Friday, January 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Jimmy

I drank caffeinated tea last night so my mind was still a buzz way past my usual lights out time. As I watched the clock turn over from one day to the next, I realized it was the 65th birthday of my X ... x-husband, not x-friend. Even as time marches on, I find myself re-thinking many of the times we spent together. What a blessing it is to remember more of the good times, the joy and laughter, than the long dark days of a dying relationship. Again, I must qualify that statement by saying, that the marriage failed, but the relationship is still on track. We've both moved on, have new partners and drastically different lives. Still we share 20+ years of friendship, 2 children, 1 grandchild and many friends. Somewhere along the line the strict military man I married developed an "open mind" and a kind of gentle understanding.

I don't know if I can come up with 65 reasons why knowing Jim makes me smile, but in the AntiJen spirit of birthday posts I'm going to try:
1. Back in the earliest days of our relationship, the man could run. I met him after he had graduated from college and hung up his track shoes. But I remember well the time I saw him fly down the street in a friendly little race with his nephew. His ability to go from zero to mach speed was most impressive.
2. In his own words Jim is a gambler and poet extraordinaire. In my words, he has a knack for making words rhyme. He's never met a casino where he didn't leave more $$ than take away!
3. Jim was a helicopter pilot. He had the right stuff.
4. Jim had a military career to be proud of.
5. When he got out of the Navy he went back to college to get his teaching credentials. The day he seriously considered punching one of his students in the nose wass the day he gave up teaching.
6. Jim is the only person I've ever seen actually stand in the hole under a car's hood where the engine is supposed to go. That being said, looking at the nuts and bolts and parts that were once the very heart of MY car, he refused to ask for help reassembling things.
7. When I was about 17, my mother told me, in front of my soon to be husband, "never say I told you so." He never forgot those words of wisdom and often reminded me of the wise counsel. It's hard not to say "I told you so" when your car is in a kazillion pieces and the man fixing it is asking you to call automobile 911.
8. Jim was born in Arkansas but considered himself to be a native Texan. He could ride and shoot with the best of them. All the neighborhood boys under the age of ten were most impressed as Jim took aim at a baby rattlesnake on our front stoop. I stood in the background screaming like a fool.
9. Jim introduced me to the Grand Canyon. For this I will always be grateful. Wendy also remembers "the time he told me to look up at the stars at the G.C." It doesn't get much better than that.
10. Jim was a world traveler but rarely remembered to pack his razor.
11. When we were married Jim's cooking abilities didn't stretch much past "Egg in the middle". Once he was on his own he quickly learned to expand any meal with the addition of peppery hash browns, guacamole, lumpia, or chicken/pine nut salad.

