Monday, January 18, 2021

Covid vaccine: An investment in normal life

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published January 18, 2021] ©2021

One of my goals for 2021 is to not repeat history.

In 1955, my siblings and I contracted polio four months after Jonas Salk’s triumphant April 12 announcement of a vaccine to prevent it.

In that era, polio, a warm weather virus particularly targeting children, was the second greatest fear in America after nuclear war.

In those hot humid August days in 1955, I remember being as sick as I’ve ever been.  Fortunately, neither I nor my siblings were paralyzed but polio has had life-long impacts on my health.  Probably we kids recovered better than our poor terrified parents. The little boy in the bed next to my sister’s ended up in an iron lung. (Google this.)

The simple fact was – and is – that it really takes a while for an entire country to be vaccinated. Never mind, in Covid’s case, twice.

Believe me, there weren’t many anti-vaxxers in the early 1950’s. In fact, I wish I could load up every one of the current ones and take them on time travel back to the polio wards of that era.

Like most kids of my generation, you were destined to get the un-vaccinatable childhood diseases like mumps, chickenpox, measles, and Rubella (also called German Measles.)  There was plenty of misery in all of them and they were not without permanent effects – deafness from mumps, for example.  Our next-door neighbor contracted rubella while pregnant and gave birth to a severely disabled child.

The vaccination eligibility categories seem to be shifting pretty much daily but my husband and I both plan to get the vaccine when available to us. I do confess that we, like a lot of people, have some concerns about such a large population getting a vaccine that hasn’t been tested by time. But we consider it an investment in resuming normal life.

Personally, I think that people in the 20-40 age group, especially those with kids, ought to get the vaccine before us oldies who are living at home and don’t have a serious underlying condition.  (In my view, being over 70 is by definition an underlying condition.)  Getting kids back in school and the economy back on track would be really high on our priority list.

One can definitely find vaccine horror stories – or at least cautionary tales – if one looks.  The infamous 1955 Cutter Incident with the polio vaccine, for example (thousands of children received defective vaccine containing live polio virus).   The folks who got Guillain-Barré Syndrome from the 1976 swine flu vaccine.  The good news from both is the learning curve on vaccines – and oversight in manufacturing – have improved exponentially.

I signed up for the Covid contact tracing app on my phone which is utterly amazing.  The amazing part I’m referring to is that I was actually able to do it.  It first required upgrading to the next operating system on my phone which I am normally morally opposed to.  These upgrades in my experience are scientifically designed to make everything that worked before never work again.

Frankly, the odds of this app ever pinging and alerting me that I have been exposed to Covid-19 are astoundingly small.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, the only person I am ever within six feet of for more than 15 minutes is Olof.  In fact, my exposure to such groupings is so rare that I’d be able to identify who exposed me long before the app did.  But I still consider it a useful data point.

Olof, however, is horrified that I have done this.  He maintains that if that app were on his phone, the phone would never leave the house again.  But keep in mind that Olof disables GPS tracking on his phone settings until the microsecond before he is calling an Uber then re-disables it again as soon as he gets home. 

Frankly, doing that is pretty low on my techno-disabled brain’s list of things to master. Besides, I’m fairly clear that “they” know where I am and what I’m doing pretty much all the time anyway.  This is proven by my searching for even a nano-second for something on the internet and then being bombarded for ads for it for weeks after. I confess that I sometimes like to toy with the algorithm by searching really weird kinky stuff. My phone also knows the precise time and location of every photo I’ve ever taken.  Now that ought to scare the sh-t out of you.

When the polio vaccination program finally got to my little town, the team showed up to schools, lined the kids up assembly-line style in the cafeteria, and inoculated us. No one was turning it down.

Unlike the polio vaccine which gave you permanent immunity, it’s hard to know how long the effects of the Covid vaccine will last. Will we need it yearly like regular flu? That’s one part of the experiment that is going to become evident pretty fast.

Regardless, this time around, I just want to get the vaccine before the disease gets me.



Monday, January 11, 2021

Hankering To Stop Hunkering

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published January 11, 2021] ©2021

Sometimes I think I’ve fallen into the twilight zone when I realize I live in a state where it’s legal to get an abortion, but not a haircut. 

