WHERE’S MY WIFE?

As we were packing up to come home — really, I wasn’t packing so much as stuffing my belongings into a duffel — I was bummed. At having to come home to reality.

Reality is full of telephone calls. Details. Bills. Thanksgiving is next week, Christmas just a month after. Holidays and gifts mean money. Which is always a problem and inevitably ups my anxiety levels to absurd heights.

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As if the holidays aren’t enough, it’s also “open enrollment” for medical stuff. I need to take a hard look at Garry’s drug plan. And I need to be sure I’m in the best Medicare plan I can afford. I think the Blue Cross PPO I’ve got is as good as is available, especially considering its modest price.

Nonetheless, I need to check. If I find out I missed the boat, I’ll have a year of kicking myself before I can fix it.

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Then there is The Cell Phone. By now, everyone knows how I feel about cell phones. I no longer have one of my own, having had it turned off. Garry and I share one. Mostly, it’s his, but sometimes I use it too.

Which is fine, except it’s an iPhone 4 and more than 2 years old. It didn’t have good audio when it was brand new. Time has not improved either the phone or Garry’s hearing.

I’m looking at Amazon’s Fire phone now that they’ve dropped the price. Both Garry and I have Kindle Fire tablets and like them. We’re happy in the Amazon universe, so it might be a good fit for us … if AT&T won’t flatten us with fees and charges.

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Logically, it should be no big deal, but the way taxes are structured, it will be. I don’t understand people who actually want a new phone every year. I hate the whole process, the expense, learning the new equipment.

What a pain in the butt! Moreover, just to make it worse, Massachusetts requires we pay taxes on the full price of the phone no matter what the actual price. Which right now is 99 cents with a 2-year contract.

Garry’s existing contract with AT&T expires on December 20th, so I have to call. Find out what all of this will really cost. It’ll be 99 cents for the phone, plus a $40 “upgrade fee,” plus taxes. And who knows if the plan we have will be valid with a new phone.

By the time all is said and done, it’ll cost us hundreds of dollars … and Christmas is just around the corner. It makes me want to scream.

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There’s more. Lots more. Doctor appointments. Medication issues. Veterinarian trips. Dental work for Nan.

I need help. I’m overloaded, freaking out, tired. Stressed. I need someone to take care of business so I can relax. I need a go-to person to deal with the loose ends of our lives.

I need a WIFE.

DO YOU COME HERE OFTEN?

Greetings, Stranger 

I’m sitting at a café when a stranger approaches me. He asks my name. “Marilyn,” I answer.

The stranger nods, “I’ve been looking for you.”

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I gaze into his soft, brown eyes “Well,” I reply, with a hint of teasing, “I’ve been looking for you, too. Do you come here often?”

“Not nearly often enough, it would seem,” he says, juggling the bags he’s carrying. He pulls me to my feet and loops an arm through mine. “I think there’s a burger joint over there. I’m hungry. How about you?”

As I rise to my feet, he continues: “You were supposed to meet me by Kohl’s. Where were you?”

I organize my own packages. “I’ll never tell you. You’ll have to kill me first.”

Garry and I go hand in hand through the crowded mall. He says: “I hate shopping this close to Christmas. It’s a madhouse.”

“I know,” I respond, giving his hand a squeeze. “But it’s worth it  … because I get to meet such a handsome stranger.”

CHRISTMAS — FAMILY, FRIENDS, MOVIES, TV – By Garry Armstrong

Here we are again somewhere in what’s probably the most bittersweet or sweet bitter time of the year for most of us. It’s the jolly, holly Christmas to New Year period.  It’s the time of year filtered through childhood memories for many and wrapped in holiday music, movies, and hectic preparations to greet folks we don’t often see.  We need to force ourselves to shift gears, putting aside worries about health, bills and family drama to put on a happy face for the most wonderful time of the year. 

Emotions are curious. The holiday season plays fast and loose with our emotions. For those of us who internalize our feelings, it can be tricky. Smiling is not easy. Showing pleasure or happiness isn’t instinctive. It was easy for me to show emotions in my professional life. But we’re talking about real life. I’m past the September of my years. Getting into the Christmas spirit is harder than ever. I miss childhood.

Garry at work ChristmasAs a child, Christmas was a time of anticipation. I was the kid in A Christmas Story.  The year I campaigned for the two-gun Roy Rogers set was very anxious for me. My hopes were almost dashed when I thought Santa had not heard me as we ripped though our presents that Christmas morning. But my Dad who always had a funny smile during Christmas and New Year’s Eve, motioned to one last present. Yes!! It was the DELUXE Roy Rogers two-gun set with 2 rolls of caps!! Even Mom smiled as I squealed in delight.

I never thought we were as poor as Mom frequently reminded us because we usually got what we wanted on Christmas. Those holiday memories include relatives who are long gone. Our Christmas card list was long and included Aunts, Uncles and Cousins, Grandpa and Grandma who I can still see clearly in my sense memory. I used to carefully print the card messages when I was young. As I grew older, I proudly displayed my penmanship, writing endearments to my relatives. I thought they would be in my life forever.

