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Help, I’m Suddenly Single, and I Can’t Get Up, or Down, or Anything!

13 Feb

by Roger White

Operator: “911, what’s your emergency?”

TOS: “Well, um, my wife and kids are gone. I’m not sure what to do.”

Operator: “Gone? How long have they been missing?”

TOS: “Uh, well. They’re not so much missing. They’re just, you know. Gone.”

Operator: “I don’t understand.”

TOS: “You see, my oldest daughter is doing a study abroad semester in New Zealand, and my wife went with her to get her set up over there. They’ve been gone almost a full day now. And my youngest, well, she is away at the University of Arkansas. I’m all alone.”

Operator: “I see. Are you in any danger?”

TOS: “Well. I’m hungry. And I think the microwave is broken. And the washer is making a sound like a wounded coyote. I’m a little scared.”

boil-what

Operator: “Calm down, sir. I need you to remain calm. How long have you been married?”

TOS: “Uh. Twenty-uh. Twenty-six years. Why? The washer’s growling now. I think it’s angry. Oh, God.”

Operator: “Relax, sir. Just breathe. Breathe deeply through your nose. Slow, steady breaths. Has your wife been away for any extended period of time during your marriage?”

TOS: “Huh? I . . . well, no. I don’t think. Uh, wait, she went to visit her sister once a few years ago, but I stayed with relatives then. Why?”

Operator: “Sir, you’re experiencing OFSW. Do you have a paper bag you can breathe into?”

TOS: “OS – what? I’m starting to see spots.”

Operator: “OFSW. Over-Functioning Spousal Withdrawal. Are you drinking liquids? You need to stay hydrated—and remain calm.”

TOS: “Well, I’ve had some beers. That’s liquid.”

Operator: “No, sir, you need water. Drink a glass of water, with nothing else in it. And find a place to sit down.”

all-alone

TOS: “OK. OK, I’m sitting on the floor now. I have the dog’s water bowl. Ralph looks scared, too. He doesn’t look so good.”

Operator: “Ralph? Who’s Ralph?”

TOS: “The dog. He’s looking at me with this panicked expression, like he did when we had ringtail cats in the attic. Take it easy, boy.”

Operator: “Are you OK, sir?”

TOS: “I think. We’re sharing the water bowl now. Ralph was really thirsty. This water tastes like kitty litter.”

Operator: “I need you to listen to me, sir. Do you have anything in the fridge to eat? Vegetables, cheese, any frozen dinners?”

slurp

TOS: “I’m at the fridge now. There are some Hungry Mans in the freezer. The salisbury steak kind. My favorite. But like I said, the microwave isn’t working.”

Operator: “What about the oven?”

TOS: “The what?”

 

Operator: “Never mind. What seems to be wrong with the microwave? Maybe I can help you diagnose it over the phone.”

TOS: “I don’t know! The button and the thing with the deal, when I push it, nothing happens and then I get this beeping warning thing and the light goes off, and, and … I don’t know!”

Operator: “Sir, breathe into the bag. Slowly. Let’s just forget about the microwave for now. Look in the crisper.”

TOS: “The whatter?”

Operator: “Crisper. The crisper, sir. It’s the drawer in the fridge that has vegetables, you know. Green things like lettuce and broccoli.”

TOS: “Green things? Wait, let me look. Oh. Hey, I’ll be darned. So that’s where the carrots are. I thought maybe she bought them fresh every day or something.”

Operator: “OK, good. Take out a carrot and . . .”

TOS: “[Crunch, crunch.] Not the best thing to eat, but it’s all right, I guess.”

Operator: “Did you wash it?”

TOS: “Wash what? Hey, Ralph likes carrots! How ’bout that? I need meat, though. And the beer’s gone.”

Operator: “Are you starting to feel better, sir? How’s your breathing?”

TOS: “Uh oh. The washer’s starting to walk toward me. You should hear this thing. Sounds like a John Bonham drum solo.”

Operator: “You may have overloaded it. You put in just one load, didn’t you?”

TOS: “Well, everything that was dirty. And my coat. I had to stand on the load to get it all in. Wait, I can see suds now. Oh, man, here it co—.”

Operator: “Just try to stay calm, sir. We have an OFSW officer on the way. Sir? Sir?”

TOS: “Bllbbbblb.”

Roger White is a freelance hermit living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a morbidly obese dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr Syndrome. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Suburban Worldsick Blues

27 May

by Roger White

 

With a tip of the hat to a master chronicler of the American age, it must be noted that Bob Dylan never lived in a 3/2/2 with central heat/air and two and a half mortgages during a time when, by all appearances, our society is on the verge of utter decay—all viewable with the click of a mouse or touch of a pad.

