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We were talking yesterday about one-word bumper stickers. Or perhaps one-word (or short phrase) epitaphs.

It helps to have a couple of bottles of wine, a shady spot on a sunny day and the company of cats to facilitate a conversation among friends.

Anyway, I don't know how we got onto this topic. It might seem kind of morbid (especially the epitaph part), but we all felt closely aligned with one word or two.

Now that I think of it, we started out with our totem animals. I mentioned that I'm a polar bear. I love the cold, can't stand the heat. Someone else said he was an owl--turns out he has a whole collection of owlish stuff, including a paperweight and a woodcut hung on his living room wall.

Then we got onto words. And as we bantered words back and forth (wine does loosen the tongue, you know), it suddenly occurred to me that the perfect word for N is


Nothing is ever good enough. He is always in need of something (a thing or an object) that will satisfy his wanting. He is a constant complaint personified. It has cost him big-time in terms of friendship and community, but he doesn't see it.

The costs in terms of vitality, love, self-expression, and sense of fulfillment have been lifelong; his constant complaints and dissatisfaction have been self-defeating. What's the old saying about being your own worst enemy?

I swear, he sits around during the week, thinking of the next project for me to do for him. This week he wants me to open a checking account for him. Last week he wanted me to buy an indoor/outdoor thermometer for him so he could monitor the temperature in his room for the letter of complaint he is writing to the VA. Every week it's something else.

And so on. Most of his requests seem so reasonable on the surface ("All I asked for was just a thermometer...." "I need a checking account in case I have to pay for something.") that I find myself complying without question.

Lately, however, I've been less accommodating, because I realize that dissatisfaction is his normal mode and the requests will end only with his death or mine. I'm testing each one for validity.

Could he pay for things with his credit card? Yes. Doesn't need a checking account. I pay the credit card.

Does he need a thermometer? So he can file a complaint. Well, I guess so. But I'm not making a special trip to buy one for him. He obsesses about things, so I know he won't forget about it, but if he's obsessing about a thermometer, maybe he won't be able to move on to other complaints and demands. One can only hope.

Maybe you can guess my word?

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