And speaking of hair, I also can’t help but notice that many public figures seem to have managed to avail themselves of professional grooming services despite hair-related emporia being firmly, non-negotiably closed.  You can’t convince me that our governor’s wife is cutting his perfectly-coifed head.  If the rest of us have to look like muppets, why not him?

Even my husband is starting to look like a 1960’s throw-back of himself.  Actually, he never had long hair then because he was doing ROTC in preparation for becoming an Air Force pilot.  But now I know he would have looked had he sported the grungy look of the era.  The grandkids have offered to braid it for him.

I think we are all hoping for a much (much much) better 2021.  I am being careful not to say it couldn't be worse than 2020.  I have made such rash statements before over the years only to have the fates delight in proving me wrong.

In a world of masks, I have begun recognizing people by their dogs.  It’s especially difficult if they’re wearing sunglasses (the people, not the dogs).  Or don’t have a dog.

If someone wants to come up with an app that would be really useful, it is voice recognition software that would alert you who just accosted you in Baked Goods.  Like a little message that pops up on your phone screen whispering, “That’s your former neighbor Lucy with the hideous lawn flamingos.”

Now my only recourse is to try to fake my way through trying to get enough clues so I know who I’m talking to. 

For some reason, I seem to be easier to recognize. Maybe it’s because I have descended into wearing the same outfit all the time:  black slacks, white top.

I’ve also put on the Covid 19 (pounds).  I’ve just had a really hard time socially distancing myself from my refrigerator this year.  So if you see a person of porcine proportions looking like a server at a lesser trattoria, that’s me. 

It’s interesting how certain things about the pandemic can really start annoying you to the breaking point.  I am finding the word “hunker” on that list.  At this point, I just want to pull out my 9 mm Glock (if I had one) and blast anyone who uses the word “hunker.”  How do I hate that word?  Let me count the ways.

It reminds me of the 1976 movie Network. I like to imagine everyone hanging out their windows yelling, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to hunker anymore!”

I was thinking that there should be a version of hunker that implies anger about it, just like “hangry” (bad-temper as a result of hunger) for “hungry.”  Except there’s already a “hanker” (as in a strong desire to do something.)  So maybe the best I’m going to do is to hanker not to hunker.

I think the other issue that continues to weigh ever more heavily on all of us is tolerance (or lack thereof) for how others are adhering to Covid regulations.  It goes without saying that people who sterilize their canned goods are paranoid numnuts and the ones who ignore mask wearing and who freely party are appallingly irresponsible and deserve to get Covid and die, preferably before infecting their elderly relatives. 

We are each in our own little bubble of what the right level of caution should be. 

Everyone else, by definition, is an idiot.

Some months ago, I wrote a column about the difficulties of assessing other people’s Covid comfort levels, including a little quiz to help determine this. 

One of my quiz options read: “You have appointed yourself Chief of Covid Police, posting regular rants on your neighborhood Next Door about perceived non-compliance.” These posts have frankly gotten out of hand.

Just as Twitter posts those yellow caveats on disputable messages, I wish Next Door would do the same, like “! This is a forum for lost pets and crime reports! Shut the eff up!”

If you factor in everyone’s current passionately-held political opinions along with their very specific Covid constraints, it is truly a wonder anyone is speaking to anyone else.  (Are they?) In fact, I am going to add “electoral vote” to “hunker” as yet one more phrase that could truly push me over the edge. 

But in my more sanguine moments, I have faith. Those phrases will gradually recede from our consciousness. The evening news will not lead with Covid deaths. I will not turn it off after three minutes. Kids will go back to school.  Hair salons will re-open.

Meanwhile, please get a dog so I can recognize you. 

Could my hair qualify as a mask?


Sunday, December 20, 2020

Gifts That Keep On Giving

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published December 21, 2020] ©2020

My children never got to know my parents so I’m always trying to think of ways to pass down their legacy. My folks were in one sense the ultimate odd couple – he a conservative Catholic and she a liberal feminist Protestant.  But their values were remarkably aligned in key areas: kids, community, education.  Both were scout leaders and school volunteers. Dad was chairman of the area United Fund campaign, my mother was Red Cross Disaster chairman. Mom taught ESL, helping her immigrant students get driver’s licenses and jobs, and taught American History to men at the nearby penitentiary.  In a move that probably didn’t make my father terribly happy, she once went door to door soliciting for the Bobby Seale Bail Fund. 