 

So I give you “Suburban Worldsick Blues.”

 

Perry’s in the Capitol, railin’ against abortion,

I’m lookin’ at my taxes thinkin’ it’s extortion,

The man in the trench coat shootin’ up the school halls

Says he got bullied so everybody must fall.

 

Look out, dad, the economy is bad,

God knows what we did, but the country’s on the skids.

 

You better duck down, turn page, watch out for road rage,

Another mass swhyhooting, another senseless rampage,

Sterling’s on his cell phone reminiscin’ ’bout slavery,

Miley’s twerkin’ onstage, scandalous behavery.

 

Look out, mom, Gotta stay calm,

Soldiers in Kabul dodging roadside bombs.

 

Get sick, get well, they’re laying off again at Dell,

Are we winnin’ whatever war, it’s gettin’ kinda hard to tell,

Presidenidiotst says our healthcare system’s unfit,

All Congress says is where’s your birth certificate?

 

Well, Hormel, GM organizin’ recalls,

Bad meat, bad brakes, pickets down at town hall,

Daughter’s college fees call for medical sedation,

Building border walls to stifle immigration.

 

Look out, pop, no tellin’ where it stops,

Younger daughter’s boyfriend working at a head shop.

 

Mortgage underwater, excess beer consumption,

Viagra wants to help with that erectile dysfunction,

The factonoworkry just made a Chapter 11 declaration,

School board says it’s gonna teach divine creation.

 

Text tweet online, your selfie looking so fine,

Kids in Bosnia steppin’ on old land mines.

Icebergs meltin’, droughts killin’ all the wheat,

Just global warmin’ lies of the liberal elite.

 

Well, get dressed, get stressed, face the day’s traffic mess,

Oops, your job’s just been outsourced to Bangladesh.

Don’t follow leaders, take pills for all the cedars,

Find yourself a new position as a Walmart greeter.

 

Look out, mama, you’re dyin’ from the trauma,

Increase yer Prozac dosage, tune in the dalai lama.

 

Well, jump down a manhole, filibuster gun control,

thebardThink I saw a shadow up there beyond the grassy knoll,

Headin’ to the car, another day in the loony ward,

Shakin’ yer head ’cause the vandals keyed yer new Ford.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

143a.

 

Keep Your Head Down During the BFF Wars

13 Feb

by Roger White

 

So I stepped out onto my front porch the other day into a pile of brightly colored bikini tops. There were at least six or eight of these sexy swimwear items crowding my front door. My first thought: “Well, it’s finally happened. The neighborhood womenfolk have been spying me working out through my bedroom window for so long now that they just can’t take it anymore. My guns, my six-pack, my dimpled charm—they were simply too much to resist. So the wives and moms of Travis Country collectively lost it and decided to pay homage, Tom Jones style. With the lines to the man“What’s New, Pussycat?” sauntering through my mind, I reached down to take the offerings, half expecting names and phone numbers to be hidden among the intimate apparel.

 

“Oh.” Then it hit me—these were return items in my younger daughter’s ongoing BFF wars.

 

 Let me attempt an explanation. If you are not the parent of teenage daughter types, well, then, lucky you. Let me start over. If you are not the parent of teenage daughter types, you may not understand that drama runs extremely high in this species. In fact, if Mr. Maslow had been raising a teenage daughter when he was developing his “hierarchy of needs” philosophy, then his list of basic human necessities would be ranked something like this: 5. Shelter; 4. Food; 3. Water; 2. Oxygen; 1. Drama. Like so.

 

It seems, if I’ve interpreted correctly what little I could catch of my daughter’s version gossip girlsof recent events, that a certain group of friends are, like, so jealous of a certain person’s ongoing, like, relationship, with a certain boy, so, like, this certain group of friends are giving the cold shoulder to this person until she, like, shows them more attention. As if. Duh.

 

Aha, pals versus passion. The crew versus the crush. I vaguely remember similar situations back in my high school days, and I must say that we handled things very differently. Of course, this was a bygone era, and I was a guy. I recall that if one of our group was lucky enough to actually find a girl who could tolerate him for more than a week, we simply wished him well—and hated him behind his back. Then we followed the unfortunate couple around the school halls making lewd, disgusting noises, and we occasionally hunted down their makeout spot to shine flashlights and blast airhorns. Yeah, we were much more mature about these things.

 

Of course, none of this even remotely applies to me today. These days, as married as long as we’ve been, the wife looks at me after I come home from hanging with my crew (Steve) and sighs, “Oh, you back again already?” Yeah.

