I learned long ago that if we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change. It’s a Wayne Dyer line, and invaluable.

Wednesday was miserable, just miserable. We’d been getting long terrifically lately, but the moment my aunt greeted me it was clear ‘twould be a bumpy ride.

“The bag is the trash,” she said from atop, pointing to her weekly bundle at the bottom of the stairs. “The envelope, (unambiguously packaged, addressed and marked in bold print “Do Not Bend”), is not. Be careful with it”.

Like I always do, I ran her garbage to the back, dumped it in the can, and returned to help her down steps.

“Did you accidentally throw away the mail?”
‘It’s raining. Did you protect it?”
“How did you protect it? It’s raining!”
“I put it under my coat”.
“Did you zip your coat?”
“Did you bend it?”

Ten minutes into our sojourn, not yet off her property, and I was exhausted.

Then, breaking the plane of her driveway, this tender lady, perennial league leader in passive aggression, unleashed a verbal assault that would have made Wayne LaPierre proud:

“When did you decide to go to Columbus?” she asked. I was about to answer—it was, after all, a response well-prepared with my brother, but before I could: “Did you tell Harold before or after you told me?” “Will you see Harriet?” “Why are you going?” “Is Carrie going?” “Did Harriet ask if I was joining you?” “I surely would not have, but did you consider asking me?” “Who will take me to see your brother ?” “What if he can only see me Saturday?”


“You know, you travel too much,” she continued.
“I don’t think so.”
“You don’t?”
“You’re being stupid. You never used to travel so much.”
“I never used to have grandchildren.”
“You have no grandchildren in Columbus.”

I punted. Drained by the intifada, I said nothing—at all—until we entered the grocery.

The pivotal moment each week is the one full minute consumed choosing the appropriate shopping cart. This is no mean task and not taken lightly. It is also the juncture at which my aunt first brandishes the trip’s shopping list.

“Did you read it through?” she inquired the instant it touched my fingers. “It is long today. And we must select birthday cards for Michael Jacobson and Carrie.”  Groaning inaudibly I envisioned reading every card in stock.  (I would not be far off).

So we did our thing. There was the traditional checking of the Cheerios boxes to assure that since last week they hadn’t changed the sodium content. “Aunt Helen, you’re too old to die young.” (OK. It’s a good line, but I only thought it)…Then her sensuous fondling of six, perhaps seven baked potatoes…and her compelling me (at gun point) to check expiration dates on each carton of milk, package of cheese and YES, bottle of Coca Cola….

And the mandatory math lesson: Is it better to buy one bag of ten oranges for $3.99 or seven loose ones at 40 cents apiece. And which are fresher? “What would you do, Bruce?”

‘Though spent long before hitting the card aisle, dutifully I read her this card and that, all the while being serenaded by choruses of “Too cute” or “ Too juvenile” “Too loving” or “Too long.” Still, I read on (in mortal fear that her next words might well be “Should we check the cards at Walgreen’s?). At one point actually, a card was chosen. Then, dramatically, she reached in her purse, culled text she’d earmarked for Jacobson, and asked that I read it aloud: “This card is belated because a certain someone forgot to remind me it was your birthday”. “Do you agree?” she asked me. With Solomon-like wisdom I offered no comment. “Then you admit,” she insisted, “That you were wrong.” (As my Dad would have said, I didn’t know whether “…to spit or go blind….”).

We never got a card that day. Not one (to her) “seemed right”. “Why is it,” she posited, “They don’t know how to merchandise?” No, we never got a card, never got the black marker she wanted (“Sharpy’s smell”, you see), and never got the cereal.

But we got along. Not as well as we have, but we got along.

No blood shed. No harsh words. We got along.

She’s pushing 99, my aunt is, and that’s quite a blessing. Day was when I’d moan about her nonsense and forget my Dad’s admonition—something he said often about others over many a year: “Someday, if you’re lucky, you too will be old.”

He was right, of course. He usually was.

—And I remembered again that if I change the way I look at things, the things I look at change.

I love my Aunt Helen.

3 Responses to “THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR”

  1. Mr. Goode says:


    Now THIS was well written. And your concluding remark was heartwarming. I do believe you were sincere.

    Your subtle commentary on passive aggression in conjunction with the use of the alliterative phrase “league leader” was quite good. (No pun intended – that is, with regard to my surname).

    Additionally, your erotic inference to the “sensual fondling” of baked potatoes painted a wonderful picture in the reader’s mind.

    So, all in all, a well crafted essay. My grade would be a B+. Confidentiallly, I would give you an A. But I just can’t do that. I do have a reputation to preserve.


  2. Granpa Maisay says:


    I am having a debate with your Grandma “Ma”. When I refer to Henry Aldrich should I call him the “late” Henry Aldrich or the “late Late” Henry Aldrich? As an English scholar, what do you thing is more correct or appropriate?


    Grandpa “Pa”

  3. Mr. Goode says:


    Why is it that your Grandpa Maisay (“Pa”) and I are the only ones to comment on your blogs? Doesn’t anyone read these anymore?

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