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  • What You Get For 52 Years

    February 20, 2007

    Photo Temporarily Unavailable

    It is earlier in the week. We are sitting around the breakfast table. I am not actually sitting, I’m kind of slouched over in my chair with my head on the table because I’m still feeling like last night’s piñata from my adventures in organ removal. But I’m pretending. I’m trying real hard. My parents are reading the newspaper. Sean is being Sean.

    My dad looks up from the newspaper and over his eggs and toast, he says, “Hmmph!” as though he’s just discovered something. And he has. He just noticed the day’s date and that today is their 52nd wedding anniversary. In the chaos and the crazy of the past week, everyone had forgotten.

    Dad scans the heartwarming Norman Rockwell scene around the table: his doped up middle-aged daughter with her face in her plate, his grandson spooning yogurt down his pajamas and his bride of 52 years obliviously working a Sudoku puzzle.

    From the look on my dad’s face, I was guessing that maybe he was imagining himself as a young man standing at the altar of St. Al’s 52-years ago, full of youth and hope, kissing my pretty mom with his hands around her tiny waist. Or maybe he was thinking he just didn’t see this coming.


    Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad. We’ll celebrate next year, except without the morphine.

    Photo: Wivian and Papa Ed, 1955

    Guest Post – My Baby Is 47

    February 1, 2007

    by Wivian

    1960 ~ I remember it well, as though it were just 47 years ago.

    I was 27-years-old and ripe as a plum with my third child. I hadn’t seen my toes since Christmas. We already had two children, two little boys, who would turn 4 and 2 in March, but my husband wanted a little girl and so I had agreed to try one last time. It was extremely cold and windy that day, even by Illinois standards. Everyone was complaining about the weather and kept telling me, “You’re probably going to have that baby tonight ~ the weather always brings babies early.” Did I listen? Of course not. Was I wrong? Absolutely!

    When my water broke, a neighbor came and stayed with my two boys. The night air was frigid and the wind battered our jalopy of a car as we made our way to the hospital. There are two sets of railroad tracks between our home and the nearest hospital, both of which almost always have a train sitting on them, and I believe it was only the power of prayer that kept the roads clear until we got to the hospital.

    Three records were set in our town that night. The wind had never blown so hard and it had never been that cold on that date. The other record was the birth of our little daughter. This was the first girl in my husband’s family for many many years! She topped the scales at just over five pounds and looked like a little doll.

    AM’s brothers figured their lives were ruined the day we brought her home and likewise, she was always convinced that there was some mix up at the hospital – that those two hellions could not possibly be her brothers, and would we please return her to the rich family across town where she was certain she belonged. Alas, there had been no mix up and after 40-some years, I believe they have finally come to appreciate one another.

    The first word most babies say is “Mama”. AM’s first words were, “Where’s my coat?” I didn’t know at the time how prophetic those words were. As soon as she could toddle, she was ready to leave home. Her favorite place to visit was her Godparent’s house, across the street. At two-years-old, she would pack her dolls and nightgown in a brown paper sack and go across the street where she was appreciated ~ and where there were no brothers to pester her. They loved her as if she were their own and the feeling was mutual. Then when she was 21, she packed what few things she had and moved to Texas – where she seldom needs a coat – and she has been there since.

    It has been a joy to be her mother and it has been an even greater joy to see her be a mother. Except for the years between 1973 and 1978, I’d love to do it all over again.

    Photo Temporarily Unavailable

    Back To The Archives

    November 17, 2006

    It’s a lovely day here in the Dallas metroplex, so Sean and I are going off to have a fun day together and leaving the computer behind. Which means that I’m going to schlufff off (I think I just made that word up) on you something from the archives. I find I do a lot of schluffing these days. But before that, there was this amusing exchange this morning:

    Sean: Mommy, can I drink this? (my coffee)
    Me: No, not until you are bigger, then yes, we will drink coffee together.
    Sean: Daddy don’t drink coffee
    Me: No (shaking head sadly) Daddy does not drink coffee.
    Sean: Then he will have to drink alone.

