BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

“I HAD A NAP BUT NOW I DON’T KNOW WHO I AM OR WHAT YEAR IT IS.”—qtd.  from tumblr

* * *

I have noticed lately, especially now that I have walked slowly and arthritically past the 80-year milestone, that I am craving a nap more than I was ever aware of before.  In fact, I hear myself talking to myself, “I need a nap.”

Around 11 a.m., I hear myself repeating that “Need-a-Nap” mantra.

“At the end of the day, the mantra is meant to bring you back to simplicity.  We live in such a complex world that it’s easy to get lost in all the details.  Mantras can help you circle back to the simplistic approach to life and focus on those things that inspire you and truly make you happy.” —Chopra 2021.

Now talking aloud to oneself at 11 a.m. is usually all right, but pre- or post-Covid-19 it is not such a good idea.  It draws a lot of attention, and stares, from those not in need of a nap, mostly the young.  I find my wife, however, is my best audience, agreeing, as she holds her second or third cup of coffee of the day.

The day: When does it all begin that I require a nap?

A day, as we know it, begins at midnight or 12 a.m.  We sleep away already part of the day at night.  My “day” can begin when my ROKU is turned off, ending my viewing pleasure of some Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, Disney+, or Apple TV+ program, usually about 1 a.m.  So, I am tired, and I go to bed, to sleep.  My dear wife is already fast asleep.  At her feet, the cat.

Our cat is a good sleeper.  Mostly.

Now our days begin when he wants them to: play time or hair-ball, or walking and purring on my wife, whom he adores; our days begin when we have medical appointments, when the garbage pickup days occur (soon after 8 a.m. on Tuesday and Friday.  “Don’t put out the garbage the night before.”  Rats, racoons, coyotes, possums…) Most days begin at 0700 or even 7:30 a.m.

This may come as a shock to those who think that retirement or growing old means sleeping in until nine or ten every day, as portrayed in some fantasy movie.  Not so!

“I Need a Nap!”  Even AARP and major health establishments shout out “Take naps!”

When I was growing up in Chicago, I had to take a bus and an L to my high school.

CTA

I don’t recall often sleeping on the trip to school.  I was mostly studying.  But in the afternoon (or evening after an after-school event), I would definitely “nap.”  But that was not a nap (even though occasionally I would sleep past my stop).  No,

“A nap is a short period of sleep, typically taken during daytime hours as an adjunct to the usual nocturnal sleep period.  Naps are most often taken as a response to drowsiness during waking hours.  A nap is a form of biphasic or polyphasic sleep, where the latter terms also include longer periods of sleep, in addition to one single period.”

I never attended kindergarten, never had a special time-out when I and my classmates lay down on soft cushioned material, covered myself with some kind of blanket or “woobie” and took a siesta-nap.  My two boys-to-men had the napping experience in pre-school and in kindergarten.  Those experiences prepared them for family camping outings or for other napping occasions “nestled in mosquito nets, nothing above but dark night sky and stars ever so clear.  No soft meditation music to help fall asleep, only the howling sounds of wild coyotes out in the desert, and the muffled thundering sounds of big-gun field artillery conducting their fire missions off in the distance.” —US Army Veteran

afghanistan cot for nap

Except for my own naps, those of the children I taught in the Head Start Program in Minnesota summers, in a time long ago, were most pleasant.  Sixteen little bumps resting after morning activities, playground, lunch, finger painting, and then the need for rest and time out before snack, before departure.  Quiet time for me and my aide to gather our breaths.  Ah, nap time.

In time, I dozed off–certainly during faculty meetings or at boring convention presentations (perhaps some conferences even required a return to my room for a “nap” after lunch. . .).  I might have “napped” before teaching some night class, or “napped” before attending an evening faculty function.  These and other like examples become noteworthy as respite, relief, or calm.

