IN MEMORIAM

ELIZABETH II REGINA

8 SEPTEMBER 2022

21 APRIL 2016

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY, YOUR MAJESTY!”

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

Taurus Astrology: April 20–May 20: Dependable, Persistent, Loyal, Patient, Generous.  Perfectly fine on being alone; this way things are done the way they want them to be done.  Fiercely loyal to friends and family–and dependable, but deeply sensitive.  They do not express their feelings openly.  Have immense perseverance, even when others have given up.  Very responsive to their surroundings.  They like decorations, color, or anything that appeals to all the senses. 

Taurus like possessions, with the Taurus home nicely decorated with lots of things.  Taurus are down to earth, do not like gaudy, flashy or over-the-top-things.  They prefer comfortable and creative settings and objects.

When Princess Elizabeth of England became queen in 1952

[Credit: Dorothy Wilding Estate. lethtemgrumble blog]

I was a paperboy delivering newspapers on the South Side for the Chicago Herald American.

I do have memories of folding papers for my route in February 1952.  I do remember those headlines,

though I hardly knew her, and knew but a little more about Great Britain.  Yet I soon learned that she and I were related–both born under the sign of Taurus!  I was smitten. 

I began clipping newspaper articles, pictures of her, and reading of her in TIME.  I was a loyal subject, following her LIFE events.

Always, though, to this day, the occasion of her and my birthday brings a smile and a thought of her, and maybe something memorable.  This year our birthdays are special: a big one for me (75), but a bigger one for her: (90).

So, here’s a shout out HAPPY BIRTHDAY!  to two special people born on 21 April.

Baby Jimmy 8-9-41
ELIZABETH II 2016 APRIL 21

 ©   James F. O’Neil  2016/2022

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

Linguist Robert Hetzron offers this definition:

“A joke is a short humorous piece of oral literature in which the funniness culminates in the final sentence, called the punchline.  In fact, the main condition is that the tension should reach its highest level at the very end.  No continuation relieving the tension should be added.  As for its being “oral,” it is true that jokes may appear printed, but when further transferred, there is no obligation to reproduce the text verbatim, as in the case of poetry.”  (Wikipedia).

* * *

“You’re a joke.”  “What a jokester you are.”  “That’s quite a joke!”

* * *

I heard, learned, was told that a person studying a foreign language really knows the language if he or she can tell a joke in the foreign language, or could understand jokes told in a foreign language.

“Did you hear the one about the . . . ?”

* * *

I’m supposed to have a pretty good memory for details if I can remember them.  I cannot tell jokes, or remember punchlines, or remember those details that make a joke “work.”  That “punchline” eludes me, so I have historically been a very poor joke-teller.  I’ve neither comedic tendencies nor gifts for telling.

* * *

“The Story of Mel Fami”

Once upon a time, there was a great baseball pitcher, Mel Fami.  He had a powerful left arm, but he had two major faults:  He drank too much beer; and when he did, his pitching was wild and erratic.

A new, fresh young batter came up from the Minors and had to face Mel Fami for the first time.  Pitch one: “Ball!”  Pitch two: “Ball!”  Pitch three: “Ball three!”  Next: “Ball four!”  So the young player made his way to first base. 

The next batters were up, and walked.  Bases loaded.  Mel Fami was pulled.  And the rest of the story . . .  Page Two.

As the young player made his way across home plate, leaving the field, he noticed a pile of empty beer bottles close near Mel Fami’s dugout.

“What’s that all about?” he asked a teammate.  “Oh, that’s Mel’s beer.  The beer that made Mel Fami walk us.”

* * *

Remembering jokes is a skill and an art.  I’d never make a stand-up comedian.  Nevertheless, teaching, my career, has often afforded me the opportunity to be a ham, a play actor, whether in the Head Start classroom, or in a graduate class.  I even was a clown. 

