Monsters, & Other Scary Things

 

My family is weirdly phobic. I myself suffer from a fear of flying,  the kind that occurs in airplanes, and death. Seems pretty reasonable to me. My family, on the other hand, suffers from such intense fears, that they often huddle together, like penguins trying to stay warm, protecting themselves from the impending doom that is certain to consume their very souls.

One of my daughters is frightened to death of costumes, you know, people dressed up as team mascots, and cartoon characters. It matters not that she is looking at Batman, or Spiderman, heroes that will keep her from harm’s way, it is still a costume. She has never been able to sit through a professional sporting event. She has never attended the Ice Capades, and our family trip to Disneyland was, to say the least, a significantly traumatic experience for her.

Along with this masklophobia, she, one of her sisters, and my wife also suffer from the dreaded fear of clowns. Not just the evil, scary clowns that have been portrayed in ‘It’ as Pennywise, but the happy, funny clowns that fall out of small cars, and squirt water out of a flower on their lapel. It seems that all clowns all scary, including Bozo, Krusty, and Clarabell. It is not surprising that none of them have ever been to the circus. Our one trip to a rodeo proved disastrous once the rodeo clowns came out. Their coulrophobia induced screams, and shrieks, tears, and gasping for air. And then their was a hasty retreat, which included jogging through the aisles, to the car

There is a widespread fear of monsters, which I have tried to point out on numerous occasions, are not real. My wife cannot watch a sci-fi film, such as Alien, or The Thing, or even Frankenstein. She is however fine with Frank ‘n’ Furter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which as a film, has an inordinate number of people in costume. She says that she likes Tim Curry. I remind her that Tim Curry was also Pennywise the clown. She refuses to discuss it, stating only that she doesn’t like clowns. As a general rule, if she is home, I cannot watch horror or Science Fiction films unless I am in a room she is not. I don’t mind really, I mean, she generally talks through every film or television show we watch, repeatedly asking, ‘Who is that?”, or “Where did he come from?” I regularly point out that it would be easy for her to follow, if she would just stop talking.

Musophobia, the fear of mice is another exasperating phobia shared by my wife and a daughter. The would sit paralyzed, watching a mouse dance across the living room, with walking stick and top hat, and scream that “There’s a mouse!” And when help arrives, they insist that the rodent is not harmed in any way. I consistently offer to merely capture and rehabilitate these disease ridden varmints, but the mice refuse to comply. I am forced therefore to exact more permanent consequences for invading my home, which creates even more screaming from the troubled duo.

My family also suffers from germophobia, and hydrophobia. In order to keep themselves germ free, there is a chronic, if not compulsive hand washing routine, which surprises me. How can people who are afraid of water, immerse their hands in water so often. My wife says that I am being ridiculous. She is only afraid of putting her face in water, not her hands. Now, it makes me wonder if, during the lifetime we have been married, she has ever washed her face? I have kissed that face! Hell, I hope she has.

My eldest daughter suffers from spectrophobia, the fear of ghosts, while my wife encourages these same spirits to come for a visit, and stay for some coffee and dessert. I myself am afraid of my wife seeing ghosts. After her father passed away, she asked him for a sign that he was watching over her. The next day I had a heart attack. I asked her not to participate in these spirit shenanigans any more. She replied that the sign was that I survived the heart attack. I am not particularly fond of the presence of those who have departed, but I am terrified of my wife’s ability to conjour up near fatal maladies.

Two of my daughters, one of my sons, and my wife are all terrified of being sick, or becoming ill. Nosemaphobics, all of them. They are petrified of vomiting, not being able to breathe when their noses are stuffed up, and even being in hospitals, lest they catch some viral concoction from patient zero.

It is a tough road to travel, one which I am forced to mostly travel on my own, due to the array of complex fears living deep within the psyches of my family members. I often wonder if the old adage ‘There is nothing to fear, but fear itself’ was ever raised at a general meeting of Phobics Anonymous. Not that it would have made any difference. My family embraces their fear, holds on to it, and runs away screaming and shrieking whenever possible, while I fend off the mice, and ghosts, and monsters, and clowns, and a myriad of viral entities.

Lock, Stock & Over The Falls Without A Barrel

 

Niagara Falls has always held a special place in my family’s collective heart. Just over an hour drive away, it had always been the go to destination for family outings, and weekend getaways.

