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Culture

Greek American Stories: Mind Over Matter

By Phyllis “Kiki” Sembos

I began worrying about Vasili, (Bill to you), because it appeared he couldn’t see. I first suspected it when I had placedthe plastic garbage bag in the kitchen and left it by the back kitchen door for Bill to take out to the front the next day. Well, when I got up it was still there. “Bill, why didn’t you take the garbage out?” He looked up. “What garbage?” “That huge white, plastic bag against the back door.” He shrugged. “I didn’t see it. I’ll take it out tomorrow.”

I huffed. “The next garbage collection isn’t till next Friday. By that time I’ll have three.” No response. His concentration fastened on hisnewspaper – the sports section, as usual. So, I decided to take out my list of grievances. “Why can’t you put your soiled clothes in the hamper in the bathroom after you take a shower, Bill? You’d save me a couple of chores and my back ache?” His expression was like a kid wondering why the sky is blue. “What hamper?” “That large, white, rattan bin under the bathroom window.”  He sipped his coffee, paused and said, “Is that what it’s for?” “Bill, it’s been there since we moved into this house twenty years ago.” That’s when it hit me. Is his eyesight going, too? I decided to do some testing. “Bill, did you notice we have a huge, furry, brown spider on our bedroom ceiling?” With his attention glued in the pages of the football news, I got, “Ahhuh!” “I looked it up on the computer.It’s poisonous – and it’s on your side just over your head,”“Ah huh!”No emotion.

“By the way, I thought, for our vacation, we should do something different – like going on a safari to Nairobi. What do you think?” “Ah huh!”  Exasperated, I started to do the dishes. Then, I began thinking. If he can read the newspaper with so much concentration and fervor, nothing is wrong with his eye sight. They couldn’t be failing. So, maybe, it’s his mind – his concentration. He couldbe pretending to be reading and holding that newspaper so that I wouldn’t suspect his mind isn’t working like before. Gee! And, here I am, harping on trivial things. So, I decided to test him.

Last summer, when they went on sale, we bought a ceiling fan for the living room but left it in the garage. The salesman advised us to use one of their men rather than try and install it ourselves. Bill got testy. “I can do it, thank you!” he told the salesman. “Well,” began the salesman, taking in his weight – suitable for beach combing, and his hands whose nails were neatly manicured. “Besidesrisking getting an unwanted haircut, we’ve heard stories of guys trying to do that job and now havefewer fingers.”  Bill huffed. “I’ll take that chance.”

“Bill, what about installing that fan we bought in October?” He looked up. “What fan?” “That ceiling fan – the one we got on sale.” “Oh, that! There’s plenty of time. It’s still March,” he said, returning his concentration on his newspaper. Now, I got worried. He may not have even remembered buying it but was just pretending to. “Do you think you can do it?” “Ah huh!” He isn’t listening. So, I now decided to take out the big guns. Picking up the phone I dialed, then waited. “Hi, Stavros! How are you?”

The newspaper lowered. “Stavros! Why are you calling him?” “Listen Stavros! We wondered if you could install a ceiling fan we bought for the living room.”  Tossing aside the newspaper, Bill got to his feet. “Listen!We don’t need him! We got it on sale. There goes the money we saved. I told you I’ll…” After a few more words Ithen hung up and told Bill, “He can’t do it! He’s overloaded with appointments at the moment.Said he’d get back to us when he had an opening. Maybe in June. Maybe later than that. It could mean a hot summer.” Adding, “Or, he may not be able to come at all which means you’ll have to do it.” His expression grew worrisome. He looked up at the ceiling, rubbing his chin. “June! That’s a long way off.”  “Maybe, later,” I piped in. He started to pace the length of the floor, pausing to look up at the ceiling again, gauging the height, recalling the salesman’s warnings. Then, he shrugged. “Guess we’ll just have to wait, eh?” Imagine that! He, actually, made a very practical statement. So, there’s nothing wrong with his head. When he left the room, I really phoned Stavros and made an appointment.

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