We got there just after 5:00 and the parking lot was half full.  By the time we left it was jammed.  We had the May 5 special, which was fajitas for two with two margaritas included for a pretty good price.  My wife loves fajitas and was keen for the deal so I went along.  I think dependency may breed compliance. 

At El Zarape I usually order Dave’s Special, chunks of beef in a dark and spicy chile de arbol red sauce.  Nice and hot.  But the fajitas were good as well.  In addition to grilled steak, chicken, and shrimp the vegetables were good.  In there were freshly grilled onions, green with the tops still on and a fair sized bulb at the end.  They split them in two, added peppers, both bells and jalapenos, with tomatoes, and strips of nopales, which is cactus.  You won’t find nopales everywhere, and certainly not at Taco Bell.  Joe, the Mexican man who owns El Zarape, keeps it pretty authentic.  Special last night was a woman up front at los comale, the grill, dipping into a big bowl of masa and making homemade corn tortillas.  Both the sound of her patting the balls of dough flat with her hands and the smell of them cooking reminded me of being in Mexico in the 70’s.  It’s pretty hard to beat freshly grilled tortillas.  While I haven’t done an exhaustive survey of Mexican restaurants in LaSalle County (a great idea though don’t you think?) El Zarape has to be up there among the best.
I had the margarita included with my half of the dinner and two more which was a mistake.  Joe’s margaritas aren’t as weak as the gringo margaritas you get elsewhere.  It made for a short evening and a long night.  I conked out in the recliner, was in bed by 9:00, and slept like a log.  I woke up early and got out here in the shack by 7:30, with assistance from my wife who was leaving early for some deal downtown.  I’m still on one leg after my ankle surgery, with orders to keep the other leg up in the air most of the time, and I need help carrying my scooter up and down stairs while I navigate with crutches.  It’s been a month since surgery and I have a month to go of that routine.  Halfway done.

Here’s a tidbit of information you could probably do without but I’ll tell you anyway.  I’ve been giving myself injections of something my surgeon prescribed to prevent blood clots, what with me being so sedentary in my recovery.  He tells me blood clots are a risk I should be careful about, so I am.  I started giving myself these shots in the hospital and continue every day.  It’s not bad.  The needle is short and thin, and I hardly feel it.  It’s a subcutaneous injection, which means under the skin.  I do them in my abdomen, alternating places in a circle around my navel like a clock.  I pinch a piece of fat, no problem in my case, scrub it with alcohol on a cotton ball, pop in the syringe, and it’s over.  Everything is disposable.  Piece of cake. 

The doc referred to this anti-coagulant drug I’m putting into myself every morning by its catchy brand name not on my generic box, Lovanox.  The boxes of syringes I have are marked Enoxaparin Sodium 40 mg syringes.  A couple of days ago I looked closer at the box to see if I could find out what exactly was entering my body and here’s what I found.
Each 0.4 mL contains 40 mg of enoxaparin sodium derived from porcine intestinal mucosa in Water for injection.

I’m not a pharmacist but I damned sure know what porcine and mucosa mean.  What I’m shooting into my belly each morning is a solution of water and mucus from a pig’s intestine, which only serves to fortify one of my favorite observations on life made by the immortal and gifted piano player and homespun philosopher Fats Waller.  It goes like this.

“One never really knows, do one?”
To tell you the truth, an ideal to which I always strive, I’m glad I’m taking a daily dose of mucus from a pig’s gut in plain ass water rather than some complicated chemical concoction dreamed up by a drug company chemist.  Seems more natural, though unexpected.  It might also explain my recent intense craving for sausage.

I’ll close with news from my small world in the shack.  On my laptop here I have a word file of 77,782 words divided into 35 stories, a table of contents, a somewhat logical progression beginning with early memories and ending with the day I left the farm to go to college.  Those 35 pieces of writing are either a collection of stories or a book.  I’ve taken enough liberties with the truth that it can’t be called a memoir, but my family and friends, particularly Danvers people, will find things in there they also remember.  I don’t know what will come of this big file, but I may be within weeks of sending it out to Alpha readers to see if they think it’s any good.  I need their input.  I’m afraid I lost all perspective months ago. 
So while convalescing, keeping my foot elevated, moving about with the help of equipment for the handicapped, and shooting hog gut slime into my body each morning may not sound like fun, it has markedly helped my literary ambitions.  There’s good in everything I guess.  I may come out of this with not only an improved ankle but also the draft of my first book.  Stay tuned.  And read the labels on your drugs.  You may be surprised.