Cumberland Times-News

Columns

May 25, 2013

Something like this would irritate you, too

CUMBERLAND — Why it is, I’m not sure, but it takes a lot more to irritate me than it once did.

Maybe it’s because I’m just getting older and being irritated takes more mental energy than I’m willing to expend, or maybe it’s because I haven’t played golf for several years.

As an unknown fellow once said, were it not for women, work and golf, men would have to find another reason to smoke, drink and swear. (I say this as a man who, on occasion, has given women reason to do those things.)

My recollection is that as they grew older, my dad and Uncle Abe both grew less irritable. They were brothers and, for as different as they seemed as younger men, the more alike they became as they aged — at least in my eyes, and in those of my cousins Cyndy and Craig.

I don’t know that Dad or Abe ever played golf, although they used to caddy for their father. He dragged them along on his days off from the barber shop to play on Horse Lough’s old nine-hole course that stretched across the mountains behind Potomac State College in Keyser.

“God help us,” Dad told me, “if your grandfather hit a ball and we couldn’t find it.”

Past tribulations like this may be one of the reasons neither of them took up the game (which has been described as a good walk spoiled), because my grandfather had the capacity to become spectacularly irritated.

It is possible to become irritated because of someone you love, but without making it personal. You are irritated at the situation — not at the one who caused it.

I was fortunate enough to be present when my grandfather was stretched out in his recliner and his beloved Chihuahua “Pepi” jumped onto his lap, ran up his length and gave him a kiss.

That done, Pepi turned end for end and relieved himself — with my grandfather’s nose at point blank range — of an invisible, but distinctly audible and fragrant case of lower gastrointestinal pressure.

To say that Granddad was irritated would be an understatement of the first water. My laughing hysterically didn’t help matters any.

It would astound me to learn that my grandfather, my father or my uncle ever swore at their wives or in any way threatened them. Just not something they would ever do.

My father did, however, become irritated on occasion because of something my mother had done.

Dad used to drink his coffee with milk and two sugars. Mom drank hers black, with no sugar. (I drink mine black with no sugar or anything else in it, except maybe some Bailey’s.)

When Mom arranged the table for dinner, she would put milk and sugar in Dad’s cup and then fill it with coffee after we sat down to eat. Now and then, she forgot to add the sugar.

Dad would take a taste of it, snort a few times and bellow, “(Two-word Anglo-Saxonism), I’ve been poisoned!”

Never once did I make such an assertion at the table ... although one time I did pick up and eat a piece of food I had dropped on the floor. Mom admonished me, and I replied, “Aw, Mother, if it’s clean enough to walk on, it’s clean enough to eat off of.”

There were other things I did to irritate my parents, but I was smart enough to do most of them only one time.

Most of what irritates me these days involves something I’ve seen on television, and it has nothing to do with acts of stupidity committed by Snooki, the Kardashians or other subjects of so-called reality shows.

I’ve been following the PBS series about the Constitution, hosted by Peter Sagal, and it is — as they say — TV worth watching.

However, one episode referred to the three important freedoms protected by the First Amendment: freedom of speech, religion and the press.

“Wait a minute!” I exclaimed, jumping at least partway out of my recliner (much like my grandfather once did). “What about the rights of the people to peacefully assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievance?”

They’re part of the First Amendment, too, and are just as important as the other three.

Also, maps of America’s colonial period were displayed, and they showed the outline of the state of Virginia as it exists today — without what’s now West Virginia, which was part of Virginia until June 20, 1863.

The History Channel does the same thing. Sometimes it shows West Virginia as part of Virginia during the post-1863 period, or vice-versa.

History has irritated me on other occasions, most notably in what otherwise was a marvelous series on the World War II battles for Leyte Gulf. The computer-generated footage looked like it was produced by high-definition photography.

I enjoyed it until they showed a closeup of an American destroyer flying a 50-star flag.

History also presented what could be described as a Reader’s Digest version of the Bible. It took a few liberties, such as that of leading the viewer to believe that the John who wrote Revelation was the Apostle John. Wrong.

Stupid. Stupid. And it’s usually something so simple. The people who produce these shows are paying a lot of money to expert advisers who are supposed to get things right.

Political correctness that results in a bungled misrepresentation of what is, or is not, also irritates me.

During the 1988 Olympic Games, one of the TV announcers kept referring to sprinter Ben Johnson as an “African-American.”

Finally, one of the other announcers told him, “Ben Johnson is a Canadian.”

When the Capt. Gary and 1Sgt. Goldy go to Little Round Top to act as living historians, we answer a lot of questions from tourists.

If we don’t know the answer, we’re honest and tell them we don’t know ... but we’ll find out.

The biggest danger associated with presenting a politically correct, but incomplete or inaccurate version of history or anything else is that sooner or later, people will find out the truth.

That’s when they’ll start wondering how else they’ve been lied to.

Speaking of history: Tomorrow is Memorial Day. When you meet a veteran or someone who is on active duty, thank him or her for your freedom.

And if your town has a Memorial Day program, it would be a nice idea for you to attend. You’ll feel better for having done so.

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