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by David Westheimer


My wife, Dody, has her own way of saying things. When she says, The rumor spread like wildflowers, she means it spread like wildfire. A friend of ours, lady who wrote soap operas for a living, said she didnt believe Dody went to college at all, much less graduated from Rice University, the Harvard of the South, with a major in English. But she did, just as I had five years before her, only majoring in chemistry. Well, technically, she didnt graduate from Rice University. It was Rice Institute when she went there. And she has the diploma on the wall to prove it.

And I helped her through her freshman year, sort of. By the time she went I was working for a Houston newspaper and wrote English papers for her. And she got ones, the highest grade at Rice, for them. Then I got mad at her for some reason neither of us can remember after 60-plus years and wouldnt do it any more. So she wrote them herself. And got ones. (Years later, in the Eighties, when I was writing a column for that same newspaper, she wrote three of them for me but I gave her credit for them and for the third one even passed along my stipend to her.)


In our family, things like it will spread like wildflowers are called Dodyisms.

They are spontaneous and pop out when least expected. She never knows she has committed a Dodyism unless someone laughs and even then she doesnt think it a big deal. When she said spread like wildflowers and I laughed, she said, Whats so funny?"

Its supposed to be spread like wildfire.

She said , I dont see whats so different.

Same with Itll sell like a hotcake.

Hotcakes, I said.

Same thing.

We are watching a TV interview with a very shifty politician. Dody says, I wouldnt trust him with a 10-foot pole.

We are at the last movie the late Sir Ralph Richardson ever made. When he comes on the screen she leans over and informs me, They must have made that before he died.

She is reading an article in the Los Angeles Times about a hamburger chain illustrated with a photo of its dowager empress.

She looks so old, Dody says, and shes only my age.

Dody is 80.

When she was doing volunteer work for Planned Parenthood, interviewing patients for the doctor, she came home one evening and described this large, muscular patient she had interviewed that day. ...and she had tattoos on all her arms.

When our son the veterinarian was a kid campaigning for a bicycle, he did something that riled her and she said, You keep talking thataway (she was born and bred in Texas, as I was) and see how soon you dont get a bicycle.

And theres His hair stood on edge. And Her throat goes away and comes back, to describe how a daughter-in-laws voice would be hoarse in the morning but gets all right later in the day. Not to mention saying some shoes were the longest pair I ever had, meaning the oldest. And not a fire was shot and Hes made money hand over heels, and meeting an actor we liked at a party and telling him, Weve always been your favorites. Then theres I feel like Ive been wrung through a barrel.

When she says You have to hand them to me, she was not asking she be given something but boasting just a little--You have to hand it to me. Of an appointment with our ear, nose and throat doctor, Im taking my ears in to be examined. And what the whole family says now when someone isnt feeling well, You dont look good out of your eyes.

What do you think she meant when she said the cup is upside out? Upside down, of course. You put your shorts in the wash backward. Inside out.

On a trip to Hong Kong she had some slacks made and didnt have time for a second fitting before we flew out. Walking away with the slacks in a shopping bag she said, If these pants dont fit Ill have a fit.

The other day we were driving and a passenger in the back seat noticed the windshield was dirty and said, Dont you have water? Meaning a windshield washer. Dody knew exactly what he meant and said, Yes, but I dont have any water.

We were lunching at a fast food joint with our New York granddaughter, then 12, when Dody mention Neal Simons latest play, Biloxi Blues.

Whats it about? the granddaughter asks.

And Dody says, Remember that play we didnt see? It follows that one.

This quirk, I think, if it is one, comes from her genes and is passed on from generation to generation. Dodys father called the A&P Store the P&A and said Escaloopian for Episcopalian. And after a presidential election the 12-year-old granddaughter asked, Did Nixon win by a landslaughter?

Whatever it is that causes Dody to fracture metaphors and mangle similes, it is compensated for by an encyclopedic memory for trivia. When I was TV editor for the newspaper hardly a day passed when I didnt call home with a question to help me get through a column. The one I remember best, because I had a block about an actors name that persists to this day, was Whos that actor I like I always get mixed up with Jack Warden?

And she said, James Gregory, the name I was looking for.

As a matter of fact, when I wrote this, I had to ask her again, Who was the actor I liked I always got mixed up with Jack Warden?

After 40 years, she still remembered.


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