Professional Back-Scratcher.

JoeI just finished my commute from Seattle to Portland via train to arrive at Joe and Dot’s house, where I was greeted with two great big smiles.

After we all chatted for a bit, I asked Joe if he needed anything.

Joe:  “Like what?”

Me:  “Like a glass of water or a snack?”

Joe:  “Nah, I think I’m alright.  There is one thing though…”

Me:  “Yeah? What’s that?”

Joe:  “Well see, I’ve got an itch on my back here…”

Me:  “Uh-oh…sounds like you need a back scratchin’.”

Joe:  “Yeah, I was thinking that you looked like someone who could do a pretty good job at that.”

Me:  “I do huh?”

Joe grinned:   “Yep.”

Me:  “Okay, turn around and I’ll scratch your back for ya.”

Joe:  “Now that’s what I call good service!”

Chinese Food.

JoeI decided to make some fried rice and orange chicken for dinner tonight.  I wasn’t sure how it would go over with Joe, but I knew that Dot would love it.

Dot:  “Oh boy!  What a treat!  Is this Chinese food??”

Me:  “Yep, it is.  I thought it’d be nice to have something different.”

Joe:  “Chinese?  What’s Chinese?”

Dot:  “Your dinner.  It’s Chinese food.  It’s good.  Eat it!”

Joe:  “It came all the way from China?”

Dot:  “Do you think that Whitney went all the way to China to get our dinner?”

Joe laughed:  “Well if she did she was sure quick!”

Me:  “It’s just the name for this style of food.”

Joe:  “Oh okay.”

Dot:  “Do you like it Joe?  It’s good, isn’t it?!”

Joe:  “I don’t know.  I haven’t even tried it yet.”

Dot:  “So try it!”

Joe:  “I’m getting’ to it.  I never ate this kind of fancy food before…”

Dot:  “Oh you have too!  We’ve gone out to Chinese restaurants before.”

Joe:  “I ain’t never been to China.  I know that for a fact!”

Dot rolled her eyes.

Me:  “Hey Joe, it’s really not all that fancy.  It’s just rice and chicken.”

Joe:  “Oh, is that what it is?!  Why didn’t you just say so in the first place?”

Me:  “Well I guess I should’ve just said that in the first place, huh?”

Joe:  “One thing that I’ve learned in my life is that there’s no point in puttin’ fancy names on things.  I mean, for instance, shit is shit.  There’s really no way to fancy it up.”

Me:  “You are exactly right, Joe.  I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

Apparently Dot didn’t hear a word we said when she asked, “How do you like your Chinese food, Joe?”

Joe:  “What’s Chinese about my food…?”


JoeI got Joe all tucked into bed the other night and he started snoring almost instantly.  Five minutes later, Dot and I were watching TV in the living room and we heard a giant THUD!  

Joe had climbed out of bed (over his bed-rail) and hobbled into the bathroom where he did a complete face-plant on the linoleum floor.  When I found him he was unconscious and non-responsive, so I asked Dot to call 911 while I checked to make sure that he was still alive.

While I was checking for a heartbeat, Joe came to and started laughing.

Joe:  “What the HELL am I doing on the floor?!”

Me:  “Dot, tell the operator that he’s talking!”

Joe:  “Who’s talking?”

Me:  “You are.”

Joe:  “I am?!”

I got up and grabbed the phone from Dot so that I could tell the 911 dispatcher what was going on.  She told me that paramedics were on their way and that I shouldn’t let Joe move.  

I hung up the phone and went back into the bathroom with Joe.  He was already trying to get up.

Me:  “Joe, don’t move okay?  Just stay right where you are.”

Joe:  “Well okay, but I’m on the floor.  How the HELL did I end up on the floor?”

Dot:  “You fell down Joe, and the ambulance is on its way now.”

Joe:  “Who fell down?”

Dot:  “You did!”

Joe laughed:  “Oh I never fell down.”

Dot:  “Then why are you on the floor?”