“Standing before the audience, reciting his lines, he told them about R-O-Y-G-B-I-V.  Or about Pythagoras and his triangle, to demonstrate 127 feet from 1st to 3rd across the pitcher’s mound, or to explain the Oxford comma.”  The story continues . . .  Not too much humor there, unless accompanied by music”  “Conjunction Function”

So I have left the jokes to those who have degrees in the comedic arts, who memorize well (which I always despised doing), who excel in punchlines.  I, on the other hand, will continue socially, as best I can, in my humility, knowing my shortcomings, and that “Life is the search for the perfect night’s sleep.”

©  James F. O’Neil  2022

BY: JAMES F O’NEIL

“We cannot learn without pain.”  –Aristotle, Politics (V.1. 1301a, l. 28)

* * *

“It’s just an overnight,” my urologist said to me.  I accepted that after he had examined my bladder and naughty bits for cancer and for whatever prompted him to speak “There’s something there I don’t like the looks of,” after he had probed me and scoped me with the cystoscope.

Now it is easy to whine about how I got to that point in my illness and relate about the symptoms which brought me to the hospital two weeks later for pre-op.  For I was so ready for the promise of relief from pain that prostate surgery would provide.  I was prepared to “undergo the knife” (or whatever other instruments the surgical team would use).

For the next two weeks I cleared my busy retiree’s calendar of all doctor and dentist appointments, planned speaking engagements (kidding…), and prepped for a hospital overnight, followed by three or four days of rest and relaxation.  I organized my writing and reading materials, organized to be placed in the TV Room–Guest Room–Sick Room, with its queen-sized hide-a-bed, with its proximity to a bathroom.  In addition, the TV with ROKU, Netflix, Prime, and hulu, among others.

I had my supply of “diapers” and other special hygiene needs.  An ample supply.

What I never did before surgery, however, was ask the doctor what took place during the procedure.  I had no clue and never did go search the Internet or Home Medical Guide in detail, or visit You Tube for any kind of heads up on what I was in for.  I expected pain and discomfort, bed rest, medications, inconveniences, and the many hours of sleep after I came home from the hospital.  Nevertheless, I felt prepared, having complete trust in my specialist, and was making myself ready for a new medical experience to add to my list containing appendectomy, tonsillectomy, hernia, and hernia repair, two knee surgeries (with a total replacement), a gall bladder attack with a swift surgery and hospital discharge to home, and two surgeries for feet and toes.

In my years, I have had sufficient days spent in a hospital and have had to slide over from a hospital bed to a surgical table: “One, two, three. . .”  I have had my trips in hospital elevators, down hallways and through No Entry doors to arrive in freezing cold operating rooms, with distinctive bright lights, beeping sounds, and muffled voices of gowned and masked nurses, and others.  Down those hallways with neon-fluorescent ceiling lighting, under one, and another, and another.  Turns and doors and more turns and more doors.

Then, once on the table, after the Q & A by anesthesiologist, oxygen tube into the nose, the familiar-to-all, from experience or from living with Grey’s Anatomy, The Resident, ER, and so many other St. Elsewhere TV episodes and movies, “Take a deep breath through your nose,” or “Count back from . . .”  “Ninety-nine, ninety-eight, ninety. . .”

Then nothing.  Except time passing outside the body.  Then, until, “Mr. O’Neil. . .”

* * *

“Mr. O’Neil, are you in pain?”

* * *

“Mostly thirsty.”

The surgery did not go as expected; I was returned to the hard black surgical table the next day for a bleeding fix-up.  Unexpected collateral. 

. . . four nights, sleepless nights, uncomfortable nights in a hospital bed . . .

“You’re going home this afternoon.”  I arrived home, Transportation by Son.  Into the Sickroom.  Into the home bed.  “Ready.”  For sleep-rest, and some Netflix.

Not so fast: It did not last.  Shortness of breath.  Days passing.  Weakness, to the point of crawling. 

