Wednesday, September 17, 2014


             (Time once again for “Dear Witbones -- Ask A Humorist!” my agony uncle advice column for the laughlorn. This month: New Hampshire cars and winter weather)

            DEAR WITBONES:
            This may be outside your area of expertise, but I either have a car problem or a terrain problem. I live at the bottom of a steep hill in the New Hampshire North Country, and whenever I accelerate rapidly, my car hesitates, almost like it’s going to stall, then I hear a sound which I can only describe as a “kah-tick-bang-whoosh.” This repeats a few times, then the car takes off like I was shot out of a cannon. What gives? Signed: JUICED UP IN JACKSON
            DEAR JUICED:
You didn’t mention your automobile’s year, make & model, but this is a common problem with any car made between 1902 and 2014, and any rural NH car salesman will tell you that every car is supposed to go “kah-tick-bang-whoosh.”
            We might first examine why you’re finding it necessary to “accelerate rapidly.” Unless you’re robbing banks, I don’t understand your need for speed off the line. It greatly reduces gas mileage and increases your need to decelerate rapidly, depending on the weather, local police whereabouts, and proximity of the moose.
            And, you’re right about my lack of mechanical prowess. I am familiar with a “kah-tick-bang-whooshy” sound when I first get up in the morning, but I’m seeing a doctor for it.
            I do know that combustion engines here best start and run smoothly by integrating the right amounts of gasoline, oil, prayer, cursing and pounding the steering wheel.
            And, try to remember that there are people in this world who make their livings being shot out of cannons. You might consider it.
             DEAR WITBONES:   
            The days are rapidly getting shorter and colder, and I’ve thought of leaving New Hampshire and going to Florida this winter but I’m afraid of manatees. How can I last until spring? Signed: HUNKERED DOWN IN HAVERHILL
            DEAR HUNKERED:
            I don’t want to alarm you, and try not to think about this, but manatees have been spotted as far north as Cape Cod. This means that if one of them turned left into Connecticut and followed the river, with a portage or two it could eventually make its way into Haverhill, NH, coming ashore at Bedell Bridge State Park, and with the help of a sympathetic motorist, flap-beat a path to your house.
            If you hear a heavy thudding sound on your porch, I wouldn’t answer the door.
            Meanwhile, try a sun lamp, and take comfort in the fact that manatees don’t do well on ice.
            DEAR WITBONES:
            I know it’s not politically correct and I feel guilty about saying it, but with another New Hampshire winter upon us, I’m looking forward to global warming. A friend says that I don’t know the difference between climate and weather. I say they’re the same thing. Am I wrong?  Signed: DEFROSTING IN DALTON
            DEAR DEFROSTING:
            Here’s a simple test: Have you ever asked anyone with a hangover if they’re feeling “under the climate”?
            I see that you’re finding it hard to reconcile the difference, especially when The Farmer’s Almanac says that we’re in for a record-setting cold winter, but you must try to apply the same “you can’t get there from here” logic that we’re so fond of here. Or there, if you can make it.
            Thus, if you’re guilt-struck because you find the notion of retreating glaciers, rising oceans, ozone depletion and species extinction preferable to a couple extra weeks of scraping your windshield, perhaps you have a problem with what psychiatrists like to call “sanity.”
            I suggest you bundle up and stop reading advice columns from humorists.

* * * * *

Copyright 2014 by B. Elwin Sherman. All rights reserved. Questions for his agony uncle “WITBONES - Ask A Humorist!" column may be submitted to: WITBONES, c/o B. Elwin Sherman, P.O. Box 300, Bethlehem, NH, 03574. Or, you may e-mail Elwin via his blog.   

Monday, September 8, 2014


Straddlin' the Cog on "The Rock Pile."

23 windchilling degrees atop Mt. Washington.

Just another mild summer day.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


THIS COLUMN'S A BIT OF A DEPARTURE FOR ME, but If your life is touched by Parkinson's disease or other chronic illness, I hope you'll be well-served by it.

Please click on "Steps With Sam And Cecelia." 

Walk along for a bit.