Now my nap, our naps–“Wanna take a nap?” –can occur soon after the morning weather with Julie Marquez, two pieces of Martin’s raisin bread toast, a Halo mandarin orange, one to three cups or coffee, one apple fritter or Boston cream donut, or any combination of these.  Perhaps Frosted Mini-wheats or Honey-Nut Cheerios?  And then the local and world news events.

10:30 a.m.

Garbage Picked Up (Tuesday and Friday)

11:00 a.m. Nap Time

(Too hot and muggy to take the cat for a walk.  Maybe tonight when it’s cooler?)

CAT ON LEASH

* * *

“Are you tired?  “I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a nap,” she said.

* * *

“I’m worn out watching all those National Geographic films.  I’ve emptied the oceans; I’ve dug around Egypt; I’ve climbed the Andes Mountains.  I need a nap.”

* * *

A nap.  A blessed and sacred event.  Well, not really, but something we do look forward to, do need, do miss if we don’t get one.  A special time.

The special time is any time, between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.!  That’s right: 7 p.m.  Sometimes a long doctors’ clinic afternoon requires a late nap, before supper and evening news.  Sometimes a condo board meeting that began at 10 a.m. and adjourned at noon: a cold refreshing McDonald’s shake before a nap is the perfect remedy to heal the stresses of board budgets and owners’ complaints.  Ah, an afternoon nap.

As you can see, there is no set Head Start Nap Time, like 1:30 p.m.  We are flexible nappers.  We can nap anytime–and anywhere.  The best place, though care must be taken lest the body think it’s bedtime, is on the bed, with quilt covering feet, temperature set at 74-76°.  Next is the living room, sure to have cat-company.  The TV room has a couch for reclining, with accompanying cedar chest for feet and sit-up short nap, or doze-y nap, with one eye on the TV. 

But I have the most Special Place, the two-position recliner.

MY FAVORITE RECLINER

I kick back, settle, relax, and doze.  And if I am lucky, I’ll have a purring feline with me for an hour or so, curled in comfort on my lap.  I cannot, however, nap too long in the chair.  My back tells me when it is time to get up and move around, so a two-hour nap is more than enough.  A good nap, with dreams (!); and with air conditioning, an excellent nap.

And so it goes.  Each day beginning so differently, with catwalk, breakfast, doctors’ appointments, humidity, garbage trucks, coffee stimulation (or not), or a variety of other obligations or choices for the day (early morning blood tests?  Did I mention those?).  And we think about where we might be able to have nap time set aside.  Yes, that is true.  It’s like family planning, dinner planning, or planning for the rest of the day. 

Or, often, the day will simply proceed, and we will say aloud,

“I NEED A NAP!”

© James F. O’Neil 2021  

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

HRH Elizabeth Queen of England will “turn” 95 years old on 21 April, this year–coming up soon.

April 21, 2021

Mr. James Francis O’Neil, BA, MA, will “turn” 80 years old–still fifteen years younger than the Queen.

BABY JIMMY

. . .

“A man is sane morally at 30, rich mentally at 40, wise spiritually at 50–or never.”–Sir William Osler (1849–1919) [Quoted in Forbes Magazine, June 1961]

. . .

Is any one birthday more important than another?  Is any one particular birthday more significant than another? 

Certain days of our lives, calendar days, occurring but annually, come to be celebrated (or not celebrated, or tried-to-be-forgotten): our BIRTH-DAY, anniversary of our birth.  For some, it is important not to forget, not to be forgotten, as in Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town, Emily Webb’s twelfth birthday.  Was that birthday important or significant?  (Is there a significant difference?)

In a lifetime, certain calendar birth anniversary days (beginning with #1, the 1st, the First) are regarded more highly and celebrated–by others and by the “celebrant.”

21–I could not wait until I turned twenty-one, to have my first legal alcoholic–spirits drink.  Oh, I had drinks years before that special “21st,” but not legally in Illinois.  So, there I was, in the club car of the Illinois Central RR, April 1962, returning to classes after the Spring-Easter Break.