A trip to the ER, there a CT scan and EKG.  The usual routine for heart attack.  The ER doctor said, “Good news and bad news.  It’s not your heart.”  And?  “Pulmonary embolisms in the lungs.  You’re being admitted.”

Collateral damage.

Thus began the journey of 41 days and overnights of hospital-patient life, including 12 days of re-hab in a nursing care facility.

* * *

“Just an overnight” became days with tests, blood draws, blood transfusions, medications, specialists, sleepless nights (but mostly tasty food when I was up to eating). 

Then depression and boredom.  (I read nothing from my Kindle or from my magazines.  I would watch television late until I couldn’t see, then fall asleep until the 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. “Mr. O’Neil, could I please have your date of birth?  I need to take some blood.”  My left arm was pin cushioned.  Some techs took blood from my hand between my knuckles.  Ouch!

* * *

“Orthostatic hypotension.”  I was a lump, a sack of bones, losing weight, with no one fixing me or making me better, I thought.

Finally, out of bed into a recliner chair—a true milestone.  I could even walk a few steps, weak, but willing to go.  And then, after, the hospital (and insurance company) deemed it necessary for me to exit my private room, and be discharged.

I was stable and prepped to go.  A new adventure beginning with a wheelchair ride into a wheel chair ambulance to my next place for recovery.  The experience in the nursing home rehab facility was a coda to all I had been through.  The staff worked wonders, getting me to Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy.  “I can walk!  I can walk!” 

I could walk.  I could wash.  In addition, I could eat!  Oh, the meals!  At 7:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 5:30 p.m.  So much–too much–good food, and soup twice daily.  The twenty pounds lost during my hospital stay were regained: My muscles were beginning to re-assert themselves. 

I could walk—with help and safety belt.

Soon I was homeward bound, with cane and walker furnished by Home Health Services.

I made it!  “Going home!”  Ah, sweet words.  “Going home,” there to “re-cover.”

* * *

Anything I write more or tell about my time hospitalized is redundant (and getting boring).  My memoriesofthetime come and go, drift into my consciousness, spend some time, then drift away the way they came.  I’ll never say I do my best to forget; I simply forget some details not to be commentated upon.  Sometimes I can hear myself “It was horrible.”  Or, perhaps, “How did I ever endure?”  I did.  And it was horrible at times.  Boredom.  Pain.  Malaise.  Ennui.

I was bolstered at times by my “De profundis” (my heartfelt cry of appeal expressing deep feelings of sorrow or anguish), or “This too will pass,” despite a cardiologist’s exclaiming “What’s going on here?!”  In addition, “We can fix this.”

So I got fixed enough for home.  “Just an overnight” are words with a dimension of meaning I never knew existed for me. 

I shudder a bit when I hear “Just an overnight.”  I am confident, though, that “this, too, will pass.”

© James F. O’Neil  2022

Hill-Rom Centrella Smart+ Bed(TM): “Because life altering moments deserve elevated care.” (PRNewsfoto/Hill-Rom Holdings, Inc.)

BY: JAMES F O’NEIL

SURPRISE: An unexpected or astonishing event, fact, or thing; to occur to with a sudden feeling of wonder or astonishment, as through unexpectedness; to come upon or discover suddenly and unexpectedly; to cause someone to feel amazed at something unexpected; a feeling aroused by something unusual or unexpected; feeling unusually alarmed or delighted [from American Heritage College Dictionary].  “Unexpected” or “unusual” can be divided into SURPRISE: sudden wonder or disbelief, unanticipated; ASTONISH: overwhelming surprise; AMAZE: astonishment, often bewilderment; ASTOUND: shock, or unprecedented in one’s experience.  (Is it all clear now?  Were you surprised at your last surprise?  Is that sur-PRIZED, or sup-PRISED?  Hmm.]