      Sam and Cecilia had been together for fifty years when I entered their lives as one of Sam’s home caregivers. Sam had Parkinson’s disease. So did Cecilia. Sam’s was seated in his brain and body. Cecelia, as Sam’s lifelong partner, had it in her heart and soul.
     This is the crux of the challenge for any healthcare professional providing direct patient care in any home or clinical environment: recognizing that all our patients come to us with problems that also deeply disaffect the lives of others, and that our assessments and interventions must always include the patient’s “inner circle” of support.
     In my 35 years of nursing practice, I’ve tried to operate from a self-imposed simple premise: meet people where they are, not where you want them to be. Easy to say, but also easy to overlook when one is so focused on fixing and healing everything (as caregivers are wont to do), even when curing has been removed from the language.
     I emphasize the latter, because aside from right here, “healing” and “curing” have no business in the same sentence. I’ve witnessed extraordinary healing when curing has turned from elusive to improbable to impossible. No matter the critical mass, there is always healing to be done up to the moment of a passing … and beyond the loss, for those left behind.
     To meet people where they are, we need only call up the words of Florence Nightingale: “Let whoever is in charge keep this simple question in their head: not how can I always do this right thing myself, but how can I provide for this right thing to be always done?”
     With Sam and Cecelia, this presented clearly, but a clear path alone does not provide the ability needed to navigate it. As Sam’s caregiver, my plan was to help both him and Cecelia create an environment where they could enjoy optimum quality of life, and provide times and places where they could best take what Confucius called “action steps” --- measures that helped them remain true to their true characters and life together, especially when the goals changed or became unattainable due to the intractable constraints of PD.
      Here, we needn’t belabor the host of variables that come with Parkinson’s, and how what is universal in all sufferers presents itself on so many levels. What works for one patient has little or no effect on another. Even more challenging, what works today, or even this hour to ease pain and keep one purposeful, may not work tomorrow or an hour from now.
     As time passed, I watched Sam’s form and function change. My interventions, often invented on the spot, had near miraculous effects in the resulting behaviors, or they had no impact at all. Frustrating for Sam and disheartening for Cecelia, as she watched her husband transform from the man she’d intimately known for half a century into a figure that she hardly recognized. Worse, and most difficult to bear … into a man who didn’t recognize her.
     My job (never forgetting Ms. Nightingale) was not to do the right things, but to help create ways for the right things to be always done.
     I constantly discussed Sam’s changing cognition and somatic functions with Cecelia, and we worked together to deal with what she called “little pieces of him falling away,” and to find venues that Sam could effectively use in adapting to those losses, even the ones for which he was becoming increasingly unaware.
     As he had more “freezing” episodes, we’d switch his walking cues from using a metronome, to following a laser pen light dot on the floor, to setting “the blue stick” down (a colored ruler that, when placed in front of him, somehow “triggered” his legs to move).
     Sometimes, it was as simple as a tug on his sleeve, or a repeated verbal cue, or an awful limerick, or a suggestion of a song. Sam had sung professionally for years, and giving him the opening lyric to “As Time Goes By,” could send him into a lucid and soulful rendition of it, and for reasons that only poets can explain, immediately set his feet in motion.
     Using input from Cecelia on their times gone by together, I could sidetrack Sam from his difficulty finding words which he might voice as nonsensical, by showing him old photographs, taking him for rides in the country past boyhood haunts, even once visiting the cemetery where his parents were buried, prompting him to regale me with anecdotes of them and other relatives lined up there.
     Those little reorientations helped to keep Sam Sam --- the Sam who knew Cecelia as his long-beloved, and who was still giving and receiving that love.
     Even near the end, as Sam’s tremors and halting gait increased, as his speech became softer and less intelligible, as the medications were less effective, as his windows of cognition closed, there were flashes of good humor and returns to the now.
     At one late lunch, I asked Sam how he liked the pizza. He froze, holding a slice in mid-air. Several minutes passed. We sat in silence. Finally, he grinned, looked up at me and faintly said, with just a hint of his all-Sam mischievousness: “If you’re waiting for me to speak, you might have a long wait.”
     Later, Cecelia told me: “I can see more and more that it’s becoming one step up and two steps back … but we’re still walking them together.”
     Action steps.
     Healing as time goes by.

* * * * *

Senior Wire News Service Syndicated Humor 
Columnist B. Elwin Sherman writes from 
Bethlehem, NH. He is an author, humorist 
and long-time eldercare and hospice nurse. 
His latest book is “Walk Tall and Carry a Big 
Watering Can,” from Plaidswede Publishing. 
 Copyright 2014. Photo by B. Elwin Sherman. All rights 
reserved. Used here with permission.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


KUDOS TO THE LOWE'S DELIVERY GUY, when he delivered my new white stove and dishwasher, and I joked (with all the seriousness I could muster) about how they would now clash with my old black refrigerator, and what was I to do?

He deadpanned: "Learn to live with diversity."

Monday, July 14, 2014



I can appreciate people rioting over human rights abuses, animal cruelty, corporate thievery, even the loss of Twinkies, but going berserk and burning down the town because 11 guys couldn't kick a dimpled ball into a giant mosquito net ... well ... I'll never get it.