Featured

Do I have Alzheimer’s?

This is the post excerpt.

Advertisements

finalfinal LAST TRIP HOME4

 

This blog is meant to advertise my mem-novel, Last Trip Home, to be published May 15, 2018, by She Writes Press. I do want people to buy my book to replenish what I’ve spent on publishing it, but I don’t really want people I know to read it. Also, since I couldn’t sell my ass to a horny sailor if I were 30 years younger, I have serious doubts about my selling the book (or my ass) here. I am more likely to repel readers than to attract them. Even so, as I get closer to my 77th birthday, I am determined to write about what interests me—aging and whining about aging—no politics or intellectual stuff. The following about my long-held fear of getting Alzheimer’s disease is a sample of what to expect. Warning: five variations of the word “fuck.”

On June 21, my neurologist gave me several verbal tests to see if I have Alzheimer’s. I passed. For now. Maybe. I have to return in a year. He mentioned an MRI but changed his mind. He said I did better than I did four years ago but gave the same disclaimer—that he would expect me to score higher considering my advanced level of education.

He asked me at the beginning of the appointment if I thought I had Alzheimer’s, and I gave him my usual bullshit line—that I started out smarter than Ken, my Insignificant Other, and our friends so I was just down to average now. He gave a sympathetic look to Ken, who sat beside me wearing his long-suffering face. The doctor said I didn’t seem to have any trouble talking.

On the tests, I could spell “world” backwards but had trouble remembering enough words that start with F. I immediately said the obvious ones—“fuck, fucked, fucking, and fuckable”—but Dr. Fucker gave me only one point for all four words. I kept being distracted by words like “phony” and “phonetics” that start with “ph” but sound like F. I wish I had given him my favorite boast to impress people—that I can conjugate the verb “to fuck” in nine different tenses, in active and passive voices, to agree with first, second, and third points of view, both singular and plural. Instead, I floundered.

But I drew a clock quickly for him, putting the numbers in the right places. I froze for a minute when he said, “Now make the time 3:40”; then I drew the short hour-hand to 3 and the long minute-hand to 8.

To be completely honest, I knew the clock-drawing test was coming so I prepared mentally for it. The last time I was asked to draw a clock, I drew an old-fashioned wooden frame a clock might sit in, but included no numbers. Was I smart to prepare? Or did I sabotage myself if I really have Alzheimer’s and need to take the medication to slow it down?

The test I totally flunked four years ago was the numbers. When asked to count backwards from 100 by 7s, I got 93, then 86, and had to give up. The night before the appointment, I was worrying out loud about that test to Ken and his 9-year-old granddaughter. She said, “I can give you a tip I learned in the first grade.” The clever little booger showed me how to take the first number when subtracted by 7 (93), then subtract it by 10 (83), then add 3, which is the difference between 10 and 7, getting 86, then keep going.

I took sticky notes and, using her process, counted backwards from 100 by 7s, 8s, 9s, and 5s. I still doubt that I can use the process orally, but I took the cheat sheets with me to peek at. Dr. Fucker didn’t ask me to count backwards. He asked me to repeat backwards increasingly longer strings of numbers. I did respectably well. I showed him my sticky notes cheat sheets, and he seemed impressed.

I totally killed on the three words he gave me at the beginning—baseball, cabbage, purple—and asked me to repeat at the end of the appointment. I thought about how much I hate watching boring baseball and imagined a batter hitting a purple cabbage that exploded all over the field.

But, again, am I smart to use strategies or dumb for not getting the treatment that might slow down the aluminum doohickeys twisting in and filling my brain?

Also, I can’t play the Alzheimer’s card any more when I forget people’s names. I can’t cheat at tennis by pretending I don’t know the score.

I almost cried from relief when the doctor said I didn’t have it. Maybe I won’t end up like Mama—paralyzed and speechless in a hospital bed in the Side Room of the sharecropper shack, with an angry man like Daddy impatiently caring for her. Which will be better (1) me taking care of my man with Parkinson’s or (2) my man with Parkinson’s taking care of me with Alzheimer’s? The Parkinson’s is definite. So it will be #1 by default. Maybe.

