Sunday, February 4, 2018

Conversations With Elmer

(For those that just stumbled onto this page, [though from my page-hit counter I can tell that never happens] Elmer is my nearly 90 year old father-in-law who's spending the winter on the Gulf Coast a couple hours away from where The Wife and I live.)

This is just a random smattering of Elmer-isms

But first, to fully understand a conversation with Elmer you need to be aware of a couple Elmer-idiosyncrasies:

“Never” as in “I never do that!” means at least not in the past few hours

“Oh, no, no, never!” means not in the past few minutes, but you can be sure he will do it again soon!

"I don't want to do that, or go there, or any other similar 'I don't wana's', means there is a 73% chance he will change his mind in the next few hours.

Elmer tends to parse out his stories in pieces, never quite repeating the same story twice. Afterwards, to get the full picture, or at least a more complete picture, the three daughters have to confer with each other to pass on the bits they were told but the others weren’t, and to get the bits they were not told but the others were. Often this results in conflicting details as Elmer tends to modify his stories as he goes, and then it’s up to the three daughters to pick through the mess and decide which one, if any, is the most likely truth.

For something technical, like cleaning fish or nuking his Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich, or mopping the trailer floor, or the best way of tying a lure onto his fishing-line now that he's more blind than not, Elmer will give you the step-by-step procedure in excruciating detail, then he’ll repeat the telling of those steps every time you see him, and sometimes twice in the same sitting. So go ahead; ask me how he prepares his Jimmy Dean egg, cheese and sausage muffin in the morning, right down to scraping the melted cheese off the plastic wrapper with his teeth. I dare you, go ahead!!

Telling Elmer not to do something is - well, counter productive. ( Don't touch that plate, it's hot - Dang! That damn plate it hot! Leave the settings on the TV alone - I don't know why but the TV isn't working anymore! Don't pick that up, it's too heavy - Oh damn, I think I just hurt my knee!)


The ending of pretty much every phone-call with Elmer (Unless he has something of his own he wants to do, such as watch The Wendy show, then you’re lucky if he doesn’t hang up on you in mid-sentence.)

OK dad. Well you have a good evening and I’ll talk to you soon.
                       Ok dad, by.
                                Oh really?! Well by dad.
                                                Love you too dad, by.
                                                                Well I’ve got to get dinner on the table dad, by.
                                                                              You have a good night too, by dad.

Because he won't stop talking, on average from the first “by” to actual hang-up takes 2 minutes and 43 seconds, 8 “by’s”, and 4 eye-rolls.


Elmer (on the phone): Just wanted to let you know I drove over to ‘B’ ( Because I’m such a security freak I’m leaving out the actual place names ) and picked up that prescription you called into the Walmart there. ( Elmer has clearly lost track of which daughter he’s talking to as it is Dale, not The Wife, that handles all of Elmer’s medical stuff. )

The Wife: Did Ike drive you over?

Elmer (Somewhat defensively now that he is back on track as to which daughter he is actually talking to): No, Ike was busy so I drove over there by myself because I needed the prescription. It’s just around the corner anyway.  ( ‘B’ is 30+ miles one way and The Wife reiterates her concerns about Elmer driving any distances.)

Elmer: You’re just going to have to get over this concern about me driving. Your sisters both accept that I’m fine to drive places on my own, you should too.

The Wife: Dad, it’s not that I don’t think you can drive. If you would put both hands on the wheel and pay attention you can drive just fine, but instead you’re always messing around with cigarettes, dropping lighters under your feet, flicking burning butts out the window, leaning over and messing around in the glove box, talking on the phone, and just generally not paying attention.

Elmer: Oh no, no, no! I don’t do that stuff!  ( Yeah right! But to be fair, Elmer’s style of driving isn’t an age thing. The first, and last, time I rode in a car Elmer was piloting was nearly 40 years ago, back when he had two eyes and fairly normal blood-flow to the brain. Even back then pin-balling wildly between the white lines and panic stops were the norm, not because he can’t drive, but because his attention is everywhere but on the road.)