    * * *

    Concrete or Cheerios, It’s All The Same

    Haven’t we all, at one time or another said, “When I have a child, I’m going to do things differently than my parents.” And then of course, when you are actually entrusted with the responsibility of a pint-sized, uncivilized, miniature human being — you do all the things your parents did, and even make up some new stuff along the way. That way, when your kid grows up he can list all the things he would never do as a parent. It’s the glorious cycle of life.

    Really and truly, there are not too many things my mom did growing up that I plan to avoid. What I am discovering — the longer I’m at this parenting-thing — is that I hope to be more like her and not less.

    My mom was pretty laid back about most matters. It took quite a bit to push her buttons and even when you did reach that elastic limit, she would freely extend grace most of the time. This came to mind the other day when my son had dumped an entire economy-sized box of Cheerios into the sofa. I guess he thought if he stomped on them like grapes, I wouldn’t notice. As I was shoveling Cheerios out of the depths and bowels of the sofa, I really had to focus to keep my humor. My own mother would have laughed about it and then served a mixing bowl of Cheerios for lunch. I mean it wasn’t like he was free-form mixing concrete in the garage or anything like that…

    When I was about 9-years-old, I decided the garage needed cleaned out. The Neat-Freak Gene exhibited itself early on. So I hauled everything out of the garage, including a 25-lb of concrete mix, but since it was 25-lbs and I was 9-years-old and weighed not much more than that, I dropped it and it broke open. That’s when I had the great idea that I would hose it out… And the funny thing is that when you combine concrete mix and water – you get concrete!! I kept working quickly and quietly with the hose and broom hoping to get the mess cleaned up before anyone noticed, but I just kept making more and more concrete until finally my spaghetti-sized arms could do no more. So I ran inside and tried to tell mom that there was a growing mass of concrete in the garage. I now recognize that expression she had on her face. It’s the one where you hear a heavy thud somewhere in the house and then silence. Never a good thing.

    Anyway, I expected when Mom saw my handiwork that she would blow a gasket and blister my behind, but she just grabbed a shovel and made a nice little sidewalk beside the garage.

    Calm and creative. That’s the kind of mom I want to be.


    October 9, 2006

    Photo Temporarily Unavailable

    My parents left yesterday morning after a week-long visit.

    When you start your family as late in life as I did, thoughts of time and how precious little there is of it, are never far away. When I look at my parents, I have to remind myself that they are not in their mid-40s, but in their mid-70s. I still think of my dad as a lean and wiry young man able to hurdle a 4-ft. fence. And I suppose that when they look at me they have to remind themselves that I’m in my mid-40s and not seven. No matter how many years go by, they’ll always be my mommy and daddy and I’ll always be their baby. After a week like this past one – one that went entirely too fast — I’d drain my bank account in exchange for the promise that I could get more time for Sean, for me, for all of us, before it all comes to pass.

    The day after his Bivian and Papa Ed leave are always hard for Sean. He misses them and it takes some time for him to get over the fact that he is stuck with just me. So this afternoon as I was putting Sean down for his nap, I took some extra time to read to him and for a time, he let me just cradle him. His head rested in the crook of my arm and his long legs draped over the edge of the arm of the rocker. For a long time, we just sat there in silence listening to the sounds of the day – the creaking of the rocker, a lawn mower in the distance, an airplane, a passing car. As I looked long into his face, without realizing it, I wondered out loud “Where did my baby go?” He reached up and touched my face and whispered, “Here I am.”

    When I’m 89 and he’s 46, I’ll still be his mommy and he’ll still be my baby.

    PHOTO: Sean with Bivian who showed him how to decorate a stick wasting using an entire bolt of Christmas ribbon. Liberal usage of ribbon, sissors and tape is just one reason why Bivian is way more fun than Mommy.

    Things For Which I Need To Apologize #32

    October 2, 2006

    Dear Mom,

    I was wrong. It turns out that “because I said so” really is a good answer.

    My sincerest apologies,

    Antique Daughter

    The Auction

    August 4, 2006

    When I was home recently in central Illinois, a house down the street from my parent’s home was up for auction. The elderly owners had both passed away leaving everything in their home exactly as they had left it. Like my parents, they had lived in their home for 50 years. When you are in one place that long, you accumulate a lot of stuff.

    In spite of having lived there for so long, few people had seen the inside of the home and there was a lot of curiosity.