12. Did I mention Jimmy loves visiting Las Vegas?
13. Jim once rode down the Washington/Oregon coast on a bicycle.
14. Jim was a good son to good parents. They taught him to appreciate the beauty and fun of a summer vacation.
15. Jim often traveled by train when he was on his college track team. He said it was the best sleeping he ever had. There are 3 people who share his last name who will heartily debate this topic whenever it brought up.
16. Jim likes to ski on water or snow. We went sledding once in what can only be called an ice storm. At the time, we found it curious that no one else was weathering the cold, or that all the sled businesses were closed. We enjoyed having a giant hill to ourselves. It was shortly after seeing the "Private ... Do Not Enter" signs, that the father/daughter team went shooting down an ice-covered hill in a plastic saucer with no brakes. Jim broke his thumb - swelling to three times its normal size and turning a delightful shade of purple. Wendywas grateful her life had been spared. John and Iwatched from the warm confines of the car.
17. Texas Jimmy and his son-in-law, Zubin, were sports enthusiasts who never missed a chance to bet on March Madness teams.
18. Jim loves Christmas decorations. The bushier the tree, the shinier the ornaments, the brighter lights, the more presents, and the bigger the stockings the better.
19. We shared some lovable pets - Ruby, Pebbles, Mr. Burnes. Jim had a soft spot in his heart for all of them, even though they were not always able to control their bodily functions when they got in close contact with his flight jacket.
20. Jim has never met a can of beer, glass of wine or bottle of Scotch that he didn't like. He once took a taste-testing trip around Scotland with real Scotch drinkers. He was way out of his league.
21. According to his daughter, Jim is not above "doubling up to catch up." I am not sure what this means but I'm guessing it has something to do with the game of Blackjack. Or maybe it has to do with #20!
22. Jim loves to smell good. He's especially fond lemony and woodsy scents, though he's been known to use Aqua Velva in a pinch.
23. Jim is a lover of fine bowls.
24. Nobody loves black pepper more than James. Have a glass of water ready when you're eating your first bite of his hash browns -- they're always generously doused with black pepper. As are just about everything he makes: eggs, soup, chicken, salad,...
25. He likes to wave to everyone in the neighborhood.
26. He's the best Dad you could ask for -- he's generous, and always wants what's best for his kids. Even when they're goofballs, he sticks by them. (we)
27. If he comes to visit you, you better have beer, wine, pepper, splenda, coffee, and a bag of chips on hand. And electronic Yahtzee in the bathroom!
28. Jim has a special fondness for good books - especially when there is a nail-biting mystery involved.
29. Jim is always up for a good time.
30. Being from Dallas, Jim is a loyal Cowboys fan.
31. Shortly before our 2nd child was born we went car shopping for a family mobile. Has anyone out there ever heard of a Nash Rambler? I was so preggers when we took the test drive, I couldn't even fit a seat belt around my middle. We lived in Florida and it summer time. I was all of 20 years old, should I have known to test heater - the NON-EXISTENT heater? Soon after John was born James went out and bought himself a 2 seater, convertible MG. What can I say?the man can not be resist a nice car!
32. Jim has always been fond of the penny loafer. [Photo L: These are not Jim's feet. But the photo shows that the apple does not fall from the tree when it comes to stylish shoes. Besides, this picture always makes me laugh.]
33. "Is this the party to whom I'm speaking." If he said it once, he said it a million times!
34. While I remember Jim letting the kids sit on his lap and put their hands on the steering wheel, Wendy remembers her Dad teaching her to drive on Telegraph Canyon Road in San Diego. Apparently he paid no mind to the fact that she started bawling as soon as we got on the road with other cars.
35. Another driving memory for Wendy is the time he drove over the dead cow in the minivan on the way down to Vegas
36. Jim also tried to teach me how to drive. I was 16 and much more interested in looking good than driving good. One summer night on a lone stretch of Pensacola highway, he let me take the wheel. I managed to keep the car moving as long as I didn't have to change gears. Pulling over for a little kissy kissy was our downfall. I steered into the soft sand where we got good and stuck.
Some more Wendy reminiscing:
37. How cool he looked in his flight suit.
38. The way he let his pet parakeets fly free at his place in DC
39. His odd taste in cats (and how they're almost always named Bubba)
40. Sitting next to him at the blackjack table
41. Long conversations about how we'd spend our lottery winnings
42. Watching him burble a pea
43. His Inspector Clouseau impression.
44. Shotgunning a beer with him at Aunt Linda's.
45. If we're going to talk about his impressions, then I've got to mention how he was always able to sweep me off my feet when he whispered in my ear like Pepe Le Pew.
46. One time at a grown up Christmas party a British foreign exchange officer got drunk and, for some reason still unknown to those who observed it, doused Jim with the contents of the punchbowl. I've never seen (and doubt I ever will) a man who showed such great restraint. Why Jim didn't kill the guy I'll never know. Maybe it had something to do with foreign relations and being an officer and a gentleman. Or the fact that his Commanding Officer was watching.
47. At his bachelor party Jim announced that he was going to walk on water. He ended up in muddy water up to his knees. The same muddy water from which they were eating clams. I know ... gross. A couple of months later one of our good friends was diagnosed with encephalitis - or mercury poisoning -which could have come from, you got it, infected clams. Jim bore a striking resemblance to the flight surgeon at the time. Our friend lay on a stretcher, not knowing if he was on his death bed or not. Jim bent over him long enough to hear the guy ask for water. A nurse asked if could have a drink (something that could have caused another seizure) and Jim gave her the go ahead. What did he know? Gratefully, the water eased a parched throat and did no other damage.
48. Jim probably didn't blink an eye when being asked a medical question. He came by his knowledge of all things medical through his genes. His father, a would be mortician, completed the first year of school which mostly consisted of anatomy and physiology. He dropped out of the funeral business, but never lost his ability to diagnose most illnesses. This ability was passed down to his son. It never made much sense to me, but I saw it in action more than once.
49. For instance, when all other medical treatments fail, rub Vicks Vaporub on your chest, cover with a clean, dry T-shirt and take a nap.
50. Jim loves naps.
51. When Jim was in Officer Candidate School, he was offered a deal he thought too good to pass up. If he joined the band, he would not have to stand in the ranks during inspections. In spite of the fact that the only musical talent he possessed was that his father played the clarinet (see #47) he signed up for the band. His instrument of choice turned out to be the cymbals. How hard can it be to play the cymbals? Well, harder than the novice officer knew. He got the marching down. He got the beat down. Yet he never quite mastered the art of clanging the cymbals together on an angle, preventing the inevitable suction cup effect if done wrong. Jim didn't stay long in the band.
52. Jim never shied away from a driving demonstration. He's driven along high mountain passes in Spain, winding narrow paths in Malta, back roads in the Philippines, and through snow drifts near Seattle.
53. For the 30 years Jim spent in the Navy, his motto was "I'm a Naval Aviator". As if that would answer any question.
54. If Jim happens to be in a place with wild animals, i.e. squirrels, deer, bears, he doesn't hesitate to offer a peanut, even if he's standing under a clearly marked DO NOT FEED THE WILDLIFE sign with a forest ranger standing close by.
55. Uncle Jimmy is beloved by many.
56. Fine china, Waterford crystal, and Lladro porcelain all hold a special place in Jim's heart.
57. He has also been known to go a little bit crazy over Bath & Body Works lotions, a certain Brookstone massaging chair, Abercrombie & Fitch sweaters, Enya CDs, Panasonic electronics with lots of lights and buttons, and cameras with multiple lenses.
58. Jim had an annual first day of school ritual that still makes the blood run cold of family members who were forced to listen to his "Good morning song." He's lucky to have survived to his present age. He could have easily been done in my a new pair of school shoes thrown with great force across a bedroom.
On that note, I'm going to end this post. It's way too long and I'm risking the ire of my current Sweetie who doesn't understand how it is that Jim and I are even on speaking terms. But really how could we not be. We lived through good times and bad, childbirth, cross-country moves, depression, deployments, family vacations in a VW Rabbit, and late night dancing at Mr. C's. Maybe it wasn't meant to be that we'd be married til death do us part, but I'm glad we can still be friends.
James, here's to you, Happy Birthday!
Merry ME
(Photos by Wendy)


Anonymous said...

A worthier birthday list recipient, I do not know.

Spectacular list, Mom!


Unknown said...

"Ditto!", to Wendy's comment and "Here, here!", to your post.