Category Archives: Dad – as in “You’re Dad was quite a character!”

Bailing Twine and Bubble Gum

Dad proudly announced at every opportunity, “Everything on this farm is held together with baling twine and bubble gum.”  I’m not sure if its a trait of all farmers or just Dad but he was a “good enough” kind of guy and that’s the way I learned things.

Getting the broken item fixed quickly (before Mom’s temper exploded) was Goal One. There wasn’t a second goal.  After the fix, any tool he used was left where it lay or if he was outside, tossed through the door of the ramshackle shed.

It came as a great shock to me when I moved in with Husband and he pointed out that the job was not complete until everything was put back where it came from.  Fast forward twenty years and although I’m not as meticulous as Husband, I’ve come to expect a certain standard of repair and order.

Yesterday I went to the hardware store to buy a five-foot closet rod.  When the salesclerk was unable to find what I wanted, he said, “Well…this will probably work.”  It was a hundred degrees outside and I really, really did not want to go to the big box store so I picked up the “good enough” and headed to the cash register.

A picture of my childhood bedroom flashed before my eyes.  Closet with no door, an unfinished plywood floor and  a rod that collapsed if more than three hanging items were attempted.

I did an about-face and returned the good-enough item and, after wandering the store for twenty minutes, found the exact thing I needed.

I could finish by saying Dad would be proud of me – but that would not true.  He’d be prouder to have walked into my closet and seen a pair of old shoes attached to the wall with twelve rusty nails supporting the handle of an old broom.

 

 

Wrasser. Fraser.

Are these curse words for any other families?  My Dad uttered it daily, when he couldn’t find a tool, or his shoes, or anything to eat.

That’s how I feel right now.  I can’t find a story to write.

Twelve more days of this torture I signed up for.

A high school friend wrote on the first day of my experiment, “Don’t let me down!”  Ugh. The guilt.  But it’s working because I know I could never sleep tonight if I didn’t get something posted.  Thank you, Jane.

Wrasser.  Fraser.

THIS DAD vs. THAT DAD

“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!”  This was Dad in the emergency room, large hands out in front of him as if to push away a charging bull. “No one asked me if I was okay with a girl doctor.”

I smacked him on the head with a magazine I’d taken from the waiting room.

Chauvinist Statement3“I’m just saying,” he continued digging his hole. “They oughta have you sign a paper or something. You know. Giving them permission.”

This was the exasperating dad of my adulthood.

– This Dad provoked me by telling his friends not to worry about their spills because his maid (me) would clean it all up.

– This Dad fed a week’s worth of the meals I cooked for him to the dog.

– This “dieting” Dad left wrappers from Big Mac’s and Sonic burgers on the counter for me to pick up.

– This Dad had plopped himself in his rocking chair after Mom died, giving up on…well…everything, letting his home literally fall down around him.

More often than not, our visits ended with me stomping from his house and driving away, leaving him in his filth until the next Saturday visit.

My childhood dad was tall and lean, his skin a mahogany brown from the tips of his fingers to just above his elbows, where the sleeve of his t-shirt rested, his shoulders and chest as pale as a ghost.

– That Dad hauled hay bale after hay bale, stacking them to dizzying heights.

– That Dad survived having the zipper of his jeans [and the body parts behind it] twisted into a piece of churning farm equipment and then managed to sire six more kids.

– That Dad lay at the edge of my bed at night with a chipped ashtray on his stomach.  One hand under his head, the other held a smoldering cigarette.  His soothing voice relayed made up stories about Stinky and Slim, a skunk and a scarecrow, who got into all kinds of mischief but were saved by Stinky doing the right thing.

– That Dad taught me that girl’s can grow up to be anything they want.

Now, eighty-five year-old Dad and I were in the emergency room because he’d slipped off the “step” he’d made for his tractor.  Earning his family title of World’s Laziest Man, he’d tied one end of a rope to a plastic egg crate and the other to the base of the steering wheel. That way he could haul it up or drop it down as the need arose.