    On the day of the auction, my mom walked down the street to view the spectacle. Some people were there seeking a bargain, others were simply driven by the morbid curiosity of watching the accumulation of two lives being distributed among strangers.

    My mom said she expected that the house, the car and the furniture would be sold off, but that she was surprised at the personal things that were being auctioned, particularly the shoes. She said that there is just something so very personal about someone’s shoes.

    “I was a bit surprised that they sold their dad and mom’s shoes and a lot of other personal items,” she lamented. “That doesn’t seem right to sell them at auction.” Then she quickly added, “Will you please give our stuff to Goodwill rather than have someone hold up my panties for a bid!”

    I promised her that I would spare her post-mortem humiliation in front of the entire neighborhood — even though she blew kisses to me from the car window embarrassing me in front of my entire 4th grade class.

    Life is embarrassing and then you die. And then they auction off your panties.

    Gammaw’s Kisses

    July 7, 2006

    Last week when we were at my parent’s house, my position in Sean’s universe slipped significantly. Anything Mommy could do, Grandma could do better.

    I had heretofore been the chief boo boo kisser. I’m skilled in this particular area of medicine. I’m experienced, I’ve studied it, I’ve perfected it.

    So when he bumped his knee and started crying, I reflexively called to him, “Come here Sweetie, Mommy will kiss it.” He stopped crying and looked at me. And then he looked at my mother and then back at me. “No thank you,” he said not able to look me in the eye, “Gammaw kiss it.”

    “Um, well, okay,” I said trying not to sound hurt. “Grandma’s kisses are good too, I guess. I’ve got kisses over here too you know, if like, it doesn’t work out or whatever….”

    He didn’t hear me saying that my kisses come with an extended warranty. He was already wrapped up in Gammaw’s arms. And it’s true. Gammaw’s kisses are superior. She can make a boo boo better no matter what’s hurting or how old you are. I know.

    Beware of Wivian’s Mojo

    July 4, 2006

    We arrived back in Dallas Sunday evening from a week-long visit with my parents. The flights were what I always hope for – uneventful, no tipping over. Everyone enjoyed a good nights sleep, each in their own beds. The next day was to be one of reckoning, as I knew it would be.

    Those of you who have small children can probably attest to what happens to them after being in the company of their grandparents for an extended period of time. The grandparents, anxious to get back at their own children for depriving them of sleep and disposable income for twenty years, feed the child buckets of ice cream and boxes of cookies and anything else the child wants. They coax the child into some sort of sugar-induced trance and then act as a sherpa leading them to places far beyond the parental established boundaries. And that’s when they put the mojo on the kid.

    After the mojo is firmly affixed to the kid, the grandparents say sly things to the unsuspecting parents like, “Why don’t you two go out for a nice quiet dinner? We’ll keep Sean (and convince him that the word no doesn’t really apply to him, it’s really just a suggestion!) Take your time (while we help him see you as two crazy people intent on ruining his life). He won’t even know you’re gone (because we’ll be letting him do whatever he wants!)

    The rude awaking came early. At the light of dawn on Monday morning Sean stood in his crib, rattling the rails like an agitated ape and screaming “Mahhhhhmmeeee!” Without fully awakening, I managed to get him out of bed, change his diaper and carry him into the kitchen and set him on the island so that I might pour him some milk. But apparently at Grandma’s house, Sean is allowed to climb up into the refrigerator and get the milk himself. So as I reached into the refrigerator to get the milk, he started screaming “I DO IT I DO IT!!! I wanna do it!”

    My first mistake which I will chalk up to not having had any coffee yet was to try to reason with him: a) I always get the milk out, b) it’s on a shelf you cannot reach, c) it’s my house and my fridge d) because I SAID SO. Toddlers coming off a week at Grandma’s are not reasonable people. Reasoning only caused him to scream louder and louder until the hunting dogs that live two doors down started barking, perhaps sensing an injured animal or an exhausted 46-year-old woman with an unreasonable toddler – either way, both dead meat.

    He would not be consoled until he got the milk out of the refrigerator himself and I was not going to be bullied by a two year old at 6:30 in the morning. We were at a standoff.

    Finally he collapsed into a heap and cried “I want to go back to Wivian’s!” Being the mature, responsible adult that I am, I snapped, “I want you to send you back to Wivian’s, so there!”

