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8/22/17

The Apoc-eclipse

The Apoc-eclipse

    I have to tell you right up front that Betsy and I did not catch the eclipselectic fever that seemed to infect most of the country.  We started out the day like most other days, sitting by the pool with coffee and talking about our respective goals and tasks for the day.  Sammie, our little white dog that lives to be petted, goes with us and sniffs everything in the yard that hadn't been sniffed since the day before, pronounces all as satisfactory and sets herself up in guard position so that we would be between her and anything that happened to climb out of the pool. Frogs can be scary when you don’t expect them.  Betsy did ask if I thought we should get glasses for later in the day.  My response was indicative of my lack of enthusiasm, and I told her I was pretty sure they would be cheaper and readily available on Tuesday.  After a few minutes of conversation we parted ways for a few hours.  I went to Troy and put in a couple of grueling hours assigning education students to observe classes in local schools, and she to once again try to convince her 93 year old Dad that moving to Georgia would be a good idea if he wanted to see his grandsons and great grandsons more than twice a year.  It's been a hard sell so far.  He remains unconvinced that 1) anyone can move any of his stuff without his personal involvement and supervision and 2) that "the government" will allow him to move from one assisted living facility to another without congressional approval.  He also believes strongly that, should he decide to move, he would need us to load up his riding lawn mower to come with him because "any place with any kind of a yard is gonna need their grass cut."  I'm not sure where he got the idea that mowing would be a condition of residency in Georgia or in an assisted living facility, but we have tried to reassure him, without success, that they have other people that take care of that task, especially in light of the fact that he hasn't mown his own grass for several years.  Between that and trying to convince us to keep his car in the facility parking lot "in case somebody wants to drive me somewhere" I suspect the formulation of a rather detailed escape plan with emergency backup. He might be 93 but the man ain't dumb. He’s planning a way out if the situation requires it.
    But back to the eclipse...I returned home about 1:30 and Betsy already had Shep Smith on TV excitedly tracking the path of the eclipse across the fruited plain.  There were shots of stadia in several western localities filled with people and complete with marching bands and cheerleaders.  We read about tens of thousands of folks that traveled to north Georgia so they might see more of the eclipse than the measly 92% we were going to get here.  The extent of my enthusiasm was trying to name relevant songs I knew and trying to get Betsy to turn the sound down on the television.  I make it a policy to not watch TV news whenever possible.  We came up with "Here Comes the Sun", "Total Eclipse of the Heart", "Let the Sun Shine In", and my personal favorite "You're So Vain."  You know the lyrics so I won't repeat them here other than to note that flying a Learjet to Nova Scotia would be a bad place for viewing this particular eclipse.
    We marveled at the numbers of people that made journeys of fantastic lengths and great expense to see about 2:41 of darkness at an odd time of day.  Betsy asked if I still wanted to try to find glasses and go somewhere to watch, but I reminded her that the only things we could afford after paying for the grandsons’ travel ball expenses did not include funds for the eclipse, and besides, I would rather take a nap. She did not reply, but I did get a look that once again reminded me that her discretionary use of criticism and sarcastic replies has kept us married for 28 years, often against her parents' better judgement.  That doesn't mean she is never critical or sarcastic, but understands when best to use it and when futility and discretion overcome the need for a reply.
    It was getting darker outside.  I began to think perhaps I would go outside and look askance at the sun and perhaps get an indirect glimpse of the eclipse after all when Betsy came in rather quickly, her fists clenched and her toes curled.  I knew the body language well.  Either a major pronouncement concerning the grandkids and their immediate clothing/equipment/school/transportation/church attendance was coming or she had seen evidence of a snake.  She stalked quickly and silently to the front of my chair and stopped.  I knew then that all hopes of a nap were immediately out of the question. "There's the skin of one of those THINGS on the wall outside and 2 weeks ago there was one in the house and if you don't do something about it NOW I am going to Hendersonville North Carolina and live."  Then she walked away, sat on the couch visibly fuming and turned up the volume on the television where Shep was practically wild with enthusiasm over the enormity of the event. Bands were playing, cheerleaders were cheering on the sun (or maybe the moon) and the flashcard section had evidently not prepared quite as long as they should have but were making a valiant effort.