 

 

 

LIGHT BIO AND HEAVY BOWELS

I have been so stressed about publishing my fifth and final book that it’s affected my bowels. The latest hurdle was over old family pictures I wanted to add. I got out all my fuzzy, black-and-white Arkansas pictures, spread them around my office, picked out over 40 to use, cut back to 30, and reluctantly learned about higher resolution and Dropboxes. Every time I walked in my office, it was like walking through the family cemetery and looking at the faces of dead people. I saw my mother and sister, who make me feel guilty, and my daddy and first husband, who make me feel angry.

That’s the key to the stress. The pictures, like the pages in the book, make me feel. I don’t like feeling—I’m not accustomed to it. I want my protective shield back up. All this feeling should have given me diarrhea, but—nooo—it constipated me. For three days last week I felt as if I had a log with imbedded nails up my ass. I couldn’t push it out until I took a stool softener and three enemas. Then I shit my pants twice in public—once on a walk around Polliwog Park and once in the cheese aisle at Bristol Farms. That’s what my book feels like to me—a big log of shit with sharp spikes I’m about to unload on everybody I know or ever will know.

Because of the stress, I ain’t got no blog again this month, so I took an easy path and used some of my posts from Facebook that will also plug my book [LAST TRIP HOME, to be published by SheWritesPress on May 15, 2018]. In 2013, I followed an odd fashion and posted “Twelve Things You May Not Know about Me.” I posted one at a time to cushion the shock and decrease the chances of being arrested.

Most of them were about my Arkansas farm days. I was a little worried my city folks wouldn’t accept me or that my farm folks would think I was blabbing secrets. I was wrong about both; they were warm and accepting. I wrote at length about most of these twelve things in my book. Many were the basis for whole chapters. I find myself now with the same fears about people reading my book. I hope I’m wrong again.

TWELVE THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT ME:

  1. I grew up in one of my grandfather’s sharecropper shacks in rural Arkansas during the 1940s and 50s. It had no insulation or bathroom, just an outhouse and one chamber pot. For privacy, I eventually claimed an empty Crisco lard bucket for my own use, but the top edges were a little sharp.

 

  1. I can remember the day we got electricity in our house and 40 years later wrote a story about it called “The Miracle” that won a prize. As a result of getting electricity, “I saw more than I wanted to see, and then I couldn’t unsee it.”

 

  1. The door to the outhouse rotted and fell off, but nobody thought it important enough to replace. Sometimes a cow would stick its head in the empty doorway while I was wiping with pages from the Sears Roebuck catalog. Or a neighbor would take a short cut across the meadow and say “Hey.” If it were a female cousin (they were all kin), she might stay to chat. A male often politely averted his eyes and pretended not to see me.

 

  1. I was an incompetent farm girl. I threw up when I milked the cows and was constantly wiping dirt off my hands. As soon as I knew I didn’t want to wade cowshit all my life, I started correcting my grammar.

 

  1. Around 8 p.m., when the lights were turned off, I defied my daddy and read novels under the covers with a flashlight. In the dark, I saw a world I liked better than the one I lived in. I hid behind doors to read in the daytime. Everybody said reading was a waste of time and I would go blind. I did blink a lot but kept reading.

 

  1. In my school, you were nobody if you didn’t play basketball. I wanted to be somebody, so I practiced all summer dribbling in the dirt yard and throwing the ball at a netless hoop nailed to an oak tree until I could get 10 out of 10. I made the team, played 6 years, and got all-county player in the 9th and 12th grades, not as impressive when you know that each school’s coach picks two players from his own teams. Mine said I wasn’t all that good but I was a good hustler. As prizes, I got a little silver basketball in the 9th grade and a bigger gold basketball in the 12th. I wore them proudly on a thin chain until they turned my neck green. I suspect they were not real silver or gold.