Joe:  “Because it looked comfortable!”

Joe tried to move again.

Me:  “Joe, just stay where you are okay?  The paramedics will be here any minute…”

Joe:  “Paramedics?  Why are they coming here?”

Me:  “They just need to check you over to make sure that you’re healthy.”

Joe:  “Oh I’m healthy.  I eat all of my vegetables, don’t I Dot?”

Dot:  “Not that kind of healthy.  They need to check your bones.”

Joe:  “My BONES?  What the hell do my bones have to do with anything?”

By then the paramedics had arrived on the scene.  They all know Joe because Joe used to be a volunteer fireman.  I spoke to the man in charge to explain what had happened, and the other guys went right to work.

Fireman:  “Hi there Joe!”

Joe turned his head so that he could see the man kneeling at his side.

Joe:  “Hello.”

Fireman:  “What seems to be the trouble?”

Joe:  “Nothin.”

Fireman:  “Well it looks like you had a pretty bad fall, and you’re banged up pretty bad.”

Joe:  “Is that right?”

Fireman:  “Yep.  We’re going to get you loaded up and head on over to the hospital okay?”

Joe:  “I guess that’s alright.  Are we going in the fire truck?”

Fireman:  “We’re going to load you up in the ambulance actually.”

Joe:  “Oh yeah, okay.  Well if you need any help just let me know.  I can help you load up the hay barrels.”

Fireman:  “Okay Joe, we’ll let you know if we need a hand.”

Dot stayed at the house while Mike (Joe and Dot’s son) and I followed behind the ambulance.  Thankfully it was a slow night at the ER so Joe was seen by a doctor right away.

Doc:  “Hi there, Joe.  How are you feeling tonight?”

Joe:  “Not too bad.”

Doc:  “I’m going to check you over okay?”

Joe:  “I guess that’s alright.”

The doctor started at the back of Joe’s neck and worked his way down the spine, asking Joe at various times if he felt any pain.

Doc:  “Does it hurt here?”

Joe:  “Nope.”

Doc:  “How about here?”

Joe:  “Here what?”

Doc:  “Does it hurt when I touch your back here?”

Joe:  “Oh.  Nope.”

Doc:  “Does it hurt here?”

Joe:  “Boy, you sure do ask a lot of questions.”

The doctor smiled:  “I’m just trying to figure out if you have any injuries.”

Mike (Joe’s son):  “Dad, you had a bad fall tonight.  The doctor just wants to make sure that you’re okay.”

Joe:  “Well…I guess that’s alright.”

Doc:  “It actually seems like you’re doing pretty well Joe.  Do you have any pain anywhere?”

Joe:  “Well, now that you mention it, my knee is a little sore…”

Doc:  “I will have the nurse take you back for an X-ray.  Anything else?”

Joe:  “My ass feels kind of funny.”

Doc:  “Do you mind if I take a look?”

Joe:  “Well you can take a look if you want, but it’s not going to be a pretty picture.”

The doctor laughed:  “I think I can handle it.”

Joe:  “I will tell you what you’ll find if you look back there.”

Doc:  “What will I find?”

Joe:  “A pile of shit.”

Mike:  “Dad!”

Joe:  “Well?  He asked!”

Doc:  “I will have the nurse get you cleaned up.”

The doctor wrote down a few notes, smiled at all of us and left the room.

Joe:  “Boy, we sure had to go through a lot of trouble to get some clean pants!”

Joe was discharged from the hospital with a minor knee sprain, a few bumps and bruises, and a clean pair of pants.  While we were driving back to the house Mike patted Joe on the leg and said:  “I’m just so glad that you’re ok, Dad.  

Joe:  “Of course I’m okay, why wouldn’t I be?”

Mike:  “You had a pretty bad fall tonight, Dad.”

Joe laughed:  “Not me.  I never fell.”

Mike looked at me in the rear-view mirror and shook his head:  “You’re a pretty tough old bird, you know that?”

Joe smiled:  “Damned right!  

