Friday, August 26, 2016

UPDATED Irving "Fatboy" Hambutt

Part of getting settled in Alabama means finally buying myself a filing cabinet and finally sorting through the enormous box of my mother's medical records and funeral records that I inherited some years ago and have been carting around ever since. I'm happy to report that they are now out of their decrepit cardboard boxes, and properly sorted for shredding/recycling/storing. About half of it is insurance paperwork destined for the shredder. Most of the rest of it is treatment/diagnosis information and general medical history; all good things that I should definitely save.

And buried within all this paperwork of varying degrees of depressivity, were a few precious pieces of paper that clearly displayed my mother's completely wacko sense of humour, one that I inherited in its entirety. Now nestled safely inside a folder titled, simply, "Funny" is a collection of documents to make me—and you—chuckle.

A document titled "10 Ways to Cope with Stress" contains such useful suggestions as "Fill out your tax forms using Roman Numerals" and "When someone says 'have a nice day', tell them you have other plans". 

An early draft of a parody newsletter she wrote for the hospital she worked for in my youth contains the note "This is only a parody. If this were an actual newsletter you would have been instructed not to laugh". The newsletter contains an item on new area healthcare services that reads thusly: "Psychiatrist M.T. Head and Dr. Lou Spowels, a proctologist, have recently opened the North Coast Odds and Ends Clinic. According to a spokesperson for the clinic, they offer top-to-bottom medical care." The Staff Development Calendar contains upcoming seminars and trainings, including "Diagnosis and treatment of excessive nose hair", "Forty fun things to do with a stethoscope", "Conversational Pig Latin", and "Change: What It Is and How To Avoid It".

Another piece of paper offers vocabulary words and tips for healthy living: "Momentum: What you give a person when they are going away."  "Vacuum: A large, empty space where the pope lives." "To remove dust from the eye, pull the eye down over the nose." "For fainting: Rub the person's chest or, if a lady, rub her arms above the hand instead. Or put the head between the knees of the nearest medical doctor." "To keep milk from turning sour: Keep it in the cow."

January 5, 1996: Nasal Polyp Swap Meet in Great Schnaz, NV
July 12: Birthday of Dr. Louis Pasteur, Inventor of the Cow Pasteur
August 8, 1996: Annual Colonoscopy Inservice in Bender, NV

Weird Science
Artificial insemination is when the farmer does it to the cow instead of the bull.
Mushrooms always grow in damp places and so they look like umbrellas.
Water is composed of two gins, Oxygin and Hydrogin. Oxygin is pure gin. Hydrogin is gin and water.

The best thing in this folder, however, the thing that had me calling my father to ask questions, was this 8x10 glossy photo. In case you can't read the inscription it says, "For Nancy—With fond remembrances of our many nights together. Irving "Fatboy" Hambutt"

I don't know who this man is, though he looks vaguely familiar. The name and description didn't ring a bell for my dad, so I emailed the picture to him. I can't wait to find out if he knows who this is and what it's about.

It's things like this that make me, as an adult, acutely aware of the relationship I've missed out on. My mom seems cool as hell, and I never got to know her, not even a little bit. I think I really would have liked her. I think she would have liked me.

UPDATE: My friend's husband, who is amazing, knowledgable, and very well connected, says that "the tape around his wrists almost certainly means he's a wrestler…his name is 'gimmicky', which means he was probably a bad guy." He's going to ask his wrestling communities if anyone's ever heard of him. I can't wait to find out what comes of this.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

On swimming

Like most children in the small town where I grew up, I took swimming lessons at Tapiola pool every summer. The pool was outdoors, in the northernmost tip of Oregon, in the continental United States' coldest, wettest region. An outdoor pool was a silly idea except for those two or three days in July and August when the temperature finally got above seventy-five degrees.  I learned backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle; I worked up the courage to jump off the diving board at the very end of the summer I was eight, and that's about it. I do not know how to dive, I never learned a flip-turn, and I can't do a dolphin kick. 

And then they shut Tapiola and built the new indoor aquatic center with a twenty-five meter lap pool, a lazy river, a water park, a hot tub, a weight room, conference centers, and more. The aquatic center opened the summer I was twelve and was done with my sporting years.  I spent some time there, sure, but not much. Swimming faded from my life in favor of theatre, friends, boys, and driving.

And suddenly, I was twenty, and swimming was back in my life in a major way. I met my husband, a swim coach, fell in love, got married, and spent lots of my time in and around pools. I relearned the vocabulary of the sport; I learned the major players both in and out of the water. I remember names now that most others don't, like Gary Hall, Jr., and Cullen Jones. I know the big names from other countries, I know times, I know stats, I could (poorly) write a workout if I needed to. 

My marriage is over now, and has been for more than a year. But like the 1500, or Michael Phelps's career, it still keeps going. So while Tim and I are separated, and the divorce is impending but not imminent, the Olympics are on, and I am alone in my new apartment, in my new city, shouting at the TV while Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel and Nathan Adrian and Anthony Ervin kick ass and take names. Tim is home in Oregon this week, which means he's two hours behind me and I have to wait until the next day to talk over the races with him. That's a drag, but I'm thankful that until I find someone else who cares and knows about swimming, I can still text him excitedly about that 100 FLY and that 200 BK and that 800 FR.

This Olympics has been emotional for me. It's the last time (probably) we'll see the great Micahel Phelps, the dopey Ryan Lochte, the adorable Missy Franklin, the precious Nathan Adrian. There will be no further tense rivalry with Laszlo Cseh and Chad Le Clos. These names, which have marked much of the last twelve or sixteen years of swimming, have also marked the span of my courtship and marriage. And now, like my marriage, it's over.

If I've heard Tim say it once, I've heard him say it a thousand times—swimming is a lifetime sport. That's why Michael Phelps is so great, and why Anthony Ervin is such a beast. That's why swimming has been around for so much of my life, and that's why I've taken it with me from one part of my life to the next.

I start PhD coursework on Wednesday this week. I worked every damn day this summer, and I could do with a bit of a break, but I'm ready to get to work. I'm ready to crush the coursework, to learn as much as I can, and to get down to business on my dissertation. I'm ready to move forward with my life and my career. I'm ready to learn again, I'm ready to love again, I'm ready to live again. I'm ready to dive in and swim on. #justkeepswimming