 

  1. Until I was 12 or 13, my sister and I slept in the same room as my parents, with shotguns on the wall. Then we moved our bed into an unheated side room with no ceiling, only the tin roof above our heads. Our clothes, on a sagging wire nailed to a corner, slid to the middle and stayed wrinkled. I ironed my school clothes every morning. I was so vain I rolled my straight hair in bobby pins every night. Daddy told me not to do it any more. “Wettin’ that head ever night is causin’ your snotty nose.” I rolled my hair anyway, again in the dark under the covers, dipping my fingers in a glass of water on the floor to wet the ends. What? You thought we had bedside tables? One morning at breakfast, Mama said, “Them curls sure do stay in good.”

 

  1. We didn’t have enough leftovers to feed all the dogs and cats born on the farm, so my parents put the extra ones in a burlap bag and drowned them in the creek. Daddy killed one dog that tried to eat a squirrel he was skinning. He slammed the dog’s head against a sweet gum tree. He shot my brother’s dog for sucking eggs. The dog didn’t die right away and slithered and clicked its way into the house and died under my brother’s bed. I haven’t had a pet in 40 years.

 

  1. I burned my first husband’s KKK sheet. He was not pleased. I had two more husbands, both younger than I. All three are dead now. I’m alive. So far.

 

  1. As a mostly single mother and working part-time, it took me over 10 years to get through college and graduate school. It took another 10 years to pay off the national defense loans. I taught English at a college level for 35 years and have published four books. I am bi-accentual: I can speak California and Arkansas. I play tennis 3 to 5 times a week, but doubles only now, and mostly win. As in basketball, I’m not that good, but I’m a good hustler.

 

  1. After my parents died, I burned down the sharecropper shack, but I remember it better than any house I’ve lived in. I still have 40 acres of the land and grow loblolly pine trees where the outhouse and cow lot used to be. When I want to feel I’ve “made it”—that is, clawed my way up to lower middle class—I count toilets. That is, I count how many indoor toilets with real toilet tissue that I own or partly own or am allowed to clean. The most I’ve counted at one time is 16. In an odd throwback to the doorless outhouse, I get claustrophobic in bathrooms and like to leave the door slightly open.

 

  1. My mother died with Alzheimer’s. I’m worried that I have it. I may have to depend on my friends, my kin, and these stories to help me remember who I am. These “Twelve Things You May Not Know About Me” were a trial run to see if I can stand to give my book one more look while I can still process words. And I wanted to see if I could stand for anybody to read those words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geriatric Bedtime Rituals

            Wanda Maureen Miller                                                                                                                                          

I had a fight with Nick last week. Not a big, passionate, meaningful fight like the kind we used to have in our fifties, ago when I first moved in with him. No, we had a petty, insignificant quarrel over a remote control. We must have hundreds of the gadgets, some belonging to televisions and even to Betamaxes we haven’t owned in years. But Nick didn’t sort or throw anything away, and I tried to maintain my ignorance of all things mechanical, so I wouldn’t sort through them either.
We were in our king-sized bed in his California Spanish beach house and winding down with our preliminary rituals. Nick had finished his pre-sleep nap, in which he lay fully clothed on top of the bed, read two lines of a book, and passed out with his book
and glasses on his small paunch. He was nearsighted so he had to take his glasses off to read; I was farsighted so I had to put mine on to read. Then, just as I was getting interested in my book, he began to snore, first gently, then so loudly I couldn’t concentrate.