A few minutes later he looked back at me:  “Now, what’s for supper?”

It was 1AM.


JoeJoe and Dot ate the last of the crab that their son brought home from the Oregon Coast for lunch today.  When lunch was over, Dot told Joe to go wash his hands.

Joe:  “I don’t need to wash ’em.  They’re already clean!”

Dot:  “How could they be clean?  They have crab juice all over them!”

Joe:  “I washed them already.”

Dot:  “No you didn’t!  I was sitting right here.  I would know if you went to the sink and washed your hands.”

Joe:  “I didn’t go to the sink.”

Dot:  “I know you didn’t!  You need to go wash your hands at the sink now.  Go!”

Joe:  “I don’t need to go to the sink.  I washed my hands already.”

Dot:  “Oh yeah?  What’d you wash them with?”

Joe:  “I licked my fingers.”

Dot:  “You can’t just lick your fingers.  That’s not the same as washing them in the sink.”

Joe held up his hands:  “Look at my hands.  Do they look dirty to you?”

Dot:  “They don’t have to LOOK dirty to BE dirty.”

Joe cracked up:  “Shows how much you know.”

Dot:  “I know plenty about it.”

Joe:  “Okay then, it’s all settled.”

Dot:  “Yep, it will be all settled once you go to the sink and wash your hands!”

Joe:  “I don’t need to wash my hands.  I already licked ’em!”


156156_10151211092605862_32259767_nYou know that movie where Billy Bob Thornton plays that guy who growls, “MmmmHmmm” all the time?  Sling Blade I think it’s called.  Well, I swear to you that Lois sounds just like him when she gets really into a conversation.  It cracks me up so bad when she does it.

For instance, after dinner the other night we began to talk about the different kinds of foods that people eat around the world.  Lois loves to ask me questions about all of the places that I’ve traveled, so I told her a few stories about the cuisine in Thailand and Nepal, and to make the conversation even more interesting, I asked her if she’s ever heard of Andrew Zimmern.  Of course she’d never heard of him, so I began to tell her about how he has this show where all he does is travel all over the world and eat the craziest foods that he can find.

Me:  “I saw this one episode where he went into this candy store, but it wasn’t regular candy, it was like candied bugs and stuff.  Like, chocolate covered grasshoppers and cinnamon cockroaches…”

Lois:  “MmmHmm.”

Me:  “And I saw this other episode where he was eating rotten tofu…”

Lois:  “MmmHmm.”

Then out of the blue she asked:  “Does he ever eat crabs?”

Me:  “Well, yeah he eats crab.  But crab isn’t exactly a strange food…”

Lois suddenly got very serious:  “Didn’t your mom ever tell you about CRAB?!”

I was a bit started at her change in volume:  “No, I can’t say that she ever did…”

Lois:  “Well just think about it!  If somebody dies and ends up in the water somehow, their bodies just float to the bottom of the sea and then those crabs crawl all over them and EAT THEIR GUTS OUT!”

That was not at all what I was expecting to hear, so I just looked at her; totally shocked.

Lois nodded her head:  “MmmmHmm.”

Me:  “Wow…well, I guess I’d never actually thought of that…”

Lois:  “So when you eat crab, you’re actually eating PEOPLE!”

Me:  “So if people eat crab then they’re almost like….”

Lois:  “Cannibals.  MmmHmm.”

Me:  “Wow.  I have to say, I may never eat crabs again!”

Lois crossed her arms:  “MmmHmm.”

Later in the day, Lois got to talking about all of the blackberry bushes in her backyard.  She told me that she used to make cobblers and pies, but now that she’s gotten older she doesn’t bother with them anymore.

Lois:  “Well see, I’d be afraid that I might go back there to pick berries and then…well what if I fell down?!”

Me:  “Yeah, that wouldn’t be good if you fell down back there.”

Lois:  “No one would even hear me all the way back there!  And I’d get all tangled up in the blackberry bushes…”

Me:  “And you know the worst part?”

