A Poem from Diana Amman Cruze

Papa and Uncle Charlie_picmonkeyed

Papa’s Recipe

by Diana Amman Curze

When I was 12

I Saw

Papa, father of my father
On his front porch swing
Waving at life passing by

Grey hair combed, suspenders neat
Each day a clean, white shirt, soon to be
Covered with tobacco spittle

Papa was widowed twice, but kept
An immaculate house, save for spittoons
Spilling juices like unwashed kitchen pots

Papa cooking soup
Papa baking bread
My Papa knew a secret recipe

I Saw

Two uncles dine at Papa’s house
Three old brothers slurping soup
Lips seeping snuff

Uncle Charlie, the Catholic,
taught me to play Canasta
He gave up cards for Lent

Uncle Port, they said was rich,
came to share the beans and cornbread
Two uncles widowed both and childless
Knew nothing of a secret recipe

I Saw

Auntie marching into Papa’s house
To empty his whiskey meant for fruitcake
Auntie tolerated no alcohol since
Papa had gone to take the cure

I Saw

Papa hiding his beer when Auntie came
She found the Heinekens and Falstaff
Auntie allowed no beer for Papa
She did not know of Papa’s recipe

I Saw

Papa creeping to the cellar made of dirt
Clutching RC Cola and paint thinner
Papa with his secret recipe
Papa drinking “Smoke on the Water”

And Papa lived to 95


Diana’s note: My brother and his friends used the term, “Smoke on the Water” when referring to any homemade alcohol mixture or recipe, especially home brew. 

“Smoke on the Water or “home brew” was a label used in Knoxville in the ‘40s and ‘50s.  In Suttree, Cormac McCarthy writes about a man drinking his own mixture of “Smoke on the Water.”

Diana is the author of “A Life in the Day of a Lady Salesman,” a story that chronicles her years of selling products around Appalachia.in the 1960s. Her book is available on Amazon.com and at Union Avenue Books,  unionavebooks.com.

WHAT is it then??

One of the minuses to aging are the changes to my body. I’m talking beyond the sagging neck skin, age spots by the dozen and face wrinkles whether you frown or smile. Bumps and tiny growths all over the place; some here for a short time, others settle in for the long haul. Joints now crackle, snap and pop if I don’t do warm ups before reaching for a coffee cup.

Full Blown Panic

Then there are the mood swings which keep a steady calendar beat, even though my friends say my ovaries dried up a long time ago. What if I am unusual and my hormone level is high and I keep feeling angry or sad just like during “that time of the month ” forever? And I know I am not alone in having zits and hot flashes.

On a visit to the doctor for other reasons I mentioned my theory of high hormone levels destroying my life. Taking a blood sample he quickly deflated my attempt to diagnose myself. Hormone level showed as postmenopausal. So WHAT is it then?? What is it and all the other minute changes coming at me?  Isn’t there something the medical profession can do for me?

Get A Grip

Deep breaths. It is what it is. Hakuna matata. Go with the flow. That hit home today when I took my dog, Spunky, to the vet to talk about his itchy ears, lumps and anxiety. After a very thorough exam she concluded: no ear mites (just a little dirty), probably fatty tumors (keep an eye on them) and from my description of his anxiety it sounded like pretty normal behavior to her. I think I did a little transferring there.

So my answer is in the first sentence of today’s blog  Aging—which we conclude to be better than today’s alternative. Keep vigilante but never, never forget to carpe diem.

Key Wet June 22, 23, 2015 313

Stuff

Delicious! is fun fiction by Ruth Reichl, former food critic for the New York Times and publisher of Gourmet Today cookbook. She has written several memoirs that are full of humor and truth and some of the best food descriptions I have ever seen. Delicious! is the same way except it is fiction. Pack it for the beach.

Did you know that the street address for Mt. Olive Pickle Co. is  the corner of Cucumber and Vine?

