Sun Lakes Writers’ Group


Bernice Kantrowitz

I have never used the word “pusillanimous.” Until recently I never knew there was such a word. In addition I didn’t know the correct pronunciation. Recently the word was brought to my attention so I hurriedly Googled it. First, I discovered the correct way to say it. It is pronounced pu-sil-lan-i-mous. In my opinion, it is an obscure word and not many people use it. Even if I used the word, which I would never do, because it is difficult to pronounce and, until recently, the meaning to me was a mystery.

After I Googled the word, I practiced saying it several times until I felt confident enough to ask several friends, at the weekly gathering of our garden club, it they knew what the word meant. As I expected, none had ever heard of it. I felt proud to introduce a new word to the group. Several people attempted to guess the meaning. They didn’t have a clue as to what the word meant but they were willing to go along. I asked them to take a guess as to what the word meant. Their response was a surprise.

Sandy suggested it meant a stingy or a frugal person. Rosie thought it might mean furry. David said it sounded as if it could be a new instrument that takes a person’s pulse. Bill thought it would be a great name for a rock band. Marty took a guess that it could be a city in the Middle East. And Jake thought it could be the name of a urinary infection. “Don’t feel stupid if you can’t pull the word out of your vocabulary,” I consoled them, “it is not frequently used and I had never heard it before either,” I confessed.

I understand it is commonly used in Great British and they are welcome to it. Its too aristocratic a word and doesn’t fit in with our democratic way of life. Frankly I don’t even like the sound of it. Any word that starts with the letters “p” and “u” can’t have a good ending and I’m not tempted to use them. Still I had no idea what the word meant until I looked it up and found that it is derived from the Latin words “pusillas” which means very small and “animus” which means spirit. Still the full meaning of the word eluded me until I discovered that pusillanimous means “lacking courage and resolution and marked by contemptible timidity.” Not everyone would have the courage to say that to another person because they might know the definition of the word and it could get nasty. As when Jack London, the renowned author, who knew how to give a tongue lashing, once said, “Why you pusillanimous piece of dirt, you’d run with your tail between your legs if I said ‘boo.’” Jack London knew how to express his feelings of anger and resentment aimed at a person who lacked courage to speak his mind. I’d love to have the opportunity to say that to someone. But chances are I never will since I’m slightly pusillanimous myself. I could try it out on a small, youngish dog.

But just as it takes two to tango it takes two when the “pu” word is involved. In order to keep the world in balance we have those who use the word pitted against those who do not know and do not care to know the meaning of the word and would never use it if they did. These non pusillanimous users are the good people who say, “You’re doing great,” or “I’m glad we had this conversation.” They can be victims of the users of the “pu” word. The vocabulary challenged may never discover the insult but if they know the meaning of the word they may find this a painful experience and there is no way to soften the blow.

But there is another side to pusillanimous. After telling the people I interviewed what the word meant they immediately started to use it frequently but not in a bad way. Almost as a joke, every time they made a mistake or did something wrong they would say, “I am really pusillanimous today.” When anyone made a mistake they aimed the insult at someone else in the group, or at me, and we all had a good time.

Truthfully, I’m glad I got to know the word pusillanimous. I must learn not to judge words by their familiarity. “Just because a word is difficult to pronounce and it has a negative connotation, is no reason to discriminate,” I tell myself. It’s a really good word to add to my vocabulary. Although I fear that unless I use it frequently I’ll forget about it. Would that make me pusillanimous?

The Tavern of Dreams

Phyllis Oliver

Last Friday evening, I decided to go with a friend to the, ‘Tavern of Dreams’; they were known for the best Bar-be-Que ribs in town! My friend lived a few doors from my house – she was here this end of October for the Snow-Birds’ winter season. Having driven all the way from Minnesota – she was ready for a delicious meal without having to cook it herself. She hadn’t time yet to refill her bare pantry. When she left at the end of April the food items were either donated or given to neighbors. We left around 6:30 p.m. and as we entered I was amazed at the noise level! The loud atmosphere with laughter and giggling was like changing from colors black to white! It woke me up as I was tired from a week of routine work and looked forward to not cooking on my Friday night. “What a lot of noise,” I yelled to my friend, Bernice. “Yes, it really is;” she answered – “you will get use to it in a few minutes.” “I hope so,” I shouted back – “let’s find a place to sit.” We choose a booth in the back of the room with comfortable padded seats and tall back cushions and it was less noisy. Look at the bar it is crowded – you couldn’t even get in to order a drink if you wanted one! Yes, she retorted, they are certainly busy. At the end of the bar, across from our table was a tall, large man with a bottle of beer in front of him and two shot glasses – he was staring at them like he expected them to say something? “What is his problem?”, Bernice asked me? I don’t know – but he sure is staring like they mean something? He turned to both of us and smiled – you could tell that under the beard and mustache he had dimples! What a smile like he just won a grand prize! I kicked Bernice under the table to get her attention – “I don’t think he is flirting; I think he is just happy!” She agreed with me as our waitress appeared and took our order. The man had turned around and looked at the bar tender standing in front of him – they said a few words to each other as the man picked up the first shot glass – “Down the Hatch,” he said very loud, then picked up the beer bottle and gulped it until it was about half gone. He looked at his watch and after exactly 10 minutes had gone by – I know because I had glanced at my watch when our meal arrived; as he announced his first “Down the Hatch.” He then repeated the shot glass routine and finished off the beer bottle. He laid the beer bottle down sideways on the counter and after about 20 minutes of him just sitting and staring at the mirror across from him; he waved to the bar tender and yelled, yipeeeeekiooatteeeeyeaaa! Everyone looked at him and one women stopped as her fork loaded with food stayed inches from her mouth as she stared in disbelief – he turned away from the bar stool as the bar tender came up to him and whispered in his ear – he then skipped hopped and the yipeeeekiooatteeeeeueaaa! Was yelled even louder if possible and I thought the women that had finally gotten the food into her mouth was going to lose it – as I started to laugh; everyone around us was giggling and Bernice was wiping tears from her eyes! One customer even said; “what, not again, he did that last week!” After the man took two more hops and skips he reached the wide swinging double door – he turned and looked at all of us as he did one more Yipeee! I was by this time in the giggle stage and didn’t believe someone would act like that! “What a riot he is”- I said to Bernice – “what a character.” The bar tender approached our table and said – that man is a character – he does that act every Friday night! He was told six years ago that he had three months to live from a very unusual disease with no cure. They immediately hospitalized him; changed his blood with healthier and began chemicals that would reduce his symptoms – they hoped. He went home with an agreement to try the new unproved drugs – his daily routine starts with 30 minutes of exercise; then two pills followed with any fruit juice of his choice. He then has to eat protein and or a grain. After that, he had seven more strong pills to take. Then, he could enjoy some coffee and watch news. He had three hours to do as he pleased which was usually to do necessary shopping or reading, etc. Then, a two hour rest and a drink of liquid medication that in his opinion tasted like paper. After his two hour nap he had to do another exercise program for one hour. He was then allowed free time but at 6:00 p.m. he had to eat a dinner of green vegetables with a protein and four more pills! Yes, he was tired of it all – the pills, tests and check-ups BUT – he was still here. He was allowed two shots of brandy/whiskey along with one beer a week. That is what you witnessed tonight! His celebration that he was still here ALIVE – one more week!