FAVORITE BOOK

THESAURUS EXERCISE: Copy the following into your speckled notebook for next Friday’s spelling quiz.  SURPRISE!  (Just kidding.): astonishment awe wonder shock nonexpectation unforeseen  godsend  miscalculation  unexpectedness  abruptness jolt precipitance  marvel  amaze  astound  flabbergast  stun  startle  stand aghast  miraculous  catch unawares  taken aback  unbargained for confounded  wondrous  incredible  suddenly  magical  without notice  remarkable  breathless  mirabile visu (“wonderful to behold”).

* * *

“The only thing that should surprise us is that there are still some things that can surprise us.” –Francois de La Rochefoucauld

“And to my niece I leave . . .”

I heard those words at the reading of my Grandma Schuma’s will.  I was in 11th grade.  The niece was my mother.  The Grandmother was really my Grand Aunt.  My Uncle Joe was really my Grandfather.  My real Grandmother Anna had died long before.  Grandma and Grandpa raised my mother as their daughter.  I didn’t know this Family Secret  until I was a sophomore in high school.  SURPRISE!  The reading of the will and the word “niece” was a real “shocker.”  I never thought of my mother as a niece.  And my Uncle Joe?  He was never my Grandpa . . .  And as far as  I was concerned, my mom and Aunt Em were still “sisters”  and not cousins . . .  That’s another story.

“A Scout is never taken by surprise; he knows exactly what to do when anything unexpected happens.” –Robert Baden-Powell (founder of Boy Scouts)

“It’ll just take a moment.”

I always locked my bike when I went into the public library.  This time I was only returning books to the Ogden Park Public Library near our home on Chicago’s South Side.  I wheeled my bike into the bike rack–unlocked–and ran up the stairs.  In a flash I was inside, in a moment, putting my books through the Return slot, and was out the door.  SURPRISE!  No bike.  Gone, in a flash.  Wham!  In the chest!  Heart-stopping bam!  What to do? tears covering eyes of reason.  Went inside, blubbering.  Park policeman came.  I made some kind of report.  I walked home, seeing ever crack in every square of every sidewalk.

Over a year later, the bike was recovered.  I walked a long, slow walk to claim it at the park police station.  It had been stripped clean: I recognized the frame and the tires and seat.  I gave thanks, and rode home, teary-eyed, remembering too well, “It’ll take just a moment.”

“Do not always expect good to happen, but do not let evil take you by surprise.” –Czech Proverb

“In sickness and in health . . .”

“We want as many children as we good Catholics can have.”  “SURPRISE!  It’s a healthy boy.”  “Don’t plan to have more than two children: you are Rh+ and your husband is Rh-.”  SURPRISE.  “We want to have as many children as we good Catholics practicing birth control can have.”  Two . . .  “SURPRISE!  It’s a healthy boy.”  The end.  The beginning . . .

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.”  –Henry Ford

“SURPRISE, Loser!”

I have a notebook filled with Loser Letters, those “Sorry, Charlie” or “We regret to inform you” or “Another candidate has accepted the position.”  I’m not sure why I keep them, for it’s been a very long time for Loser Letters.  I applied for my share of grants and scholarships and degree programs as others have done.  And I have received the “And the envelope, please.”  “Nope.  Not this time,” in so many–sometimes many–words.  I kept trying, up to a point in my career of forty-nine years.  And that was that.  “Wait!  Princeton University is advertising for . . .”

“The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise.  It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.”  –Ashley Montagu (1905-1999)

“Some good stuff . . .”

“SURPRISE!”  “It’s your 80th Birthday Party!”

“SURPRISE!”  “You got accepted!”

“SURPRISE!”  “They called and offered you the job!”

“SURPRISE!”  “It really was your appendix!”

“SURPRISE!”  “They approved your loan!”

“SURPRISE!”  “Oh my gosh!  That’s my new typewriter!”

“SURPRISE!”  “She said Yes!”

“SURPRISE!”  “The house is now yours!”

“SURPRISE!”  “You’re taking the Honor Students to Cambridge!”

“SURPRISE!”  “They want you to tell your story on WBEZ!”

* * *

© James F. O’Neil  2021

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