Acorn.com is the British equivalent of Netflix with a smaller number of choices, but the majority are BBC produced. They carry quite a few PBS series but also have ones like Murdoch Mysteries which is worth watching to see the eyelashes of the lead character played by Yannick Bisson. Anzac Girls, A Place To Call Home, Lilies, Blue Murder are just a few that I have enjoyed. It just seems like the British do it better…for the most part. Recently stumbled upon The Homesman starring Hillary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones on Netflix streaming. It is wonderful story telling, believable acting and well-directed.

Forgetfulness
Just returned from the beach where a total of 12 women enjoyed the week together. The last ones there were clearing everything out to close up the house. We found two lawn chairs one person left, two canvas bags another one left, and took someone’s jacket to a person it didn’t belong to.

I do stuff like this all the time myself. May have hit upon the ultimate today.My housemate Jayne got into a furniture moving mood and was switching tables and chairs all around in the living room.

At one point she said, “Do you have plans for this tv?” A medium size old style which had been sitting in the corner since she moved in last August. “Me? Is it my tv? I thought it was yours.” Now it sits out on the sidewalk, awaiting its new owner. I’m glad we got that settled. I thought she was never going to do anything with it.

 

I Don’t Feel So Nice Anymore

I am trying to pinpoint where this feeling comes from, if it is an external or an internal source. I take a pill daily for depression. Actually two pills. The second one is to help the first one do its job to the best of its ability. My body doesn’t utilize the first one so good without the second one which is enough to raise my hackles. Why don’t I behave so I can get by taking one pill instead of two? See, already I am getting testy.

In this, my 70th year, a large increase of twisted situations, external sources, keep life challenging. I once was described as calm and unflappable. No more. Some of the small things that should dissolve minutes after happening stay with me longer. Like yesterday’s visit to Comcast.

In April I answered a call from a sales rep who explained that my rate would be going up to $88 a month unless I took advantage of this new plan which included getting HBO and other stuff.

I worked my way through the jabber and had her say in plain English that I could  have a plan for $74 ($19 more than my present plan) or I could pay $88. Even though I do not have a tv, I would have the bundle of cable and internet with either plan.

Several days later UPS delivered a box from Comcast. I knew it had to do with the new plan but just let it sit there while my housemate searched for a cheaper alternative, without losing HD Wi-Fi.

Then the next Comcast bill came–$81.We had no better alternative and now I couldn’t explain for love nor money what it was I had access to and what the box had to do with it.

I girded up my loin and took the box to the Comcast office. I told the customer service person that I needed help understanding what was going on with my account. Which she explained to me without either one of us losing our composure.

I did feel that little hot flush feeling (blood pressure, hormones??), but managed to content myself with snippy sentences instead of all out sarcasm. Because you know you are not talking to the person who controls the labyrinth of new plans, additional channels and speed, partial charges and partial credits; the reps are just the messengers. Bless their hearts.

I did find out the box’s involvement–it had to do with cable and tv. “We don’t have a tv so do I leave it here?” “No, you need to have it.” “I need to have this, even though I am not going to use it?” “Yes, if you don’t take it then I’ll have to charge you $88 for your plan.”

My 70th Year – Boomsday 2014

Being in my 70th year I can tell you that my balance is not always tip-top and I find myself thinking more often about where I place my feet. The fear of falling is a very real fear for older people. Lose of mobility is a big deal. But a fall doesn’t always spell disaster. Thank goodness.

IMG_2848

Knoxville is home for the largest Labor Day fireworks display in the United States. A friend invited me this year to watch the excitement from her condo close to the Henley Street Bridge. It is a lovely place with a backyard ending at the edge of a hill that drops to the riverwalk.

It was still early, not yet twilight, and people sat in lawn chairs talking while the youngsters  played. Jodie brought out Boxie, their 15-year-old miniature Schnauzer, for a walk before the fireworks began. I thought I would help out by walking the dog so Jodie could visit with her guests.

Although Boxie is legally blind she realized that someone else had her and after about fourIMG_9859-001 steps she started to resist and pull back on the leash. I was afraid she would slip her collar and became very concerned because I know that Jodie loves God, her family, the UT Vols and Boxie, not necessarily in that order.

