June 1, 2017.

            Well, one week to go until a team of highly educated doctors take stainless steel tools and nip out my old, defective shoulder parts and replace them with something that resembles a part one would buy at a trailer store. I’m excited about this in an odd way. Having my arm pop out of the socket simply from the weight of the limb and the forces of gravity has grown tiresome. It’s time to move on to recovery mode.

          I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to type for a few weeks after this is done, since I’m supposed to keep the arm and joint immobile, via a sling, and then there are the drugs. Even with a decent pain threshold, I’m suspecting those will be in play for at least a week. If I attempt to write anything using my one good hand and my drug-addled brain, it will likely look as if cats ran across the keyboard, although some might say that would be an improvement.

          So I was thinking: This could be the last thing I write for a while, so what the heck. Go for broke with a tried and true style: The documentary diary. Be forewarned, though. There are a lot of words here. Pack a lunch.

June 1, 2017, later in the day.

           In 1957, my family moved into a suburban tract house with a tiny kitchen, which at the time seemed perfectly sized in every way since I had never seen a larger kitchen. Ever. It had two upper cabinets, and two lower cabinets, a stove and a refrigerator. There was also a cabinet above the stove, but that was only used to hide the booze and the cookies. All told, there were maybe eight linear feet of cabinets and a cast-iron sink that was cut into a tiny slab of Formica countertop, which had a stainless steel edge that was nailed in place with visible fourpenny nails. As the pièce de résistance, there was a table and chairs that matched the countertop, since there was apparently only one pattern available for Formica or kitchen furniture back then. What more could a family need or want?

          I have no idea where my mother stored the huge loads of groceries she bought once a week since she also stored all of our dishes, glassware, pots, pans, cookie sheets, spices, baking supplies, mixing bowls, roasting pans and cutlery in those cabinets.

           I thought about my mom’s kitchen situation the other morning as I waited for my arm to catch up with the rest of my general state of alertness. It feels, all the time as if I whacked my funny bone, but more so first thing in the morning as I risibly lift my left hand with my right and bring it to the table as if I am a marionette trying to eat granola. As the day wears on, things do get a bit more fluid.

          As I sat and ate my breakfast, I looked at our refrigerator. It’s nice, as far as refrigerators go, and is the fifth such appliance that I’ve purchased in my adult life, each one swelling in size and doodads from the previous version.

          I thought about the refrigerator we had in our house when I was a boy, and it could easily fit inside of the refrigerator I have now. The walls on that old thing were as thick as a battleship, which made the inside dimensions even smaller. The freezer compartment was screwed into the upper portion of the interior of the box almost as an afterthought, and when the slot machine handle was pulled down to open the chalky white door, both freezer and non-freezer compartments were right there, front and center. Had they had frozen turkeys back then, ours would have been stored outside in a snow bank.

          As for our current cupboards, they are filled to capacity, and I have no idea what’s in most of them. This is for two older people, not a family of seven. I know what’s in the front of most of them, but a scant few inches behind that could hold anything. A couple of times a year, we’ll dig out applesauce or something that dates back to a past president:

Me:     I found some black olives for the pizza, but they’re out of date.

Wife:   Which president?

Me:     Bush.

Wife:   41 or 43?

Me:     41.

Wife:   They’re fine.

          This overcrowding situation got so bad that I installed a brand new cabinet in our laundry room to accommodate the spillover. I also have no idea what’s in that cabinet other than dog biscuits and dog collar batteries, but it’s packed full of something. I can tell you what’s not in there: Chips.

          Chip bags have grown to ridiculous proportions in the past few years. Each package is the size of a bag of peat moss. I’ve seen the delivery guy from Frito-Lay going down the aisle at Wegmans. It looks as if he’s delivering furniture. Granted, at least fifty-percent of each bag is filled with air—so much air that Jacques Cousteau, if he were still alive, could jam a straw into one and dive down to the bottom of the Marianas Trench­—but even so, those are way too big. The chip bags in the size my mom used to buy are now given away on Halloween.

