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January 17, 2014

My cousin Janie called me at work this morning I told my wife Elaine during dinner.
“Janie from Norwalk?” She asked handing me a dish of meatloaf.
“”Yep. That very one.” I told her smacking the ketchup bottle over the meatloaf.
“What did she want? I thought you guys weren’t speaking.”
“I didn’t know we were. I haven’t heard from her in over ten years—not since Dad’s funeral. Pass the mashed potatoes.”
“So?”  Elaine asked. “What did she need?”
“Nothing actually. She just wanted to know if I was feeling OK— and when I said that I was, she asked me when was the last time I had my testicles checked. Especially the right one she said. I told her who knows and she urged me to see a doctor right away. Peas please.”
“Did she tell you what’s going on with her family?”
“No. She just kept pushing me to have my balls checked and really didn’t want to chat.”
“Don’t tell me it’s starting with your generation too?” Elaine scoffed.  
“I guess so. She said that last night was the second time that she had the dream. The first was a week ago. She said that Grandma had come to her in the dream both times and asked her to call and alert me.”
“Well what are you going to do?” She asked.  “And must you mix the peas into the mashed potatoes?”
“I’ve already done it. I’ve scheduled myself for a physical next week. And yes, I must and you must also.”
“You’ve fallen into the same trap as all your aunts and uncles. Do you realize that?”  Elaine wanted to know.
“What would you like me to do? Ignore her call?”
“Yes. That would be the most sensible and logical thing to do.”
“That might be so but all I can think about is my right nut and I’m due for a physical anyway so what’s the harm?”
Elaine pushed back from the table and walked over to the stove. Her short black hair bobbed as she walked. When she turned back towards the table with a pot in her hands I noticed her furrowed brow, which didn’t detract from her cute pixie-like appearance. She was like Dick Clark— always looking the same—as if aging wasn’t part of her gene pool.
“The harm is not in the physical,” she said. “It’s in your crazy family and their dream calls. Think of it—there is your mother and then her nine brothers and sisters—your aunts and uncles, and not one of them speak to all of the others. Not one. Not one out of ten. The most they speak to is — wait — follow this. Your mother speaks to Rhoda. Rhoda speaks to your mother and to Sylvia. Sylvia only speaks to Rhoda and Burt. Burt talks with Irving, Les, and Tess. Les and Tess speak only to each other and Burt except that Tess calls Ida on her birthday.  Ida writes Rhoda but speaks to Rose. Rose will speak to anyone if they call her first or speak to her first and Anna is a recluse who no one has seen or spoken to in years. Does that sum it up?  Now from this group enter their children, your cousins, whom I couldn’t begin to name or count and who rarely speak to each other because they have no occasion to get together.”
“Yes, but . . .”
“Wait. It gets better. They will speak at funerals but it is like it’s been choreographed.  “Hello Rhoda.”  “Hello Les.”  And then they go about their business and sit next to the one or ones that they are speaking with. Which, by the way can change from week to week, day to day, or minute to minute . . .”
“Now wait . . .”
  “It gets better still. This family of sick puppies that I married into has dreams.  Most people do dream of course, but when someone in your family dreams about another family member they feel duty bound to inform that person about the dream. And it’s never a win the lotto dream. They are always dreams of doom and gloom.”
“You know I can’t help that they do this. I’m not part of it. I can’t help it if Janie called me. You say forget it, but it’s not your testicle, it’s mine.”
“What would you have done if she dreamt that it was my testicle? Asked Elaine.
“And you call my family weird?”
“Do you really believe that your grandmother who died when you were six years old came down and spoke to your cousin to pass a message to you about your testicle? What’s the matter? Isn’t your grandmother speaking to you?”
“That’s how these things work.”
“I know. Your Uncle Les traded in his two week old car when his sister whom he hadn’t spoken to for twelve years told Tess that she dreamt she saw the Jaws of Life trying to pull him from a wreckage.”

The old saying goes that you can pick your friends but not your family. That night Elaine and I made a pact. She agreed to not bust my you know whats and let me go through with my physical and in return for that, if and when the doctor found nothing wrong, we would divvy up our friends and make family out of them. In essence, we would flaunt convention and choose our family. We wrote a chart; actually Elaine did while lying in bed. She listed all of our friends.  The best ones became siblings and then aunts and uncles and she proceeded on to cousins and she pushed me to agree that these people would become our new family once this testicle dream was put to rest. I went along with it because it just didn’t seem important enough to argue about—except for the positioning of a couple of friends that were no longer couples. I wanted to still keep them as aunts and uncles and Elaine said they could but they had to be single aunts and single uncles and that way we would be true to our friends and ourselves. I think Elaine needs a pet. Probably a nice puppy.”