 

So anyway, that’s the reason for all the bikini tops on my doorstep. The BFFs are saying to my young one, “Here are your things back. Clothes and makeup trading is, like, off until you come to your senses.”

deardad 

My delicate job in all of this, I’ve found from experience, is to nod or shrug as appropriate and say absolutely nothing. I learned that if I agree too readily with my daughter’s harsh appraisal of Heather, Ashley, and/or Brittanie Anne while the wars are in progress that this always comes back to bite me. Hard. “Yes, you’re right,” I made the mistake of saying one time trying to soothe dear daughter’s hurt feelings. “Brittanie Anne can be pretty snotty.” Of course, during the ensuing BFF truce, I heard my daughter proclaim to Brittanie Anne, “My dad thinks you’re snotty.”

 

Lord help me.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

Dad’s ‘Stairway to Summer’

3 Feb

by Roger White

 

Now that we’re in the dead of winter, and those despicable, horrid, scorching temperatures of mid-July are long gone, I truly miss those despicable, horrid, scorching temperatures of mid-July. This always happens, and I always know it’s going Zepto happen. I am now officially sick of winter. I dreamed of grilling out in the backyard recently. This wondrous dream was even set to music—à la Led Zeppelin. I call this wondrous nocturnal fantasy “Stairway to Summer.”

 

Note: If you can’t play “Stairway” in your head as you read this, this will make no sense to you whatsoever and you will become convinced that my mind has been eaten by worms. The latter may be true, of course, but read on if you will:

 

“Stairway to Summer”

There’s a daddy who’s sure all that sizzles is gold,

And he’s grilling five pounds of heaven.

 

When he gets there he knows if the propane is low,

With a card he can get more at Walgreen’s.

 da grill

Oooh, oooo-oooh, and he’s grilling five pounds of heaven.

 

On his grill there’s some mush, but with his handy wire brush

He scrapes and, oops, he just lost one patty.

 

In a tree by the grill, there’s a songbird who sings,

And, uh oh, the bird just soiled another patty.

 

Oooh, oooo-ooh, and dad’s grilling three pounds of heaven.

 

There’s a feeling he gets when meat falls through the slats,

And his spirit is crying and bereaving.

 

In his thoughts he has seen the grill smoke through the trees,

And the voices of those who stand drooling.

 

Oooh, oooo-ooh, and dad’s grilling two pounds of heaven.

 

And it’s whispered that soon, if you use a big spoon,

You can salvage those patties in the fire.

 

And a new day will dawn for those on the lawn,

And the backyard will echo with laughter.

 

Did anyone remember ketchup?

 

Oooh, oooo-ooh, and he’s grilling a half-pound of heaven.

 

(picking up the tempo now)

 

If there’s some gristle in your ground chuck,

Don’t be a dumb schmuck,

It’s just a sprinkling of tendon.

 

Yes, there are two paths you can go by,

But to use care,

Well done’s safer than rare.

 dead patties

Oooooh, but it makes him wonder.

 

His head is humming on his fifth beer,

But have no fear,

The wifey’s calling him to slow down.

 

Dear Daddy can you smell the gas now?

You’ve burned a whole cow,

Your burgers are lost on the whispering wind.

 

(kicking it in!)

 

And as we settle down to eat,

Everything’s ready but the meat,

 

There sweats dear Daddy in the heat,

Who shines bright red in drunk defeat.

 

Did all that sizzle turn to ash

grill oopsIn a propane-fueled flash?

The answer comes to him, behold!

There’s fried chicken on the stove,

So let’s have that last Michelooooob!

 

Ooooh, and dad’s scraping the burnt remnants of heaven.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

It Takes a Village to Save the Squirrels

18 Nov

by Roger White                                                                              

It dawned on me the other day, as I was returning yet another socket wrench and assorted metric sockets to my neighbor Jim, that regarding many things about life and the cosmos I’m mostly talking out of my, uh, hat.

This particular moment of clarity came to me as I realized, watching my long-suffering and patient neighbor reseat his tools into their precise positions in his immaculate garage workshop, that as vociferously as I rail against modern society and pine for the days of yore, I would have lasted maybe a week and a half in the a slow squirrelolden times. My family would have lived under one of those quaint covered bridges. We would have subsisted on wild turnips and slow squirrels. Oh, who am I kidding? I wouldn’t even know how to trap a squirrel, much less cook the thing and eat it.

You see, I have no skills. Zero. Nada. Bupkiss. Save helping you proofread your short story or guiding you through the distinctions between the possessive apostrophe and the contraction apostrophe, I’m about as useful and handy as excess nose hair. I don’t build things. My attempts at simple home repair often conclude at the minor emergency clinic. I don’t use a miter box. I’m not even sure what a miter box is.

woopusThe point is, I understand now that I should be thankful to the Large Kahuna that I live in a time and place where hammering nouns and verbs into place can actually put food on the table for me and mine. I’m sure the squirrels are thankful, too. Especially the slow ones. Life in the era of barter and wampum and manual dexterity would have been a tad severe for yours truly. As Quint said to Richard Dreyfuss’s character in Jaws, “You have city hands, Mr. Hooper.” City hands, indeed. And a city brain.

And thus, with this dawning, came the glow of appreciation for guys like Jim. This may also be a Large Kahuna type of thing, but is it mere happy circumstance that so many of my family’s friends and neighbors are people who can really do things? I mean, criminy, there’s Jim next door, who can fashion anything from an acoustic guitar to a backyard deck from a piece of tree bark; there’s Matt across the street, who’s fixed our computer so many times that when I call him now, instead of saying hello, he simply says, “I’m coming.” There’s our friend Rodney the homebuilder, who put our bedroom ceiling back together that time I fell through the attic. And there’s neighbor Glen, whose truck has saved us so many delivery fees through the years that we’ve been able to buy a new dryer. Oh, about that truck this weekend, Glen…

You get the picture. Sans our friends and neighbors, we’d be out several grand a month just keeping the place running. Ya ever try to bargain with a refrigerator repairman by offering to conjugate his verbs?

I’m astounded at the amazing people around me—not just because they can actually accomplish the things they do with their minds and hands, but because they have such generosity of spirit. I think sometimes if I were Jim, and the clod next door rang my bell yet again beseeching me to diagnose his ailing garbage disposal, I’d seriously consider feigning a communicable disease. Or keeping the lights off until my nettlesome neighbor went away. Not Jim. Not Matt or Glen or Rodney. They answer every time.

i build sentencesSo yeah. Color me humbly mindful that it takes a village. It takes a village of wonderful folks to keep me from having to wear “Will Edit for Food” signs on the streetcorner. I’m earnestly thankful. As are the squirrels, I’m sure.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Daddies, It’s OK to Miss Your Little Girls

28 Aug

by Roger White

Watching my oldest daughter stride so smartly into her senior year of high school, and my youngest girl, a sophomore, confidently follow in her steps, I found myself struck recently with a peculiar mix of great pride and vague twinges of guilt. It took me some soul-searching and serious contemplation—and serious contemplation comes grindingly hard for me these days—to determine the root of my emotional mélange, but I think I figured it out: I miss my little girls. And I feel guilty for missing them because they’re not even gone!

But in a way, they are.

Somewhere along the line, at some moment in time among those precious years, my little girls grew up. Somewhere between those nights reading them Goodnight Moon while they settled to sleep in their Winnie-the-Pooh footsies and then suddenly watching them, dressed so beautifully, walk out the door with their boyfriends, my babies became young women. How did that happen?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll the old jokes about sitting on the front porch with a shotgun aside, watching one’s little girls mature into womanhood is such a tough and tender time for fathers. It’s not so much that I’m not the No. 1 man in their lives anymore. Heck, most of my daughters’ boyfriends so far have been pretty good guys—most of them, mind you. And if you don’t know which list you’re on, boyfriends out there, that’s intentional. Watch your step. No, it’s the small things I miss—those little girl moments like the times I would take them for a ride up the stairs, either piggyback or on my feet, as bedtime came; those long summer days at the neighborhood pool when they would yell for me to throw them higher into the air for that great splash; the giggles and smiles I’d receive when I’d bring them little toys and trinkets; and the unashamed kisses and hugs I somehow took for granted. One of my sweetest memories of those days is the time I was tucking my youngest in for the night, and she asked me: “Daddy, can I marry you when I grow up?” Gets me every time when I think about that.

Now that they’re teenagers, most shows of affection—and bits of parental advice—are usually met with a long roll of the eyes and a sarcastic “Oh, Dad!” But I know that’s only normal. The species humanus teenageus can be a snarling, confounding breed. My wife and I often sit and ponder when that time will come when they first realize we’re not complete lamebrains and they utter those cherished words: “Mom and Dad, you were right!”