The other night, all of my kids and their significant others were over for dinner. As the conversation turned to our family trips to Niagara Falls, the day trips and the weekends, my wife asked if I remembered the first time that I took her there. There are many things that my aging memory has lost somewhere in that time and space that seems to swallow up my keys and eye glasses, but that first weekend in The Falls, is forever tattooed in my brain, and on my right forearm.

We were still dating then, in that place between let’s live together and what the hell is going on with you? We went for a weekend, and now my wife was questioning my ability to remember that trip.

“Well”, I said, “Let’s just go back a lifetime or two. Pay attention boys and girls, this will both shock and amaze you.”

“Its not going to be about sex again, is it?”, one of them asked.

“No.”, I said, “Its been so long, I don’t remember any of that stuff.”

“You’re such an ass.”, my wife said, as she hit me in the arm.

I began my tale of the most expensive weekend in Niagara Falls history. “We left on Friday afternoon and, before heading out on a mere one hour drive, we stopped and had a late lunch, as your mother was hungry. Back on the road, after her cheeseburger and fries, I took her to Niagara-On-The-Lake. We parked and walked down the main street, filled with artisan boutiques and shops. Your mother had ice cream. We dove on to The Falls, and checked into our Hotel, a quaint little establishment complete with a heart shaped Jacuzzi, and water bed, nestled between a Wedding Chapel, and a liquor store. To this day, I am still not sure if the trip to the liquor store is to be made before or after the stop at the Wedding Chapel.

After settling in, we headed out to wander around the falls. As we walked along Ferry Street, she spotted a Taqueria, and decided that she was in the mood for a snack. Two tacos and a white wine later, we were off to see The Falls. We walked along the pedestrian pathway that edged the gorge, and marveled at the international tourists  who ‘ooohed’ and ‘aaahed’ at the wonder of it all. By now, it was rapidly approaching feeding time, and when she spotted the sign in front of The Love Boat advertising Prime Rib, our dinner plans were secured. Your mother had the prime rib, complete with a baked potato, and some green vegetable thing. I had mussels in garlic and wine sauce. We left the restaurant, satiated, and headed back to the room. As we neared our hotel, your mother spotted a 7-11, and determining that we should have emergency rations in the event of a sudden global shortage of prefabricated junk food, stopped to purchase a bag of potato chips, a bottle of ginger ale, several chocolate bars, and a pack of beef jerky.”

“And you had to pay for all of that?”, one of my daughters asked.

“Oh,”, I said. “In her defense, she always offered to pay. I wouldn’t let her. I figured that she was bound to make herself sick long before I ran out of money.I was however, wrong. I had to make several trips to the ATM just to keep her fed. I mean, she only weighed 100 pounds. How much food could she eat?

Anyway, we spent the night in the room where she finished off the chocolate bars, half a bag of potato chips, some ginger ale, and most of the beef jerky. I was starting to feel sick just watching her eat.”

“You should have dumped her, right there.”, one of them blurted out.

“I thought about.”, I said, “but she was so damn cute. The next morning, we went to Perkins for breakfast. Your mother had an order of pancakes, an order of bacon, and order of sausages, toast and coffee. I kept asking myself where all of this food was going, and hoped that it wasn’t some sort of gastrointestinal parasite. We spent the morning horseback riding along a secluded spot on the shores of Lake Erie. On our way back to Niagara Falls, we stopped at a farmer’s roadside pie stand, and purchased a fresh, home made apple pie, although I have no idea how it was made fresh in the back of his pick up truck. On the way back to the hotel, we had to stop at the 7-11 because, as it was explained to me in the car, no one should have to eat apple pie without ice cream!

Lunch was McDonald’s, and there was fudge from a dessert shop that was being saved for later. After visiting several tourist attractions, and The Harley-Davidson store, I took her across the border to one of the best Italian Restaurants known to man, Como’s in Niagara Falls, New York. We both had veal parmigiana, served with pasta, salad, and a basket of bread big enough to feed a small orchestra. After dinner, there was fudge at the hotel.

Sunday came, and it began with breakfast at a local greasy spoon, after which we checked out of the hotel, and headed back to Niagara-On-The-Lake, to wander through Fort George. We left Niagara, and headed back to the big city. We spent the afternoon at my place, and went out to Swiss Chalet for lunch. It was time to call it a weekend, and I was taking her home, when we passed The Towne & Country Buffet.”