Elmer (On the phone the next day): I got a stone-chip in my windshield yesterday. Right now the cracks aren’t blocking my view ( Not saying much since he only has one eye to view with! ) but I’m going to have to get it replaced here soon.

As is Elmer’s way, we heard about this stone chip repeatedly over the next couple weeks. The one he got during that illicit trip by himself to ‘B’. All that time I’m thinking no big deal, stone chips are not unusual around here, but when I finally had an opportunity to make a personal inspection – well Holy Crap!! This so-called “stone chip” was a section of windshield the size of a quarter that was pulverized into glass fragments and dust with a half dozen cracks radiating out that had nearly engulfed the entire windshield. It would have had to have been a pretty damn big rock to cause that kind of damage! And rocks that big generally done lift off and go flying around.

The only thing that kept the windshield from caving in altogether on impact was that the “chip” was located in the very bottom-right corner of the windshield where it’s glued onto the car and backed up by the passenger-side A-pillar steel.

After looking things over I walked away pretty sure that someone, somewhere along that drive between Elmer’s trailer and ‘B’, came out that afternoon to find their mailbox mangled because Elmer clipped the corner of it on his way by.


Elmer (On the phone): I’m still at the trailer, but I’ll be leaving to meet you in ‘E’ for lunch in just a few minutes. ( Since, when it comes to food, Elmer is usually there a half hour before the appointed time and impatiently calling to find out where we are as if we’re late, I’m pretty sure he got distracted that morning and forgot he was supposed to meet us for lunch )

The Wife: Well take your time and stay off the phone until you get there.

Elmer: Oh I never talk on the phone when I’m driving

15 minutes later the phone rings and I’m thinking ‘oh crap, he hasn’t even left yet and we’re already here waiting for him.

Elmer: I’m just passing through ‘M’ now and will be there soon! (Yep, “Oh I never talk on the phone when I’m driving!!” He also told The Wife, as she chewed him out over that that illicit trip to ‘B’ a few weeks ago, that he never drives over 50 MPH anymore. Well ‘M’ is 20 miles away and he pulled up 15 minutes later. . .you do the math. . .)


Elmer: I really want to call Elvira over in Florida but I can’t find her number. I’ve torn this trailer apart and looked everywhere. Do you have it? I really need to make this call!

The Wife: I thought we put that number in your contact list. Oh wait, I forgot, your contact list went into the bay along with your phone. (The Wife walks over and flicks on the switch that powers up our WIFI and satellite internet modems ) Let me look up our Friends and Family list on the Verizon account. The number is in there. I’ll call you back in a few minutes. (of course by the time this call is actually finished [ see the first conversation ] the modems have had plenty of time to do their start-up things)

Only when The Wife pulls her laptop out it won’t connect. We walk out into the barn to use my laptop, (The Wife’s is very old and cranky. Mine is just old) except mine won’t connect either. The WIFI is working but the internet connection isn’t, despite what the lights on the satellite modem say. This happens sometimes but rather than waste time screwing around with it I pull out my phone and connect through our one-to-two bar cell signal, though it takes a couple tries to get into the Verizon account because apparently I screwed up the password once and the security question another time.

Verizon makes it difficult to find your Friends and Family list at the best of times, trying to do it on the tiny phone screen only makes the process more difficult. After quite a bit of frustration, many fruitless screen-taps as we worked back and forth through the menus with both of us trying to huddle into the same space over the tiny screen at the same time, and just before we admitted defeat, we finally find the list and get the phone number.


That was me waving my hands and hollering at The Wife just after I handed her my pen.

She was already not in the best of moods and this didn’t make her any happier, but you see, she has a habit of writing on any randomly available surface ( we often go shopping with our list written in spiral fashion in the blank spaces of advertising flyers and Netflix mailers or even ripped off cardboard box flaps ) because she was about to tear a corner off our newly arrived 1095-A tax form to write the number on.

The Wife: Hey Dad, I’ve got Elvira’s number for you.

Elmer: Oh that’s OK. I had the number after all and have already talked to her.

The Wife: (after politely, and carefully, hanging up the phone) Aaahhhhh!!

