Uncle Mort Ticked Off

Published 8:28 am Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

We can all agree that dullness–particularly for the “Jacks” of the world–is a predictable result when we’re wallowing in unending “work ruts.” Such scenarios rarely crop up in my Uncle Mort’s life, ‘cause at first “scent” of toil, he “sniffs it out.” Like a shifty football running back, his end runs and careful sidesteps usually work.

Sometimes, such vignettes occur in concession stand lines, where he runs into old friends who wind up paying. Shelling out, I mean, for everyone in the line which, of course, is in the shade. Mort, who urged us to let July 4 pass without any “to do” about his 104th birthday, may truly be bogged down with work on his new “invention.” Whatever, it was his first visit to the thicket’s general store in a month.

He says his nerves were in immediate free fall when a whippersnapper, sipping on a soft drink, asked, “Old-timer, how much longer do you think you can handle independent living?”

In a flash, Mort bristled–dead certain he was “set up” by friends–was “set off” for sure. His neck hair stiffened. As his nostrils flared, nose follicles unfurled like those little paper party favors kindergarteners blow into faces of others at birthday gatherings.

   “First of all, it’s none of your business,” Mort fumed. “We’ll stay in our home as long as Maude (his wife of some 85 years) can help with the ‘heavy lifting.’ When they try to remove us, check the depth of nail marks left by fingers, thumbs and toes on the doorstep. That’ll be some measure of our resistance.”

He claimed the old couple “looks for reasons to feel good” instead of complaining about occasional “twitching of body and twisting of mind.” His rambles continued, mostly about the best use of days, proper diets and “enough work for it to count as exercise.” As an afterthought that should have been mentioned first, he added, “Maude and I look out for our neighbors.”

Then he added the stand-out reason worthy listing first.

“So far, Maude and I know who we are and we know where we are. We don’t take those little ‘baby steps’ yet, and twice each week, we visit the ‘old folks’ down at the care center. We wind up there on holidays, too.”

   As the youngster left, Mort yelled, “And we deliver Meals on Wheels on our golf cart.”

For decades, Mort has worn a Texas Rangers’ baseball cap, hoping others will describe him as “the sporty little man wearing a cap” instead of “the little old gray-haired guy.”

Mort and Archie McAfee, long-time Executive Director of Texas Association of Secondary School Principals, could strike up a quick conversation.

On the subject of men whose scalps are barren, McAfee opined that Robert Morrison, new principal at Abilene High School, is almost certain to pick up a new nickname there.

Morrison, former star football player at Howard Payne University and a valued Seattle Seahawks player until a serious knee injury forced him from the game after a year, now is a veteran educator. He has been honored by the principals’ organization and by HPU, and is beloved by colleagues and students. They admire him for his outgoing, fun-loving countenance, and love to watch him as he places orders in restaurants. He never opens menus, always saying to waitpersons: “Surprise me.”

He has heard all the jokes about baldness. He shaved his head–bald by choice–for a decade. About 10 years ago, he and his hair parted company for good; alas, he’s been bald involuntarily ever since. McAfee predicts Robert’s new nickname will first be whispered in the teachers’ lounge, then “megaphoned” by students. (The youngsters may even say it out loud if they ever look up from their phones.)

Traditions run strong at Abilene High. When “Eagles” are mentioned, there’s a hush in the room. So when Robert overhears his new nickname–“The Bald Eagle”–he should say thanks, face the flag and sing the National Anthem.


Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to:

newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com. Columns archived at venturegalleries.com, newbury blog.