I don’t get to see my five grandchildren nearly as much as I’d like since none of them lives in town.  So I’ve tried to find ways I can connect with them for a greater good.

At Thanksgiving, which we didn’t get to have together this year, I always sit down with the grandkids to help them research what charities they want me to contribute to in their names.  This year we had to do it remotely. 

Ryder, age five, who previously was all horses all the time, has moved on to whales this year.  Fortunately WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation) has lots of child-friendly contribution options including various humpbacks and orcas with specific names, photos, and histories that can be selected by the child and about which the child will receive an adoption certificate and the whale’s personal history.  I have found over the years that the charities that have this option are perfect for engaging elementary-school-age children in the issues of a particular endangered or compromised animal. 

In fact, probably the best gift I’ve ever given a child was to adopt for my granddaughter an Asian elephant named Shirley from the wonderful Elephant Sanctuary which rescues circus and zoo elephants and allows them to spend their golden years on 2,700 acres of idyllic land in Hohenwald, Tennessee. My granddaughter is devoted to Shirley.

While the elephants are deliberately not put on display, you can watch them on Ele-Cams set in trees around the property. When my husband had his heart attack in early 2018, my granddaughter informed me that both she and Shirley were praying for him.  When you’ve got an elephant praying for you, you know you’re going to be all right.

My granddaughter recently noted from literature that the Elephant Sanctuary sends her that Shirley and I are exactly the same age.  She was careful not to add “and weight.”  This year, she wanted to add donations to the ASPCA and Best Friends Animal Society to her list as well. 

Anyway, my 5-year-old grandson opted to adopt a humpback whale named Mars.  I sent WDC the contribution and notified my son and daughter-in-law to have a 50,000-gallon tank ready on their patio by Wednesday.

My grandson Brooks texted me his charity pick:

Brooks:  Horses horses horses, horses and more horses.  Do you love horses as much as I do?

Me:  Thanks, Brooks! Let me research some options for you to pick from!  (I sent some links to charities that target retired race horses, wild horses, and general equine rescue to his parents to help him review.)

Brooks (next day): Mormor, can you pleeeeeeeease adopt Zippy from Falcon Ridge Equine Rescue?  [Please note this would require taking possession of an actual horse rather than a symbolic adoption.]  You have such a big front yard that would be perfect.  You would be my absalute [sic] favorite person in the entire world so please can you adopt us Zippy she would be a great horse. I have wanted a horse like that ever since I knew what a horse was.  [He is nine.]  (64 heart emojis followed.)

Me: Hi Brooks – I would love to adopt you a horse. But alas we are zoned (ask Daddy) against livestock (which includes horses).  Go figure!  Would you like me to make a donation to Falcon Ridge for you in Zippy’s name?

Brooks: (unhappy face emoji)  Zippy is soooo beautiful though. Pleeeeease?

I was just trying to imagine the postal carriers and Amazon folks negotiating a horse between our gate and the front porch. Like we don’t have enough trouble with the dog.

Now, there have been some suggestions that all this largesse on my part has some benefit to me as well.  Still, my sons and daughters-in-law are careful only to refer to me as “Grammy Tax Deduction” behind my back. 

So at this point, we’ve contributed to quite a few animal (and even a few people) charities and are now on every mailing list for pretty much everything.  But it’s been a wonderful antidote to otherwise trying times and I know it would make my parents truly happy too.  I’m just hoping Zippy doesn’t actually show up at my front door.



                                         [Black Panther] Bobby Seale (c. 1974)

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Just Fed Up With Everything

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published December 15, 2020] ©2020

As we all know, sometimes the only thing you can control in life is your attitude.

At the moment, my attitude sucks. Completely. Totally.