When I shook him, he always started and said the same thing, “Huh? I wasn’t asleep. I wasn’t asleep.”
I told him to turn off his lamp and get under the covers so he could officially go to sleep, an act he postponed because it brought him closer to morning. If I didn’t tell him to turn off his light before he got under the covers, we had an extraneous ritual in which he asked, “Oh, is my lamp still on?” And he tried to talk me into getting up and walking around the bed to turn it off. I always refused but sometimes his asking annoyed me and disturbed my pre-sleep calm, just at that crucial moment when my half a Flexeril was taking effect.
This time he sighed obediently, got out of bed, and turned off his lamp. He took off his clothes and tossed them toward his personal dirty clothes hamper within a few steps of his bedside. I did not say anything because the ensuing fight would stimulate both of us into a wide awake state; and he, like most men, can go back to sleep immediately after a fight while I lie there awake and pissed off.  Then I would have to get up and take the other half of the Flexeril.
Nick used his saline nasal spray moisturizer, got into bed, and complained, as he always does, about the cold sheets on his bare skin. I was unsympathetic as he refused to wear even a tee-shirt against the cold. He said it rolls up around his neck, though I can’t imagine how he would know because he slept soundly the whole night through, without any Flexeril.
Plus, he refused to turn on the dual control for his side of the electric blanket—because of radiation, he said in his omniscient-doctor voice. He kept his unused dual control beside the bed, with all its unsightly cords, underneath a stack of magazines, newspapers, and medical journals—and often under his underwear or socks that don’t quite make it to the laundry hamper.
I lay there in my flannel pajamas, getting all hell radiated into me from my side of the electric blanket and read a little more, waiting for my first drowsy head dip. Nick’s snore blended with the hum of the air purifier and the rhythm of the babbling brook on the sound machine.
Craving a little treat, I reached back into the old-fashioned bookshelf-type headboard for an Echinacea and honey cough drop. When I had first moved into Nick’s house, I tried to persuade him to replace the bed.
“It’s a perfectly good bed,” he always said. He finally did replace the mattress, but not until the sinkhole in the middle began to affect his back as much as it did mine. After all, he wasn’t the one who laundered the sheets and the mattress pad.
We got an expensive pillow-top mattress, with a special feature—a layer of air, which we can inflate or deflate on either side with a little remote control—forever solving the problem of the sinkhole in the middle. I am content with the bed now. I have grown accustomed to the headboard, with its convenient, recessed shelf where I can keep all manner of useful things within reach—like my own saline nasal spray. I sprayed my nostrils, leaned back against my three bolster pillows, and sucked my cough drop,
waiting for that drowsy head dip.
Suddenly a loud, whining buzz shattered the comfortable, familiar noises. I sat upright. Nick leaped out of bed, jay-bird naked, and yelled, “My God! What’s that noise?”
“How should I know?” I replied less than helpfully. Then, “I think it’s the remote
control for the mattress.”
Nick threw up his hands, the way he does when he doesn’t know what to do,
and yelled louder, “Find it. The bed will explode! Find it!”
“Calm down!” I screamed. “Let’s both just look for it.”
Nick put on his glasses so he could look; I took my reading glasses off so I could look. We searched under the bed. No remote, just all that junk on his side of the bed. Only an extra neck brace and several discarded novels on my side. Nick panicked and yelled again, “It’s going to explode,” then added unnecessarily, “This is an expensive mattress.”
That really irritated me.
“Let’s move the damn expensive mattress away from the damn headboard to see if the damn remote has fallen in between,” I snapped. We moved the damn expensive mattress, which began to swell on my side like a giant loaf of bread.
The remote for the bed wasn’t there, but we did find the missing universal remote that controlled the cable television, the satellite connection, the DVD, and the VCR. Its battery cover has been lost for almost a year, so that every time it is moved—or gets slept on by Nick—the batteries become dislodged and the remote has to re-programmed, a mysterious feat only Nick can perform.
“Why don’t you buy another universal remote?” I am always asking.
“It’s a perfectly good remote,” Nick always replies.  “Why don’t you learn to re-program it?” But I have that non-mechanical reputation to maintain, so I don’t learn.
Meantime, the mattress was swelling, and the whining buzz was a constant reminder of impending doom. Nick looked like Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, ready to shout, “Thar she blows! Man the hatches!”
“Quick,” I said, “Let’s look in the bookshelf.” We scrambled through dozens of books, boxes of tissues, and various medications. And there it was, the little mattress remote control, lying in a basket under my saline nasal spray, which had fallen onto my Echinacea and honey cough drops and activated the “inflate” button.
Nick and I laughed as I deflated my side of the bed. He immediately turned over and fell asleep, snoring gently. I took the other half of the Flexeril and lay there for several hours, just thinking.

…………………………………..
I remembered the last time a mechanical device went off beside my bed. It was over 25 years ago, before I knew Nick. I was awkwardly making out on top of the bed with a tennis friend, 20 years younger than I was. It was our first time, and I was wondering what the hell I was doing with him. I guess I was just flattered that an A player had chosen me, considering my age and what a mediocre tennis player I was.

