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

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???”