My Uncle Bill had taught me the best about cigars (“That’s what I do: I smoke cigars.  And I know things.”)  and was teaching me about single malts and sour mash.  He made good Manhattans.  “I’ll have a Manhattan,” I told the railroad waiter, nonchalantly.  (I was not about to venture “a Rob Roy, please.”)  “I need some proof of age,” he retorted.

Oh, I had that birthday gift, how important that April date was on my driver’s license (gotten on another important birthday in April, #16)) 1962 minus 1941 equals: BINGO: 21!)  What power!  What meaning!  What significance!   A date to be remembered–for life!

65–I skipped over a few years to here.  I don’t need to retell about “The Big 4-0” or “Half Century” (really?).  I did have a wonderful 60th Surprise Party that genuinely surprised me.  Family and friends, great foods, and a well-decorated cake, in the shape and design of an airport runway.  (I am an avid aircraft-lover.)  That birthday had special significance for me.  It was special.  (Hallmark says 60 is diamonds; I received none.)

So, the years 1–ONE–FIRST to 65 brought me surprise birth anniversaries, parties, gifts, and memoriesofatime, but not, of course, gifts in the Hallmark “official” list for anniversaries.  (Those are mostly for weddings, especially 5/wood; 10/tin/; 15/crystal/; 19/jade; and 25/silver/, 50/gold/, and 75/diamond.)

Then came the BIGGIE, the real BIGGIE: 65 . . . and important significant MEDICARE.  What can I say now?  Incredible!  I cannot believe I have partaken of that great social program . . . for fifteen (15) years!

Where has the time gone?  Who knows where the time has gone?

* * *

Her: “Thank you, Mr. O’Neil, Professor O’Neil, for your time–which is so important to you–and your willingness to talk about your 80th Birthday.  How do you feel as you approach that 80th April Day?”

Me: “Growing old isn’t easy.  But I do not regret growing older.  ‘It’s a privilege denied to many.’”

Her: “Have you learned anything special in the recent past, say five or ten years, which prepared you for this time?” 

Me: “Lifting.  I used to lift, unload box cars when I was twenty-two.  It is harder now to lift a 20-pound bag of mulch.  I am aware of not being able to go fast, but I have clocks in every room, I am so aware of time.  More time needed to plan for activities.  And, yes, being forgetful: Being in a room and wondering, ‘Why did I come into here?  Oh, yes.’”

Her: “What would you say is your greatest achievement in your eighty years?”

Me: “Sobriety: To accept the things I cannot change; to have the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.  Powerful stuff here.”

Her: “Aside from all your friends and family, is there someone special you would like to invite to your birthday party?”

Me: “The author and essayist Joseph Epstein whom I have admired for a long time, for his essays of wit, thought, wisdom, and history.”  (“If I am allowed another special guest, I would like Henry David Thoreau, too.  And if there is one more extra chair, I would like to hear the barbaric yawp of Walt Whitman.”)

Her: “At present, what is your greatest desire?”

Me: “My 81st birthday, at home, with my family, virus free.”

Her: “You were in education for nearly fifty years.  You taught writing and literature, and were a school administrator for seven years, too.  Do you have any special words of wisdom that you can share that have had an influence upon your career?”

Me: “‘To err is human; to forgive, divine’ is one of my favorites.  ‘The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose’ is one I learned early on, from Shakespeare.  And it still has meaning for me.  ‘They also serve who only stand and wait’ from Milton.  Profound.  ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’ One more?  ‘Know thyself.’ Something I learned long ago in Greek class.”

Her: “I know you have done much reading in all those years, surely from Aristotle and Plato, to Proust, and Kurt Vonnegut.  But you must have some ‘favorite’ or special author or book that you return to for guidance or inspiration.”

Me: “I don’t have a special author whom I can often quote from, like lines or words from Shakespeare, or the poetry of Milton, or Emily Dickinson.  But if I were on that imaginary deserted island with only one book to read over and over, I would have to choose my black leather-bound Book of Common PrayerAll I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten would be a great choice–or Paradise Lost.  But I’ll keep the prayer book. 

