Al Batt: Telling a story with words that begin with “C”

Published 9:49 am Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.

My father used to say, “I was born on a farm and I’ll die on a farm.”

Other than a few days in a hospital, he got his wish.

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My mother was born in town and decided to move back there after my father’s death. She found a place in the city. She was excited. Furniture was bought and arranged.

My mother never moved. Health problems. Life is seldom tidy. Complications set in. Growing up, there were other C-words besides “complications” that were important to me.

Christmas. One day a year. Important 365 days every year except Leap Year, when it’s important 366 days.

Cardinals. Both the birds and the nickname for my high school’s athletic teams.

Candy. No explanation needed.

Cookies. See candy.

Cheese. See candy and cookies.

Cavorting. It sounded like fun.

Conscience. A niggling concern that grew with time.

Connections. I didn’t fully understand it, this wonderful web of friends and family. Connections amaze, mystify and support. The next best thing to being clever is being able to quote someone who is. One of my heroes, John Muir, said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

Clothing. I wore it. I didn’t want any underwear for Christmas, but I got it anyway so that I’d have plenty of clean underwear. My mother worried that I might be in an accident when I wasn’t wearing clean underwear. I thought that was the least of my worries, but she thought if I were lucky enough to live through an accident, I’d spend the rest of my life living down the shame of wearing dirty underwear.

Cry. As a child I cried for me. Then I went through a phase where I refused to cry. It wasn’t manly. Now I’ve reached an age where I cry at sad movies. Becoming a grandfather entitles a man to weepiness. I cry while giving eulogies. I cried with a little granddaughter as we watched a sad video about the mistreatment of dogs and cats. I shed tears of happiness when grandchildren were born. I’ve cried often for and with others.

Clinic. A place where I spent great amounts of time as a boy and where I visited recently. You’re not getting older, you’re getting better. That’s nice to hear, but tell that to a banana. With each tick of the clock, the future becomes the past. Countless clinic employees asked my name and birth date. I had an inkling that they were going to pool their money and get me something nice for my birthday.

Cancer. It wasn’t a big concern during my early years. I never dreamed that I’d ever hear, “I’m sorry, it’s cancer.”

The few days after hearing that went by like five minutes — underwater. I’d booked passage on a new ship. I wanted to don my superhero socks, but I don’t have any. Whenever I suffered an injury playing football, a coach told me to walk it of. I couldn’t walk this off.

Consolation. I listened to music — Tom Petty, Aretha Franklin, Slim Harpo, Leonard Cohen, Warren Zevon and Van Morrison. I wanted to cry for me, but I’d forgotten how. Then my wife cried and I remembered.

Cheerfulness. My wife walked through the endless halls of Mayo Clinic in Rochester with me as I went from one appointment to another. She was sweet, cheery and comforting.

Clinic. I was wearing clinic bracelets when I was told that I was full of you know what. I’ve frequently been told that I’m full of that, but never by a health care professional. I wore a fashionable hospital gown and was bent over an examination table, with a nurse practitioner’s fingers well into a sensitive area of my body, when I heard a nurse’s voice from behind saying, “I love your column.”

Confidence. An acquaintance is an amazing artist. Nearing 70, he’s planning on climbing one of those challenging mountains (not a Minnesota mountain) that make climbers perk up when they hear its name. He said that he’s no longer anatomically correct, but that climbing is easier for him with his colostomy bag. Fewer rest stops are needed.

My father used to say, “My father used to say.”

I say the same thing regularly, but I need to say something that neither my father nor his father ever said, “Get a colonoscopy. Get it sooner than later.”

A good friend, Randy Chirpich, is a sports broadcaster. He signs off with, “Stay on the planet.”

That’s my goal.