Category Archives: The Book of Kells

Ethel, Not the Prairie Dog

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Ethel, Not the Prairie Dog

If you are a regular reader of the blog (all six of you), you may recall that I named my inner critic Ethel. I’m pretty sure we all have an inner critic, that asshole in your head that makes you second guess your life choices. Sure sometimes they make a valid point, for instance, meth is always a bad idea. Other times it’s less obvious like beating yourself up over that new bold haircut (psst…they rarely go well) or that second slice of chocolate cake.

I visualize my inner critic as an elderly prairie dog named Ethel. Ethel has bifocal glasses that lean so far down her snout they are in danger of falling off her face. She wears hand crocheted sweater vests in terrible color combinations like orange and fuchsia with a splash of brown. Her right hand is on her right hip in that universal condescending stance. Her nose is scrunched in judgement and as a means to keep those glasses from sliding off her sour face. Oh and she’s fat but we don’t discuss that because fat shaming is wrong. She wears sensible brown shoes (to match the vest) and she has a broken pen behind her left ear. That pen hasn’t worked since 1992. Anyway, this post is about a different Ethel, but wasn’t that a fun distraction.

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A nude shot of Ethel. You have to imagine the ugly sweater vest, bifocals, brown orthopedic shoes and broken pen.

Last night I stayed with an almost 92 year old lady named Ethel who prefers to be called Jane (keep UP). Her son in-law recently passed away and the family was at his wake. Ethel, I mean Jane, is one of those fun feisty nonagenarians. I didn’t have to do much except bring her food and follow her cues as to how social she wanted to be.

She’s fiercely independent and very lucid with the occasional lapse of judgement. At one point she wanted to ask her daughter about how the Thanksgiving turkey was cooked…not a great idea to call during a wake. I tried to distract her but her will won out and then she felt bad. I assured her it was fine, that the phone was likely on silent and I got the answer via text. In case you’re wondering, the bird was cooked for 14 hours at 200 degrees Fahrenheit, it felt wrong to ask for more details than that.

Jane gets a glass of wine promptly at 7pm, Chianti if you’re curious. After the vino my new friend started spilling family secrets. It’s amazing how much one glass of Chianti can yield, perhaps governments need to change their tactics when dealing with hostile prisoners. We’d probably get further along than we do with water boarding…but that’s an entirely different kind of post.

I will keep the family secrets in the vault but I can share one amusing tale. Jane was in Ireland on vacation with her daughter in-law (Debbie) and a friend (Ann). They were on their way to Trinity College in Dublin to see The Book of Kells exhibition.

For those that don’t know (including myself until 5 minutes ago) The Book of Kells was created around the year 800 and contains the four gospels. The emphasis of the book is on the 340 folios made from calfskin vellum. The book is primarily visual as much of the text is either truncated or erroneously repetitive. So it’s basically a fancy biblical picture book y’all! Here’s a link in case you find yourself in Dublin – The Book of Kells

On this particular trip, Jane discovered a deep dark secret about her friend Ann. Ann was (in the CIA – that’s Catholic Irish American, not the other CIA) a closet smoker. Jane caught her smoking a few times and pretended not to notice (much like I pretend not to see people I know at the grocery store).

Years earlier her other travel companion, Debbie, lost an arm to cancer. She had a prosthetic arm but it was too heavy so she usually went without it. The three of them were walking in a spread out single file line on their way to the exhibition. Debbie, the youngest, was far ahead. My new friend Jane was in the middle and Ann, the closet smoker with undiagnosed emphysema, was the caboose.

Jane: Ann if you don’t slow down….so help me God I will rip off your good arm and beat you over the head with it! Miss smokes-a-lot can’t keep up!!!

True story.