Her: “Of the 80 years, what would you say was the ‘Best Year of Your Life’?”

Me: “My 80th, for sure, considering all my high school classmates who have passed on.  But that is a difficult question to answer.  Year of Courtship, marriage, having children, career, graduate school, travel to Europe; moving years: Chicago, to Minnesota to Florida.  There cannot be a ‘Best Year of My Life.’”

Her: “Well, then, is there a ‘worst’?”

Me: “This is not so difficult to answer, for it always comes up the same: 10th grade!  No matter whenever I think about it.  My surgeries: appendix and tonsils.  Nearly flunking geometry: A=B, B=C, ergo A=C. Theorems and proofs.  Pythagoras and c2 = a2 + b2.  How tough that was!  In addition to learning Latin in 9th grade, I began the study of Greek in 10th grade! α β γ δ ε ζ η κ π φ ω and more–I forget the exact order.”

Her: “Professor, you have allowed me a unique opportunity to hear about you and some of your history.  Thank you again.  Would you like to add anything else now?”

Me: “Thank you, and you’re welcome.  Yes, a few more words, if I might read from Walt Whitman Sands at Seventy, “After the Supper and Talk”: ‘“. . . after the day is done . . . Good-bye . . . O so loth to depart!  Garrulous to the very last.’”

Walt Whitman, circa 1887

© JAMES F O’NEIL  2021

 BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

“The thesaurus or synonym dictionary is a reference work for finding synonyms and sometimes antonyms of words . . . often used by writers to help find the best word to express an idea . . . fitly and aptly . . .” [Wikipedia]

. . .

When I began teaching so many long, long years ago (1963), my first classes were with 9th graders.  I taught at an all-boys Catholic school in the suburbs of Chicago.  I was as new in the classroom as they were, though eight years differing in age; yet I had the degree, the suit coat, and the tie.

I always worked hard on my lesson plans, studied hard to teach the grammar exercises and literature requirements, and all the other peripherals that accompany “Language in Thought and Action.”  Plus, a novel or two each semester (Call of the Wild, Life on the Mississippi. . .).

One of my “bestest” vocabulary-building exercises, reserved for eager-to-be-dismissed Friday afternoon students–or held in reserve for those awful condensed classes before pep rallies–was my “Roget’s.”

So simple.  Somewhat baby-ish busy work (isn’t that what I needed?  quiet time busy work?)

I distributed white three-holed college-ruled paper.

Each student (40 in a class–I had five classes) had a paperback copy of Roget’s Thesaurus [in dictionary format].  (I bought them at a discount for my classroom, as I recall, a few at a time.  Some eager students purchased their own copies.)

“Close your eyes.  Open your book anywhere.  Keep your eyes closed.  Run your finger down the page.  Stop.”

“Take your pencil or pen and begin to copy the MAIN word under your finger, then copy all the words that are under it.  Then go to ‘See also,’ and continue copying.”

“See also.”

And they could never finish before the bell, before they ran to the buses or to the gym, or to the football field or to the auditorium–or wherever.

Let’s see.  Running my finger down the page of my vade-mecum (!) Roget’s Thesaurus in Dictionary Form (hardcover, of course!), with over 17,000 individual entries, edited by Norman Lewis © 1959 Putnam’s, I open to

BOREDOM           

boredom, tedium, lack of interest, ennui, doldrums, weariness, world-weariness [pandemic?]; jadedness, apathy, lethargy, languor, lassitude, listlessness; detachment [Covid-19?], indifference,  incuriosity, unconcern [W.H.O.?], monotony, dullness [new cases, new cases, new cases?]; prosaism, vapidity, platitude, weary, pall [latest number of deaths?]; tire of, tired, blasé, perfunctory, tepid, lukewarm, monotonous, dull . . .