So I turned, bending down to grab Boxie and the next I knew we were rolling, over and over, down the hill.  A large post in the ground about half way down stopped our fall. Boxie was above my head and I still held the leash. Unhurt but trying to figure out exactly what had happened I lay there.  In seconds some of the guys from the party came down to check me out. I told them just to make sure that Boxie got to Jodie and that I thought I was fine. One was an EMT and he scrutinized me for broken bones before letting me sit and then stand up. Miraculously I was ok, with only a cut on an elbow.

Embarrassment set in when I realized people down on the riverwalk witnessed the fall. At the same time  two policemen and other rescue people came racing up the hill. I assured them there was no real damage to me and with the help of my heroes  from the photo 2party I got back up the hill. After receiving first aid on my cut I went to get a report on Boxie who hadn’t suffered any outward wounds.

Other guests couldn’t believe I hadn’t broken a bone and when you consider my age I was very fortunate. I mostly couldn’t believe that I  slid on my stomach and then rolled. My t-shirt make it look like I dove into third base. One of the young guests took a look at the mud streaked front and said, “You look like you have been doing art.”

The sun went down and the fireworks display went off with many oohs and ahhs. I sat there, replaying my spill in my mind, shaking my head, and giggling to myself.      IMG_2871

My 70th Year – Post 1

On July 4, 2014, I began my 70th year of life. It is December now. What have I been doing with my time? That is a more difficult question than it seems.

I can’t tell you what I had for breakfast yesterday, where my car keys are, or what it is I am suppose to do this Wednesday. Some, mostly the very young, will find this forgetfulness an oddity, as I can remember the words to Pinky Lee’s theme song and what I named kittens born in 1956. I do notice people in their forties having the same problem. While their forgetfulness is caused by busy lives involving work, children and relationships, mine can definitely be traced to an old brain.

No serious deterioration yet and hopefully there never will be. I look at it in the same way my hearing was explained after an auditory test. The results showed that I was not getting hard of hearing, but rather that what was said to me was not getting processed by my brain as quickly as in younger years.

Great help. I still say “Huh?” which produces the same effect, people speak louder and pro-nounce as dis-tiNCt-ly as possible.

Next my eyes jump on the bandwagon by developing two conditions caused by aging. After 54 years of wearing contact lenses, these are replaced by progressive glasses. I loved my contact lens and I really would like to whine about having to wear glasses. I am constantly pushing them back on my nose, trying not to fixate on the bridge portion of the frame which is always in my sight. They seem to need a lot of cleaning, or is that just floaters I am seeing?

Joint aches and pains must be the most common, constant and controlling issue of an aging body. At least I am not alone. A gathering of friends entails grunts and groans as we sit or stand. Time is devoted to talking about ailments, but we still follow our rule: No discussion of bowel movements. That is to be saved for the nursing home.

Most phases of life–childhood, marriage, career, parenting, empty nest, retirement–had beginnings and ends.  Few of us can even pinpoint when our aging process started, although the need for reading glasses after the age of 40 is a tell.  After that it is a toss of the coin, God’s choice, or how much yoga you practice as to what hits you before that last breath.

Knowing that state of the mind is important, I accept aging as a matter of fact most days. Then someone’s innocent remark about it being 50 years since our high school graduation sends me flying to the mirror. As I study my face with its wrinkles and neck sags, I am in disbelief. I look old or older than I imagine myself to be. The way I look is not about vanity as much as what others see when they look at me. I want to cry out and say I am the same as always, don’t look at me differently.

My thoughts are on the future, sex, and fashion along with everything else that has been on my mind throughout the years. Would that surprise young people? I sure couldn’t imagine my grandmother thinking of anything beyond cooking and her television shows when I was a teen.

I use to think life would get easier with age; that it would be quieter and less complicated. Instead each day still has the ability to surprise, challenge and change me. If I am smart I will be open and feel and experience what every day brings. Watch out world! Carpe diem, indeed.

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