          So where do we keep our chips? On top of the dryer. Well, that ended last week when I dumped out a shelves worth of Lord-knows-what and crammed the chips in the cupboard. They put up a struggle but finally let out a wheeze of salty air and sank into place, safe, sound and never to be seen again.

June 2, 2017.

           I had to buy pants with an elastic waist along with short sleeve shirts with buttons. This would be your basic nursing home ensemble. Since I won’t be able to button a waistband button or speedily work a zipper with one hand for a few weeks, I needed to get some accessible clothes. I can button a shirt one-handed, but the button on the waistband of a pair of pants is a lot harder. Try it.

          The only pants I could find with an elastic waist that were nylon (so they’d slip on easily using one hand) were track pants. I have sweatpants, but they are exactly the same sweatpants you remember from high school if you went to high school in the 1970s—heather gray, as thick as shag carpeting and not the least bit flattering. Five minutes out of the dryer and it looks as if I’m wearing an adult diaper on top of an adult diaper held in place with a mawashi underneath those sweats. I basically wear them for bumming around the house in the winter. I also call them my flu pants.

          The majority of the track pants I saw are subtitled Jogger Pants and are a lot snugger than someone who is not a twenty-five-year-old ballerino should wear, plus they have a large elastic cuff at the ankle. I tried them on more for laughs than anything else, and the bottom quickly rode up to my calves. Who am I? Audrey Hepburn? I searched around a bit longer and found something on sale that’ll work for a few weeks. I also bought a pair of shorts that would look right at home on the hardwoods of the NBA. Additionally, I had to get slip-on shoes, and the pair I found online was so great, I bought another pair in a different color. I’ll actually wear these when I can tie shoes again.

          Outside of these new additions, my entire wardrobe for the next few weeks will be pajama pants and oversized T-shirts. Honestly? It sounds great. My plan is to sit on the back porch like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, spying on the neighbors.

June 2, 2017, later in the day.

            I received the new issue of Car and Driver in the mail today. I like reading about cars, but I have no passion at all for them. I’d drive a toaster oven if it had four-wheel drive.

            The magazine came in a plastic bag, which I appreciate since every other magazine arrives naked and sullied by postal workers. Last week, the substitute mail carrier jammed a cardboard envelope stamped DO NOT BEND–CONTAINS PHOTOGRAPHS into the mailbox, which folded the envelope and the 8×10 photographs inside of the envelope into an origami goose. I took the envelope to the post office, because that’s what cranky retired people do, and the clerk with the nose ring took it and in the dead-eyed monotone that is typical of low-level government employees, she said, “I’ll put it on the supervisor’s desk.” And then she walked away. I was the only soul in sight and not sure if this was it, so I started whistling, which echoed off the windowless concrete block walls.

            I stood there for quite a while, whistling, until she came back. The supervisor’s desk must have been in Washington. We both stared at each other in silence until I sighed and left. She had deflated my senior rant with her indifference. Nicely played, nose ring lady.

            So, getting back to my magazine. I opened the plastic bag, and there was an envelope stuck to the cover regarding my subscription that expires in eight months. “Time to renew,” it said. No, it’s not. It’s time to renew in seven months.

           I pulled the envelope off to throw it in the garbage, but the sticky booger glue on the back of it would not let go and the entire cover ripped off. If I tried to rip off the cover on purpose, I could not have done so as neatly.

            That’s how my afternoon went, but I did get to read about the Honda Ridgeline, which would look great in toaster oven black.

June 3, 2017.

           There’s another squirrel in the garage, which is way too close to the door that leads into the kitchen, which is where we keep the peanut butter. Our Costco-sized barrel of peanut butter, or as zoologists call it, squirrel crack, is what they’ve been after all along as they lull us into distraction with their cute squirrelly antics.

           Sneaky clown ninja squirrels.

