Reflections On a Life, Ghoti equals FISH, ALS challenge

“Poopsy. Come back,” It was my father’s voice on the CB radio. “Come back” meant something like “Do you copy me? Do you here me? Please reply.”
My husband was driving. We were on the way to New Hampshire for a vacation; my only child at the time was 5 or 6 and asleep in the backseat.

“10-4, Daddy,” I replied (rolling my eyes). He and my mother were following us in their pick-up. We had a two bedroom cabin reserved for the five of us in North Conway. It was 1987 and it was his idea to use CBs on the trip, so one vehicle could converse with the other one. My father and I were not cut from the same cloth, and it’s not just because I was adopted and towered over him in height.

I was artsy. He was street smart, a mechanic, a fixer.

I was introspective. He was outgoing.

I loved him dearly but always felt a disconnect.

I heard his voice come over the channel: “Check out the sky to your right. Over.”

I smiled. I’d been watching the interesting cloud, the only one in the clear summer sky. It seemed to hover over the mountain range in the distance like a mushroom. Or a spacecraft. It was thick, pure white, seeming so solid that it rested on the mountain physically but I knew that was an illusion. “I see it. I’ve been watching it.”

“Yeah, I figured you’d like that. That’s something I knew you’d like. Didn’t want you to miss it. Over and out.”

It brought a tear to my eye. He “got” me. He really did.

Ghoti = Fish

I do read a lot of memoirs. I wrote about my own father in my memoir “Under the Banana Moon.” I’m interested in relationships between people; between mothers and fathers/daughters and sons. I’ve just finished reading Jeannette Walls’ book “Half-Broke Horses.” In the book, which reads like a novel, Jeannette’s grandparents are the focus, in particular her grandmother Lily. It’s Jeannette’s great grandfather who is injured in a ranch horse accident as a child and survives, albeit with a limp and a speech impediment. I identify with this because my late spouse had a problem communicating due to ALS which eventually not only garbled his words, but robbed him of his voice, and took his life.

Like my spouse, the man can only be understood by those people closest to him when he speaks. People who hear him every day and understand how he slurs his vowels that he can’t quite say clearly and skips his consonants through no fault of his own. But inside Jeannette’s great grandpa’s head is a very intelligent, articulate, opinionated man. He has this thing about phonetics. He writes long letters to people in ‘higher-up’ positions; trying to change the English language. He feels it should be written out exactly as it sounds. Too many illogical spellings! Too many silent letters! To prove his point, he deliberately spells the word: FISH, like this: Ghoti. And he says if the English language made any sense, then the word GHOTI should be pronounced FISH. Here is his reasoning:

ghoti is pronounced fish because:

gh– this has the “f” sound as used in the word “laugh”

o– this letter has the “short i” sound, as in the word “women”

ti– this is pronounced “sh” as in the word “notion”

So you see, he concludes, ghoti is pronounced fish. There you have it.

People and their interests, quirks, idiosyncracies…they’re very interesting to me.

I was thinking about my late husband (his birthday’s Friday. He would’ve been 52 had he lived.) My grandson (who never met his late grandfather) was telling me how he climbed a mountain with his Dad. So I told him a story about his late grandpa, and about a mountain of his he just had to climb.

There’s a lot of ALS talk in the news and on social media these days, what with everyone pouring ice water over their heads to raise awareness. But in 2001, he was newly diagnosed, and although I’d researched everything I could about ALS, you have to “live with it” up close and personal to get a sense of how tragic it really is. He could still drive but he was wobbly and our new rambunctious puppy jumping on him or a child running through a grocery store was enough to topple him. He was weak. Slower. His muscles were starting to waste.


We brought two of the kids, aged 12 and 7 with us to a park with a gurgling stream where we fished in healthier days (or uh ghoti’ed), and we took a small walk with the puppy on a bright red leash. I didn’t want my husband to tire so I thought we’d take it easy. He had other plans. You see, the mountain looked a lot like the one pictured above, taken from; expect our mountain had graffiti across the rock faces. Anyway, he told me he was going to climb that mountain. I told him he was crazy. Did he want to die? Flippantly he told me he was going to die anyway. I watched (I couldn’t NOT watch) as he scaled that mountain, with the puppy leading the way on his red leash. I looked away. I looked back, and each time I looked he was closer to the top.

I yelled, “Are you trying to kill yourself???”

But he kept going. Then…there he was at the top. Holding on to that leash, just a little too close to the edge for my liking.

I yelled for him to please come down. He was teetering on a topmost cliff, looking down on me, at the view. He came down slowly, and I knew those “paths.” They were barely paths at all. They were steep, craggy, treacherous for even the healthy sure-footed. He made it. When he approached me, he handed over the dog and leash and I scolded him again.

“It’s the last mountain I’ll ever climb,” he said.

It was then that I “got it.” He would turn out to be right. It was the last mountain he would climb. He had a wonderful lady by the name of Gretchen who helped fit him with various braces, shoe inserts and walkers in the beginning of his care. I adored her. At over 6 feet, with a no nonsense short haircut and a sharp wit, she was just the right person to catch someone if they toppled. I trusted her. And so it was to her that I complained about my husband. It was the dead of winter, a terrible snowy winter and it was often mine and my husband’s calling to shovel out the driveway of our elderly neighbor across the street. We’d wait till we knew she was in bed so she wouldn’t know who’d done it because we were afraid she’d tell us she was fine with being snowed in, don’t bother with her, go away.

So I told Gretchen how just the night before, my husband had insisted on coming with me to shovel that driveway. I worried.

“He can’t lift the shovel very well. It’s so heavy for him. Won’t he overwork his tired muscles?  What if he over-does it? What if he drops?” I said to Gretchen.

She said, “He’s a big boy. Let him do whatever he feels capable of doing right now.”

It’s too late to CURE him of ALS. I challenge you to dump ice water on your head and post it online… Hey this is working, donations are at an all time high.

RIP Howard R. Tucker III

8/15/62 to 6/15/05


Coming in my next blog: Pictures of food cut in half. Because.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s