           We had just begun to remove our clothes when an enormous rattle began to shake the rattan bedside table. We held onto the bed, at first thinking it was an earthquake; but we noticed that only the rattan bedside table was shaking.
“Oh, no, ” I groaned, realizing what was rattling.  The young man looked at me and asked, “What?”
I opened the top drawer and took it out—a large pink, fleshlike, battery-operated dildo. It was my favorite, with rotating bee-bees, and a little squirrel at the shaft. I had mistakenly believed the batteries were dead, but apparently they had a little life left in them—rather like me, I thought.
This man, like Nick over 25 years later, laughed and returned to the task before him.
………………………………………..

As I lay beside Nick, who was exactly my age, I felt glad to be there with him, on
our inflatable mattress, surrounded by all the aids that prop us up. It’s true, when he is frustrated and feels helpless—which happens more often as he gets older—he yells and waves his arms about. But he recovers quickly and doesn’t hold a grudge—or he forgets what happened, just as good.
There is some Arkansas redneck part of me that thinks a man is not a man unless he can pull my car—or a sick cow—out of the mud. But I don’t get my car stuck in mud much any more, and it’s been a long time since I had a sick cow. Nick can’t lift much more weight than I can, but he won’t slam me against the wall either, as my first husband did for burning his KKK sheet.
Or Nick’s equivalent, for throwing away his Golfer’s Digest.
When Nick comes home from work, he seeks me out—sometimes even before checking his messages—and smiles his warm smile that first caught my eye and made me think, “This man might just do.” He always says the same thing when he sees me, “Why, there you are,” as if he is surprised I am still with him.

 

Mama and the Black-eyed Peas

        

Mama and I walked up the red clay hill to Aunt Desser’s house. I walked a lot with her on those visits back to the Arkansas farm, during that time when she could still walk. She was restless then, for perhaps a year, from the time she was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s until she became a vegetable. Daddy didn’t let her leave the yard alone, so she had to walk around and around the house by herself. Sometimes she stood and stared at the magnolia tree she had planted decades ago.

At my home in Los Angeles, I used to picture her walking around the house with no destination or purpose, no longer able to feed the chickens or take care of her flowers. During that time, I forced myself to fly back to Arkansas every holiday.

I was walking with her up the hill to get her out of the house, away from Daddy to give them both a break. I secretly hoped the exercise might increase the circulation to her brain, causing it to work again. Straining to make conversation, I mentioned Mee Maw, something about how she wouldn’t give up pork after her heart attack.

Mama looked at me with mild surprise in her vague blue eyes and asked, “Did you know her?”

“Yes, I knew her. She was my grandmother.” I added, “You are my mother.”

She looked slightly embarrassed at being told this. I saw a flicker of comprehension in her eyes. She said, “Oh, my land,” as if she had committed a social error with an acquaintance. Then the eyes went blank again, and I knew I had lost a big chunk of my history.

We talked about how pretty the pond looked, surrounded by the green meadow. As we began the steeper incline of the hill, instead of leaning forward instinctively to compensate, her body stayed perpendicular to the ground. I gently touched her back and pushed her forward so she wouldn’t fall. She had begun to lean backwards more often and didn’t always need a hill to cause her to lose her balance.

Aunt Desser, her daughter Marley Jean, and her two grown granddaughters were in the front yard shelling black-eyed peas. Aunt Desser welcomed us with “You gals look mighty spry. Faye Dell, I guess Grace-Mayree is making you jog. You better set down here and rest.”

Marley Jean’s daughters, Lou and Velvet, got up without being asked and gave us their chairs. They might pick their noses at the table and eat their own boogers without fear of a scolding, but they knew to give way to their elders. Equally familiar with country etiquette, I automatically offered to help shell peas.

Marley Jean said to her daughters, as if they should have thought of it themselves, “Lou, go in the house and get some more pans. Velvet, you bring out some iced tea and gingerbread for Aunt Faye Dell and Grace Mayree.”

When Lou gave me a pan, she gave Mama one too, just to be polite. Without looking at the peas, my fingers found the seam in the hull. My manicured thumbnail efficiently and quickly split open the seam. The pad of my index finger was perfectly poised to roll the chain of peas out of the pod. The familiar ritual had its usual hypnotic effect on me.