           Luckily, I have two different traps that can be baited with squirrel crack and placed in the garage. The smaller trap is for chipmunks since they can squeeze through the wire squares on the larger squirrel trap. The company that makes these traps could make every trap with the smaller mesh, but they are a greedy trap-making conglomerate that forces people to buy two traps.

            The animal will be caught unharmed and feast on a PB sandwich while I drive him (or her, who can tell?) six miles away, open the trap door, and watch him (or her) scamper off to a new home. Why six miles? Because I read somewhere that squirrels will find their way back if it’s any less, so take that, town park.

            The traps were baited and within an hour, the junkie squirrel couldn’t resist the intoxicating lure of Skippy. I then placed the trap with the squirrel still inside out in the shade so his squirrel buddies could see what happens when they cross the line:

Squirrel #1:      Did you see Ralph? The peanut butter monster got him. He got Chip last week.

Squirrel #2:      ATTICA! ATTICA!

Squirrel #1:      Look, now peanut butter monster is putting him in the back of that red beast with the warm thing that the mice nest in during the winter. Ralph is going off to live with the mice!

Squirrel #3       Traitor! I’m going to eat his acorns. Who’s with me?

             Anyway, Ralph is now living happily in another woods, safe and sound. The rest of the squirrels now stare at me with evil intent.

 June 4, 2017.

              Why do I still wake up at 5:00 am? I don’t want to sleep until noon, but five o’clock seems early for somebody not tilling farmland.

June 4, 2017, mid-afternoon.

            I went upstairs to the guest room, which is one-hundred percent Milo’s queen sized dog bed, shoved him aside, and started reading. I fell asleep for forty-five minutes. Mrs. G. knows when I say, “I’m going upstairs to read” that I really mean “I woke up too early, so I’m going upstairs to take a nap with the dog.”

June 4, 2017, late afternoon.

            Everybody has their own personal style. Even a lack of style or indifference to style is still a style so whatever it is that Johnny Depp considers his personal style, that’s up to him. I don’t care.

            What puzzles me about this ad for Sauvage featuring Johnny Depp is not the pretentious name of the cologne, and it’s not Depp’s rings or bracelets or tattoos or his carefully arranged forelocks that look like parentheses, no not at all. What puzzles me is the expression on his face. For those of us not involved in the business of selling cologne, that expression is exactly the same expression most of us would have if we were in an elevator with two other people and one of those people let rip a bleating thunderstorm of nuclear-level flatulence.

            Now I ask you, people at Dior, just how bad does Sauvage smell because the implication is that it smells exactly like a platter of week-old deviled eggs with a side of cabbage.

June 4, 2017, late, late afternoon.

            Two tickets for the 3-D version of Wonder Woman, with a senior discount—$32.98. Yikes! Going anyway. It’s raining and I figure I’ll be trapped in the house for a while in a few days. Better get out now while I can. The previews looked good and much better than the cheesy TV version from a few decades ago. Still, Linda Carter …

June 4, 2017, four hours later.

              I missed the exit, but we made it to the theater in plenty of time. My daughter and three of her friends were also there. We texted pictures of ourselves wearing 3-D glasses back and forth until the movie started.

            The movie was really good. Mrs. G. bought a giant tub of popcorn. It was my first movie theater popcorn cask. I usually get a small. They offered refills, but who can eat that much popcorn?

June 5, 2017.

            My younger sister, Donna, would have been fifty-eight today. She passed away while still in her thirties. Cancer. This is partially why having shoulder surgery at sixty-two doesn’t seem so bad to me. At least I’m still around to have parts replaced. Donna had a great sense of humor. I still miss her and often wonder what her life would have been like today.

June 5, 2017, a little later.

            I have not one but two appointments with doctors later today. One appointment is with a neurologist because there is a big nerve that runs right where the shoulder joint is going to be removed and replaced and the second is with my orthopedic surgeon to discuss the nerve thing. I appreciate the thoroughness.

June 5, 2017, a little later still.