“I think you’re making a lot of this up.”, my wife said.

“Really?’, I asked. “You don’t remember going back 3 times for the prime rib? You also had apple cobbler with chocolate ice cream for desert. Remember now?”

“No.”, she said. “I do not!”

“Well, that’s pretty much how it was, give or take a few meals and snacks. After dropping you off, I went straight to the hospital to donate a kidney. I needed the money for the rent, and a car payment or two.”

“That’s a lie.”, she exclaimed.

“Yes”, I said, “that’s a lie.

“I can’t believe you went out with her again.”, one of them stated. I looked at my wife, and saw in her eyes what I had seen so many years ago.

“She’s was worth it.”, I told them. “Still is. But now you know why I can’t afford to retire. I’m still paying off a restaurant tab from 1995.”

 

 

 

Put Your Left Foot In…

 

My wife has brought some wonderful things to our relationship over the years. Restless Leg Syndrome is not, however, one of them.

The woman can’t sit still. Her legs are constantly in spasm, and she claims that when the syndrome acts up, she gets anxious and ‘antsy’. I don’t really notice it, except at nighttime.

She has her routine, designed to help her fall asleep. Lay down, and then toss and turn for 1-2 hours, until she passes out from the exhaustion from all of the exercise she has just participated in. I lay awake, and watch this, amused by her supine callisthenics, and at the same time, worried about just how the hell I will be able to wake up in the morning, and head off to work.

She cannot keep her legs still. Prior to her diagnosis, we simply referred to it as ‘crazy legs’. She moves them all across the bed, left to right, up and down, to the point where we have had to replace several fitted sheets due to the holes she has dug through them. I have suggested that she use this skill to dig for buried treasure, or perhaps diamond mining, but she finds little humor in it. She has been prescribed assorted medications for the problem, but nothing seems to alleviate the ever moving legs.

She kicks blankets off of the bed, swings her legs like a Vegas chorus girl, and gets in and out of bed several times throughout the night, pacing the house, trying to get her legs to be less restless. On one occasion, and only one, as she was walking around the bedroom at 2 in the morning, I started singing ‘The Hokey Pokey’, thinking that this would be a practical use of this dreaded disorder. My wife failed to see the humor in it. She did not find my suggestion to tie pieces of cloth onto the bottom of her feet, and get the floor moped when she was wandering around the house humorous either. She is a hard woman to please.

I understand how upsetting it is for her, to not be able to sleep, to not be able to just relax, without the appearance of ‘crazy legs’, that seem impossible to control.

But I have always been more solution focused, and believe that every cloud has a silver lining. I have told her that I think she could be very successful on ‘Dancing With The Stars’, as her sense of rhythm is beyond reproach. Alternately, she could join the chorus line of any reproduction of ‘Riverdance’. She is that good. In the meanwhile, as she sorts out her aspirations, and future of her restless legs, I continue to lay in the bed and coach her.

“Okay, honey.”, I say, “You need to try something different.”

“Like what?”, she asks.

“Try standing up.”, I advise her.

“What for?”, she wants to know.

“Trust me.”, I tell her. “Stand up.” She does and I tell her to move to the foot of the bed, as there is more room. She complies.

“Okay.”, I add, “Now, put your feet together.”

“I can’t stand like this much longer.”, she barks.

“You won’t have to.”, I tell her. “Now, put your left foot in.” As she starts to comply, she realizes what I have tried to get her to do. If I was not as agile as I am, one of the numerous projectiles that she launched at my head, would have knocked me out cold.

“I’m sorry.”, I told her. “I couldn’t resist.”

“You’re such an ass.”, she informed me.

“Not really.”, I said. As I massaged her legs, she fell asleep, while I stayed awake for the rest of the night, trying to figure out how I could get her to do ‘The Time Warp’.

 

The Rites Of Spring

 

Ah, spring. The time of year when trees blossom, and flowers bloom. The days when the air smells like a barnyard, and the dogs go missing, to be found days later sitting on the front porch, smoking cigarettes. My family has always been excited by the announcement that spring is upon us. There is much reflection on what is to expect according to the revelation of Wiarton Willie, the rodent weather wizard. There is an equal amount of joie de vivre, when day light savings time is initiated, and the days get longer. No one in my house dares to complain about the loss of 1 hour of sleep.The highlight of this festive time of year, is the much anticipated 1st Robin sighting. What it does to the heart, and soul. How the sight of this bird is so embedded in the family’s collective psyche.

