Archive for September, 2011

Vom – Part 1

September 30, 2011

It was late one Halloween night.  The goblins had all come and gone.  The girls had compared loot and talked about their experiences.  The candles inside our jack o’ lanterns had flickered out and everyone was asleep.   Our dog Nick, a black lab who’d never grown up, decided he wanted in on the Halloween treats.  He ate all of the girl’s loot.  Every last piece of the candy was quietly consumed.  Sometime later that night as his stomach became upset he sought shelter in Carly’s room.  She was in preschool at the time.  In the darkness of her room he began to puke.  Immediately screams of freight erupted and late night mayhem ensued.  The sound of Nick’s Halloween lurching would torment Carly for years.  After the incident we had to rearrange her room so that furniture covered the area where the event occurred.   There wasn’t a physical stain, but there was a mental one.  Changing the view somehow made a difference.  Once we moved her furniture around and made sure the dog slept in another room we were able to reclaim our room and once again there was peace at night.

 Some people are better at coping with sickness than others.  As parents we are forced to deal with it.  I mean you can’t just move every time someone pukes and misses the intended target.  Someone has to play janitor and remedy the situation.  The vom episode as Carly now calls it has shaped her tolerance for the hurl.  I’d say her threshold is somewhere south of extremely low.  If she was married and starting a family today she would give the janitorial supplies to her husband and say, “Congratulations you’ve been selected.”  As Murphy’s Law would have it, Carly’s younger sister Grace is a world champion barfer.  So every year when school is back in session, the weather cools, and stomach bugs begin to sweep the nation, Grace’s number is called, and Carly does the, Serenity Now, chant until the storm passes and the sun prevails.  I’ve never seen someone so susceptible to stomach flues.  Luckily Carly, Keely, and I have pretty strong immune systems.  So the bugs Grace brings home seem to bounce off us more often than not.  However this year, we also have grand kids in the picture.  They brought over something wicked.  Forget the fact that we washed hands like we were OCD, we’re fit, and that we get more than our recommended dose of fruits and veggies.  None of that mattered.  This bug had claws or tentacles or little fists that grabbed us by the hair and pulled us kicking and screaming to the porcelain god.  Like an Olympic relay team we passed the baton to each family member and Grace ended up being the anchor of the team.  Apparently it gained some steam as it reached her.  The day I had it I received a call from the school nurse saying Grace had it too.  I couldn’t walk to the kitchen without falling down in a pile of sweat.  So I phoned a friend who donned her hazmat suit and picked Grace up from school. 

This semester Carly doesn’t have classes on Monday.  The night before, as we watched the Payton less Colts flop on Sunday night football, she made the comment that it was too bad that she would be home alone on her day off.  Twelve hours later when Grace came home and hurled she took it all back.  She was in hell.  Halloween came flashing back…again and again every hour on the hour all day long.  Grace doesn’t just vom.  She goes at it with a decibel level that is slightly less than lightning strikes, airport noise, and indoor concerts.  Relatives in California hear the sound, recoil, and call to make sure she’s alright.  Combine that with the fact she never hits the target and you get the picture of what it’s like…all…day…long!  Carly weighed her options.  Her friends were all in classes.  She saw me in the fetal position in my room.  I could have emerged to lay sick on the couch instead, but she didn’t ask, so I didn’t offer.  She could have fled to Starbucks, but she didn’t.  She stayed, found her happy place above the gaging…serenity now…serenity now!!!…and helped her sister.  That evening after Keely came home from the ER to find her home had been turned into a vomitorium she and Carly laughed about the episode as they sanitized the house.  She’d taken a step.  It took 17 years and a hurling sister to begin to exercise the demons of that Halloween night when her dog had one too many at the Snicker Bar.

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Where the Wild Things Are

September 27, 2011

One evening recently I was working on my computer when Grace shrieked and in a panicked voice called for me to quickly come over and kill a bug.  The Phelps women hate bugs in the house.  Especially anything that might be a spider…I say might because two of the three Phelps women wear glasses.  If they aren’t wearing them at the time…anything including the cat looks like a spider.  Grace doesn’t wear glasses.  So when I got there and saw what it was…the term, “overreact much?” came to mind.  I could understand it if she was calling me to get rid of some rain forest freak of nature or a killer mantis from a 1960’s horror movie.  However this wasn’t a mutant 350 pound cricket with the voice of Barry White.  It was your standard half inch cricket, not rabid, carnivorous, or venomous.  Thanks to one of our killer cats this little guy was missing both hind legs.  So he couldn’t even kick to defend himself.  He was an emasculated cricket who was reduced to crawling around with his stubby front legs like a beetle.  None of that seemed to matter to my five foot seven inch, sure footed, dancer.  She wanted me to send him to the white light post haste.  I didn’t kill him.  I like the way they sing at night.  I picked him up and tossed him out in the back yard to sing for his supper.  If he was a millipede, different story,  I’d have smashed him in a…Tell Tale Heart…beat.