    The snake thing has been an issue since forever.  She told me before we were married and I saw evidence on several memorable occasions, once even carrying her on a wooded trail for about 5 miles on Mt. Pisgah after one crossed our path on what I had hoped would be an idyllic woodland stroll. It wasn’t.  Hate is not strong enough a word.  Her loathing, fear and hatred combine to create an intense negative reaction to even a picture on Facebook.  She will NOT look at a picture in a book, hides her face and screams when there is a picture on TV and the scene when she sees evidence of one - not SEES one, just sees evidence of where one might have been sometime in the last 10 years or so - is histrionic in an extreme you would have to experience to believe. Her toes curl, she dances from foot to foot, her voice reaches decibel levels only dreamed of by heavy metal rock bands, and her vocabulary is limited to “get it away, get it away, get it away.”  So naturally, being aware of this phobia, I had convinced her to move into a house on a gravel road surrounded by trees with small creeks on either side.  There is an abundance of wildlife. We see deer in the yard, one was inside the pool fence a few weeks ago but jumped out rather than diving in, there are turkeys, owls, two families of hawks, assorted squirrels, racoons and possums that help themselves to the cat food each night, moles and a mouse or two that have been removed from the skimmer and yes, snakes.  Not many, not often, rarely poisonous ones and almost never around the house, but they are there lurking.
    I am taking flying lessons.  A couple of weeks ago I was arriving at the airport and was pre-flighting the plane when I received a frantic phone call.  “It’s in the house, it’s in the house, it’s in the house.”  I recognized the problem immediately and did not ask for - and would not have gotten - clarification.  Leaving my instructor with a quick “I’ll be back in a few minutes” I ran to my truck and drove the 15 miles home.  She was on the phone with me the entire time repeating the same message.  I finally had to hang up and drive, imagining all sorts of possibilities and trying to decide before hand whether or not I could shoot a snake in the house without hitting the dog or destroying a water heater or incurring expensive collateral damage.  Upon arrival I ran in the door and found Betsy, still hysterical, standing on the bed in the guest bedroom with the poor dog looking up at her trying to figure out what all the fuss was about.  She was getting a little hoarse from all the yelling and her voice was dropping to just below a painful level.  “Where is it?” I yelled.  “In the bedroom by the door” she screamed and kept repeating herself.  I was expecting a monster as I peered around the door, but instead saw a little brown snake that might have been mistaken for an earthworm. He had probably found a crack under the door that would only admit something as small as he was and was looking, like the rest of us, for a way to escape the Georgia heat.  I’m pretty sure he was as confused and frightened as the dog apparently was, but, using the handy little grabber thingy she uses to get rolls of paper towels off the top shelf I quickly nabbed him and carried him outside to a chorus of “don’t put him in the garbage can” repeated several times in quick succession. He joined his little snake buddies in whatever happy hunting ground dead snakes go to - including the one she had shot in the head several years ago with a single shot from my .41 magnum pistol from 60 feet - yes, I stepped it off - when I was at work and the grandsons were outside. It was a sobering moment to all that might threaten the boys from that moment on and has passed on into family lore and it’s pretty safe to say that none of us argue too much with Nana anymore about anything, but that’s another story.  The danger for today was over, but she had me move most of the furniture in the house, use most of a 5 pound bag of “Snake Away” powder on the porches and around the house, and still turns a light on when walking in the hallway at night and is about ¾ convinced we have a deadly horde of copper headed water rattlers hiding in a closet somewhere waiting for just the right moment to come out and mercilessly attack or pounce or slither menacingly in our general direction.
    So the eclipse was just beginning and it was getting a little darker and I was outside knocking down the snakeskin from the shutter and, for good measure, using the long extension pole for changing spotlights in the ceiling to knock down an aged bird nest near the window on the 2nd floor that I had not noticed previously.  Why, you ask?  Because Betsy is convinced the snake was climbing the brick wall to get at the 2nd story bird nest and left his skin behind on the way up.  Mine is not to reason why, but to find a solution….
     After knocking down the nest and the old skin and hiding the evidence and wandering around the house a couple of times just to make sure there was no further danger past or present, I went inside to reassure her and gauge her mood.  It wasn’t good, so I resorted to my go-to method - distraction.  “Let’s ride up the road and see if we can find a clear area with no trees to see the eclipse” I suggested.  She was amenable, but was still thinking about whether she should move to Hendersonville today or wait until tomorrow.  We stopped at the BR and R store in Ellerslie and I got her a happy meal - Diet Dr. Pepper and an Almond Joy.  I noticed it wasn’t nearly as dark as before, but didn’t say anything.  We drove for another 5 miles or so and she noticed the shadows were not nearly as long as they had been.  Turning the truck around, we stopped in a church parking lot nearer to home.  Both of us looked up.  There were no clouds, the sun was bright, and it was almost 3:30pm.  “Do you think we missed it?” she asked.  I was pretty sure we had, but wasn’t about to suggest it. We returned home to find the sun shining brightly, the eclipse had moved on into history and the evidence of the snake on the wall no longer visible nor a topic of discussion.  Both were effectively out of sight and out of mind. The Dr. Pepper, Almond Joy and a little geographic slight of hand  had worked their particular magics and the foul mood had passed.
    So there’s our eclipse story. We have no eclipse pictures to share but we do have a great story that will no doubt be embellished as time goes on.  While we did not travel a great distance, did not wear the geeky glasses, did not see any of the event itself and only tangentially experienced its effects, we did share an experience that is uniquely ours.  I’m pretty sure that’s the whole point of life, isn’t it?



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