I really do try to count my blessings. If anyone has little reason to complain about the impacts of Covid-19, it’s me.  I don’t have to keep a business afloat or Zoom school kids or pay $50,000 in tuition for a college kid to be sitting at home.  I’m not food insecure (what was wrong with “hungry”?) or living on unemployment.  So far, Olof and I are healthy. Ninety-nine percent  of Americans would probably covet my life.

So why do I feel like standing on my fire-hazard wood shake roof and screaming? 

OK, election fatigue is a heavy contributor, a huge stress no matter what side of the partisan fence you’re on. In the past, the reward for enduring a year of robocalls, toxic television commercials, and a forest’s worth of mailers is that somebody actually gets elected and it all stops.  Not anymore. Or possibly ever again.

When we moved abroad for several years, we had to go to absentee ballots.  Best thing since sliced bread (which, by the way, revolutionized commercial baking in 1928. All those nice even pieces!)  Now when we watch the news on election day, we wonder why anyone who has the option of an absentee ballot stands in line for up to six hours. Instead, you could be sitting in your comfy reading chair with good light and a nice glass (or two) of chardonnay pondering the pros and cons of the various candidates and ballot measures.  I confess I often can’t remember how I voted on some of those measures after G.

Maybe people just lose their resilience as they get older. The prospect of being dead before the next election is giving me reason to live.

I remind myself that the nation has endured much worse and for far longer than we are enduring now.  Those poor folks in the Spanish Flu pandemic had just survived a brutal world war.  My mother was born November 1, 1918, the week of the highest number of deaths in that pandemic (55,000).  My grandmother nearly died of that flu. Fifty million people worldwide were estimated to have perished from it.

My parents grew up in the Great Depression, later serving in World War II.  They’d probably look at the current situation and say, “And you’re whining?”

Yup, I’m whining.  I constantly run all these facts through my head – my blessings, the lack of wars, the hope for January 20.  I remind myself to get a grip.

Sorry.  Done with grips. Strictly gripes now.

Normally I love this season. But this year:

Halloween:  cancelled.

Thanksgiving: cancelled.

Birthday festivities the first week of December:  cancelled.

Hanukkah festivities the week after:  cancelled.

Christmas (absolutely totally favorite holiday of the year): cancelled.

I’ve barely seen the grandkids. I haven’t had a dinner guest since February. Instead, I’ve gained the Covid 19.  I just can’t seem to socially distance myself from my refrigerator.

With hair salons closed again, I’ll be reverting to my springtime “Nouveau Lion King” look. Massage places can stay open because their services are considered “therapeutic.” Personally, I consider not looking like a muppet very therapeutic. Maybe hair salons need to think outside the blow dryer. Rebrand themselves as lice control?

Every day has started to feel like Groundhog’s Day.  I’m getting up later and later, hoping if I stay in bed long enough it will be tomorrow. I can’t bear to turn on my computer and be assaulted with the latest election craziness, the climate crisis du jour, and the newest Covid restrictions from some elected official I increasingly hate. 

I still talk to my parents (yes, I’m aware they’re dead) and ask them for their advice.  They’re inclined to tell me that maybe I have it too good. Maybe I need that failing business or Zoom-schooled child to get me up and moving and to stop wallowing in abject crabbiness.

It was certainly true when I divorced in 1983.  I had two preschoolers, a minimum wage job, and was eligible for earned income credit for women below the poverty line the first year I was single, thanks to my ex-husband’s vicious barracuda lawyer.  (In my first post-divorce will, I left a bequest to the two heroin addicts at Wind n’ Sea beach who were alleged to break anyone’s kneecaps for $500.)

In that era, I wasn’t worried about happiness.  I was worried about surviving.  And kids are really good about getting you out of bed in the morning, as is providing a roof over one’s head.

But no, I’m not wishing mayhem on myself just to kick start a better attitude.

Like most people, I’m just trying to have hope for 2021. I would never dare suggest that it surely couldn’t be worse than 2020. They might hear you.

                                              Social calendar for December 2020

                                      Still holding on to a good attitude last spring 


Sunday, December 6, 2020

Thanksgiving Home and Abroad

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published Dec. 9, 2020] ©2020

Like lots of families, it was Thanksgiving for Two at our house this year.

