Tag Archives: Parents

Aspirin, Anybody?

Groans. Heartrending moans.

My younger sister Jean, tossing and turning next to me in our double bed, was suffering yet another earache.

In the spirit of teen sibling compassion, I covered my head with my pillow.

“Go get an aspirin,” I mumbled. “Mom and Dad’s top dresser drawer.”

She stumbled toward the hall and my parents’ bedroom; I turned over with a sigh of relief. No longer my problem.

A bloodcurdling scream resurrected me.

Before I opened my eyes, I found myself pounding after her. I crashed into an unknown human form and lay flat on my back, panting in the dim hallway. Would I, too, now die at the hands of a hatchet murderer?

“Are you all right, honey? Where’s Jean?”

My unknown assailant didn’t sound like a bloodthirsty assassin.

“Mom?” I rubbed my eyes and tried to sit up. “Mom, is that you?”

I realized she, too, had hit the deck.

Meanwhile, Jean still screamed at the top of her lungs.

“I think she’s in your room,” I said. “Looking for an aspirin. Earache.”

“I must have run right past her.” Mom dragged herself to her feet and headed for her little girl.

Later, we learned that Dad, half-asleep, had detected Jean’s fumbling through their dresser drawers. Drowsy and confused, he bravely attacked the burglar who dared invade his home: he fired his pillow at her.

More screams.

Another tall shadow lurked in the hallway. This one brandished a large club. My heart nearly shot through the top of my head, until I recognized his silhouette.

“Ned,” I said to my elder brother, who crouched in the bathroom doorway, clutching his baseball bat, “it’s okay. Jean’s just got an earache.”

“Why did she scream bloody murder? You’d think she was dying.” He sounded as if Jean had personally invaded his dreams of Marilyn Monroe.

I shrugged tiredly and headed for bed. Eventually Jean returned, sniffling, and my mother soothed her back to sleep. Even though the house now slumbered to the quiet hum of insomniac crickets through the screened windows, I couldn’t close my eyes. My head pounded where Mom and I had collided like a couple of dump trucks.

Maybe I needed an aspirin.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: When you were a kid, was aspirin your family’s go-to remedy?

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

Did your parents insist on holding your hand?

At age three, I declared my independence. Yanking my hand from Mommy’s, I zipped into a busy street. After that, she chained me to her.

Holding hands took on different dimensions when I entered fifth grade. In 1964, The Beatles had serenaded the world with “I wanna hold your hand!” Some classmates dared embrace the lyrics. Cool boys and girls sat in the back of the bus, (gasp!) holding hands.

I wasn’t cool.

A late-blooming teen, I continued to observe friends holding hands at ball games and parties. Eventually, at a roller rink, I entered that mysterious world where a touch could electrify an entire nervous system — making me so nervous, I tripped and nearly crippled my skating partner for life.

Dangerous business, holding hands.

When a super-shy guy asked me out, I figured that after dating six months, we might hold hands. During the romantic play, though, his fingers found mine. Electricity! Four years later, we held hands as we said wedding vows.

When did hand-holding become another memory snapshot in our wedding album? Hubby’s 24/7 medical career often kept us apart. Our outnumbered hands constantly clasped six little ones, protecting them. Perhaps we kept the chiseled-in-wedding-ring commandment: Never let anyone know you like each other. Especially your kids. And God forbid you hold hands at church.

Our children began to explore college possibilities. Hubby kept busy as ever, caring for patients. I was writing and going to school. We could run in circles that never touched until our 50th anniversary.

Was that right?

One evening, I said to Hubby, “Let’s go for a walk.”

“Where?”

“It doesn’t matter. Just a walk. Together.” Then, I dropped the bomb: “I want to hold your hand.”

“Huh?” A walk without a clear destination? Holding hands, when we’d been married two decades?

He cooperated, though his narrow-eyed gaze said he suspected a woman-trap.

Not the walk I had in mind.

Despite un-movie results, I asked him again.

The second experiment went better. He even said, “This is kind of nice.” And after our third stroll, “This was a good idea.”

The added bonus: We embarrassed our children.

Years later, we continue hand-holding walks. We don’t count steps. We don’t measure our heartbeats — we share them. Sometimes we, er, discuss things. We laugh.

College students alternate incredulous looks (“Old people like each other?”) and the Lord-bless-’em gazes they’d expect from us.

I always was a rebel.

Unlike my three-year-old self, though, I don’t want to declare my independence.

I always wanna hold your hand, babe.

I never wanna let go.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: When did you and your spouse last hold hands?

Boring Old Dad?

Many pay tributes to caring but unexciting dads who worked hard, fixed things, and helped keep them out of trouble — most of the time.

In honor of my dad’s 90th birthday.

My father did the basic dad drill, too. But boring?

Never.

A pastor, he refused to wear neckties. He led his congregation in “Joy to the World” … every Easter. Even my siblings and I listened intently to Dad’s sermons — because we often comprised the subject matter.