I still missed the summer task of shelling black-eyed peas, a staple food year round. I didn’t miss the planting and picking: that was hard, dirty work, requiring long hours of stooping in a field in the stifling heat.

What I missed was performing a skill I could barely remember not having. It comforted me to know I could still shell peas better than I could hit a forehand down the line in tennis. I liked the shelling stage because I could wash the grit off the peas and choose where I shelled them. I could choose whether I shelled alone or with other people. I could sit with other women and listen to their talk or drift off in a daydream, still looking busy and part of the group.

I usually took my black-eyed peas—I liked it that they were portable—away from the other women, sat under a shade tree, and shelled alone. I could shell so fast and accurately that I could read while I shelled, propping up Great Expectations or Wuthering Heights on the inside back of the pan. I loved the luxury of reading and being useful at the same time. Nobody told me I was wasting time reading as long as I was also shelling peas.

I even liked the feel of the peas themselves, in and out of the long slender hull. My fingernail sightlessly zipped down the hull, spilling the round, cool, crisp green peas with their black eyes on top, into the aluminum pans. Plink. Plink. I could satisfy my mind and my senses at the same time. I knew how to aim the opening of the shell so that not one pea fell onto the grass for the chickens to peck.

Without ever looking up from my book, I could drop the empty hull into the paper bag carefully placed at my left side. When we got television a year before I left home, I shelled peas at noon and watched Days of our Lives with Mama and my sister, Violet, or I shelled at night with the whole family watching Friday Night Boxing or The Red Skeleton Comedy Hour, shows Daddy liked. The familiar feel of the black-eyed peas soothed me, and my skill protected me from criticism.

Long after moving to a city, whenever I read or watched television, my fingers intertwined, needing the black-eyed peas. I never read or watched television without some guilt, without a vague feeling that I was wasting time.

In the yard at Aunt Desser’s, I heard her approving words: “Well, I see Grace-Mayree ain’t forgot how to shell peas.”

I smiled and felt as proud as if I had won a tennis tournament. I looked over at Mama, who had taught me how to shell peas, who once shelled faster than I did. She sat silently, with the pan loose in her lap, and aimlessly broke the hulls across the seam rather than down it. She twisted and mutilated them, trying to find the key to the peas, but they remained trapped in their hulls, a few falling into the grass where the chickens quickly pecked them up.

None of the women mentioned the wasted peas or took the pan away from Mama. When we got up to leave, these country women were as gracious as ladies in a queen’s court as they thanked Mama and me for helping them.

Grammar Grouch Tips

One more media cliché: “barreling”—“The hurricane is ‘barreling’ towards Florida.”

As promised, more on the adverb suffix LY stuck onto adjectives. Since uneducated people never use the LY suffix, half-assed educated people stick it on every adverb they can to sound fancy. The most common, and most understandable, misuse is with a modifier after a linking verb (not just “to be” verbs like “is, are, were, been, being”—but also “feel, remain, become”).

Examples: “I feel badLY” and I feel strongLY.” Unless you are feeling something with your hands and you are doing a bad job of it, you just feel “bad.” Think of a linking verb as an equals sign. Subject = modifier (“bad” modifies the noun or pronoun, not the verb), so the modifier is an adjective. Enough?

One more. Why do people stick LY on “importantLY, firstLY, secondLY, lastLY”? Take it to the limit! Try it on other numbers: “thirdLY, fourthLY, fifthLY, sixthLY.” If you didn’t gag, you must be a redneck. Or a pretentious fool.

 

I AIN’T GOT NO BLOG

It’s been a month since my first blog about my appointment with a neurologist to see if I have Alzheimer’s. Once again I feel some pressure to write something deep and intellectual for my second one. I again will resist and write about what interests me at the moment—media clichés and pretentious grammatical mistakes that give me projectile diarrhea from every orifice. This may seem far removed from the title of my blog, “whining about aging,” but think about the oldest person you know. Is he/she cranky and obsessed with a trivial subject that only he/she cares about. (I’m okay to end a sentence with a preposition, but I refuse to make a pronoun agreement error.) I rest my case.