Lois was intrigued.

Me:  “Well see, you could fall down back there, and then you would get all tangled up in the blackberries, and then a bunch of crabs could come along…”

Lois just about died laughing.

Me:  “…and then they would…EAT YOUR GUTS OUT!”

Lois just about fell out of her chair at that point.  After we’d laughed about it for a few minutes she got all serious again.

Lois:  “And that is why it is too dangerous for me to pick those blackberries out there in my backyard.”

Me:  “I see.”

Lois:  “MmmHmm.”

Penguins and Pajamas.

I was helping Lois get ready for bed last night and she suddenly let out the hugest sigh.

Me:  “Is something wrong, Lois?”

Lois:  “Well, I was just thinking that it might be time to move to Alaska.”

Me:  “Alaska?  Why Alaska?”

Lois:  “Well, I could just have someone drop me off there and I’ll just lay down in the snow.”

I laughed:  “Would you build yourself an igloo?”

Lois chuckled:  “Nope, I’d just lay there with all the penguins and be done with it.”

Me:  “Well, I guess that wouldn’t be such a bad way to go.”

Lois:  “Nope, it wouldn’t be bad at all.  I could just go to sleep and not have to worry about changing into pajamas night after night after night…”

Me:  “That’s pretty bad if you’d rather die than change into your pajamas.”

Lois:  “Wait til you’re my age.  Then you’ll understand.”

The Gypsy.

Dot asked me where I’m going on my days off this week and I told her I’d be staying with friends this week in Portland and next week I’d be driving to Seattle to stay with family

“I’m basically a gypsy right now” I told her.

Joe got a big kick out of that and giggled:  “So you just go wherever it’s most exciting! Man i sure wish I could do that…”

Dot said, “Oh Joe…just drink your coffee!”

Joe winked at me.

The River.

I took Joe out for a drive today and I said to him, “Look at the river over there – isn’t it pretty?”

He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Did you just say that the sliver looks slivery…?”

I said, “No, I said the river looks pretty.”

“Oh,” he said, “Well that’s a relief because that other thing you said didn’t make any sense at all!”

The Old Turkey Shed.

When I arrived at work the other day, Joe’s brother, Bart, was at the house.  He wanted to take Joe over to their farm to check out the Old Turkey Shed.  Dot was helping Joe put on his jacket, and getting him ready to head out the door with Bart (who is ninety years old and should NOT be driving).  I suggested, “Hey, why don’t I go with you guys?”  Bart grinned at me and said, “Sure, you’re welcome to come along.”  I offered to drive, but Bart told me that he’d better drive because, as he reminded me,  “My truck is a stick shift”.  (Apparently women weren’t trained to drive stick shifts back in the day, because this isn’t the first time I’ve heard reference to the inherent belief that a woman is incapable of driving a stick shift.)  Dot insisted that I take my jacket as well (thank god, since the weather report said it was going to be in the mid eighties) so I took it along to humor her.  I said a short prayer as I wedged myself into the back seat of Bart’s pickup.  Bart took the driver’s seat, Joe rode shotgun, and we headed out to the farm at around 10am.

As we made our way up the gravel driveway with a flurry of dust at our backs, I noticed Bart pointing out the Old Turkey Shed to Joe, and it did not take me long to figure out that in order to get to the shed, we were going to have to climb under a hot-wire fence.  And sure enough…

Bart said, “I’m not sure if this wire is hot or not.  Here, let me check..”  That said, he simply put out his hand and grabbed hold of it.  I cringed, waiting to see smoke shoot out of his ears, but with a grin he announced, “Nope.  It’s not hot.  I’ll hold it up here so that you guys can crawl under it.”  Before I could even register what was happening, Joe took off like a rocket and said, “I’ll go first so that I can help you step through here…”  He put his right foot over the lower wire and began to crawl between the two wires.  I thought to myself, “Wow, Joe is more agile than I thought” but of course I came to that conclusion much too soon.  His left foot seemed to have forgotten that it needed to step over the bottom wire and instead he put his shoe in the precise location to best trip himself.  Thank goodness that Joe is an extremely strong man, because he pretty much did a face plant and did not end up with a single bruise to prove it.  Unfortunately, he landed directly in a cow-pie.