As a missionary, Dad approached challenges in ways that wouldn’t make Sunday school storybooks. Take, for example, the Mexican Chicken Wars.

Fifty years ago, our home in Linares, Mexico, featured an outhouse and nightly rat races. Though poor, my folks shared with neighbors living in shacks. Ready to open his thin wallet, Dad still drew the line at “Thou shalt not steal.”

Gilberto, the mission compound caretaker, said thieves targeted our chicken coop, an important income source for the mission. Determined to protect his feathered flock, Dad kept his ax beside his bed at night.

Those who didn’t know the Ten Commandments would learn them fast.

Soon, Dad awoke to the chickens’ squawking, grabbed his ax and headed for the henhouse. Stooping low, he spotted unknown blue-jeaned legs walking through the orange groves. He let loose his war cry, swinging the ax above his head.

The thief saw Dad — a tall, shirtless phantom with burning eyes who wielded a shining blade. The would-be robber dropped shrieking chickens and scaled the mission compound wall like a terrified spider.

Dad returned the chickens — vastly relieved the ax wasn’t meant for them — to their nests.

A week later, Dad awoke to another hen house ruckus. Again, he swung the ax with Old Testament vengeance.

This crook, however, screamed, “Aaron! It’s me, Aaron!”

Gilberto had checked on the chickens’ safety, too. They were fine, but Gilberto nearly lost his head to Dad’s ax.

Throughout his pastoral career, Dad confronted numerous dangerous situations. He housed ex-gang members and ex-prisoners and provided protection for domestic violence victims whose husbands/boyfriends vowed vengeance.

But few scenarios matched the peril Dad faced when, hiding behind church classroom partitions with his fishing pole, he cast a big, sugary doughnut amid members of a weight-watching group.

That incident nearly drove his guardian angel to drinking. Still, Dad survived to finally retire at 77. He now lives in the Louisiana piney woods where he was born and raised. Occasionally the angel chews his nails when Dad, now 90, wields his ax in a forest full of rattlesnakes.

But the angel’s not bored.

Sigh. Neither am I.

 

Your extraordinary ordinary: What’s your favorite dad story?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Still Daddy and Daughter

O my God, Thank You for my dad, who starts each day with a booming, bass chorus of “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Yet this past week, when I traveled to celebrate his 90th birthday, he extended his usual greeting: “So . . . how much weight have you gained this time?”

Thank You that this Monday morning, I’m back home, a thousand miles away. But OMG, how I miss my reverent, rascally dad!

Daddy-Daughter Date

Dad’s place in the driver’s seat has always been a given, similar to “Dad reads the newspaper first” or “The sun rises in the east.” Though AARP has ambushed my siblings and I, when visiting, we acknowledge Dad’s inalienable right to drive us wherever he chooses.

Lately, however, Dad defers to his lovely wife, whom he married a year after Mom’s passing. That he permits her to chauffeur him — during broad daylight — demonstrates that the times are a-changin’.

However, on this rare daddy-daughter date, he wouldn’t allow me to drive us to the restaurant. Nor would he let me pay for lunch.

He would as soon wear a tattoo or vote for a Democrat.

We rode in his truck with windows open and air conditioner blasting, Dad’s way of dealing with Louisiana’s heat. Our destination: his favorite Mexican restaurant, to which my digestive system and I privately referred to as El Diablo’s.

Chugging along, I unzipped my 60-something disguise and tossed it away. Once again, I was a little girl, bouncing on the seat, riding with Daddy.

Upon arrival, he greeted the proprietors, using his missionary Spanish. A retired pastor, he runs an unofficial restaurant ministry at favorite spots, hugging owners, servers, and busboys. He often tips them and asks how he can pray for them.

Dad recommended the burritos. I ordered one, though I prefer quesadillas, because I wanted to share his delight. Thankfully, the cook that day possessed un-nuked taste buds.

Mmm, delicious. We munched away and sipped from ice-packed glasses of Pepsi, the way we like them — though as usual, he tried to convert me away from diet drinks.

My dad the missionary, circa 1952

We recalled Mexico more than 50 years before, when our family wandered town squares, eating tacos or tamales, basking in sunshine and cantina music. I remembered a few less-than-wonderful moments: outdoor bathrooms and icy showers.

He recollected the usefulness of the phrase, “No comprendo.” Once at a checkpoint, Dad handed the officer an Indiana fishing license. Impressed by its stamps and signatures, he waved Dad through.

After such a huge meal, bouncing on the old truck’s seats didn’t hold the same magic. Not sure Dad would remain awake, I poised a hand as close to the steering wheel as I dared.

We returned to the house my great-grandparents built. Dad opened windows, turned on air conditioning, and dropped into his Dad Chair. I flopped onto the sofa, and our off-to-Mexico venture together ended, appropriately, in a shared siesta.

And a drowsy but fervent hope for another daddy-daughter date like this … and another … and another. …

What special time have you shared with your father?