The ‘Ologists’

Ellie Clark

The other day as I sat drinking a cup of coffee thinking about my doctor’s appointment that afternoon I wondered to myself “Where would we be without the “ologists?” Do you think that our “old family doctors” would be stunned to find that they have been replaced by “the ologists?” For 30 years I had the same family doctor. He diagnosed, treated, operated if necessary, delivered my daughter, became her doctor, and helped me through difficult life experiences. Coincidentally, his name was Clark. Dana V. Clark, and he was a product of Johns Hopkins.

The good news is I was able to find a replacement for him here in Arizona. I’ll try to describe them: I now have, or have had a Family Medicine Doctor, a Neurologist, Dermatologist, Rheumatologist, Ophthalmologist, Retinologist, Radiologist, Gastroenterologist, Psychologist, Oncologist, and a Cardiologist. They all provide excellent care, but the fact is, it’s difficult to squeeze them in when it comes to making office visits. I understand they have busy schedules, why not? They have all of us to care for. We need these “ologists.”

In addition to the confusion of keeping all of these “ologists” straight thee is the issue of drugs. It seems the calls to the offices of the “ologists” relative to prescription renewals are never ending.

We are blessed to have all these medical experts available to us in this era, and doubly blessed if we have the memory yet to keep them all straight.

Just in case…

Yvonne White

Why do we all have a certain drawer or shelf designated for only ones use…just in case?

Growing up in the 1940s my Grandma Louise had a large drawer in her Bird Eye Maple dresser. Mother would say, “I don’t want you going into Grandma’s dresser drawer, unless she is in the room and allows you to look.” Ah, the mystery, I really wanted to look! I couldn’t comprehend everything in that drawer! Grandma Louise played 500 and Bridge and I saw bridge pads, cocktail napkins. She also “got together with the ladies” a lot since she was a widow for 25 years. There were pretty hankies, perfume bottles, note cards and stationery. I also saw a section of little toys.

One day I asked her, “Grandma, why do you have so much stuff in that drawer?” She said, “I need to pick things up for people that have been nice to me, who are sick and need them…just in case something comes up.”

Susan, a friend of mine, has two shelves in her cupboard with candy! She has Starbursts, gummies, Reese’s peanut butter chocolate and several big Hershey chocolate bars. She is very slender and is a triathlete. She treats herself, her friends and her children. Some how that is her space available when she wishes to give to someone when an opportunity arises. I love those shelves. I could never have a collection of candy, because the shelves would always be empty!

I have a friend Lori who has a shelf that only someone 5’8” or taller can reach. The shelf is always full of organic or regular chips-many opened and many still unused. I have never heard of some brands. They are from the local supermarket, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods or another store someone recommended to her.

I don’t have a dresser drawer full or a kitchen shelf. I do have in Minnesota and Arizona a section of a shelf in my pantry sometimes growing to a whole shelf with things to eat for my four grandchildren. I have small apple juice bottles, holiday cakes, fun fruits, gum drops, and a certain kind of pretzels for one grandson. I also have Ocean Spray Cranberry/Raspberry juice that the grandchildren only know as Red Juice! Recently I had to go to a meeting and said to our visiting family from Minnesota that they could eat anything in the pantry. When I returned, the apple juice, fun fruits, and other items were gone! That is fine since I am down-sizing on items in the pantry. I checked the two Easter decorative cans and gumdrops and pretzels were also gone!

Why do we stash things away? We want to be prepared, need comfort food, have a sense of security, and live a long way from a grocery store. It is good to look in a dresser drawer, on a shelf, or in a pantry and know we will have what we need…just in case the need arises.