            I really dislike capacitive buttons. They are OK on a phone or tablet, but give me good old dials or tactile buttons on everything else.

            I bring this up because I recently bought a new camera that has dials and buttons. There is a flip screen that has capacitive buttons, but I’ve only used it once to set the thing up. Everywhere I go to shoot pictures, somebody asks me about it because it resembles an old film camera.

            Anyway, on Saturday, I took the camera and went to a small airpark near here and looked at old planes. The park was celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, so lots of people were hanging around, grilling hot dogs and talking about hobby flying. They also had old cars with old guys and old ladies in lawn chairs sitting next to them, which is a thing around here in the summer. Old cars and lawn chair people seem to spring up everywhere, but old airplanes, not so much.

            People who enjoy flying and who own their own planes are a passionate bunch. All of these planes are small and if not for the wings, they could roll into most garages. Most looked showroom new, but I talked to one guy with a beat up, greasy 1940s Piper Cub. He looked like his plane in the same way that some people look like their dogs. I didn’t get to see him take off, but I suspect he was the one who did Lenny rolls.

            I stayed for over an hour, taking pictures of cars and airplanes and talking with total strangers about their hobby. It was a blast.

June 6, 2017, 5:30 am.

            The tests with the neurologist went OK, but he is sending me for more tests. The first stop was more blood work and then another MRI this afternoon. Seems I have a pinched nerve in my L whatever. Nobody thinks this will impact the surgery, but as long as the car is in the shop, let’s test the fuses.

            In between appointments, I drove to the mall to return a pair of jeans I bought online from The GAP. I bought a pair a few weeks ago in the store, and they fit great. Rather than drive another twenty-six miles (one way) for another pair after I spilled a quart of oil on the first pair, I went online. That’s how all the cool kids do it, right?

            With free shipping, they arrived in a week and remained folded on a chair for a few days. Not only do I dislike trying on clothes in a store, I dislike it at home as well. I’ve already put on pants once, now I have to take those off and do it again? How do highly paid male fashion models like Johnny Depp do it?

            So I eventually tried them on.

            Remember The Hulk on TV? Remember when Not The Hulk got angry and transformed into The Hulk, and his pants shrank up to his knees? That’s what these jeans looked like. I checked the tag, and they were my size, but they weren’t. I peeled them off, laid them on the countertop and measured them. The inseam was four inches shorter than marked and the waist two inches smaller. What is it with me and short pants lately?

            When I brought them to The Gap, a very proper British woman said, “Oh dear. Well, that happens. So sorry. Would you fancy trying on another pair?”

            I really didn’t have time so I took a hard pass on that, then listened to her tell me that this happens with women’s clothes all the time. “They’re all cut differently,” she said. I mentioned that these pants were not cut wrong, but rather labeled wrong not once but twice, and suggested they be restocked over in Baby Gap.

June 6, 2017, 7:30 am.

            I’d better wrap this up. Things to do, places to be, thirty-three hundred words to edit.

            I download the latest John Grisham novel to my Kindle, checked my to-do list for pre-surgery tasks, and that should be that. I’m not nervous, although I probably should be. People have joint replacements all the time, right? I’ll be in a nice private room for two days, and the PT starts the day after surgery. No rest for the wicked.

            We’ll catch up soon.


June 10, 2017

            The surgery went fine. Almost two hours on the dot. I was wheeled up to my room and placed in a chair. There’s a funny story about that, but I’m typing one-handed. I’ll get to it another time.

            I was released the day after surgery with a “baby aspirin” level prescription for oxycodone. I take one tablet at bedtime otherwise the discomfort is manageable throughout the day. Good quality sleep is impossible though since I have to stay on my back while wearing a sling. I take catnaps all day, which is OK. I feel tired all the time, that’s all.

            So that’s pretty much it for now. Time to do my elephant trunk arm swings.

            Oh, thank you to all the people who are in nursing. I don’t know how you do it, but I’m glad you do.




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