See also FATIGUE . . .  See also BOREDOM, INACTIVITY, REST, WEARINESS [hospitalizations?] . . .   spent, worn out, succumb . . .

. . .

Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869): British physician, natural theologian, lexicographer, created the English-language thesaurus in 1805 (released to the public in April 1852).

© JAMES F. O’NEIL  JULY 2020

 

 

 

 

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

“Aficionado: A person who is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about an activity, subject, or pastime.”

My Uncle Bill wanted me to become a gentleman salesman; he was disappointed when I became a Teacher in Chicago.  Yet in a way, I was that salesman in the classroom, selling English grammar, composition, and literature.  That satisfied him somewhat.

He smoked: Pall Mall cigarettes and White Owl cigars.  He was determined to teach me the ways of a “gentleman” ((he was an executive for US Steel): cigars and scotch.  I was smoking Camel cigarettes. [https://memoriesofatime.blog/2013/08/05/pack-of-camels-please/]

So on occasion, usually after a family gathering, he would offer me a good cigar (perhaps a Garcia Vega), and a glass of scotch. I’m not sure now whether single malt, or the age.  It was scotch.Then we moved away, and I moved away from cigars and scotch until later in my life.  I smoked until 1972; I was 31.  I had been smoking for 12 years, then suffered from severe bronchitis.  “You should stop smoking,” I heard the examining doctor say.  “That’s not very forceful,” I countered.  “Stop smoking!”  I did, then, at that point.  (“Cold turkey,” whatever that means.)  I got better, and was better at scotch (and vodka).  Too much.  Until six years ago.  (“Cold turkey…”)

Now retirement has brought some new drinking delights: Arnold Palmer iced tea and Diet Dr Pepper, with cigars.

Cigars?  My two sons have become my Uncle Bill: introducing me to A. J. Fernandez, Rocky Patel, Ramon Bueso, and other tobacco-leaf friends of theirs.  I have my humidor, cigar samples, lighters, catalogs, and conversations with them as I learn and enjoy.

I smoke outside, behind our cozy 860 square-foot condo.  My lawn chair faces the two-lane busy street, busy with cars, beer trucks for the tavern across the street, public transportation buses (I can see the bus stop not far from my resting place), and trucks laden with wares of all kinds for the large grocery store, its parking lot always filled.  Even not far away is a fire department house, with two engines.  Sirens and lights.  Excitement.  And ambulances for the hospital a few miles away.  Ah, retirement.

Using Mayo Clinic’s Guidelines for Tobacco Use (“How many cigars can I smoke a week?”  “NONE!”), I limit myself to no more than two a week.

Enjoyment and relaxation.  So much better than a cigarette.  Oh, I used to light up a cig after a meal; that was really good.  Or have a smoke while sitting on a bench relaxing; that was good, too.  Cigarettes, however, are pressure pleasures.  (“Gotta have a smoke!”  “Gotta extra smoke?”)  (“How much?” “A pack a day.”)  Cigars are relaxing pleasures.

One or two puffs, maybe three, a minute, rolling the cigar between the thumb and fingers, not coughing, not inhaling.  Just relaxing.  Puff.  Smoke.  Make as much smoke, look at, watch, the smoke.I sit under the trees, the clouds.  I see the Chinese Restaurant Take Out customers across the street.  Then the setting-sun light, the parking lot lights switch on full blare.  Maybe it’s quiet.  In the quiet I’m lost–and soon the cigar, I realize, has burned down to the label, or I am so relaxed, or it has become dark.

Or the mosquitoes…

Time to go inside.  Time passed so quickly, either alone or in conversation with others.  But that cigar. . .

A cigar is as good as memories that you have when you smoked it. —Raul Julia

One of the joys of cigar smoking is it allows us to delve into interesting thoughts and observations.

[It is said that Freud smoked 20 cigars a day…]

 © James F O’Neil 2020

 

%d bloggers like this: