The Wrench

Have you ever had a really bad day at work?  And I mean a really bad day.  One where you wanted to never return to the workplace?  Well, I had one such day, and the events that occurred below made my spirits soar, and I did indeed head back to work the next day.

Here are some things that you need to know before reading this story:
1.) We live in Northern Kentucky.  Most people have a slight twang when they speak, but usually it is so subtle that most people have no problems communicating.

2.) I grew up in Indiana, but have family from Kentucky and Tennessee.  I have the slight twang mentioned above with certain words.  Because of my family, I can understand people with a heavy twang.

3.) Boyfriend grew up in Iowa where there is no twang and they speak correctly without an accent.

4.) Boyfriends’ mom was an English teacher which means he is very sensitive about the pronunciation of words.

One day I came home from work and was not very happy.  I had a horrible day.  Boyfriend decided to take me out to dinner to lift my spirits.  He said that he also needed to stop by Lowe’s for a wrench.

We head into Lowe’s and are looking for the tool department when an elderly employee asks if we need any assistance.  Let me just say this gentleman had a very noticeable twang. 🙂

So, boyfriend, who never asks for help, says, “Yes, sir.  I am looking for wrench.  Could you tell me which aisle they are in?”

The gentleman says “Ur lookin’ for a wha?” (I’m trying to type in KY twang, so forgive me.)

Boyfriend repeats himself (which he hates) “I’m looking for a wrench.”

Gentleman “A wha?”

Boyfriend shortens it “A wrench”.

At this point the gentleman looks at me, and I say in my own slight southern twang “He’s lookin’ for a wreanch.”

Gentleman “Oh! Ur lookin’ for a wreanch!  Those are up at the front of the sto’.”

Boyfriend’s face was priceless.  I wish I had taken a picture.  The gentleman had no idea and was a happy go lucky fellow. Also, I said it no louder than boyfriend so it wasn’t a hearing problem if you are thinking that the gentleman was having a problem hearing boyfriend.  No, this was an Iowa boy trying to communicate with Kentucky twang.

I held in my laughter until we were outside the store which took a lot and I was sputtering the whole time and had tears from holding it in.  Not to mention the huge grin I had on my face.

We walk out of the store and boyfriend cannot hold it in any longer…”A wrench…it’s a wrench.  Not a ranch…a wrench.”  Boyfriend heard us say “ranch” instead of a mangled wrench.

I start laughing so hard I had tears streaming down my face.  It made my day.  I laughed all night long every time I thought of the exchange.  You should really hear boyfriend tell the story because it is hilarious.

We still laugh about it today when we tell friends and family about it.  Oh and I have to ask for assistance now because he says he doesn’t speak with enough twang.

Cable TV

My grandma (mom’s mom) was an awesome grandma who loved me and the Cubs very much.  Back when I was a kid, many people just used antennas to get cable channels.  There were three main channels that you could get ABC, NBC, and CBS.  If you were lucky on a clear day you might get a fuzzy picture of another channel, but for the most part, it was just those three channels.

My parents at some point when I was young decided to get cable.  It was the thing to have because you could get 12 channels with cable and the channels were so clear.  Later on, cable companies added cable boxes which started the influx of more channels until we are where we are today with way too many channels.

My parents worked different shifts, so that for the most part one was home with me at all times.  A really good friend of the family used to come over for the hour between when one had to go to work and the other was one their way home.  My dad worked nights.

Once he was home and the friend of the family had left, I was taught how to watch my shows on TV.  There was no remote control, so I learned to turn the dial to specific channels. 🙂  My shows were Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.  This gave my dad some time to get some rest while I watched and played quietly.  This is something that many parents today probably couldn’t do, but my dad could because I never bothered anything other than my own toys.

At some point, my dad was switched to days and both of my parents worked the same shift.  I was in early grade school at this point and my parents had to find someone to watch me during the summers.  My grandmother was chosen and one of the few my mother trusted with me.  She was a Tupperware salesperson (and a really good one at that time), and she knew that I wouldn’t bother anyone at the parties she had to host, so she agreed.  Besides when I was older I was free labor to help load and unload the car. 😉

In the mornings, I was taken to grandmas and dropped off.  There was only one problem…they didn’t have cable.  I couldn’t watch my shows.  Before the people who say kids shouldn’t watch too much TV, at the time, those two shows were my TV.  I only watched these two shows during the day.  The rest of the time I played outside/inside or I helped grandma out.

Now my grandma was an avid Cubs fan.  She listened to every game on the radio.  Listening to the radio just wasn’t the same as watching it on TV.  She knew that my grandpa couldn’t stand to see me cry.  People tell me that I would get big ol’ crocodile tears in my eyes, but wouldn’t make a sound while crying, and it just about broke their hearts to see any tears from me.

One day, while grandpa was at work, grandma asked me if I wanted cable at their house.  Of course I said yes.  She told me that when he gets home that I needed to crawl up in his lap and ask for cable TV.  When he told me no, I was to start crying and tell him that I couldn’t watch my shows and I really wanted to.  She said that will get cable TV for you to watch your shows and for me to watch the Cubs.  Grandma was adamant that I had to be the one to do it and that she couldn’t ask for me.

Now some might say that this is a bad habit to start with a little kid, and I’m not real sure if grandma thought I’d go through with her plan or not.  I was a really shy kid, so she probably figured that I would back out.  But we made a deal, so in my young mind I couldn’t back out.  Plus I wasn’t just doing this for myself; I was doing it for grandma, so that she could watch the Cubs.

Grandpa finally came home from work and gave me the gum from his lunchbox.  Grandpa always bought a pack of gum from the vending machine at work.  This was back when it only cost a quarter for 5 sticks of gum.  Whatever gum was leftover at the end of the day was mine.  I think he bought the pack everyday for me.  Sometimes there would be 3 sticks and sometimes, he never even touched it.  It was just something little that he could give me, and he knew I would light up with happiness that he had thought of me.

I took his lunchbox from him and into grandma, so she could clean it out and get it ready for the next day.  Grandma looked at me and motioned to the living room with a wink.  I nervously turned around and quietly went into the living room.

Grandpa was in his chair cooling off.  So, I crawled up onto his lap.  By this time, I was so nervous about what I was to do, that I already had tears streaming down my face.  I had never manipulated anyone in my life to get what I wanted.  This was my first time, and I was scared that I would get into trouble.  Even knowing that grandma would come to my rescue couldn’t stop my tears.

Grandpa scooped me up and asked why I was crying.  I said in a very garbled voice “I <sniff> ca <sniff> <sniff> n’t <sniff> wa <sniff> <sniff> tch <sniff> <sniff> my <sniff> s <sniff> <sniff> ho <sniff> ws <sniff> <sniff> be <sniff> ca <sniff> <sniff> ca <sniff> use <sniff> <sniff> you <sniff> <sniff>  do <sniff> n’t <sniff> <sniff> ha <sniff> ve <sniff><sniff>  CA <sniff> BLE <sniff> <sniff>”  Of course my grandfather couldn’t understand me.  He asked me again which just made it worse because I was worried this meant he was onto me.  Finally grandpa hollered into the kitchen “What’s wrong with this baby? She’s crying and I can’t understand what’s wrong!”

My grandma came in and said “She’s upset because she couldn’t watch her shows today or any other day.”  Grandpa replied with “Her shows? She has shows?” An exasperated grandma said, “Yes, her shows: Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.  They are on cable and she can’t watch them here because we don’t have cable.  She’s upset because she found out that she can’t watch them all summer because we don’t have CABLE.” She really stressed the word cable.

Grandpa looked at me and asked if that was why I was crying.  I nodded my head while looking at him with the crocodile tears welling up in my eyes.  It’s the last part that put him over the edge.  He gave me a big hug and said, “It’ll be ok.  Grandpa will fix it. How much is cable?”  Now if he were thinking, he’d realize that grandma answered a little too quickly.  He pulled the money out of his pocket and told grandma to go down to the cable company tomorrow and get the cable installed for this baby.

My tears turned into a big smile!  It worked!  My grandma just winked at me and said to grandpa, “Whatever you say.  You know you spoil that child too much!”  🙂 I spent the rest of the afternoon on grandpa’s lap.  When I went to leave, my grandma gave me a big hug and told me that I did great.

And that my friend is how my grandparents got cable.  My aunt who was still living there at the time was livid.  She had been trying to get them to get cable for a long time, and all it took was little ol’ me to cry and get what I wanted.

My grandmother and I had an agreement.  I got to watch what I wanted in the mornings and she got to watch the Cubs in the afternoon.  Back then all games were day games, so I became a huge Cubs fan growing up.  I usually watched the game with her, but some of the time, I did 50-50 between watching the game and playing outside.  In the mornings, I usually only watched a couple of hours of TV (sometimes while helping her bag Tupperware) before heading outside; unless it was raining of course. 🙂

Today my grandfather tells me that I owe him for the years of the cable that he has had to pay for.  At some point, someone told him about grandma’s scheme.  Of course, he came to enjoy watching cable and decided to keep it even after he found out.  You just never know what you want until you have it. 🙂


After my brother passed away (well even before then), my mother became extremely protective (an understatement).  This was the 70s back when parents who grew up in the 50s-60s still remembered what it was like to run around a small town without parental supervision as very young kids.  But times were different, Manson and Dahmer were well known serial killers plus Adam Walsh was kidnapped and killed in 1981.

So my mom was extremely protective.  Dad was protective too, but I think he remembered what it was like to have freedom as a kid to make decisions and learn what the consequences to those decisions would be.  When my parents moved into their second house (the first I remember), they put up a privacy fence.  This fence was funny because if the wind blew just right, sections would fall down.  When it was built they didn’t use treated lumber, so it just came right back down.  I think in the time that we lived there that my dad actually put up two fences.  The first fence was all at once and the second fence in sections as they fell down. 🙂

When I finally learned to ride my bike at five, my mom would only let me go to the end of the third house to the right and to the end of our neighbors to the left.  The reason I couldn’t go far to the left was our neighbors had a really tall hedge that my mom couldn’t see over.  If she couldn’t see me, then I couldn’t go there.

Btw, the guy in the third house really didn’t like us kids.  He hated kids riding in his yard.  I was ok because my father was the same way only he had a kid (and I told my friends to not ride in our grass), so the guy never had any ill will towards me because I wouldn’t ride in his yard or anyone else’s.  But I do remember my friends telling me that they got yelled at by him.

Once I was in elementary school and had friends in the neighborhood, this was a pain.  Nobody wants to play with you if you can’t go very far.  I mean what’s the fun in riding on the sidewalk between 5 houses?  Not much.

Around age nine, my reach extended to riding on the sidewalk to the end of our street.  This was about 3-4 houses more to the right.  I still couldn’t go past the hedge to the left.  This opened me up a tad and at least I could use my imagination to go further.  My friends still lived in another area of our neighborhood.

At age 11, I was allowed to ride in the street.  I still had the same reach, but now it was extended to the other side of the street.  I used to log a lot of hours just simply riding up and down the street looking for someone outside to play with.  The problem was that most of my friends could go further than I could and went to play on other streets.

Around this time, my mom started working some Saturdays.  It wasn’t all the time and she only worked a half day, but those were the greatest days of my life. 🙂  One would think that a child would miss their mom on that day, but my dad made things fun for me.  🙂  Dad was the more relaxed parent in case you can’t tell.

The first Saturday mom worked, my dad and I were eating breakfast when mom left.  Dad looked at me and asked if I could keep a secret.  I replied with yes thinking that he and I were going to go buy or build something for mom.  He told me that a half hour after mom left; I could go outside and ride my bike.  I said ok, but I was a little let down…I mean I do that all the time and I was kind of thinking that this was going to be special.

He continued and said that I could go anywhere in the neighborhood I wanted as long as I didn’t cross or go near the busy road that was the entrance to our neighborhood.  My jaw dropped at this!  I mean, I could go over to Eddie, Jesse, and Melissa’s house!  A miracle was happening right in our kitchen. 🙂

He finished with asking if I was wearing my watch.  Of course I had my Big Bird watch on and dad made sure that the battery was still functioning and that it was currently set to the correct time.  He told me that mom was due home around 12:30 pm and to be safe that needed to be back home by 11:30 am an hour before she was due home.  He asked if I could do this, and I said yes.

Dad finished with “It is real important that you are home by 11:30 am or we will both be in trouble.  You cannot tell your mother now or ever.  This has to be a secret because if she ever finds out, we will both be in more trouble that you know can happen.  Have fun and be safe!  I will be here if you need me.  You have to finish your breakfast first and then you can go.”

I think dad knew that I wouldn’t be back until 11:30 am, so he wanted me to be nice and full before heading out.  I snarfed down breakfast at a pace that was very unladylike.  I put my plate in the sink and ran to put on my tennis shoes.  With a “Thanks Dad”, I headed out on my adventure.

My first stop (and I would formally like to apologize to Jesse’s parents for showing up at 8 am on a Saturday) was Jesse’s house.  I rode as fast as I could to her house because I knew she’d be surprised to see me.  She knew I wasn’t allowed out of my area.  I knocked on the door and asked if she could come out to play.  I think her mom was shocked to see me and that shocked expression it wasn’t just the time of day I was there, but that I was there at all.  Her mom said something about Jesse watching cartoons and asked if I wanted to come in.  I told her that I would pass because I only had until 11:30 am to ride my bike around the neighborhood.  My mom didn’t talk to her much, so I figured I was pretty safe.  Plus I think most of the mom’s around the neighborhood were just happy to see me get some freedom.  They wouldn’t rat me out.

The next thing I knew as I was riding away I heard my name being called.  Jesse heard what I told her mom and went to get dressed and put her shoes on in record time.  After chatting about this new liberty I was given while riding, I asked if she wanted to ride over to Eddie’s house to see if he could play as well.

Jesse knew exactly where he lived and we headed over there.  Once again a mom was surprised to see me at her door and called Eddie to see if he wanted to play.  He did and so our group was now three.  We all three wanted Melissa to play as well, so over to her house we went.  Now going to Melissa’s house was interesting because she lived close to the road that I was not allowed to cross.  I was a tad nervous, but I knew we wouldn’t cross it and she wasn’t on the corner, so I went along.

Melissa being a really good friend, of course came out to play.  Her mom was the one I was most worried about because our mom’s talked more frequently.  I was asked about being over there, and I said that my dad said it was ok and that mom wasn’t home.  I asked her to not tell my mom or dad and I would be in trouble.  She smiled and said that she was very happy to see me and that she would keep our secret.  She told us all to be safe, smart, and to have fun.

We rode all over the neighborhood.  We had bike races and stopped to chat with various friends along the way.  We all wound up over at Eddie’s house playing some game outside.  Time flew by and the next thing I knew it was 11:00 am.  I told everyone that I wanted to ride some more before going home as I only had a half hour.  I thanked them all for being great friends and making my Saturday the best I had ever had.  Jesse and Melissa joined me on my final ride.  Melissa had to head home as well, and Jesse was getting hungry for lunch as she didn’t get any breakfast because of how early I was at her house.  So, we rode over there first.  Then I rode with Melissa to her house.  I circled back around and still had five minutes, so I went down a cul-de-sac behind our house before going home.  I was in the driveway right at 11:30 am.

I went inside to let dad know that I was home.  Dad told me that he was happy that I was home on time because mom got off a little early and was on her way. 🙂  He told me to remember it is a secret and to not tell her.  Plus he said that since I was responsible with my time and as long as mom doesn’t find out that I could do this again, the next time my mom worked on Saturday.  Dad then said that I should head out and ride my bike because that is what I would be doing normally on a Saturday morning.  I headed back outside to ride in my limited area.  It was way different riding there after having all that freedom.

I soon saw mom’s car come down the street.  So I did what I always did, I headed home to say hi.  Mom gave me a hug and asked if I had fun with dad this morning.  I told that I did and that he let me ride my bike all morning.  She simply assumed it was in the designated area.  😉  I never elaborated on it.  I was honest, I did ride my bike.  Dad said that same thing that I just rode my bike all morning.

I had a blast that morning and I thank my dad for allowing me to ride my bike around the neighborhood.  I remember asking mom week to week if she had to work on Saturday.  If she said yes, I said “Awww, that’s too bad.”  Inside I was excited as could be that mom had to work.  And so it went while we lived in that house.  If mom had to work on Saturday, I had freedom for a few hours.  I think dad planned to not have any errands on those Saturday mornings, so that I could have a little freedom.

I know that no one ratted dad and I out.  None of my friends or their parents said a word to my mom.  I know this because one evening when I was in my 30s and was home visiting, dad and I came clean.

We were at dinner and were reminiscing about the days gone by.  Without thinking first, I asked dad if he remembered those Saturdays when mom worked.  He said, “The ones where I let you ride around the neighborhood?”  I think both of us thought we would be in the clear at this point.  I was 30 for Pete’s sake.

Mom asked what we meant by that with a very wary voice.  We came clean and explained everything.  As we were detailing my exploits, mom’s eyes got darker and darker as she became madder and madder.  She turned and looked at dad and said “I can’t believe you let her do that.  She could have been kidnapped or worse.  How could you do that?” Dad and I said we were sorry for deceiving her, but I told her that I was happy that dad let me ride around the block and trusted me to be safe.

With that, mom was done with dinner and ready to leave.  In fact she walked out ahead of us.  We were upset that she was mad, but grinning from ear to ear that she never found out.  I figured one of the other mom’s would eventually say something offhandedly not remembering it was a secret.

Mom has never forgiven us for that and I doubt that she ever will.  She did say that she was happy that nothing happened to me and dropped the subject.  I am happy she knows though.  I think in today’s world that there are a lot of parents who are just like my mom which is why I am telling this story.  Should they be?  I don’t know, but I think the media adds a lot to perceptions about today’s world; just like the media did back in 1981 when Adam Walsh was kidnapped.

So, for those very protective parents, I suggest (unless you truly live in a bad neighborhood…we didn’t) that you let your kids have a few hours to ride around the block.  If they are responsible, let them do it every now and then.  It teaches them responsibility and gives them a feeling of independence plus it is a way to show your kids that you trust them.  If they don’t follow the rules, don’t let them do it again for awhile.  This will help teach them that there are consequences to their actions.

I know I will always cherish those days and I remember them fondly. 🙂  Thanks Dad!

Morning Sanctuary

As I posted previously, every year my family would make the drive down to Tennessee to visit with family. For most of the trip, we stayed at my great aunts house that had at least a window air conditioner in the kitchen. Since we always went to visit at the beginning of August, it was always hot and sticky down there and the window air conditioner gave a tad bit of relief from the heat. I am also a lover of animals as you may have figured out by now and would do anything for my own pets.

My great aunt (Nanny) and great uncle (Papaw) had a dog and a whole lot of cats living on her farm. The cats on the farm were all strays that somehow found their way to Nanny and Papaw’s house. They had a building that Papaw cut a corner off of a door, so that the cats could get in and be safe from any wild dogs running around. Nanny put a plate of food and a bowl of water in the building for the cats to eat something if they needed to. Every day Nanny went out to put out fresh food and water for the cats, and when we visited; I got the job along with gathering eggs and feeding the chickens.

Nanny always named every single cat that came to live on their farm; no matter how long it stayed. Sometimes, the cats stayed for just a couple of days and sometimes they stayed for years, but they always had a name and she knew them on sight. Sometimes they would leave and return a month or two later, but she always knew which cat was which.

One cat that stayed for years was named Tom-Tom. He was a beautiful yellow and white cat, but could be really mean. Tom defended his territory and was good at it. Tom wasn’t the type of cat that you just reach down and pet. Doing that would get your hand swiped at, and he had sharp claws. 🙂 He was always around, but resisted petting. He’d even take swipes at Nanny and Papaw. Papaw would just tell him “To git on out of here”.

I mentioned a dog, and while I don’t know how they came to have Bo-Bo, I know that they had him for many years. I believe Bo-Bo was a large shepherd dog. Not German though.

Bo-Bo was kid friendly and would protect any kids to the best of his ability. When I was outside, Bo-Bo was right there. If I stood still, Bo-Bo would sit in front of me. Of course to get there, when he sat down he’d knock into you and just about put you on the ground if you weren’t ready for it. I remember going to Nanny’s and being excited to get out of the car because Bo-Bo was right there to greet you. Basically, the whole time I was at Nanny’s, I had a shadow. 🙂 I miss Bo-Bo.

At Nanny’s there weren’t any air conditioners in the bedrooms, so you slept with the windows open. During the night, the fog would settle between the mountains and cool it off outside. Every morning the sun was up in the sky way too early for summer vacation. Of course as soon as the sun would come up, the rooster would start crowing. The rooster woke me up everyday. I have no idea how mom could sleep through it.

One summer when we were there, I would actually get up when the rooster crowed. My dad was already up and chatting with Nanny and Papaw and mom was still snoozing. I can’t remember how old I was (probably 10-12 if I had to guess), but I did this for a few years until first Bo-Bo and then Tom-Tom died. I asked my dad if I could go outside knowing that he was very likely to allow me to do so. He always said I could. He probably thought I was playing in the yard, but I couldn’t do that or I would risk the wrath of my mother who liked her sleep.

The first time, I did this; I had no destination in mind, but just kind of wandered out into the field. I had two companions: Bo-Bo and Tom-Tom. They simply joined me. Bo-Bo was in the lead and Tom-Tom was following me. We walked out to the edge of the property where you could see the other mountain and I realized that the fog was still in the valley. I sat down in the tall grass to watch the fog rise.

Bo-Bo was lying right behind me, so that I could lean on him and pet his head. In his older years, I didn’t lean, but simply petted. Tom-Tom the first couple of days simply laid next to me. I would chat with the two of them asking questions like what was their plan for the day and just talking in soothing tones. On the third day, Tom-Tom crawled into my lap and took a snooze. This was so out of character for him, but I figured he needed the sleep and felt safe in my arms. It was probably one of the few times that he didn’t feel the need to be on alert. I could pet him to my heart’s content during this time. He even let me rub his belly which was a sign of full trust.

We would sit in our morning sanctuary and watch the fog rise out of the valley. It was very peaceful out where we were. The only sounds we heard were the sound of the land. There were no people around, and if anyone had come close to where we were, I knew that Bo-Bo would let me know. The fog would slowly rise leaving behind the beautiful trees and farmland that was just waking up when the sun finally made it through the thick fog.

Once it fully lifted, I would tell my companions that our time was up and that we should check back in. Tom-Tom would rise up and stretch and get off my lap. Bo-Bo would yawn a sleepy yawn that said lets stay a little longer. We would start our trip back to the house. Once we got close, I would ask if they wanted to race. They would happily agree. Tom-Tom always won, and I came in second. Bo-Bo was always more interested in staying back with me than in winning the race. As soon as we were back at the house, I had to be careful to not overstep my bounds with Tom-Tom. Once Nanny caught me petting him and said “You better be careful! That cat will bite you!” Tom-Tom and I just looked at each other and I swear his eyes twinkled at me like we have a secret.

I enjoyed my peaceful mornings with Bo-Bo and Tom-Tom. I like to believe that they remembered me from year to year because the following year I did the same thing and had the same companions. Tom-Tom never hesitated after that to crawl in my lap and Bo-Bo always came along. In his older years, Bo-Bo was stiff in the mornings and our walk took more time, but he always came on his own. It was always his choice as I never said “Come on! Let’s go for a walk.” I think that is what made it so special. We were three beings who wanted to be together.

Now my dad knows where I went on those mornings. 🙂 And even more importantly mom knows that I was out in the field alone with two protectors. Dad will be in trouble…sorry dad. 🙂 I bet you don’t even remember those mornings. And to mom…you know Bo-Bo would have protected me with his life and plus out there…nothing can happen to you! 😉

I Grew Up an Only Child

Whenever meeting new people in a social situation, a certain question always gets asked: “Do you have any siblings?”  My answer is always “I grew up an only Child.”  Smart people will catch that I didn’t actually answer the question, and will ask a follow up question like “What does that mean?”

The reason I answer the way I do is avoidance, so I don’t have to deal with any lag in the conversation.  Most people won’t catch that I didn’t answer the actual question, therefore no lag.  You see I do have a brother, but he died right after I turned five and he was two and a half.  Therefore when I say I grew up an only child, it’s true…I did.

It is simply an easier answer than saying “Yes, but my brother passed away when I was five.”  That answer will only lead to surprising the person out of their socks and put them in a position where they don’t really know how to proceed.

I’m not sure why people are so uncomfortable when you don’t sugar coat something like this, but I guess it’s a difficult topic for most because they remember someone close to them who has passed away.  This probably makes them sad, and when meeting someone new, you usually like to have your best foot forward; not your saddest foot.

My brother was sick from the time he was born until he passed away, but let me tell you my parents were awesome.  I don’t remember ever thinking he was really sick or any resentment towards him because he was so sick.  I just remember I liked having a brother.  Personally, I feel lucky that I remember him at all.  I’ve heard that most kids don’t remember much until they are five, so I am very lucky indeed.

My parents took very good care of my brother, so much so that my mom told me later on when I was an adult that the doctors were surprised at how long he lived.  My parents made a lot of trips to the hospital with him during his short two and a half years.  They made a lot of sacrifices for him, but he received the best care that could be provided.

I only have a few memories of my brother.  Only one involves a hospital and that was the day he passed away.  Most of the time while my parents went to the hospital, I went to my Grandma and Grandpa’s house to be spoiled. 🙂

Other memories are silly like getting his leftover baby food jars when mom finished feeding him.  I used to stick my little fingers in the jar and get every last scrap of baby food out of it.

But by far, my best and favorite memory of my brother is an example of how much my parents tried to keep things as normal as possible for me.  They found a way for me to play with my brother.  🙂

Our house had an L-shaped hallway that started in the living room and ended in a bedroom.  It wasn’t a long distance, but when you are under five, it seems like a long way.  My mom would sit in the living room and dad in the bedroom.  Then Mom would put my brother into a stroller and strap him in.  After she double-checked to make sure he was ok, I was off.  I would stroll him from one parent to the other.  One of them could always see him, and I knew better than to run or be careless with him.  I had to stop at each end, so that my parents could ensure that he was ok.  Then I would turn around and go the other direction.  I have no idea how much time I spent strolling him and I am sure it was probably shorter than I remember.

It may seem like such a small thing to remember and not a fun activity, but I loved it!  I felt like I was taking care of him as well and I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for that memory.

Here’s some advice for everyone…When you meet someone that lost a sibling at an early age and they remember their sibling, try saying “I’m sorry that you lost your brother/sister, but I am happy that you got to know them and that you have memories to remember them by.”  Hopefully, this will help you get past the lag in conversation that might occur. 🙂

Three Cats and Leftover Chicken

We had the pleasure of watching my furry brothers (cats) for a week while my parents were on vacation.  My mom won’t entrust their care to anyone else, but myself and boyfriend.  She knows that we will take care of them just as she would.

One of my brothers is named Oreo, and is by far the biggest trouble maker of the bunch.  Oreo loves to come and visit his sister because we have special food (canned) twice a day and we pull out the catnip.  Plus he gets a different view of the outside world and gets to destroy…oops I mean be curious in a new house.

Oreo can jump like no other cat I have seen before; from a sitting position or while running.  Oreo is fast!  He loves to play and he will play with anything…string, ball, feather, hair scrunchies, your hand, anyone else’s tail, and well his own tail too.  I think you get the point.  He loves to play.

My other brother is Mason and is the complete opposite of Oreo.  Mason would rather lay on you than play.  Mason second favorite thing to do is eat.  Even though Skip is the oldest (by 2 months on the youngest) and the largest of the boys, Mason weighs the most. Mason is part Ragdoll, so when you pick him up; you can feel how much an 18 pound cat really does weigh because Mason goes completely limp.

Mason is a talker.  If you talk to him, he answers back.  It at least gives you the feeling that he is listening to you.  Mason loves to be touched and prefers both hands to be used.  Boyfriend likes having Mason visit because he has a buddy for the week.  If Boyfriend sits, Mason is there.  Mason is also odd in that he prefers to be covered most of the time.  Once Boyfriend finally gets Mason to lie down next to him and then puts covers over most of Mason.

For the sake of Mason, it is better that Boyfriend be the primary holder.  Skip is very jealous of Mason, so Mommy has to be careful with how much I pet or hold Mason.  Mason used to be my son and since I live in Kentucky it’s ok that he’s now my brother. 😉  Back when Mason lived with me, we had some transferred aggression occur where Mason was the aggressor and Skip was the victim.  Skip has never forgotten and therefore could do without Mason.

But, the boys all get along well enough with Oreo being the glue that holds them together.  Skip will play with Oreo and Oreo will…hmmm…try to play with Mason?  Mason will just go and find the humans to lie on which leaves Oreo and Skip to play.  This is a huge treat for Skip and why he deals with Mason.

The boys immediately got catnip once my parents left the house after dropping the boys off.  This kind of sets the stage for a week without their parents.  PARTY TIME FOR THE KITTIES!!  Given that all 3 boys are 11 years old, they all promptly sacked out after the catnip.  Mason was of course near Boyfriend.

The week goes by and nothing really major happens other than Oreo acting out when he wasn’t allowed canned food due to his nervous stomach.  He just can’t handle it twice a day.  Oh, and by acting out, I mean knocking things over or off of a table.  He does that when he’s mad and our house has not been Oreo proofed.  My brother is a big brat…see I admit it, but of course my mom won’t. 😉  Parents never listen to the child that sees the truth. 🙂

The night before mom and dad are to come back through and pick up their kids, boyfriend had to work late.  He called me and said that he was almost on his way home which take 45 minutes on a good day.  So, I went through the cabinets and decided on a junk food night.  I could have chosen the leftover KFC, but I looked around me and there were 3 cats.  Umm…No, I’m not going there.

Well, boyfriend comes home and asks what I had to see if there were any leftovers.  I said, nope, I went the junk food route.  He went into the kitchen and started to scrounge for food as well, and he came across the leftover KFC.  Boyfriend politely asked if I had plans for it, and I said no, it’s all yours.  I was all smiles.  [Please insert an evil sounding laugh in your head here.]

Boyfriend grabs the chicken and coleslaw and heads to the couch followed by Oreo and Mason.  Skip was lagging a bit (not that he’s allowed any table food which might account for the lag).  Boyfriend sets his coleslaw down on the table and pops open the container with the chicken.

Here was his first mistake; he looked away for a second to answer a question I asked. Did I ask purposely, is the question?  The answer is that I really wanted to know if he wanted to watch Big Brother.  Well, in the split second he turned away, Oreo hit from behind the couch and was up on the table in a flash.

Boyfriend exclaims in a deep primitive voice, “Get away from my coleslaw.” Coleslaw from KFC is Boyfriends favorite. He then proceeds to knock Oreo off the table.  Oreo in a flash is in the front of the couch attacking.  Mason decides on the high route of the back of the couch at the same time.  Boyfriend was literally waving both arms…one in front and one behind to hold off the attack.

Me you ask?  I’m laughing my a** off.  Oreo not to be defeated runs back around to the back of the couch while Mason tries again from the back of the couch.  Oreo jumps towards the table and boyfriend gets him in mid air with the back of hand while exclaiming, “Back off, it’s my chicken.”  Boyfriend has yet to eat a bite.  I’m telling you people, it…was…funny!

So, I see Oreo heading around my side of the couch and feeling sorry for boyfriend; I snatch up Oreo and proceed to hold him.  Boyfriend with a sigh of “Thanks” starts to take a bite with Mason’s head right next to his.  Mason figured that you just never know…Boyfriend might miss his mouth and instead feed Mason.  Boyfriend waves his arm in the air to get Mason Back.

Cue the Skip-ster.  Skippy seeing that Oreo was subdued and Mason was losing the fight, decided to help out.  Skip took the couch seat route, and in laying claim that it’s his Papa proceeds to place to paws on boyfriend leg leaning in to see if he can have some.  Boyfriend is handling these two quite well, and Oreo can’t have that.  In a quick move, he gets away from me.

Ok I admit it; I wasn’t holding him very well.  I want him to remember the fun and not the bad times, so I couldn’t be mean.  I know…Poor Boyfriend.  Oreo taking the floor route heads right into the fray.  Boyfriend is growling like I imagine a bear would when defending his food, but is actually getting food into his mouth.  The boys backed down a level.

Picture if you will, boyfriend leaned over his chicken container with elbows out to prevent an unwanted helper with Oreo sitting on several books on the floor, but right where he can grab if needed, Skip standing with two paws on boyfriends legs leaning in to see if Papa will share, and Mason sitting on the back of the couch hoping for a piece to make its way up there.

Thank the heavens boyfriend didn’t actually share or pandemonium would have erupted.  Our rule in our house (before Skip’s food allergies) were if you don’t push, but sit politely we will share.  If you push, we don’t share.  It’s our way of teaching manners to the cats.

I sent my parents a text message with a picture of Boyfriend trying to eat KFC chicken with three cats.   Mom said that dad couldn’t stop laughing.  And dad’s reply was, “Our boys like chicken!”

And that my friend is the story of Boyfriend trying to eat chicken with 3 cats in the house.  For the record, Boyfriend did indeed finish his chicken and as soon as he got to the coleslaw, the boys slowly left as they realized that chicken was not in the cards for them this night.

Leaving the Nest

This is a story about me, my mom, and a doctor that my mom worked with. I apologize for not referencing the story that the doctor tells. I honestly do not know where he got the story/analogy from, but if you know the story and who should be referenced; let me know.

Way back when computers were really becoming a common household item, I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Technology. I had been interviewing like crazy trying to find a job. It was difficult, but luckily it was very popular for companies to hire employees straight out of college. This was a time period that when someone got a job, they traditionally stuck with the employer until they retired. This practice has changed over the years and more and more people leave companies for “a better job/company”.

I was at home watching my dad iron his clothes in the kitchen and just chatting with him. At that time, there was no TV in the kitchen. I know it was a radical time. 🙂 I still lived at home, but was anxious to find a job. The phone rang and it was the recruiter from Great American life Insurance Company (GALIC) in Cincinnati, OH calling to offer me a junior developer position in the company.

I was ecstatic. I took down the information regarding the job, benefits, and his contact information. I told him that I would call back with in the hour with an answer, but that I wanted to think about it. Basically, that was all front…I just wanted to talk to my dad about the offer.

After talking it over, I decided to take the job. There really wasn’t much question about it; I was just confirming with dad that he felt it was a fair offer as well. Dad had way more experience than a green kid out of college and I knew that. I didn’t want the recruiter to know that’s what I was doing because I wanted to show that I was self-sufficient. So, I called the recruiter back and said that I was going to accept the offer. I received the information as to when my first day would be and where to go.

