Snap, Crackle and Pop?

By Jim Hagarty

So, Kellogg’s in Tennessee.

I wonder if this is the same Kellogg’s that left London, Ontario, near my home a few years ago in search of a higher class of workers in the U.S. to whom they could pay higher wages than in Canada. Workers who can think for themselves and find creative ways of battling the monotony of the assembly line, for example. Like the man who has been caught on video, peeing on the food.

This might at first seem an odd thing to do but the strategy is actually helpful as it adds an organic element to the cereal that, frankly, might have been missing.

This happened two years ago. I don’t know why none of us caught on till now. If you read the ingredients list on the side of your Rice Krispies box, it’s right there: Monoglucimate, Hefronalligate, Rankinallinate, Urinate, Ballonawfulate ….

How could we not have known?

Cruisin’ Down the Highway at Only 96

By Jim Hagarty

When you reach your mid 50s, it is not unusual by that time to find yourself becoming one of the oldest persons at the family reunions. It seems to happen slowly, almost without your noticing, but before long, there are a whole bunch of babies at the get-togethers and not so many people with hair as thin and white as yours.

This is the case with me. As a kid, there seemed no end of aunts and uncles coming to visit and whose homes we would vacation at in return. But now, I can count only two aunts and one uncle among my older generation.

And on Saturday, when I returned home from the hardware store, my son said excitedly, “Your Uncle Jack was here.”

“You mean my cousin Jack,” I corrected him.

“No, your Uncle Jack.”

Sure enough, he was right. This was startling only in the fact that my uncle lives a long way away, in North Bay. And he’s 96 years old. A little old to be just dropping by.

He had come down, with his daughter, in his “new” 2002 Chevy Cavalier to visit a few relatives and his old home town. To appease his daughter, he let her drive, but he left no doubt he was fully able and ready to do the piloting himself.

Jack left me with me a recent news clipping from the North Bay Nugget which did a feature on him under the headline, Never Too Old: Local golfer still hitting links at 96. A colour photo accompanying the story shows him draining a 12-foot putt.

I caught up with my uncle and other members of his family at a restaurant in St. Agatha later that afternoon and had a terrific evening of fun. There was not much reminiscing; my uncle truly lives in the moment. He was interested in my children, and learning about their interests.

In the newspaper story about him, he is quoted assessing the reasons for his longevity this way: “I’ve been a happy person all my life. I never took trouble to bed with me. And my wife always had me have a rest at noon, when I was in business.”

Jack Simpson was born in a farmhouse just north of Stratford (it’s still there) in 1908. The First World War was four years away. The Titanic was under construction in Ireland. The Wright Brothers had taken their first flight at Kitty Hawk only five years before. So much has occurred in the world around him over the past near century that could have made him depressed and cynical and bitter. But he never gave in to any of that. Instead, he remains a man with a boy’s heart – living to enjoy life and all it has to offer.

It wasn’t as if he never had any trouble. For the last few years of my aunt’s life, he devoted himself to the care of a wife who would come to not even recognize him. But rather than weep alone, he remained outgoing, learned how to cook for himself, and now, by all accounts, is quite the chef. A chef who, at 93, went out and bought himself a whole new set of pots and pans.

My Uncle Jack plays golf three times a week with his friends at a North Bay club that has more than 80 seniors who regularly play, more for the social aspect than the sport itself. Many of them don’t even keep score.

He is looking forward, this winter, to flying to Mexico for the baptism of his great-granddaughter.

Twenty-three years ago I stayed overnight at his place and by accident, made off with a tube of toothpaste from his bathroom, a tube I’ve never gotten around to replacing. We have joked about that off and on whenever we’ve met or talked on the phone in the time since.

And the first thing he said to me when I walked into the restaurant Saturday night was, “Where’s my toothpaste?”

Yes, a happy person he has been with a instinctive knack for making those around him happy too, through the use of humour and an ability to direct his gaze outward and not in.

Happy Birthday, Uncle Jack.

I’ll get that toothpaste in the mail tomorrow!

(An angel paid Jack a visit a few years ago, about three weeks after he played his final round of golf. I hope he didn’t die of a broken heart. I never did send him the toothpaste.)

Frank Effs Up

By Jim Hagarty

The first snow of winter had fallen on my not-yet-frozen lawn and I could hear a pick-up truck with a snowplow blade on the front, hustling back and forth, cleaning the parking lot next door. I went to the door and looked out. My jaw dropped to the floor when I saw the truck pushing a skiff of snow onto my lawn and in the process, peeling back the sod from my property like it was taking off a bandage. Before I could make it out to the truck to stop this madness, he’d torn off another strip or two, leaving raw earth behind. I finally managed to wrestle the truck to a halt and lit into the driver, pointing pitifully at my once beautiful landscape, now torn and tattered.

The driver didn’t apologize but he seemed pretty sheepish and radioed his boss to find out the next step in this little drama. His boss crackled onto the two-way radio.

“Hey Frank,” said the driver. “A neighbour says I tore up his lawn with the plow and he’s upset about it. What should I tell him?” Frank, ever in search of a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize, replied: “Tell him to go fuck himself!”

“Ah, Frank, the neighbour is standing right beside my window,” came back the driver. “Oh,” said Frank, cheerily, not the least bit concerned with the suggestion he’d just made and which he was now aware that I had heard. “Tell him I’ll be right over.”

In a few minutes another pick up came screeching around the corner and across the lot to me, and out jumped the ever chipper Frank. He and I surveyed the damage and he was so sorry about everything.

“Hey, tell you what,” he said. “I will be back in the spring to fix this up good as new.”

More than 20 springs have come and gone since that day and every year I wait for Frank but he never shows. As it turned out, I didn’t have to go fuck myself. He did it for me.

Thanks Frank, you’re a sweetheart.