    It’s going to be a reeeeeally long week of undoing all of Wivian’s doing. Or it may just be my undoing. Stand by.

    Mud Muffins

    June 14, 2006

    My mom’s parenting philosophy has always been this: Never miss an opportunity to have fun. If it didn’t hurt anything (permanently) and it was fun (and free) she would make it happen.

    Nothing was ever too messy or too much trouble for my mom if it meant her kids having fun. The list of crazy things she would let us do (or think up for us to do) is endless, but one of the things I especially remember is that when it was too cold to go outside, she would bring snow inside in her big mixing bowls so that we could make little snowmen in the house.

    I think the thing mom enjoyed most about her kids was the license to be a kid herself. I want to be that kind of mom.

    So last week I took a page out of her parenting book and set up a mud muffin making factory for Sean in the backyard. He worked in the gentle morning sunshine mixing and stirring mud in his big metal washtub, perfecting his muffin recipie “in case a moose came by.” It wasn’t long before the clothes came off and he was clad only in mud, but there is precious little time in life when one can a) fit in a washtub and b) enjoy being unabashedly naked.

    I sat in a lawn chair near the muffin factory employed as the chief taste-tester and company photographer while enjoying the intoxicating combination of sunshine, mud and a carefree little boy.

    Maybe when he’s a grown man, he’ll remember the day that his crazy mom set him up in business making mud muffins in the backyard. Or maybe he’ll just remember that no matter the trouble or the mess, his mama never missed an opportunity to have fun.

    Don’t Mess With Retired People

    May 8, 2006

    If the government really wanted to find Osama Bin Laden, they would put my mother on the case.

    Not too long ago, my parents were victims of identity theft. Someone had stolen a check my mom had sent to someone out of the mailbox. Somehow they managed to gain access to my parent’s bank account and went on a spending spree. Mom tracked down the thief and assembled a case for the police in about 48 hours. That gives me an idea. “Identity Theft, She Wrote” starring my mom – that would make a great television series.

    The theft wasn’t discovered until mom opened her bank statement and saw that her account had been overdrawn. In the 51 years that she and my father have had a bank account together, it has never once been overdrawn. I can prove this because she has her bank statements and cancelled checks going back to 1955. She called the bank right away to make sure that they had received her recent deposits and in fact they had. However, her account had been debited several times. The bank gave her the phone numbers for the retailers who had debited her account and she was on the case.

    One hour later, my mom knew the name of the person who had accessed her account and gone shopping on-line. They had purchased several pairs of expensive men’s Nike basketball shoes, size 10. My dad wears Hushpuppies, size 8, so mom ruled him out. That and the fact that my dad is a little wary of technology and has refused to use the phone since they got a new-fangled touch tone. The “perp” had also signed up with a dating service with my dad’s name, but had used his own description. As if my dad couldn’t get the babes: At 5’8, I may be small in stature, but am big on having fun. I enjoy Wheel of Fortune, metal detecting and fine dining. Look for me at Ryan’s Family Steakhouse at 4:30pm. I’m a mid-70s former altar boy with a paid-for pacemaker that keeps me on the go. It wasn’t too long after that, that my dad started getting late night calls from gals named LaShonika and Yolanda, looking for a 6-foot-tall handsome young black man.

    The next day Mom got a post card from a company that sells exclusive sportswear reporting that they were sorry they were unable to fill an order due to lack of information. So she called them and informed them that someone else had been using her checking account and gave them his name. As they were writing down her information, the thief happened to call in again to place another order.

    In about 48 hours, Mom knew the thief’s name, age, address and the mailbox from which he had stolen the check. She had a case file assembled with photocopies and an Excel spreadsheet summary. She prepared documentation for the bank, the Post Office Inspector General and for the police – who couldn’t be bothered to come by the house and pick it up.

    The authorities did not pursue a case that was handed to them on a silver platter because the boy was under 18 and so he got away with several pairs of expensive shoes (which you know, you and I paid for) but no consequences.

    Mom says he’s probably out there messing with someone else’s accounts, but she says, “It won’t be mine!” And then adds, “It gives me one heck of a thrill to outsmart some young punk!”

    As I said, don’t mess with retired people. They have nothing better to do all day than plot revenge.