This subject is also related to my fear of getting Alzheimer’s. I can’t remember numbers or people’s names, but I remember obscure grammar rules that I learned in the Dark Ages. I don’t mind unpretentious, ignorant mistakes like “I ain’t got no money.” I like the natural, open flow of redneck talk. I started dropping “ain’t” and double negatives from my speech when I was nine or ten because I knew I had to get an education to escape farm life. Throwing up when I milked the cows wasn’t enough. I had to sound like a town girl to get to town. I didn’t know I had an accent until I took a speech class in college and heard it on tape. Then I stopped dropping the g at the end of “ing” verbs and started pronouncing my vowels crisply instead of dragging them out into two syllables.

“You cain’t git no job teachin’ no Anglish if you saound lahk theis. Not in no college.”

But now I miss my accent and the freedom to use “ain’t” and double negatives. When I read my stories aloud and try to reproduce the Southern dialect, I sound phony to myself now. I get praise for my authenticity, but what do city people know?

Maybe it’s because of my own fake talk that I hate the clichés and overcorrection made by half-assed educated people who try to sound fancy—especially media and politicians. Some politicians still hang on the cliche from the Watergate era: “at that point in time.” Here are a few more expressions that may have sounded colorful at first but are lazy repetitions now:

“Take a listen, going forward, on the table, what do you make of, what is your takeaway, at the end of the day.”

Then there are word substitutions with longer ones that use more syllables:

“Individuals” instead of “people,” “multiple” instead of “many.” I think “individuals” got started by police “officers” (not “cops” any more) to avoid saying “man” or “woman”—or maybe to avoid saying “Mexican” or “black.”

I usually like variety, but I am “sickened” by adjectives like “sick” that get turned into a past perfect, passive verb in “sickened by.” How many times have you heard public figures, even past Presidents I like, say they are “saddened by” something? Same transformation—simple adjective to past perfect, passive verb then stick on the unnecessary preposition “by.” Why the hell can’t they just be “sad”?

In that same category is “problematic,” started by James Comey, I think, about the Russian probe. Also “concerning.” Extra syllables.

I’m petty enough to be annoyed by my friends who say “grab” and “head.” They “grab” a cup of coffee or a drink. If you “grab” it, aren’t you likely to spill it before you get to the table? If you “grab” lunch with me, does that mean you are in too big a hurry to sit down and enjoy it. Does grabbing make it cheaper? I feel less important if you “grab” lunch with me.

I usually like words that can be more than one part of speech. That’s versatility. But I am “sickened” and “saddened” by using the noun “head” as a verb. If you “head” home, are you in danger of not getting there? Are you walking into a strong wind, leaning with your head in front and the rest of your body dragging behind? If you “head” to the bathroom, are you likely to pee your pants before you get there?

I know I’m a Grammar Grouch, but did modern language rules change to accept redundancies like “reason is because”? “Reason” and “because” both mean “cause.” Either say “The reason I’m cranky is I’m old” or “I’m cranky because I’m old.” You don’t need both words in the same sentence.

To prevent your getting diarrhea from your orifices, I will spare you in this blog from complaining about wantonly sticking the adjective suffix “ly” onto adverbs simply because uneducated people never use “ly” adverbs.

I almost spared you pronoun case errors—who vs. whom and he and I vs. him and me. Then today Vice-President Pence used the wrong pronoun case in a news conference. He said “of the President and I.” He used the subjective case pronoun “I” as the object of a preposition “of.” Same reason as adding “ly” to adjectives: uneducated people never use subjective case pronouns so semi-educated people use ALL subjective case pronouns. (Well, I almost spared you; it’s Pence’s fault.)

I will spare you a discussion of pronoun agreement errors, as in “A writer must correct THEIR errors,” probably made to avoid dealing with the gender issue. Is the writer male or female? I don’t promise to avoid the subject in future blogs, even if you are sickened by it. I would be so saddened if you left me.

Now I must go buy more toilet tissue–and look for some moist wipes. For my next blog, I may write only one sentence: “The reason I forgot to write my blog this month is because I have Alzheimer’s.”