We could have eaten out. No wait, we couldn’t, unless we wanted to eat outside. Plus, Olof is really into the leftovers.

We needed a whole turkey since I like the white meat but Olof is a dark meat/drumstick guy. But this could mean more turkey sandwiches than even Olof would ever be able to eat.  (It did.)

When the meat department guy said he could order me an “8-10 pound” turkey, I was deliriously happy.  

“Olof,” I said when I got home.  “I may be able to get an 8-pound turkey!”

“Yes,” said Olof, “it’s called a chicken.” 

When I picked up the bird (10 pounds), the butcher said that they normally never had a single order for turkeys that small.  This year it was 90%.

While consuming our turklet, Olof and I opted not to dwell on the twin demons of Covid and electile dysfunction but to reminisce about the Thanksgivings we had spent in Stockholm when we lived in Sweden in 2005 and 2006. 

Swedes are not all that familiar with turkey or even enthusiastic as to why an entire nation would consume a large carcass of basically dried-out meat.  Sort of like their reaction to baseball: “So the fun is the food?” they ask with puzzlement after attending a game.  This from people whose national sport is curling.  When we were there for the 2006 Olympics the government TV stations (all we had access to in our sublet) carried every last second of curling and not one second of figure skating.

One year, we were actually able to be part of a largely-authentic Thanksgiving dinner, courtesy of an American friend, Susan, married to a Swede. Susan had spent an entire week doggedly combing Stockholm for a turkey - very expensive and not easy to come by – especially one that would serve ten.  A side of moose would have been easier but it's not really in the pilgrim spirit.  I brought the "cranberry sauce" (made with lingonberries).

Usually if ex-pats are going to have a Thanksgiving dinner, they import the ingredients during a summer visit to the U.S.: stuffing mix, ingredients for pumpkin and pecan pies, cranberry sauce etc.  We ended up with a currant pie instead which was, well, interesting.  So it takes a little improvising to have Thanksgiving in Sweden, not the least of which was that everyone’s traditional recipes were in U.S. measures in Fahrenheit being prepared with deciliter measuring cups in small centigrade ovens. 

Another American friend that year reported that she had invited 14 people to her apartment for Thanksgiving and had ordered up a 10-kilo turkey from a trendy Östermalm food store. That morning, she sent her husband and their baby in the stroller to pick up the turkey.  But when they got there, the trendy food store said, oops, all we have are two 5-kilo turkeys or one 16-kilo turkey.  Well, only having one small oven, they couldn't cook two turkeys, so the wife instructed the husband to get the 16-kilo turkey instead.  However, we're now talking the difference between a 22-pound turkey and a 35-pound turkey, and the husband couldn't fit the turkey and the kid in the stroller, especially as the turkey outweighed the kid by considerable.  So the wife had to come down herself to carry the baby while the turkey rode home in style. 

Despite her careful measurements that the turkey would just baaaarrreeeely fit in the oven, it didn't.  Big crisis.  So she finally called the trendy food store back, buried them in invective, and demanded that they cook the turkey for her.  This being such a decidedly un-Swedish move, they actually acquiesced.  So the husband was assigned to load the now-stuffed turkey back into the stroller and lug it over to the food store, and ultimately to cart the fully-cooked version back to the apartment.  That turkey probably saw more of Stockholm than most tourists. 

The U.S. Embassy in Stockholm always hosted an annual Thanksgiving feast for the American Women’s Club the week before Thanksgiving. The U.S. Consul told us that his last assignment had been in Afghanistan, and, wanting to host a Thanksgiving dinner for his staff there, he requisitioned a turkey.  When it showed up, it had a string around its neck and was running around in circles.  Ultimately, they ended up shooting it.

The Consul's wife, meanwhile, was German and so didn't grow up with Thanksgiving.  The Consul reported that after taking the bird out of the oven, he went to make the gravy not realizing that his wife had already put dish washing liquid in the pan full of drippings. She was incredulous that he was actually going to do anything with them.

Ja, Thanksgiving abroad. Great memories, and next year, hopefully family here again. Some Swedes would be really good too.

