“Always wear clean underwear in case you get hit by a car and are taken to the hospital.”

My Mother.

It was a bright and sunny day as I entered the market.

Then my foot caught a bump, and I tripped.

Thanks to 54 years of intense yoga and Tibetan meditation, I reached out and caught the handle of the nearest basket.

I took a breath, and remembering the family oath, mumbled a prayer: “Not here, not in the basket foyers of a grocery store, please.”


One of my guardian angels replied, “You’re too much work, J.P.”

A reminder: One afternoon, my father went to pick up four fish dinners and an order of frog legs for my mother.

He paused, dropped to his knees and slowly sank to his end on the cold concrete. He was wearing clean underwear, Mama said.

No one wants to die on the street, any street. We all want to pass quietly in Paris, Monaco, or at least in Yarmouth, not like a squirrel hit by a car in Waterville, for God’s sake.

Celebrities like the famed comedian Fred Allen and film actor Percy Kilbride (“Pa Kettle”) came to their end in such a way. Fred dropped in front of a traffic light in Washington, D.C., just as it turned to WALK.

Percy was hit by a car at the top of Franklin Street in Hollywood, the town that made him famous. Rest in peace, Percy.


Bob Fosse (“Chicago”), the eight-time Tony award-winning director and choreographer, died on the street in D.C., as he left his hotel. Rest in peace, Bobby.

I’m told all were wearing clean underwear.

Such a tragedy has had men gathering their families and spoken to them.

“If I ever go on the street, tell em’ to get me on my feet, and make sure my underwear is new.”

Far from my eventual departure, I still tell my daughters the same thing.

“Daddy, we live in Los Angeles,” they texted, “but don’t forget clean underwear.”


Today, as I approach the latest stage of middle age, I’m surprised to find myself remarkably healthy, still stunning in form, with all my teeth and hair, and of course, brand new clean underwear.

I feel, at this time, to caution you.

How do you feel? You’re how old? You don’t look it, but you can’t tell. Got all your shots, getting your regular checkups, stopped smoking? Insurance paid? Wearing clean underwear when venturing out?

Be very careful. Watch crossing the street when the lights change. Let a few others cross first.

If you feel illness coming on while waiting for the light to change, find a bench, a shop, any shop, a pizzeria, a movie theater; my barber will do. That’s Headquarters on Main Street. He’ll get me ready for the wake.

Walgreen’s Pharmacy, where I got my last booster, will suffice.


Yes, it has plastic chairs, but it’s better than a curb, and you can pick up fresh toothpaste while you’re there.

NOT A MARKET, certainly. Would you want your body found face down in the produce section under a pile of spilled avocados marked “RIPE NOW?”

Don’t forget the clean underwear. My mother thanks you.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

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