And now that I’ve had time to work through my thoughts, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s OK to miss my little girls. They’re big girls now, and I love them with all of my heart for who they are and for the bright, talented adults they’ll become. One of the things I’m most thankful for is that even though I’ll always miss those days of Barbies and cartoons and forts made of bedsheets—and letting them do makeovers on me in their Two Sisters Salon—I didn’t miss the days as they happened. It wasn’t all roses; all parents know and ruh rohappreciate the great challenge, the tremendous patience, and the utter lack of sleep involved in raising little ones—but I wouldn’t trade those days for anything in the world. Well, on second thought, if I had it all to do over again, I’d skip the fingernail polish. How on earth do you get that out?

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

In the Beginning Was the Couch. And the Couch Was Good.

31 May

by Roger White

Ah, my dyspeptic disciples, sometimes you get a sign from the Guy in the Big Comfy Chair in the Sky. Ya know what I mean? Here’s a for instance: I’ve been recently wrestling with the idea of introducing to you, my ferromagnetic followers, the tenets of the nonsectarian sect I’ve founded to provide guidance and succor in this chaotic, troubling day and age. We all could do with a hefty dose of succor, don’t you think? (It’s a noun, not a verb—get yer minds out of the gutter, people.) I worried whether the time was right, however. It can be a bit of a touchy subject, forming a new religion, so I’ve been waiting for a sign—an epistle from the ether, as it were. And, lo, I received it just last weekend.

My lawnmower died.

Understand that mowing and edging and weedeating and trimming and all that lawn-related labor is one of my top-five most feared and loathed things I must do on a Suburban Sisyphusquasi-regular basis. I hate my yard, and my yard hates me. It’s mangy, weedy, and irregular, and a great swath of it is at such an angle that I feel like Sisyphus with a side-bag Snapper. That’s right. Suburban Sisyphus. Good name for a garage band, eh? Anyway, I swear I can hear the dandelions cursing quietly at me whenever I go to the mailbox. So when my trusty 4.5-horsepower bit the dust, sputtering to its smoky demise that cloud-covered Saturday, I realized it was a sign. A sign from Yawn-weh to now spread the word.

You read it right. He is Yawn-weh, second cousin on his mother’s side to the mighty Yahweh. I was shown the light and way of Yawn-weh one weekend afternoon as I napped on my couch long ago. Yawn-weh, the Great and Relaxed One, revealed unto me the one true path: Sedentarianism. It is only through this slow, steady course of life that we are able to throw off the onerous burdens of today’s world. Brother, are you weary of hurrying through your day, of tweet-text-iPodding every nanosecond, of rushing from chore to chore, of manically attending spin classes at Planet Fitness? Then I offer you the sanctuary of Sedentarianism.

Yes, my apoplectic adherents, the supreme Recumbent One can bestow upon you the peace of mind you once had—like that summer when you were 11 and you had just eaten three bowls of Trix and you had a whole Saturday morning full of cartoons waiting for you and you had nothing else to do that day but make water balloons. You can have that feeling now, if you join me. Sedentarianism has but one true tenet, and it is this: Doth it really need to be accomplisheth? If it can be done tomorrow, then tomorrow it shall be. And, my brethren (and sistren), since tomorrow never kinda like thisreally comes, then whatever does it really matter? Why not forget it and taketh a nap? I liken this unto Occam’s Razor. It is the mysterious principle known as Yawn-weh’s Barber.

The way is not for everyone, my friends. But if the path of Sedentarianism appeals to you, I can send you a pamphlet. For now, just let me leave you with this. As I fell from my couch, roused from my vision that special day, I spied what appeared to be a stone tablet on the coffee table near my head. It was round; I realized it was one of my drink coasters. Something had been inscribed on it, and it read thusly:

The Six Suggestions of Sedentarianism

  1. Thou shalt not spill thine beer.
  2. Thou shalt not hasten.
  3. Remember the Weekend, to keep it slowly.
  4. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s remote.
  5. Thou shalt honor thy sofa and thy pillow.
  6. Thou shalt not bear false tweetness.

I’m still working on deciphering the meaning of VI, but the first V are the words I now live by. In fact, I’m planning a June 21 visit to the holy city of Toledo, Ohio, to mark the first true pilgrimage of Sedentarianism. June 21, as you know, is the first official day of summer. And Toledo, Ohio, is named after Toledo in Spain, I think, Devout Sedentarianwhich is where historians believe the first official use of the word siesta came into being around 1655. With summer being the holy season of Sedentarianism and siesta being the most revered of Sedentarianistic activities, what more glorious way to honor his Horizontal Holiness than to nap the afternoon away in a Toledo city park? Later we may get ice cream. Write me if you want to join the flock.

Oh, and my name is now Rog-reesh Metta Whittite. Roj for short. Peace. Love. Rem.

Roger White Rog-reesh Metta Whittite is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.