Years ago after I left home and was living alone, some of my fellow teachers were concerned that I had no pet. I had grown up with dogs–two cocker spaniels named Mademoiselle and Lady. The children had had several pets–dogs, a cat, and a hamster. Now that the children were grown, and I wasn’t living with my family, I felt no need for a pet. Therefore I did not take seriously the proposal that I check out a cat who needed a home. I was told that the cat had come into this family when the owner of the cat had married a woman with a six-year-old child. It was he who wanted to part with his kitty as the six-year-old and the cat did not find each other compatible. I warned my teacher friend, who recommended I check out the cat, that I was not about to take the cat unless it was love at first sight. When I met the cat owner, he explained the situation and told me that he was a police officer and couldn’t stay home to protect the cat from the six-year-old. When I was shown the cat, the cat took my breath away. He was not an ordinary cat but a silver-haired Persian. I had expected some alley cat. Still, my resolve not to take the cat was firm until the owner and police officer told me his name: “Trooper.” I took the cat as I couldn’t resist having a beautiful cat named “Trooper” Cooper. Trooper and I were a pair for many years.
I recently watched a marvelous movie which some of you will not bother to watch as it is in French with English subtitles. I would hate for you to miss such a treat because of your movie rules. This movie has passed all records in France and is well worth dealing with the subtitles. While I am reluctant to give away any of the plot of the story, I will say that it is about the unlikely relationship between two men who are extreme opposites of each other. Nevertheless, the platonic relationship teaches each of them life lessons that many never learn. The dialogue is clever but natural. It is a feel-good movie and one that, for me, has been worthy of a second look. One thing I didn’t learn though until today is, why in the world is the movie entitled “The Intouchables?” I watched the entire movie twice but didn’t figure that one out. In my gym class, I mentioned the movie to a lady with a foreign accent. She raved about the movie and reminded me that “in” in French means what “un” means in English–”not.” Therefore the title in English is “The Untouchables.”
You should know that I am a frustrated amateur meteorologist. When I was in the Navy, I asked to be sent to school to become an aerographer’s mate, the Navy’s equivalent to a meteorologist. However, my English major degree caused the Navy to coerce me into being a yeoman’s mate, a clerk-typist. Moving to Florida certainly enhanced my interest in the weather and the climate as, in Florida, I found there was weather everywhere, particularly during the summer months which was called the “rainy season.” The summer months also included the “hurricane season.” All I wanted was to collect rainfall and swap weather tales with my fellow amateur weatherman friend, Dan Lawrence. Dan and I both know that, when the easterlies are in place, we have wonderfully exciting weather. When the westerlies take over and the wind comes from the Gulf of Mexico, the weather will become hot and humid with puny morning showers rather than the exciting afternoon and evening thunder showers. So long as the weather keeps happening, we amateur meteorologists will continue to make amateur predictions and pray that the winds remain from the south.
I have always dreamed of living in a warm clime, complete with beaches, warm sun and sunshine most of the time. When I was younger, I was always out in the sun as much as possible, looking for a dark, dark tan. Growing up in northwestern South Carolina, I despised the dreary winters when the sun didn’t shine for weeks. Then, thanks to the United States Navy, I was stationed in Pensacola, Florida, a dream come true. Shortly after my Navy career ended in Pensacola, I was offered a teaching job in St. Petersburg, even more tropical. When I arrived in St. Pete. I felt that I was in paradise. Then I met Dimitris who said he preferred cold weather to warm weather. I never knew there was any such animal. Was he crazy? Nope, I have since talked with others who say they prefer the cold and can’t stand the heat and humidity. My belief system is shattered. Don’t all Eskimos wish that they could live in Florida? I guess not.
At one time, my three best friends were all flight attendants. My friend Dean flew for United, Cameron flew for Northwest, and Matthew worked for American. When I sought a flight to Vancouver where I was to board a cruise ship for an Alaskan cruise, I found the best deal to be on American Airlines. Knowing that Matt flew that route occasionally, I e-mailed him telling him my flight number and the date and time I was flying. He wrote back that he would be flying international at the time of my flight, but he was alerting his flight attendant friend who would be on that flight, telling him to take care of me. When I boarded the plane, the plane crew were nice and attentive, but certainly no one called my name, and I settled into my assigned seat. After we took off, a male attendant came to my seat and said, “Are you Thom?” When I then identified myself, he said, “Matthew said to give you these.” It was a set of earphones, which the airline now charges for. Later, the same attendant returned and brought me a huge bag of chips and a drink, much larger than the other passengers in coach received. My seat companion looked at me and said, “Are you a celebrity?” I felt like one.
If there is one thing I am not, it’s “handy.” About a year and a half ago, my dishwasher stopped up. After a wash, the water did not drain out as it usually did. I examined the water standing in the bottom and realized that it was probably my fault for not cleaning the dishes better before putting them in the washer. I dipped out as much water as I could with a cup and accepted the conclusion that I would either have to call a plumber or do without the washer for a period of time. No big deal. I live by myself and can certainly wash dishes in the sink. However, the dishwasher got them so clean and used such hot water. Nevertheless, I abandoned the dishwasher and didn’t use it for a year or so. Eventually, I decided that it was a sign of my procrastinating that the dishwasher had not been taken care of. I decided to look at it one more time before calling a plumber. Some water still stood in the bottom. I then checked out the various buttons across the front of the washer and was amazed to discover one that read: DRAIN. It was under the CANCEL button. I pushed the button, and the water began to drain out. I have now been using the dishwasher again for several months. It’s running very well, and it didn’t cost me one penny.
I love to grow flowers. I even love to grow flowers from seeds. When I was young, Mother would give me a packet of marigold and zinnia seeds, and I would plant them somewhere in the yard and one, two, or sometimes even three of them would come up and bloom. I was fascinated. As an adult, I have become no more adept but more persistent at trying to grow flowers. I have continued to be successful with marigolds and zinnias, but I have also added to my repertoire cosmos, nasturtiums, and vincas. One of the most challenging flowers for me to cultivate though has been the New Guinea impatiens. Funny thing about this plant — it sounds tropical, but I have seen them growing wild in the mountains of North Carolina. I have no idea how anyone grows them from seeds so I have purchased mine full grown and watched them waste away before my eyes every time. I have tried full sun, full shade, partial shade, partial sun, warm, cool, outdoors, and indoors. My latest venture was a beautiful specimen I purchased at the Willow Tree Nursery. I decided I was going to plant it indoors, by the window, not far from the skylight in the living room. I fantasized about people oohing and aahing about this plant when they sat down in my living room. No artificial plants for me. No siree. The big red blooms contrasting to the rich, dark verdant leaves would draw attention and give me a reputation as a horticulturist extraordinaire. Imagine my chagrin the morning after I planted my impatiens when I walked into the living room and saw it gasping for breath. Quickly, I ran for the watering can and gave it a drink. It was a Sunday morning, and I was heading for church. I prayed for that plant during church, and God answered my prayer. When I returned home from the morning services, it had perked up and was looking great. On Monday morning, I headed toward the impatiens with high expectations only to be mortified by the sight of a once-again drooping plant. I diagnosed the situation as a need for it to have a drink of water before bedtime so I began a water regimen each evening. Sure enough, the plant perked up although I noticed that the flowers were getting smaller rather than larger. On about the fifth morning of my efforts, the New Guinea’s health began to fail. Nothing I did helped. It continued to waste away until it looked as though it had been mowed down by a hit and run driver. I was a failure and am prepared to confess to being a New Guinea impatiens serial killer.