“Look at this picture,” Dave said. He held the front page of The Tennessean in front of me. (He reads the newspaper while I read the computer.)

It was a bowl of white round balls, taken during yesterday’s fierce storms. Hail. I read the caption.

“Half the size of golf balls,” I said. “Hm. Now why wouldn’t they just choose some other measure if it’s half the size of a golf ball?”

“I don’t know…” he muttered, taking the paper back in front of his face.

“Half the size of a golf ball…that could be, well, one of those little rubber balls that you get on one of those wooden paddles. Or, a big marble…like a shooter. No, nobody knows marbles any more.”

“It doesn’t say ‘half’‘,” Dave said. “It says ‘hail the size of golf balls’.”

He pushed the picture in front of me again. I laughed my morning laugh so big I had to wipe my eyes.

I do that a lot. I see words that are not there. (I laugh a lot, too.) Actually, the word might be there–I just see something entirely different. I’m pretty sure this malady is related to aging. The first time I noticed this complication of comprehension I was reading the newspaper. Same newspaper. Living section.

The headline I read said, “Teens Show Renewed Interest in Screwing”. I blinked. I’m sure my mouth dropped open.

“Renewed?” I asked aloud and hurried to the body of the story.

Sewing. Young people are making more of their own clothes (“sewing”), like they used to (“renewed interest”). “Teens Show Renewed Interest in SEWING.”

I would worry about myself if these perception predicaments were less entertaining.

“Did you hear your mom and dad yesterday, when we were holed up downstairs, talking about ping pong balls versus golf balls?”

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “They were wondering why the weather people use golf balls to tell the size of hail instead of ping pong balls.”

We took to The Cellar yesterday after the storm sirens had blared for about fifteen minutes. We had Murphy, wine, and crackers and the TV and computers were still working, so it wasn’t too bad. The hail pelted Downtown Nashville, Channel 4’s Lisa Spencer told us, ice the size of golf balls.

“Your brother’s ex-wife was a ping-pong champion,” Dad said.

“Really?” I said. “I never knew that.”

“Oh yeah, I never saw anybody that could beat her.”

“Huh.” There wasn’t much to say to that.

Dad went on. “A ping pong ball is a lot lighter than a golf ball.”

“Aren’t they about the same size, a ping pong ball and a golf ball?” I asked.

Dave got in the game. “I think a golf ball is bigger.”

“A ping pong ball doesn’t have anything inside. Just air,” Dad said.

“We know that,” Mom answered.

“That’s why you can hit a golf ball further. It’s the weight.”

“We know that,” she said again.

I updated my Facebook status three or four times while we were hunkered down. First I said it was time for Merle’s song, “Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink.” Lisa Spencer gave us minute-by-minute accounts of where the center of the storm system was located so my FBF’s (Facebook Friends) were up to date. I said there was golf ball hail downtown and that it was so dark, the weather reporters warned us that we might not be able to see a tornado. Lisa told us the storm was moving at sixty miles per hour–so I told, too.

I reported, and my FBF’s responded–as they had earlier. We’re thinking of you. Be safe. The Lord protect you. Stay covered. Praying. I was moved by the expressions. I reminded myself to more often offer words of encouragement, and hope, and consolation. Everyone needs to know that someone cares.

The winds and rain moved over us in a very few minutes. Really, over us. Mom finished her snack mix. Actually, she finished everything but the pretzels. She asked Dave if he wanted them. He did.

Okay, I posted, it’s done, but there’s another severe thunderstorm coming. I knew that because Lisa Spencer couldn’t wait to tell us.

Dad said, “Well, I think it’s time to go on home. And I’m going up the stairs.” He was referring to the stairs that lead from their apartment down to the courtyard. I suppose that’s their front door.

Mom said, “No, I’m going back up the inside stairs. I don’t have shoes on.”

“Dad,” I said, “You don’t need to climb those stairs, either. They’ll be slick. Get on the lift.” After several exchanges, he agreed to accommodate my wishes.

The power never went out until everything calmed down. I guessed the Nashville Electric Service guys were working on a pole somewhere in our neighborhood. I took my flashlight and went to bed. It was early.

This morning, after Dave and I guffawed over my mistaken reading of the photo caption, I checked out the difference between a ping pong ball and a golf ball. Hear ye, hear ye! A ping pong ball is 40 mm in diameter, was 38 mm until October 2000 when they changed the rule. The 38 mm ball traveled faster and had more spin; I wondered why they wanted to change it. A golf ball is no less than 42.67 mm wide. Leave it to the people who knock around a little thing with a skinny stick to get nit-pickily detailed about the diameter of their ball.

But I like that “no less than” part. That means that somebody like me–someone who needs a club as wide as a ping pong paddle to hit that dimpled little ball–could play with a larger target of the swing! I might do that.

I’m not sure there’s a lot of difference between 40 mm hail and 42.67 mm hail. Either one produces big dents in vehicle bodies and hurts when it hits your head. Even hail of much smaller proportions creates great damage: strips crops, pelts holes in a shingled roof, destroys property. So it probably was of little consequence if what I saw in The Tennessean was “half the size of golf balls” or “hail the size of golf balls”. I’ll probably make more mistakes like that, you know, just reading it wrong.

This morning, I saw that some of my old friends from high school posted that I ought to get myself back to California. Come home. I checked my FB posts to see if I had made them sound like I was scared. No, at least not to me. We weren’t scared, but we were exercising appropriate caution. I was entertained, and I was entertaining myself by posting updates.

Come home, it said; another, move back here.

And then I thought, Wait a minute. These people are the same age as I am. No doubt they have the same reading problem as I do. They just read it wrong. 

I had to respond, “I am home”.

***

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