The crate/step had failed to work properly owing to several factors; he wasn’t twenty-five years old any more, there was an inch of ice on the ground, and he no longer tipped the scale at 150 pounds but weighed in at close to 300.

Dad Spreadeagled1I’m not proud to share this with you, but when I stood over This Dad spread-eagled on the ground, it took every ounce of compassion I had to not get in my car and drive away.

He crawled on his hands and knees up the handicap ramp he’d had built — he wasn’t handicapped, he just didn’t like to walk up steps — and propped himself against the back door. I sat down next to him and we argued, in the freezing cold, over the benefits of calling/not calling 911.  I was a proponent and, as usual, he held the opposite view.

“There’s no sense making someone go to all the trouble to drive out here from town when we can drive in.”

I pulled my car beside the ramp and he crawled back down. Using upper body strength I assumed he no longer possessed, he pulled himself to a standing position. He hopped a bit to turn around and dropped himself blindly, barely landing on the edge of the car seat. Unable or unwilling to expend any more energy, it was my job to turn his body and lift his feet into the wheel well. Sweating and cursing, I ran around to the driver’s side and jumped in.

Two seconds after I shifted into drive he shouted, “Wait a minute!”

I slammed on the brakes  “What? What’s wrong?”

“I’m hungry. Could you get a sandwich from the fridge for me?”

I put the car in park and ran inside. Dozens of leftover containers crowded the shelves, shoved helter-skelter on top of my well-packaged healthy meals.  The first three containers I opened reeked, the mysterious items covered in mold.  I finally came across a half-eaten club sandwich that looked edible and delivered it back to the car.

This time I made it to the end of the driveway before he asked, through a mouthful of food, “You got any salt? This is kinda bland.”

I plunged the accelerator to the floor and we fishtailed out of the drive. By the time we reached the hospital in town, I’d managed to find a bit of sympathy.

In fact, I survived the waiting room without stabbing him with the pocketknife he’d removed to carve his thumbnail. I tolerated the two days time it took for him to explain to the insurance clerk that he had no idea why his mama had spelled his name Lewis when every other Catholic spelled it Louis.

I’d made it through the x-ray process where he coached the confused young man pushing his wheelchair that there are two kinds of jobs in the world; dirty dirt and clean dirt, and you’d go far in life if you stuck with the clean dirt.

Broken Bone JPEGWe were back in the exam room when a woman in a lab coat walked in, looked at the x-ray and told him his ankle was broken.

He said that maybe he’d just wait and see what the doctor had to say.

Then she said she was the doctor and next thing I know, I’ve smacked him on the head with a magazine.

Dad finally agreed to let her set the break but asked, “Is this going to hurt much?”

“More than it needs to,” she replied. “More than it needs to.”

Dental Denial

shutterstock_96127685 copy“Hmmmm” the dental assistant diagnosed as she cleaned my teeth.

She slid from the room and returned with the dentist. Without a word, my mouth was pried open and mirrors and tapping tools inserted.

“Hmmmm,” the doctor confirmed.

“Wha?” I said through the fingers and stainless steel tools. “Wha’s wron?”

“You have a cracked tooth.  Doesn’t it hurt?”

“Nuh unh.”

“How about now?”

“Unh!”

“This will only take a minute and there won’t be any pain.”

Twenty years ago, notwithstanding that my teeth were well on their way to hillbilly choppers, Husband agreed to marry me, on the condition I visit his dentist every six months without fail.

“Why didn’t you just brush your teeth after meals?” he asked with the innocence of a well-raised child.

For one, I grew up in a house with nine people and one bathroom.  I was lucky to get to pee once a day.

DonutsWhile my brothers and sister participated in the mandatory afternoon nap, Little Miss Goody-Two-Shoes (my sibling nickname) clambered up to the top shelf in the kitchen to steal the sweet treat we received for taking a nap. On my tiptoes, I stretched up to the one surviving bowl from my mother’s wedding china and I dipped my hand in. Sometimes I pulled out a Tootsie Pop, my nose twitching as I caught the cherry scent. Other times a sleeve of ‘Nilla Wafers.