My grandmother was the Anne Oakley of Greene County.  She bought fur from the trappers, butchered chickens, processed deer, and yet she was scared to death of snakes.  Her mother chewed tobacco, dried it on the window ledge, and smoked it in a pipe.  So she wasn’t raised by softies, but the sight of a snake, even one the size of an earth worm, made her scream like a high maintenance debutante.  They must have sensed her fear because every summer at least one would end up sneaking in into her house.  She found them in her bath tub, curled around her sewing machine, and curled in the branches of an indoor tree like a baby boa.  I think they were trying to say, “Embrace us.  We will eat your mice.”  She never got their message, but she gave them one at the top of her lungs.  I’m sure her scream could be heard all the way in Brown County.  After she recovered from the initial shock she would flip them out the door and show them the business end of a garden hoe.  “Take that you no good varmint”, she’d say.  Then she’d fling it out in the field.  There were so many snakes on her farm the dead snake probably landed on one of the live one’s who were lining up to take his place.  When I was little I remember thinking, “Never tell her I don’t like liver and onions.  I could end up like the snake.”

Several nights after our cricket episode the Phelps women were sewing while watching some show about murder.  My wife loves those shows, Unsolved Mystery, Criminal Minds, Forensic Files.   She’s a walking encyclopedia of ways to kill your spouse.  Paul Simon sings that song, Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.  Keely could kill me fifty different ways and have fifty more to use on the next husband.  Not only does she know ways to do me in, she can sew a tasteful burial cloak too.  It’s no wonder she got along so well with Grandma Mengele, the snake killer.  A stitch in time…kills nine.  So as they watched the latest episode of murder by numbers (while taking notes) they heard a high pitched whine.  It grew louder and louder until they saw one of our cats with a mouse in its mouth.  Keely opened the door to the screen porch.  The cat ran out and dropped the mouse.  Thinking the mouse was dead, she picked him up in a towel.  Carly looked at him, cried a little, and named it Mickey.  That mouse needs to thank they were wearing glasses that night.  Just then Mickey opened its eyes, leaped to the floor, and began scurrying around the porch.  Carly opened the door and it scampered off into the night only to trip over a legless cricket and break its neck…kidding…or am I? Mwa hahahah!

Spats, The Badminton of Arguments

September 22, 2011

My friend Mike had parents who were married for life.  I’m sure they loved each other, but sometimes they argued over silly little things that didn’t matter.  One minute you hear, “pass the pickles” the next thing you knew they would erupt into some disagreement.  Opinions would ricochet between the two like a tennis ball in the US Open.  They’d spin their position back and forth.  It wasn’t the kind of argument that wasn’t upsetting so we would watch like spectators and he would comment to me.   “My parents will go through life arguing about the same things,” he’d say while shaking his head. The topic was always something life changing, like wiping off the ketchup lid.  They would volley back and forth.   Neither would give any ground and nothing would be resolved.  The Ketchup bottle would be wiped off by the irritated party in an overly dramatic way.  Maybe a sarcastic comment would accompany it from the other side like, “I think we will all sleep better knowing the ketchup lid is clean.”   There would be silence for a minute or two.  Then his mom would look at Mike and say, “would your friend like more milk?”  Mike would say, “Mom you can ask him he’s sitting right next to me.”  I would say, “Yes thanks” and suddenly the Ketchup cloud had passed and the sun would shine again.  The condiment issue would be tabled for further discussion the next time they had hamburgers.

Now that my wife and I have been together for nearly a quarter of a century (I said it that way because it seems longer than if I’d said twenty-five years)I understand what Mike’s parents were doing…aside from entertaining us.  Keely and I are a couple, but we are also individuals.  We may both be working together for the common good.  We love each other, our family, and our goals.  We just have different ways of daily living.  We both take our pants off one leg at a time.  However it’s what we do with the pants that can become the irritant.  I’ll give you an example; one of us reads the mail, shreds the junk, and files the other stuff.  The other places their mail in random piles around the family room.  Those piles grow and spread out incorporating magazines, textbooks, school papers, and other collateral in much the same way a glacier moves and collects things in its path.  The next thing I know our family’s counter top space has been covered in sprawl.  I’ll make a couple of attempts to rein in the debris field, but it’s like trying to contain an avalanche with a privacy fence.  The conglomerate takes over and there is no stopping it.  Keely knows where everything is regardless of the visual created by the filing system.  If I try to undo her system and she needs to find something…we have a ketchup lid conflict.  The flip side, if her system encroaches on the last bastion of open space on the counter I force a ketchup lid incident.  The jagged vibes I feel when I look at piles are equal to the ones that fly from her shoulders once I’ve uncorked the situation.   I understand.  I go there too.   I have to say that once she’s fueled by irritation she moves to dismantle the offending areas with speed and precision that would make Martha Stewart’s head spin.  It’s impressive to watch.  She multitasks.  While her hands are, filing, shredding, moving, and wiping.  Her lips are uttering things about me being anal, and my life insurance policy needing to be increased, and yet there is love in her heart.  Of course I don’t feel that love initially. I stay out of her way.  I learned early on to resist the urge to make sarcastic remarks or offer advice on clutter prevention.  I just let the magic happen while hiding the knives.  After the dust has settled and the flowers and card are received there is a feeling of harmony both visually and emotionally. 

The next day the mail comes, we get a magazine from her PA organization, a sale flyer from Kohl’s, and a coupon from Jiffy Lube.  Suddenly, subtly, there is a little bit of gooey ketchup forming on the lid again.