Lucky for Joe (and myself, since I who would be the one to clean him up) that it was not a steaming hot, fresh puddle of dung.  It was instead an old, dried up, crusty pile of manure, but by scientific standards (and by the vast knowledge of cow feces that I gained during my childhood in Sedro-Woolley, WA:  Home of the Logger-Rodeo) it would definitely still be considered a cow-pie.  That being said, Joe hollered out as he was falling, “What the HELL?!” and then when he started to try to get back on his feet, he looked at the ground and then looked at his hands and said, “Well SHIT…”  Then he took one more look at the ground just to be sure and added, “I just FELL in SHIT!”  He looked up at me and said in exasperation, “I’m pretty sure I am completely covered in shit.”  I tried not to laugh as I helped him up.  I said, “Oh Joe, it’s no big deal.  It’s all dried up.  Look here,” I demonstrated as I began to dust the cow shit off of his pant legs, “it just comes right off.”

I know that you must be thinking that this must be the punchline of the story, but oh no, I assure you there is more…

As I was helping Joe dust off his pants, while also trying to ensure that Bart didn’t do a cartwheel right behind us in the process, I had this strange sensation that something very terrible was about to happen.  That is when I looked up just in time to see that not one, but two, incredibly large and furious looking animals were heading right towards us.  Being the brave and steadfast care provider that I am, always ensuring the safety of my clients, I quickly ran and hid behind Joe and yelled, “THEY’RE COMING RIGHT AT US!”

Joe and Bart looked at the creatures and time stood still momentarily as they tried to come up with the best course of action.  By best course of action, I mean that they took their hats off and scratched their heads.  At the last second, when I was almost five hundred percent positive that we were all going to die that day, Joe waved his bright green trucker hat in the air and shouted, “GET OUT OF HERE YOU STUPID SONS OF BITCHES!”

And just like that, the beasts stopped in their tracks.  It was not good enough to Joe that the monsters merely put the brakes on, so he began to run toward them flailing his John Deere cap in their faces yelling, “GO ON – GET!  You STUPID. Sons of… BITCHES!!!”  Bart just stood there shaking his head and cracking up and he said, “This reminds me of when we were kids…”

Once Joe felt that the enormous cattle-type-creatures were far enough away, he put his cap back on and turned and gave us a giant smile.  I shouted, “WELL YOU SHOWED THEM WHO’S BOSS, DIDN’T YOU JOE?!”  He shouted back, “DAMN STRAIGHT!”

The monsters, as it turned out, were called Brahman Bulls, which are some freaky type of bull that weigh more than my car and have huge humps on their backs.

After all of the ruckus in merely getting out to The Old Turkey Shed, the actual visit to the shed was pretty uneventful.  Joe and Bart just wandered around the shed making comments and grunts about this and that.  Joe wanted to get up and drive the tractor in the shed, but was disappointed when he realized that he’d forgotten the key (the tractor was probably 100 years old, covered in cobwebs, and had only one tire with rubber on it – the other tire had been eaten away by rats and Father Time).  I told him that we’d be sure to bring the key next time and he felt much better about it.

Once we all managed to get back into Bart’s pickup I was finally starting to relax a little and able to see the humor in the events that had just taken place.  But that peace was short lived when Bart said, “Hey, what’dya guys think about going and taking a look at the tree that fell over down the road there…”  Joe shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sure, why not?”  I said, “Well Bart, I’m pretty sure that Dot may start to worry about us because we’ve been gone a long time…” Bart:  “It’ll just take a minute.  You guys don’t even have to put on your seat belts because it’s only a few blocks from here.”  At that, Bart put his truck into four wheel drive and started heading up the road before I could even respond.