Susan and Barbara making gravy, Stockholm, 2006

                       Swedish friend Erik (Susan's husband) posing with turkey

Olof taking on official carving duties
(that's my lingonberry cranberry sauce on the table)


Monday, November 23, 2020

It Just Ain't So

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published November 25, 2020] ©2020

Given the national despair over both election ugliness and the ever-worsening pandemic, I’ve tried to steer clear of both topics recently.  But now that the election is over, I couldn’t help but be even more dismayed by the warp speed the misinformation superhighway seems to be traveling these days.

At this point, politicians seem to be confident that they are preaching to a nation of sheep – and I say that with apologies to ovines everywhere.

Is curiosity dead? How hard is it to run information you read or hear through a quick mental filter of “Does this make sense?” “Does this ring true?”

It’s just so easy to check the veracity of information – for example, on the website  So why don’t more people do it? 

I wish the entire nation could get a Ph.D. in skepticism.  This whole year was a bottomless slough of disingenuous, invidious, dissembling, specious, obfuscating, fallacious perfidy and prevarication.  On top of that, there was a lot of lying.

I think the only thing that saved me from locking myself in a bunker and having my meals delivered by Uber Eats is that I’m not on social media. That would have pushed me over the edge. Still, I’ve received so many disheartening email internet rants – political and otherwise – from people whose intelligence I would normally respect but who seem inexorably committed to believe – and pass on – whatever shows up in their in-baskets.

Some time ago, I wrote a column called “Please don’t send anything to everyone you know” about the internet screeds that the wingnuts of the world forward to everyone in their address book without passing them through the most rudimentary filter of credibility.

One example: An otherwise-intelligent acquaintance from La Jolla had sent me (and about a hundred other of his closest friends) an email entitled “REFUSE NEW COINS!”  The all-caps subject line is usually a good tip off that it’s either an urban legend or some mass hysteria among the conspiracy set, which was only confirmed by the three-inch-high exhortation to ‘SEND THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!!!!”  That always seals the deal for me.

In this particular tirade, “true Americans” (Strike 3) were implored not to accept the “new” dollar coins that were intentionally missing the words “In God We Trust.”  In doing so, the email rants on, “Together we can force them out of circulation.”

Actually, that won’t be necessary.  They were already out of circulation since they constituted some 50,000 incorrectly imprinted coins out of a batch of three million that the U.S. Mint struck in early 2007, and instantly became collectibles.  You should be so lucky to get one. I ascertained this in approximately three seconds by typing the words “US coins without in god we trust” into my browser and getting pages of articles about the error – and the ongoing annoyance of the U.S. Mint plagued by the dingdongs who have persisted in circulating this conspiracy story.

As the oft-quoted saying goes, “We are entitled to our own opinions but not to our own facts.” Or we used to be, anyway.  Apparently we are now entitled to our own facts. Alternative facts. Or, in fact, any “facts” that anyone cares to dream up and post.

So, here’s Inga’s short guide on how to recognized informational insanity:

1. Did the writer finish third grade?

2. If the bells going off in your head sound like klaxons, maybe it’s not true.

3. If there is even a single phrase in capital letters accompanied by more than one exclamation mark (“TOGETHER WE CAN STOP THIS!!!”, YOU ARE BEING SCAMMED.

4. Has the sender sent it to 150 of his or her closest friends?

5. If the conversation starts with “I heard,” stop listening.

6. Consider the source. The text of a hilariously clueless speech several years back that was attributed to Mitt Romney quoted him as saying that he could relate to black people because his ancestors owned slaves.  (They didn’t.) The “speech” was from a spoof article on the satirical website which, incidentally, proclaimed prominently at the top that is a satirical website and they were just funning you.  I guess they need to be clearer what the word “satire” means, as in, “We make up everything we put on this website for entertainment purposes and you should not believe any of it.”  But would that even be enough anymore?

As for the chronically-overused and abused Forward button, I think it should be programmed to give you three sequential prompts before it will actually allow your screed to contaminate the ether.  As in:

1. C’mon, really?

2. Are you SURE some yahoo didn’t send you this?

3. Do you want people to think you are a yahoo too?

It won’t help.  But I’ve done my best.



