On Thanksgiving day, I was on my way to my hometown and mulling over a subject for my weekly newspaper column. I was also worried about my breath since Susie had told me it smelled horribly. Of course, she has a super sniffing olfactory nerve but still, if figured that where there’s smoke…… so I pulled into an open convenience store down the road. What follows is the result. Incidentally, I was not going to stick this piece out here because I like it pretty well and if I ever get around to doing another book collection of favorite columns, I plan to put this one in there and who wants to buy a book they have already read elsewhere??
We’re inching up on the end of another year and here I am, a 73 year old man, typing away on a computer laying in my lap. It’s been a decent year. I still have reasonably good health and a good portion of my faculties. Life is good except for one small thing; I am an orphan in every sense of the word, having been the sole survivor of my birth family for the past 3 years.
I’m sure this is not unusual. Mathematics dictate that every family at one time in its existence, will only have 1 member remaining. The only time I even consider it is around the holidays when my wife, Susie and I get together with her family. She still has 7 siblings that can make family gatherings a bit noisy and raucous for an orphan such as myself.
Last week, on the Thanksgiving holiday, I awoke early with a thought tugging at me; I needed to go back to my hometown of Loogootee, Indiana, even if just for a couple of hours. To do what, I didn’t know; I just needed to go. I can’t describe the feeling; it just felt like something I should do. I explained my thoughts to Susie.
“Will you be back for dinner with the family?”
“I should be.” I said, not really having any idea.
“You better get going.”
A few minutes later, I put on my coat and gave Susie her peremptory goodbye kiss.
“Your breath smells horrible.” She said. “Have you been eating garlic bread again?”
Even though I love garlic bread, I had not been been eating any. It was only 8 o’clock in the morning.
“No.” I said, and turned back to the bathroom to brush my teeth again and also to make sure I had not used another tube of something on the last trip – athlete’s foot medicine, for example , or god forbid, preparation H -.
One brushing and a kiss later, I turned to leave.
“That didn’t help.” She said.
“What didn’t help?”
“Brushing your teeth again.”
Having Bad breath is a fear born of my early teenage attempts at kissing a girl. When I was young, I worried about everything when it came to matters of the opposite sex. That’s why it took several dates to work up to a maiden kiss. When I finally got around to it on the Houghton Bridge over the White river in Martin County, I half expected the young recipient of my affection to say “That’s some breath you got there, Bozo.”
But she didn’t. Instead, it was something to the effect of “There. That wasn’t so difficult, was it?”
On my way to Loogootee, I stopped for coffee and breath mints. Being a holiday, the convenience store was packed and there was only one clerk on duty. I stood in the long checkout line planning my day and only became impatient when the man in front of me pulled out a handful of lottery tickets he wanted to cash in.
When it was finally my turn, I sat my coffee on the counter and the guy behind the register said “that will be a dollar nine’.
I reached into my pocket for a dime and then I remembered that I had come into there to buy mints. “Oh, I forgot. I was supposed to buy breath mints. Where are they?” I heard the young guy behind me mutter something under his breath.
“Right behind you.” The clerk said, pointing to a rack full of mints and gum. I grabbed the first thing I saw; a tin of mints.
The clerk rang them up. “three dollars and fifty six cents.”
3 dollars? I did a quick mental calculation. Even figuring the tax, those mints were over two dollars. I thought they would be around a quarter. No way was I paying two dollars and more for mints.
“I don’t want those.” I said and a couple of people in line moaned. I wanted to turn around and ask them if they had a bus to catch but thought better of it. Quickly grabbing the tin, I put it back and grabbed a roll of mints. “I’m sorry,” I said by way of explanation. ”when I was growing up, you could buy an R.C. cola for a nickel. “
“I’ll bet.’ The clerk said. He rang up the roll of mints. “That will be a dollar nineteen.”
“Oh, that’s a lot better.” With my coffee at a dollar, that meant the mints were only a dime. I fished another dime out of my pocket and put it on the counter.
“No. the mints are a dollar nineteen. Your total is two dollars and 37 cents.” A dollar nineteen?? I started to object but somehow sensed that the folks in line were getting a bit restless and would not take kindly to this. I fished around for another dollar but all I had was a twenty. Damn. I didn’t want to break that. I had no choice. I handed him the twenty and that’s when I noticed the mints were peppermint. I hate peppermint. I wanted wintergreen.
“I don’t like peppermint.” I held up the roll of mints. “do you have wintergreen?” Several people in the line began muttering. “Never mind.” I said. “Peppermint’s good.”
As I pulled out of the station and onto the highway, it occurred to me that I am now one of those old geezers that used to irritate me to death. Maybe I have fewer faculties about me than I thought.
What goes around, comes around, they say.
Because of space limitations, I did not do a very good job of elaborating just what it was that was bothering me and had me traipsing off to southern Indiana. What it boiled down to was the fact that on holidays, I really miss my brother and my sister. My mom has been gone long enough that her absence is just a dull ache and of course, my dad, having died almost 70 years ago, is just a very dim memory. He was never really a part of the family as I remember it. But boy, I would really like to talk to my siblings come holiday time.