Bart was correct about one thing:  It really wasn’t a long ways away.  He was also wrong about one thing:  We most definitely needed our seat belts on!!  Between the bumps in the road that nearly cracked my head on the ceiling, I managed to get Joe and I belted in.  At one point even Joe said, “I don’t know about this Bart.  This is an awfully bad road.  I think we oughta turn the car around.”

I am just going to take the time to clarify one thing:  If a man with fairly severe dementia and almost zero short term memory suggests that you turn your car around, you really should listen, ok?  Ok.

Bart reassured us:  “We’re almost there…it’s just a little further.”  By the time I realized that Bart was bouncing us down a muddy road toward the Columbia River, it was too late to even say my Hail Mary’s (plus I don’t know how to say them since I’m not even Catholic).  Joe saw the river at the same time and tried to find something to grab onto:  “GODDAMMIT BART!  YOU’RE GONNA PUT US ALL IN THE RIVER!”  Leave it to Joe to find exactly the right words to say.  He read my mind.  Bart just laughed and reassured us:  “Don’t worry, I drive down here all the time!”  Not exactly as reassuring as he had hoped, I’m sure.

With pride in his eyes, Bart took us to a screeching halt and announced:  “There it is.  The tree.”  Both Joe and I kept both hands on whatever we had chosen to cling to for safety and took a moment to take in the most exciting thing we’d ever seen:  A fallen tree.  Whoop-dee-do!

Joe said, “It’s a tree alright.”

Bart corrected him:  “It’s a fallen tree.”

I kept my voice as calm as possible as I interjected, “Do you know how you are going to turn your truck around and get us back out of here Bart?”  Bart chuckled at me like I’m such an amateur:  “I told you, I drive down here all the time.”  Even Joe appeared nervous, which wasn’t helping my nervous stomach, and for me – nervous stomach means diarrhea.  Oh great.

For the next twenty minutes, as I tried to figure out how I was going to save two ninety-something year old men, and myself once we were all sinking in the river belted into a Chevy, Bart would back up four millimeters, get out to assess the situation, get back in and move forward two millimeters, and so on and so forth, until…


Bart:  “It’s not a creek.  It’s a river.”


One of the rear tires actually began to spin in the mud at the top of the embankment before Bart managed to get his truck turned around and heading toward home.  I was pretty sure that my heart had become a permanent part of my throat by then, but with a sigh of relief I reached forward and patted Joe on the shoulder as a sort of “Congratulations!  We’re Alive!” kind of a gesture.  Joe responded by turning around to look at me and then asking his brother:  “Hey Bart,  who’s that girl in the back seat…?”


When we went into town today, Joe insisted that it was his turn to drive.

I said, “I’m pretty sure it’s my turn to drive today.”

Joe:  “Is that right?  Well, okay then, but just don’t be such a hot rod…”

Me:  “I promise, I’ll try not to.”

Joe was skeptical:  “I really think that I should drive…”

Dot:  “No Joe.  The last time you drove, you backed out of the driveway and went right into the ditch and we had to call James (their son) to come rescue us.”

Joe:  “Is that right?!  Well by god, I guess we’d better let this lady drive then!”

When we arrived at our destination, Joe kept trying to open his door at the same time that I was hitting the unlock button.  He was getting super frustrated about it.  I said, “Joe, just wait a second!”

He let go, but not enough for the button to unlock all the way.  He yanked on the door handle and hollered, “Goddammit!”

Dot:  “Joe!  Watch your language!  The Catholic church is just up the road!”

Joe:  “I don’t give a damn where the church is!  I just want to open my door!”

Me:  “Okay Joe, I want you to totally let go of the handle.”

He let go.

Me:  “Now I’m going to count to three.  When I say ‘three’ then you can open the door okay?”

Joe giggled:  “I guess it’s worth a try…”

Me:  “One, two….THREE!”

I unlocked the door, Joe pulled on the handle and amazingly enough, the door opened!

Joe was impressed:  “How the hell did you do that?”

Me:  “Magic.”