About 2 weeks ago, my daughter squealed with delight, as she came home announcing that she had just seen a robin, perched in a tree outside of our home.

“It seems a little early for a robin.”, my wife said.

“Not necessarily.”, I interjected. “What kind of robin was it?”

“What do you mean, what kind of Robin was it?”, my daughter asked. “The kind with the red stomach.”

“Well”, I asked, “was it a Canadian robin?”

“A Canadian robin?”, my wife repeated, as skeptical as ever.

I informed them both that there were many birds that no longer went south for the winter. Unlike years ago, I informed her, some of the birds stay here, and now, its mostly the people, the senior citizens who migrate south. I went on to explain that these birds, had adapted, and could withstand the harsh Canadian winters. If it was a Canadian robin that was sighted, well, then it doesn’t really count.

“Why do I not want to believe you?”, my daughter asked.

“Because you’re a skeptic.”, I answered, “just like your mother.”

I pointed out that there are geese, and then there are Canada Geese. There are Arizona cardinals, and St. Louis cardinals. There are orioles, and then there are Baltimore Orioles, as well as Baltimore Ravens. Why then is it so hard to believe that there are Canadian robins?

“How do you tell if it is a Canadian robin?”, my wife asked, suspiciously.

“It would be wearing hockey equipment.”, I answered. “But only because its hockey season.”

My daughter stormed off to her room, cursing under her breath as she walked away. “Why do you always have to torment the kids?”, my wife asked.

“I don’t have to.”, I replied, “I choose to. Its like asking why do you have to irritate me? I know you don’t have to, but you like to, right?” My wife tried very hard not to smile. “I know you do.”, I continued. “As bizarre as it is, you like to watch me get irritated.”

“Oh, I do!”, she stated emphatically. “Its so funny to watch you get frustrated, and not know what to say.”

“Oh, I know what to say.”, I told her. “I’m just not stupid enough to say it.”

It was so much easier when my kids were young. They believed everything. None of them ever doubted any of the stories I told them. “You can’t tell them that kind of stuff anymore.”, my wife said. They’re too old for that. Try talking to them about important things.”

I thought about what was important to my kids. Wifi was certainly important, and shoes, shoes were a very important issue for my daughters. I had no desire to talk to my kids about the internet, or footwear, or, in the case of my sons, gaming systems. “I’m not sure there’s anything that I can talk to them about, that they’re interested in.”, I said.

“Well,”, my wife responded, “then just don’t talk at all.”

“I’m sorry.”, I advised her. “That’s really not an option.”

“Do you remember what you told one of them years ago, and the trouble it caused?”, I was asked.

Many, many years ago, when my middle daughter was in elementary school, grade 1 or 2, I had informed her that my family was from another planet, far far away. At school one day, they were asked to talk about their families, and where they were from. My daughter spoke up, and reported that her mother’s family was from Spain, and Morocco, while her father’s family was from another planet, that she couldn’t remember the name of. Well, there was a big tadoo at the school, and my wife and I had to attend to discuss my daughter making up stories, and disrupting the class. My wife was embarrassed, but she embarrasses easily. I informed the school administration that unless they could prove my daughter had been untruthful, we really had nothing to discuss. I was asked by the Principal to confirm that my family did indeed come from another planet. I merely replied that I could not answer a question like that as it could jeopardise the entire mission. We left the meeting no worse for wear, and my daughter received no consequence for the revelation of her family history.

“I remember.”, I told my wife. “And I still think that I should have shot them with my laser.”

“Go talk to your daughter,”, she advised me, shaking her head in disbelief.

I went for a walk with my daughter, to Riverdale Farm,  and Sugar Beach. It was, after all spring, and the smell of manure permeated the air.

“Did you bring your camera?”, I asked her. “You’ll never know when you just might see a Toronto Blue Jay.”

 

 

The Return Of The Mouse In My House

 

“He’s back.”, my wife informed me as soon as I walked in the door.

“Oh, hell.”, I said. “Which one of the boys have moved home?”

“NO, not one of the boys!”, she shouted, bordering on hysteria. “The mouse. The damned mouse is back.”