Like a starving chimpanzee, I stuffed the delectable treat into my mouth while I scrambled down. Upon awakening from my nap I received a second goodie.

My poor teeth got hit from both sides of the gene pool. My sweet tooth developed in my mother’s womb, requiring her to consume a Baby Ruth candy bar every day of her pregnancy. Dad’s sweet tooth was legendary.  One Easter, an all out war was declared when my sister’s treasured chocolate bunny appeared with one less ear.  While the seven of us kids (yes, for those of you keeping track, good catch!  There are eight kids, but the baby in the group had yet to be born) tried to rip each other limb from limb, Dad sat in the corner with a Cheshire-cat grin.

But, Dad was far from safe on my sweet sweeps through the house.  I found and pillaged boxes of candy from his closet, sodas hidden in his lunch box and gum from the glove compartment of his car.  Somewhere around my tenth birthday I tore the house apart and found nothing.  I enlisted my younger brother Larry who, I was certain if the stash was found, I could easily swipe his share. We came up empty handed and thereafter Dad’s stash was safe from Miss Goody-Two-Shoes.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I found his genius hiding place: the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator.  No kid in our family would EVER look there.

girl with open mouthWhen my toothaches became unbearable, Mom drove me to the wrong side of town to take me to a “dentist.” He’d pry my mouth open and I swear, try to see if his entire grizzled head would fit inside. “Hmmmm”, he’d diagnose with the stub of his recently smoked cigar firmly clamped between his not-so-pearly whites.

“When I grow up,” I swore, “I’m never going to the dentist again!”

It’s amazing what someone you love can convince you to do. I’ve fulfilled Husband’s request, visiting the dentist regularly for countless root canals and more fillings.  Somewhere in the tenth or twelfth year of our marriage, my teeth came to be in great shape.

Well, good shape.

Okay, let’s just say I still have all my teeth.

But I ramble digress.

Here I am, upside down in the fully reclined dentist’s chair pleading for a postponement of treatment. With the fingers and tools finally removed, I began my defense.  “But, a person can’t just DO something like this on the spur of the moment.”

“Sure we can.” The son of Husband’s previous dentist assured me.

“But, I can’t do it right now – I need to mentally prepare.”

“I’m going to give you a shot to numb you up and it will all be over before you know it.”

“Bhu…” The smell of metal and latex gloves smothered me.

“Now, this may sting a little.”

Blinding, white-hot pain shot through my jaw.  I gripped the arms of the chair and felt a tear run down my cheek.  The instrument of torture was removed but before I could catch my breath in it went again.  My back arched, my eyes bulged and I shouted. “HOLY THIT THAT HURTH!”

The doctor tsk-tsked and removed the agony-causing needle from my mouth.

“What the hell?” I demanded.  “You said that was going to hurt a little.” I wiped at a line of drool already escaping from my almost paralyzed mouth. That hurt A LOH.  A HEHH OF A HOT!

He smiled a patronizing smile and moved to the next patient where, over the sound of the Muzak version of Chain of Fools, I heard him diagnose, “Hmmmm.”

The dental assistant returned and said “When would like to schedule your next appointment?”

“How abou when Hehh fwezzes over???”

I Own a Crack Den for Wasps

No Flip Flops

No Flip Flops

I finally gave up one of my Crazie Town mid-life crisis dreams.  The one where I tour the United States with The Ugly Duckling; the 1955 camper I bought two years ago from the flip-flop-wearing not-a-killer, Ed.

No sitting with her on a beach or on a mountaintop.  No Tin Can Tourist Rally or Sisters on the Fly event for us.  But, she has made it possible to fulfill another mid-life crisis dream.

Before the Vintage Camper vision, I’d dreamed of having a little cabin on our 113 acre family farm.  I’d gotten pretty close, meeting with a shed-building company and designing a 10×10 rustic hut.  A week from installation, they called the county for a building permit and were rejected.  It seems that even though across the road there is a plastic skeleton sitting on a broken toilet and next door they have 12 English mastiffs chained up, I’m not allowed to have a structure without running water.