Dr. Able said, “So tell me Alan, why the sudden rush for a physical? Are you not feeling well? Tell me what hurts. You are getting to that age now where natures planned obsolesce begins taking shape. You could stand to lose a few pounds and I’ll bet when we get the blood tests back that old cholesterol will be up in the two hundreds and most probably the x-rays will show a few spots of arthritis. You’re blood pressure is just a tad high, not bad for a guy who probably hasn’t lifted anything more than the remote or his wiener in years and I can see the beginnings of a few liver spots and hasn’t your hairline receded a little more since I saw you last.  So speak up Alan. What gives?”  
I watched Dr. Michael Able light his new Camel with his old and looked at his gut. I was trying to see if I could find his belt underneath all of the doctor hanging over the front. He wheezed between and during sentences and shuffled over to his desk and tried several times to sit on the edge but finally gave up and just leaned.
“Well Michael I have to tell you that I feel just fine or did until I heard you spit out that list of symptoms. I’m here because I believed that I had been putting my physical off for too long and wanted to come in quickly before it got away from me again. That’s all.”
“That’s what they all say.” Dr. Able said as he stretched a rubber glove over his pudgy right hand. “Hop up on the table ass up head down. Good. OK off the table—once is enough. Now stand over here in front of me and turn your head and cough.” He held my testicle.   “Now the other way. Cough please.”
“Is this the part where we talk about picking out curtains?” I joked weakly.
“No, you missed that part so you’ll have to wait for next year.”
Dr. Able poked, prodded, hammered my knees and ankles, gagged me with the ahh stick and told me to get dressed and meet him in his office after I left a specimen with the nurse.
“Alan, your fine. What gives?”
“How about my testicles?”
“They’re lovely.”
“No really. Is there anything unusual about them—especially the right one?”
“Well besides being considerably larger than the average man which indicates that you must be quite the stud I find nothing wrong.”
“Seriously now. Are you sure?” I asked?
“Quite. What gives with the concern over your cajones?”
“It’s a long story but I have to be sure that they are absolutely OK—especially my right one.”
“I could take them off and send them out for a biopsy.”
“Real funny.”
“OK. When you go next door for your chest x-ray I’ll have them do the jewels too.  Planning on any more kids?” He asked.
“No.” I told him.
“Good.” He said.

It was about a week later and Elaine couldn’t wait for me to get home. She was standing at the open door when I pulled the car into the driveway.
“Hi hon.” I said.
“Your cousin called.”
“Which one now?” I asked.
“Janie. Who else?”
“What’s in my future?”
“She had another dream.” Elaine said smugly.  “She dreamt that she was watching a police lineup.”
“Yeah. And in this lineup she was supposed to pick out one of her family members.”
“Pick out for what?”
“She was the only one who knew which one had a bad testicle.”
“That again? I got a clean bill of health. I got the balls of a twenty year old. And if he finds out I’m in trouble. Ba boom!”
“That was her point. She didn’t pick you out of the lineup. She picked your cousin Jack. Janie apologized and told me that she got confused during her dream and since she has so little contact with everyone it was an honest mistake.”
“Of course. It could happen to anyone. I’m 6’3 and weigh 185 and Jack is 5’5 on a good day and passed 200 pounds years ago. I can understand. I don’t mind the sleepless nights, the physical, the x-rays, the humiliation, the jokes and the all around annoyance. What else did she want? She wanted you to know that she saw you in Indian garb walking across a bed of nails and then sitting down in a rocking chair speaking in sign to a group of hollow-eyed followers as the movie Bambi played on a huge drive-in theater screen behind you.”
“She’s gone over the edge. This has got to stop.  I’ll be in the den for a while, please don’t let anyone disturb me.”

“Hi there. Aunt Tess? This is Marge’s son Alan. That’s right Alan Levy. I’m sorry to bother you but I’ve had the same dream for three nights and I knew that you’d want to know. I dreamt that your little dog Snuggles—you still have the Chihuahua Snuggles? That’s what I thought. Well I’ve had the same dream for three nights now and I just had to share it with you but I really would appreciate it if you didn’t let on that it came from me. In this dream, and I repeat, it is the same each night, Irving kidnaps the dog, your little Snuggles and brings him out to a farm way out of town and enters him in a pit bull contest, a fight to the death contest and poor little Snuggles doesn’t have a chance. Oh don’t mention it. Glad to help”
“Hi Aunt Rhoda this is Marge’s son Alan. Good thanks and you? Well that’s why I’m calling. Last night Mom and I had the same dream and she’s too embarrassed to call you so I said that I would. OK. Well we both dreamt that Uncle Herb was stepping out on you with that blonde secretary of his and that it’s been going on for years. Probably doesn’t mean a thing. You know how dreams are.That’s all Aunt Rhoda—gotta run.”

I continued the calls with Irving, Les, Rose, Sylvia and Burt. Then I threw in a half dozen cousins and told the cousins that I dreamt that their parents had cut them out of their wills and I told their parents that I dreamt that the kids only came by to make sure the parents weren’t overspending so that there would be money left in the wills for them. I called Janie and told her that after all these years of never having a dream I dreamt, in color no less, that I saw her meeting the man she was to marry. She couldn’t wait for details this thirty-five year old cousin so I strung her along for a while and then I told her that she had to go, according to my dream, to the Golden Spoke, a biker’s bar for three Friday nights and there she would meet her true love. I told her that her ‘to be’ was a doctor masquerading as a biker and since I never saw his face she should be extra nice to every biker that approached her. I wished her luck and she blessed me.  
The last call I made was to the reclusive Aunt Anna.
“Aunt Anna this is your nephew Alan Levy—do you remember me?”
“What do you want?” She asked curtly.
“I’d like to come by and see you.”
“Because it’s been too long that this family hasn’t communicated and I want to help break the pattern.”
“OK.” She said. “Be here at noon tomorrow.”

“Well Alan, what is it you want from me?”
“I wanted to share something with you. I don’t want anything from you.”
“Let me guess,” she said. “You had a dream.”
“How did you know?” I asked.
“Listen Albert, you’re as crazy as the rest of them with their dreams and calls and not speaking to each other. That’s why I have nothing to do with any of them. They are all loony.  Too bad you caught it too. Let me leave you with this thought Alfred.”
“Alan.  It’s Alan. What’s thought Aunt Anna?”
“And as soon as I spoke the words she reared her seventy-five year old leg back and kicked me hard in the groin. “Get out of here you lunatic.”  She said.


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