Once I got off the phone, dad says, “Don’t you think you should call your mom?” Excitedly, I called mom and gave her my awesome news that “I got a JOB!!!!” All I heard was silence on the other end. She finally asked where and how much I’d be making, but was very sad. I told her all the details ignoring the sadness I heard. We hung up and dad took me out to lunch to celebrate. Dads are great about things like that. He was just as sad as mom, but knew how much it meant to me. So he masked his pain to let me enjoy my moment.

I heard this part of the story later on from mom once she knew I was fine in Cincinnati. After mom hung up with me, she broke down crying because I was moving 3 hours away. I grew up an only child, so I was very close with both of my parents. Unfortunately, where I grew up, there just weren’t a lot of jobs at that time in the computer technology field. This was before the tech boom occurred.

Everyone tried to comfort her, but it wasn’t working. They were saying that I would be OK and she’ll come back to visit. All of the standard “make you feel good comments” were doing nothing for mom. Finally, a doctor in the practice came over and gave her a hug and started to tell a story out loud to everyone. He said:

There is this mommy bird and she has 2 little baby birds. She
nurtured the baby birds from the time they were an egg by
protecting the egg from predators and the elements to the time
they were getting ready to leave the nest. The mommy bird loved
her two baby birds with all her heart.

The day finally came where the baby birds were ready to leave
the nest. The mommy bird was very sad, but knew that it was time.
The first baby bird hopped out to a clear place on the limb,
tested her wings a bit, and jumped spreading her wings. The baby
bird flew back up past the mommy bird to show that she could fly
and soared off out of sight. The mommy bird was extremely happy
that her baby bird flew.

Next came her other baby bird who like the first baby hopped out
onto a clear spot on the limb. The little baby bird also checked
her wings, and jumped off the limb and seconds later went SPLAT
onto the ground below.

The doctor then pulled my mom away and asked, “Now do you have a flier? Or is your baby bird going to go SPLAT?” Mom replied that her baby bird was going to soar above everyone else. The doctor then asked “Why are you so sad then when you know that this is the first step to you baby bird soaring. You should be happy for her because you know you have a good egg and a good flier.”

Mom wiped her tears from her eyes and said, “I know you’re right. I have a flier and I should be happy for her.” Mom then went into a patient room with a little baby. As she was working up the physical on the little baby, she said, “You’re never going to leave your mommy for some job, are you?” The doctor she actually worked for started laughing and explained to the patients’ mom what was going on. The patients’ mom immediately gave my mom a hug and told her she understood.

When mom came home, she gave me a hug and told me she was proud of me. Then she suggested that we go out to dinner to celebrate and plan my move to family members’ house that lived in the area. Moms are great too!

So, to all you parents who are letting your kids grow up one way or another…Do you have a Flier or one that will go SPLAT?

Mammy and Pappy

As a part of my “I Remember” series, I would like to talk about my great grandparents on my mom’s side: Mammy and Pappy.  I was lucky enough to get to know my great-grandparents and have many awesome memories of visiting them in Tennessee.

Every year in May, most of the kids I went to school with would talk about where their families were going on vacation.  My reply was always: “Tennessee.  No, not to Pigeon Forge. Nor Nashville.  Nope not Memphis either. We’re going to visit my great-grandparents.”  You know when you tell your friends that, they kind of just move the topic on to their cool destination like Disney World or Washington DC, etc.

Even though it was my mom’s family, every year my dad insisted we go to visit because you just never knew when something might happen to Mammy and Pappy.  Dad is big on family.  So, each year at the hottest point of the summer we would head south to visit.

Pappy was a carpenter and that is how he made money when my grandfather was growing up.  They settled in a small town called Tazewell.  Mammy and Pappy had 9 kids.  Two children were lost at very young ages.  My grandfather was one of the youngest.

Btw, Mammy and Pappy are not their real names.  These are just the names that everyone calls them.  Tazewell being a smaller town, many people just called them by their nicknames.  It was easier. 🙂  Kind of neat to hear Bud from a general store ask how Pappy was “gettin’ on”.

Mammy and Pappy lived in a house that Pappy built in 1910 in a holler.  This house did not have any running water or plumbing.  This means that to get a drink of water, you had to pump water and drink out of a community ladle.  Trust me as a kid…this was fun!  I made many excuses of being thirsty just to pump the water. 🙂  This also means that there was no bathroom indoors.

There was an outhouse in back of the house that you used to relieve yourself.  Personally, I hated the outhouse and only used it when I really, really had to.  The reason I hated the outhouse was the wasp nests that were in there.  They scared me to death! When I was younger I wasn’t allowed to use the outhouse by myself because you had to walk a path up to it.  The mountainside that the house was situated on had a nest of copperhead snakes living on it.  Mom was worried that I would encounter one on the path.  BTW, I love snakes which was probably another of her worries.

Out front there was a creek! A great place for a kid to play in.  I looked for crawdads all day long.  Given that the temperature outside was always above 90 when we were there; playing the creek is not a bad way to spend the day. 🙂  Now Mammy didn’t like me playing the creek and was worried that I would get a leech on me (I never did).  However, my mom was usually in the creek with me to try to keep from getting to hot, so I had no worries.

There were always tons of cats/kittens around.  Mammy always fed them the leftover scraps.  The cats were really wild and I could barely catch one to pet it. My best chance was when Mammy set the food out to feed them.  I could usually get one then only to be told my Mammy to let the cat go, so it could eat.  Timing was everything.

The roof of the house was tin.  This meant that the house was a sweat box in the summertime.  Every evening there was a rain shower that would pass through, and if you have never heard raindrops on a tin roof, you should go and find one somewhere.  It is a beautiful sound that will lull you to sleep.  One day I would love to have a house with a tin roof on just the porch to hear that sound again.