With a lot of tears a little creative thinking, I realized I already owned the perfect little cabin — on wheels.

Ugly Duckling to the Rescue

Ugly Duckling to the Rescue

I drove  hill and dale looking for the perfect place to park her.

IMG_1125

And finally settled on a knoll overlooking the pond. Before you go, “ahhh” I should tell you that this has got to be the world’s ugliest pond. What ever Bubba my dad hired 30 years ago to screw it up  fix it, managed to make it worse.  It’s not deep enough to sustain anything but a few frogs and an acre of pond scum.  But, it’s water and I’m dreaming of the day the crops produce enough money when I can screw it up fix it.

Maybe it is the OCD in me, but I’ve enjoyed carving out my own, personally-designed campground.

I cleared out piles of cedar branches.

Wrestling with Nature

Wrestling with Nature

I bought a picnic table and, against my straight brothers’ wishes, painted it shocking pink — to the delight of my gay brothers.

LGBT Friendly Campsite

LGBT Friendly Campsite

 

Built a fire ring

PERFECT!  Maybe? Nope.

PERFECT! Maybe? Nope.

and, like the giant sofa the movers place in your house that you decide needs to be six inches to the left, I moved the fire ring and rebuilt it again.

Let There be FIRE

Let There be FIRE

I also discovered that the Ugly Duckling is like a crack den for wasps. Not the White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant kind, but the one with wings and a painful sting.  And, shortly after that, I was crushed to discover that in an 8×8 space, you should never use a broom to chase them away.

Wasp-1/Mayor-0

Wasp-1/Mayor-0

 

The Art of Peeing in the Dark

Emergency Room Visit

Emergency Room Visit with the Ugly Duckling tagging along

My theory that putting two Pressgroves together will cause the Universe to spontaneously  explode, has been proved.

A few weeks ago I’d been with little brother, Rick, and ended up in the Great Bend Emergency Room.

This week, I was with older brother, Mike, and we blew the entire electrical grid at The Legends. (You’re probably wondering what this has to do with peeing in the dark – but as Dad would say “Stay in the boat and see where it goes.)

I’d conned my older brother, Mike, into riding with me to the large shopping area to look at camping equipment. Don’t laugh at me. I really am going camping…some day.

One of the things holding me back is the bathroom situation. I have the world’s smallest bladder and I didn’t want to spend my camping evenings stumbling around in the dark trying to find the public outhouse – not to mention the “ewwww” factor of an outhouse.

At the camping store, I planned to purchase my own commode and a privacy tent. I could explain to you what that is, but the internet does a much better job.

“Need an alternative to littering your campsite with poo holes? Check out the Cleanwaste Privacy Tent. This portable outhouse shelters your Cleanwater portable toilet, so you can do your business in private.”

Mike and I put the tent into the shopping cart and headed over to look at flashlights. He cleverly pointed out that a headlamp flashlight would be ideal – hands free.  Thrilled with my purchases, we drove to lunch at a nearby restaurant, where we had a lovely meal.

Because I have the world’s smallest bladder, I headed off to the bathroom.  I’m sitting there, minding my own business when POP! The lights go out.

My first thought was – Dang, I could really use that headlamp right about now.

My second thought was – I wonder if it really is so dark, I can’t see my hand in front of my face. I’m waving my hands in front of my face when I heard whimpering from the stall next door.

A little girl whined “Mom, what’s going on?”

Her equally terrified mother said, in a rising voice of panic. “I don’t know. I don’t know.”

“Hold on,” I said. “You stay where you are and I’ll wander around until I can find the door.” So there I was, arms straight out in front of me, walking around until I hit a wall. I slid my hands along the wall (trying to ignore my “ewww, bathroom wall!” voice) until I located the door.

Pulling it open, light flooded the room. The mother and daughter ran out, leaving me with the dilemma that I needed to wash my hands.  If I let go of the door I’d be plunged into darkness and, even if I could find the sink, I’d have to run my hands along the wall to find the door, sending me into a lifetime spiral of DARK!…dirty hands…LIGHT!…dirty hands, DARK!…

Even though Husband disagrees, I think this is justification for me wearing the headlamp all the time. Don’t you?