The Wife’s phone rings Wednesday morning. She checks the caller ID

The Wife: HEY DAD, EVERYTHING GOING OK FOR YOU THIS MORNING? (Elmer has graduated beyond forgetting to wear his fancy hearing-aids that used to blue-tooth right to his phone – you know, the phone that mysteriously jumped out of his pocket and into the bay a month ago –  now he’s lost the hearing-aids altogether.)

Elmer: Well I went out to go fishing around five this morning (Over the past couple months he has repeatedly, [ and believe me, nobody can repeatedly like Elmer can repeatedly! ] told us that he has quit fishing in the dark anymore. . .  Well last time I checked, on Wednesday sunrise wasn’t until 0716. . .) but the car was broke. It started just fine but every light on the dash lit up, ( he told one of his other daughters only one light lit up )   the headlights wouldn’t turn on, and the windshield wipers wouldn’t wipe. I don’t know what’s wrong with it!   ( a few days later he eventually admitted to yet another daughter that he had been out driving in a terrible storm the day before –  “But don’t worry, I pulled over and waited for hours for it to pass!” which means that at best he slowed down for 10 minutes during the worst of it. –  and the car was apparently struck by lightning.)

The Wife: Did you drive it? (Cringing at the thought of him creeping though town in the dark with one eye, no headlights, and a dew-covered windshield with a fishing pole sticking out the side-window like a Knight’s lance ready to spear something .)

Elmer: Oh no, no, no! I wouldn’t drive it like that!
                             – (23 seconds later)
                                                 I’m not real sure what’s wrong with the car, but when I drove it around the block the brakes felt funny too.

The Wife: (Exasperated eye-roll)

Elmer: I guess I’ll drive it up to the Ford dealer in ‘E’ and have them take a look at it. (‘E’ is 37 miles of rice-paddies and cotton-fields away.)

The Wife: I’d hate for you to get stuck alongside the road for hours until I can get there. Why don’t you take it over to the garage the fixed your stripped oil-drain plug a couple weeks ago? (A garage that’s 4 blocks away and drops him back at the trailer while they’re working on the car )

Elmer: I could but I do have that prescription waiting for me at the ‘E’ Walmart and I really should get that picked up soon.

Well there’s a reason that prescription is still sitting there in the Walmart and not in Elmer’s collection of drug-bottles sitting on the dining table in the trailer.

For various reasons Ike is not available to chauffeur Elmer around right now and ‘E’is about the only place The Wife is semi-comfortable (OK, least terrified.) with Elmer driving to on his own since there’s little traffic and Elmer has been making that drive for 20 years so knows it pretty well. So the prescription was sent to the ‘E’ Walmart instead of the ’V’ Walmart which is farther away but has better restaurants nearby. But it has been sitting there for a week now because Elmer keeps blowing us off while he plays with his girlfriend.

Not the Missouri girlfriend mind you, this is his Texas girlfriend we’re talking about!

I just don’t get it. I’m under no illusion about being a pretty-boy, but I never have women buzzing around me, yet Elmer. . . well, it’s just not good for my self-esteem to see Elmer effortlessly collecting people that end up wanting to be around him while I sit here ignored by anybody that’s ever known me.

I mean just what the hell is the attraction of a nearly deaf, one-eyed old-man that smells like a week-old ashtray from a 60’s era cocktail party, shuffling along in the slippers he wears everywhere with the cuffs of his old-man saggy-butt pants dragging the ground at his heels (Except when he’s wearing his girl-jeans that “fit him just right”. Those end 4 inches above his shoes)???!!

OK, enough; because if I keep thinking about Elmer and his collection of girlfriends I’m going to end up in therapy, and since I could most definitely benefit from it, for a variety of reasons beyond Elmer and his octogenarian bevvy of beauties, I really don’t want to go to therapy. After all, why risk ruining a good collection of psychosis?


So that’s a sampling of conversations with Elmer – at least so far, but stay tuned since he’s still ticking along down there doing Elmer things like he’s got energizer batteries up his butt.

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