From DACHSHUNDS, LAUGHS, AND RANTS (Nonfiction)
From What a Life!
I relished my life in a military family while growing up, and as a child, I thought that most people moved to a new location every few years like we did. We were living in Miami, Florida, when Dad decided to retire at age 50, after more than twenty-two years in the Army. As soon as his retirement was official, we moved to North Carolina, our home state. It was my high school senior year and my brother’s fifth grade year, but we all wanted to be near family as well as Ft. Bragg so that our family could utilize the medical, PX, and commissary privileges for retired personnel. Dad went on to work as a chef in various restaurants, even owning one for a few years, before retiring for good.
I attended 13 schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade, which was interesting, but difficult at times. The hardest part was transferring to a different school in the middle of the year. At times, I would be far behind what the new class was learning, or would be far ahead, having already learned the material in the previous school. In spite of those difficulties, I somehow managed to get a great education along the way. All that travel certainly counted for something, and I had been fortunate to live in two foreign countries, France and Germany, for several years each.
I began my schooling in France at age four in L'Ecole de St. Joseph, a French Catholic school near our home in Libourne. As the only American (and Protestant) student in the school at that time, I picked up the language quickly, I'm told. From what I remember regarding that time, I understood perfectly what the nuns and my classmates were saying, and spoke French as fluently as I did English. My parents often asked me to translate for them when we frequented local markets. Ah, to be that fluent again!
The concept of boredom, which means something dull, tiresome, or tedious, is not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, if that’s the case, then we can just switch to something that isn't dull, tiresome, or tedious, right? Unfortunately, however, that's not always possible because the object of the boredom is often a person we have to endure (like a dear Aunt Hortense who never tires of talking about her antique doorknob collection), a job we must keep (because creditors often take a dim view of those who quit their jobs), or an event we must attend (a graduation ceremony that comes prepackaged with a long-winded, boring speaker). We all suffer through those things because they are just a part of life. There's an entire infrastructure of books, programs, and conferences that has been created to address these issues, so let's not deprive all those creators of their methods for making a living.
From On Aging
I'll begin by sharing a conversation I had with granddaughter Alexa as I was getting my coffee one morning when she was four. Still in our night clothes, I was wearing a knee-length nightgown and robe:
Alexa: "Grandma, your legs have designs on them."
Me: "Those aren't designs—they're veins!"
Alexa: "Oh . . . ." Her voice trailed off. She stopped, taking a more studied look at my "designs."
You have to laugh at such things. But when my daughter put that conversation as her Facebook status . . . well, we all got another laugh, and friends commiserated.
Young children believe they’ll never get old and decrepit like Grandma. I was the same, running barefoot with abandon through the grass as a young child, riding my bike with nary a care (because my legs simply didn’t protest back then), or jumping off the high diving board without fear because I was bulletproof—or so I thought.
From D is for Dachshund
We left Germany for the States when I was twelve, so we rehomed her with another family. I have thought of her often through the years. One simply never forgets a dachshund!
Years later, Mom and Dad owned another red standard female by the name of Samantha, whom we called Sam. Now Sam was as different from Elia as she could possibly be, because she was quite a chow hound. She took to sitting beside my dad's chair at meals, staring straight at him (and probably hoping for some morsels to come her way). Dad did give her "people food" at times—we all did. That only made matters worse, however, because Sam then became a nag at mealtime, fixing her stare upon Dad, which annoyed him.
Dad reprimanded the poor dog so often that she became adept at turning her head away at the exact second that he looked in her direction to see if she were watching him. That's right: she'd turn her head away immediately if Dad so much as glanced at her! So don't tell me that dachshunds aren't intelligent. We all got many a laugh over that.
Dad absolutely loved dogs, though, and they loved him in return. Another feat that confounded family and friends was when Dad taught Sam to say a few words that were actually recognizable. Being a Southerner, Dad never said hungry, but pronounced it hongry. Well, Dad taught good ol' Sam to say hongry just like he did, and it was hilarious! Dad would say, "Sam, what do you want, girl?"
Sam also learned to tell us she wanted to go out. I recall watching Dad as he taught Sam to "talk." He'd say, "C'mon, Sam, say 'I wanna go out.'" Sam would growl out some unintelligible syllables, punctuated with a wagging tail. She was trying to please him because she adored him so. Dad would shake his head no, and say, "Sam, say you wanna GO OUT." Finally, and I don't remember how long it took her to learn it, but one day Sam managed to croak out "Wanna go out." I nearly keeled over in surprise, because she clearly enunciated those words. People loved hearing Sam "talk," and so did we.