Monday, November 16, 2020

Never A Dull Moment

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published November 18, 2020] ©2020

 A few months ago, I wrote two columns regaling my readers with stories about how my older son, Rory, managed to terrorize me repeatedly by re-enacting scenes from horror movies he’d been allowed to watch at his father’s.  (I personally think my ex hoped I would suffer a heart attack and die, thereby absolving him from further child support payments.  He denies this.)

 Multiple readers asked, “How did you not kill this child?” Well you should ask.  

 Rory was a diabolically creative child.  There was nothing he liked better than an audience so he looked for – and invariably found – public places to create excitement.  He was adopted so I was hoping to live long enough to meet the woman who had spawned him. Mysteriously, when I finally met her 10 years ago, she turned out to be totally normal.  So…Dad?

 Rory cut his creative eyeteeth at the supermarket as a toddler maneuvering half gallon glass jars of apple juice over the side of grocery carts. He graduated to punching holes in an entire display of off-season tomatoes with a caramel apple stick. Buried his three-year-old brother under a five- foot display tower of stuffing mix by pulling out the bottom box. Pasted “100% pure beef” stickers from hamburger packages on my rear end. (I was always suspicious when everyone was smiling at me.)

Restaurants were another favorite place.  At his 10th birthday celebration at the Reuben E. Lee sternwheeler restaurant, a waitress carrying a huge tray of dinners over her head somehow encountered Rory’s foot. At the Mandarin House restaurant on La Jolla Boulevard, Rory managed to surreptitiously grease the water glasses with pot sticker oil so that they slipped out of the waiter’s hand and splashed all over the table.

 If I sent Rory to his room, he’d open up both his windows and whack on his bed with a tennis racket screaming “Please don’t beat me, Mommy!”  Or worse:  “No, no, don’t touch me there!”  (Those stranger awareness classes in grade school were perfect fodder for someone of Rory’s imagination.)

 His hand-made Mother’s Day card the year he was 10 read:  “You’ve been like a mother to me.” 

 My car radio stations were perpetually changed to Mexican polka music with the volume turned up high so that it would scare the bejesus out of me when I turned on the ignition. 

 Over the years, he evolved into more sophisticated but always unpredictable pursuits, even after he left home. In college he wrote his Abnormal Psychology term paper about me. And sent me a copy.

 In 2009, during a weekend visit, Rory appropriated my 14-digit library card number sticky-noted to my computer and ordered me up a long list of books including The Book of the Penis (it came with an 8-inch ruler along the binding); The whole lesbian sex book: a passionate guide for all of us; and Coping with Your Colitis, Hemorrhoids and Related Disorders. He was aided and abetted by the public library website’s then-policy of announcing “your password is the last four digits of your phone number,” a policy now changed, presumably at the behest of other mothers with prankster sons. But once these titles were on the reserve shelf with my name on them, there was nothing to do but take them home and read them.  And write Rory a book report on what I had learned from each of them. 

Soon after my 65th birthday, a woman called our home from an agency called A Place for Mom which services the severely memory-impaired.  She asked for my husband Olof, and when told he was at work, was greatly dismayed to learn that I had been left unattended. Puzzlingly, she seemed to have a great deal of information about me. When I adamantly insisted “I do not need institutional care!” soothed, “You seem to be having one of your good days, dear.” I don’t know why I didn’t suspect Rory immediately.

But it’s only fair to note that Rory can also channel his creativity into forces for good. Once when we were traveling to a family reunion on the east coast, our bags were lost when we arrived in Philadelphia. The baggage lady expressed total ennui until 11-year-old Rory, who had been entertaining himself wheeling around the baggage area in a wheelchair, rolled up to the counter, and feigning a pronounced facial tic, whined “Mommmmmmmy, I left my medicine in my suitcase.” The baggage lady’s eyes suddenly got big and she began typing faster and faster. Rory, thrilled with his success, began flailing in the wheelchair, finally falling out of it completely onto the floor. Our bags were quickly located and we had  passes to the VIP lounge while we waited. 

So what does Rory do now, you ask?  He’s a therapist in private practice with a waiting list a mile long. And it’s exactly the right job for him.