Pappy had a porch swing that he would sit on all day long.  My great-grandparents were beyond retired when I met them.  Even though they stayed busy with general housework, there wasn’t much to do.  I used to sit in the porch swing with Pappy.  You know I don’t really remember sitting on any other chair other than the porch steps.  I always hated sitting on the inside of the swing though because of all the mud dauber nests on the house.  But if I sat on the outside of the swing, I interrupted Pappy’s ability to spit out his tobaccy.

Part of the fun of sitting on the swing was waiting for a car to go by.  You have to have a lot of patience though because very few cars went by, but I waved with Pappy at every single one of them.  Some people would stop and ask Pappy if he needed anything from the store.  That’s the way it is down there, everyone takes care of each other which is something that has been lost today.

Mammy and Pappy had just a small patch of grass on either side of the house.  Down there, you only remove the trees you have to and leave the rest.  The funny thing was that they did not have a lawn mower or anything.  When I was a kid, they had a cow.  I no longer remember her name, but I remember her.  She mowed the grass for them.  In later years once the cow was gone; my great-uncle who lived next door mowed the grass for them.

I have so many fond memories of my time down there.  It was a simple time in my life, but I believe it was the most enjoyable and relaxing time.  I think that my summertime down there was more special than going to Disney World.  My parents even took a cousin down for me to play with one year, and when we hooked back up on Facebook years later after losing touch; one of the first things she posted to me was about the time she went with us to TN.  It is a special place.

As this article is already longer than I expected, so I’m going to break it up into sections.  This was the introduction to Mammy and Pappy and where they lived.

Long Distance to Ireland

When I was a kid, we did not have cell phones or portable phones, and calling long distance was extremely expensive.  We had a rotary dial telephone.

What’s a rotary dial telephone, you ask.  It’s a phone that had a dial over all the numbers with a hole for each number.  To call 234-5678 for example, you would stick you finger in the 2 hole and turn the dial clockwise until it stopped.  Then the dial would spin back in place and you would then proceed to do the same step with the 3.  It took a long while to just dial a seven digit number.

So, you get the point of how the phone worked.  Rotary dial telephones did not have any memory capability at all, so you had to either memorize your friends phone numbers or write them down.  My mom had a list of common phone numbers that she called on a piece of paper taped on the wall next to the phone.

When I was 5 years old, my mom taught me to dial the phone using the first number on her list which was my grandparents’ number.  I knew my numbers at this point, so she knew if there were any problems with my brother who was a very sick child that she could count on me to call for help.

Please note that there was no such thing as 911 either.  If you needed an ambulance, you had to call the operator, hospital, police, or fire department for assistance.  Those numbers were on mom’s notepad as well.  Also, there was no digital display for the emergency personnel to know where you were calling from, so you had to be able to give them your address and maybe even give some directions on how to get to your house.

All of these were skills that as kids, we were taught by our parents, family, and nursery school if you were lucky enough to attend one.  The nursery school that I attended even gave a grade out for being able to write your name, address, and phone number.

So, there I was 5 years with the knowledge of how to use a telephone.  I decided to play with the telephone like it was a toy and just started to randomly dial numbers.  I knew better, but I really liked dialing the telephone.  Believe it or not, listening to the clicks was fun…I liked 9s the best because it took awhile for the dial to get back around. 🙂

All of a sudden there was a voice on the other end that sounded funny. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was in English and basically it was a Hello and who is this type of question.  Well, I knew that answer because I had been taught the answers.  I told him my address and phone number.  He just started in conversing with me and learned all about me and my family through our conversation.

Well, mom came to check on me, and heard me talking out loud to someone, but there was no one else other than my little brother in the house and he was with mom.  She came in the room and saw that I was on the phone. Thinking that I had simply dialed my grandparents, she wasn’t too worried until she asked to speak to Grandma.  Of which I responded with, “I’m not talking to Grandma.”  She said, “Well your Grandpa then.”  Of course I said again, “I’m not talking to Grandpa.”

At this point she took the phone from my hands and politely asked who the person on the other end was.  It wound up being some kind gentleman from Ireland who had received a phone call from the nice, young lady.  My mom thanked him for being so kind to me, and said goodbye.

Now I was in for it.  Remember what I said above that long distance was really expensive…well, calling internationally was extremely expensive.  With the medical bills that my brother had, we had no extra money to pay for a call to Ireland and mom had no idea how long I had been on the phone.

Mom and I had a discussion that involved my not touching the phone unless asked to.  And then the dreaded, “We’ll have to tell your father about this when he gets home.” line was stated.

Mom lost her zeal though by that time.  When dad got home and we were at the dinner table she said offhandedly “You’ll never guess who your daughter called today.”, and then she launched into the story.  My Dad was laughing by the time she was finished, so I knew that I wasn’t going to be spanked (yes, back then kids were whipped when punished) for it.  I was however very sternly warned to never do that again and to only call the numbers on mom’s list when asked to.

Today parents have to deal with text message rates and cell phone minutes to deal with, but back then it was long distance minutes on what is now called a POTs (Plain Old Telephone) phone that could get you into trouble. 🙂

I Remember

Have you ever wondered what Laura Ingalls Wilder thought when she wrote her Little House on the Prairie (LHP) books?  Did she think no one would read them because most people had grown up as she had and therefore the books were nothing new to her generation?  Was she surprised when people did read them?

I wonder what would happen if someone today wrote a book about their childhood.  Would it take years to be accepted?  Or would it be a hit with young readers today as the LHP books were?  Would it take someone with Mrs. Wilder’s prose to be able to pull it off?

When I grew up, we did not have cell phones, portable telephones, computers, gaming devices and VCRs, microwaves, and dishwashers came much later.  Plus when we visited my great-grandparents, they had an outhouse.  What would kids do today?

I’m going to start an “I remember” series here to show what it was like when I was a kid growing up in the 70s and 80s.