There was a time when I was greeted on my return from work with a hug, and a kiss. ” I doubt it’s the same mouse.”, I told her.

Oh, it’s the same one.”, she exclaimed. “I recognize the look in his eyes.”

I didn’t doubt, not for a moment, that my wife had seen a mouse. I had some reservations that she could tell one mouse from the next, by the look in its eyes. She has a gift for the paranormal, all things ghostly, and weirdly, but retinal recognition of rodent’s was not something I would be willing to believe she had mastered. I told her I would buy some traps to get rid of the rodent, but she only balked at the suggestion. I offered to call a pest control specialist, but that too did not bode well, and she rejected the use of poison, as she was afraid that she would find the mouse, laying on the floor, dead.

“What is it that you want?”, I asked. “Should I try to capture and rehabilitate it?”

“If you could.”, she said in all seriousness. “catch it and release it in the wild.  That would be best.”

“You understand, this mouse is not wild.”, I told her. “There are no field mice scampering  through the forests.”

She a bit disconcerted, but it was made clear that there is no mouse sanctuary. This was a city mouse.After much deliberation, we agreed that I would dispose of the mouse in any way I saw fit, but would never, ever, reveal what I had done to this rodent.

“Can’t we keep it as a pet?”, my daughter asked. “I’ll keep it in my room.” I looked at my wife, the explosion was imminent.

“There will be no mice, and no snakes, and no spiders or lizards in my house.”, she exclaimed.

“Have you seen a snake in here?”, I asked.

“Not yet.”, my wife replied, “but I’m sure that’s coming next.”

“Well”, I said, “if its any consolation, they are much easier to catch. They move very slowly.” It was no consolation.

The following morning, on my way to the kitchen to make coffee, I saw the little bastard on my kitchen floor, twitching his whiskers. He didn’t look like much of a threat. based on my wife’s reaction, I was anticipating a much bigger mouse. As I got closer, it ran off, scurrying under the oven, and vanishing into thin air. I said nothing to my wife. I left for work, leaving her alone with a desperado mouse, hiding out in our kitchen.

Several hours later, I received a call informing me that Mr.Tarkanian, had come over to catch the mouse, as it ran past her in the kitchen this morning. He was unsuccessful, but in his exuberance, had smashed one of my classic posters that had been on the wall in the living room. “What was he doing in the living room if the mouse was in the kitchen?”, I asked her.

“Well, the mouse ran out from behind the oven, across the kitchen floor. Mr. Tarkanian tried to get it with the broom, but the mouse was too fast, and ran out of the kitchen and into the living room.  And the rest, well, he just has very bad hand eye coordination. “. she explained. “Sorry.”

“Did he catch the mouse, at least?”, I asked.

“No.”, I was advised, “he got away. And just so you know, I’m not making dinner tonight.  I’m not putting one foot in the kitchen until that mouse is gone.”

On the way home I stopped at the hardware store and picked up some traps. “Don’t you think you should have got poison too?”, one of my daughters asked.

“I’m trying to catch a mouse.”, I told her, “I only need to kill it once.”

“You’re going to kill it?”, she asked.

“No.”, I told her, “I’m merely going to hold it hostage, and wait for his family to bring the ransom of cheese. Then I’ll let him go.”

“Not funny.”, she advised me. I never realized  before that my family had no sense of humor. None. I was certain that it was, indeed, funny.

The next morning I checked the traps. Nothing. For 3 days I baited and left them for the pest. For 3 days he eluded me. “I told you he was a smart mouse.”, my wife reminded me.

He was a smart mouse, alright. Shockingly elusive. “Well, what are you going to do now?”, my wife asked

“I don’t know”, I told her.

The next afternoon, she called me. “We got the mouse,”, she told me. I wasn’t sure what she meant, I mean we had had the mouse for about 5 days now.

“What?”, I asked.

My wife told me how my son had come over, and saw the mouse running across the kitchen floor. He jumped up and threw a book at the rodent, and as luck would have it, hit the mouse and stunned it long enough for my son to trap it in a box. He was going to take it over to the park behind the school, but the mouse died. It was tragic.

“Just out of curiosity, what book did he use?”, I asked.

“The Southern Cooking cook book.”, she said. “You know, the big one.”

After careful consideration, and a thoughtful pause, I let her know that I would not be home for dinner.