These days, I am the only one in my family to actually write and mail Christmas cards. I take the time to write messages to each person. Usually I wind up with writer’s cramp for my efforts. But I see my Mother hovering behind me somewhere, nodding her approval. I have to remind myself NOT to buy or write cards to Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Grandma and all those Aunts and Uncles. They’re all gone as are many of my friends.

Something is missing in those cherished memories. I have to force a smile. I’m not a kid anymore. I’m Gramps, one of the old people  as my 17-year-old Granddaughter calls my Bride and me. There is a sense of loneliness that won’t go away. The movies are my cure-all.

I grew up as a child of the movies. I  saw my first film, The Best Years Of Our Lives,  during the holiday season of 1946. My Dad had just returned from the war.  He was in uniform and seemed 10 feet tall as we went to the venerable radio City Music Hall to see the movie which is still a favorite with Marilyn and me.  Movies and their fantasies have always been a part of my life, my personality. I am comfortable, charming and loquacious when talking about movies. I lose myself in movies, especially westerns and holiday movies.

I can laugh, smile, cry and sing along with favorite movies like It’s a Wonderful Life, Meet Me In St. Louis, A Christmas Story, The Shop Around the Corner,  and many other memorable films shared in our collective sense memory. But once the movie is over, it’s back to reality minus the celluloid good cheer. Ironically it was the same way during my life as a TV news reporter. I did holiday stories ranging from heartbreak to feel-good. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people over decades watched those stories and associated me with all the festive times.  The real me smiles at the TV reporter me — trying to separate fact from fiction.  Print the legend, as they say in that old western.

One of the nice things about this holiday season is catching up with long-lost friends who’ve found me on Facebook. One person, a former mentor, who I presumed dead chatted me up, clearly remembering the years when I was a young reporter full of myself.

Then, there was the overnight radio show I did on WBZ radio in Boston last weekend. It is hosted by my dear, dear friend, Jordan Rich. Jordan has been through a very rough patch recently losing a loved one. But he spread friendship and laughter for his gang of movie mavens as we entertained listeners who called in from all parts of the country to chat about favorite holiday movies.

During breaks and commercials, we laughed and giggled like teenagers. The listeners picked up on our mood and said that it was infectious especially for many who were alone, lonely or depressed. I cried a little when an elderly woman thanked Jordan for being a life line. After the show, now close to 4 am, Jordan and I lingered talking about our lives and our families. We hugged each other for a long time with plans to get together again for a movie night out with Marilyn.

As I walked out the door, I looked back and Jordan was smiling. I felt warm outside and inside. That moment  will stay with me throughout the holidays and beyond. It’s good to be able to smile!

CHRISTMAS DAY – EVERYONE AT HOME

It was a quiet day. We open presents on Christmas Eve … a tradition started by Owen’s dad and continued. Besides, we’d never make it to Christmas morning. Kaitlin can barely make it through dinner and by 8 pm has reverted to five years old. She wants to get to the main event.

So Christmas day is peace. Lots of napping. Movies, some carols on the radio or CD. Maybe some old TV shows. Too much food and we have a ton left over from last night. No one is going to have to cook for at least a week. Amazingly, we all forgot dessert. We didn’t buy it and make it. So we are heavy on dinner, but there’s no dessert at all. Not a pie, cookie or cake anywhere in the house. How did that happen?

Happy Boxing Day!

COMPANY FOR CHRISTMAS!

Come join me! I’m here from my home site of Serendipity. Not far away, here in the blogosphere where Scotty can always beam you up! Click here and it will beam you directly to my page.

A friend told me she never knows what I’m going to write about, so it’s always a surprise. That makes at least two of us. Until my little lightbulb goes off, I don’t know what I’m going to say either. I have a lot of varied interests: history, photography, philosophy, religion, politics, ecology, technology. I’m a bit of a geek and I do enjoy my toys. Serendipity is appropriate, I guess. Grab bag would work too.

I try to be on the right side of issues. I do my best to align with the righteous on the side of justice, kindness, and giving everyone the benefit of a doubt. I don’t always live up to my own best self, but I try. You are welcome. Just play nice and remember your manners :-)

Did I mention I love dogs? And photography? Words? I am perhaps excessively fond of cleverness and clever people. Plays on words make me giggle. My favorite piece of music is Beethoven’s 6th Symphony. Which doesn’t mean I don’t love country music, folk music, some very hard rock … I’m nothing if not eclectic.

I write about everything and nothing. Sometimes I’m current, sometimes I wander off. It’s a joy writing without a boss looking over my shoulder. After a lifetime of writing for a living, I treasure the freedom to say whatever I want. And your freedom too. I’m not above mixing it up a little as long as everyone remembers they are really friends!

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