I fell out of the Crazie tree and hit every branch on the way down – Part Two

Cuckoo Clan

p_v11agy64zae0464This week we start with my parents, Lewis and Virginia. (If you missed last week, click here.)

Mom grew up an only child, an unwanted one at that. My Great Aunt Margie told me that when Mom was little, if you asked her name, she’d say, “No, No, Virginia!” In grade school she was molested by the janitor. She ran home and told her mother who said never to speak about it again.

Mom graduated early from high school and went away to K-State at sixteen.  She said the minute she left her mother’s house, her life began and she rarely returned home.

Dad’s upbringing was the opposite. He had two sisters and was the beloved boy in his family. He served at the end of WWII, but the only danger he saw was while guarding AWOL prisoners.

Escorting a soldier to the privy, the guy stopped in his tracks and said “Would you shoot me if I ran?”

“I don’t honestly know,” Dad said, shaking in his boots. “Should we find out?”

In their last year of college, Dad as president of his fraternity, asked a popular girl to  the fall dance. At the last minute she cancelled so Dad called a young woman that had been hanging around him. Mom was so excited to be going with Dad she wore the name tag with the other girl’s name printed on it through the entire event. (Why I hate name tags.) Dad said Mom set her sites on him and he never had a chance and, besides, he didn’t have the heart to send her back to her miserable mother.

Mom and Kathleen eating popsiclesSo she packed away her taffeta dresses, her girdles, stockings and her high heels and moved with Dad to the family farm. Picture a less glamorous version of the TV show, Green Acres.

Dad neglected to mention to her that farm wives fix dinner (lunch to you city folk) for the men and the hired help working in the fields. The morning after their honeymoon, Mom’s new mother-in-law arrived early to help cook, only to find Mom in bed, reading a book.

Cooking was not Mom’s strong point so I can only imagine what got served that day. After that, Mom was relegated to setting the table and washing dishes while the farm women fried chickens, mashed potatoes, opened jars of their home-canned vegetables and served pie.

Dad with uncles in front yard

This picture of Dad is the way I like to remember him. Tall and lean with a dark farmer’s tan covering his arms. He was a heavy smoker and would roll the bottom of his jeans into a thick cuff where he shook the ashes.

Dad graduated with a degree in agriculture and was chomping at the bit to apply everything he’d learned. Unfortunately, Grandpa liked the old system and that’s the way it stayed.

The land (and the house we lived in) belonged to my Grandpa who would decide, on occasion, to pay Dad a share of the farm income. My entire childhood I heard Mom yelling at Dad, “You go over there and get our money right now!”

I said to my older sister the other day, “Remember mayonnaise sandwiches? I loved those.” She sighed. “Do you remember we had them because there wasn’t any food in the house?”

When Mom and Dad could no longer feed the family on what the farm made, Mom went back to school and became a teacher. Dad worked extra jobs where he could — laying asphalt for the city, helping Uncle Harold collect change from his juke box machines, and one long miserable year as a realtor.

He once applied for a job with a chemical company and they called him in for an interview. He had to take a train to the main office and was gone for a couple of days. Mom cried the entire time, terrified that he would take it because it would mean he would be gone a lot. They offered him the job but he turned it down.

Making money was something Mom and Dad never figured out how to do. But, one thing they were good at, was having kids.

ONE

ONE

TWO

TWO

THREE

THREE

FOUR

FOUR

FIVE

FIVE

SIX

SIX

SEVEN

SEVEN

And a few years later…

EIGHT

EIGHT

Tons of Fun

Tons of Fun

With Dad’s passive personality and Mom’s fiery one, it made for quite a roller coaster ride for us kids, but our parents were devoted to us and I never for one moment, even during my worst teenage years of hating my parents, felt unloved by them. We ran to Mom when we needed a hug and to Dad if we needed an ice cream cone.

It’s true, they didn’t know a thing about making money, but they did know how to make a family.

I would do whole thing over again, exactly the same way.