As a parent, I have learned many times over that what may seem to be a small victory is actually a huge triumph. I am not just talking about going to the grocery store and having the wheels on your buggy being able to move (and all in the same direction). I am not even talking about driving on the expressway and witnessing a cop pull over the Jeff Gordon wannabe who just whipped around you at what had to be 110 MPH (because you KNOW you were doing like 75). I am talking about something huge, monstrous, titanic, herculean, colossal and….well you get the point and I have run out of adjective named after Greek gods. Allow me to explain this more thoroughly.
My younger son, Caleb, was born with a condition called syndactyly. Syndactyly is a condition where two or more digits on the hands or feet are webbed together. Caleb had a pair of toes partially webbed together on each foot. He also had a pair of digits partially webbed together on one hand. The other hand had a pair of digits that were completely webbed together. This is a hereditary condition. As it turns out, Caleb inherited this condition from my side of the family. I only found this out after I was discussing Caleb’s condition with my mother. My mother had two toes that were webbed together. I never knew that until Caleb was born. It may seem strange to some of you that I did not know this before but how many of you go out of your way to look at your mother’s feet?
Caleb had multiple surgeries over the years to help correct the syndactyly. The surgery initially involved separating the affected digits and grafting skin from other areas of his body to help these digits heal and grow. The reason why this surgery had to be done several times is that the scar tissue would cause his fingers to contract as his bones grew. The scar tissue would also cause the nails of the affected fingers to be offset slightly to the side.
Several months ago, at the age of 18, Caleb had yet another surgery to help the fingers gain more mobility and to reset the fingernail. This surgery also involved the placement of a titanium pin into one of the fingers on his left hand. This was to help straighten the finger which had become contracted somewhat. After several weeks the pin was removed and Caleb began adjusting to his post operative freedom of movement.
It should be note at this point that Caleb’s personality and demeanor is somewhat passive. He is not a wimp by any means but at the same time he is not one I have to worry about bullying some kid for his lunch money. I was sitting in my room one night and Caleb walked in. Without saying a word, he faced his mother and me and made a fist with his left hand. This struck me unusual for two reasons. First of all, Caleb is right handed. Secondly, when he made this left handed fist, he had a look on his face as if he were posing for a heavy metal music magazine. He then proudly announced: “I CAN MAKE A FIST!” This is something he had never been able to do before with his left hand. He was now doing it for the first time in 18 years. That son of mine could not have been happier if he had beaten Sonic the Hedgehog in the 50 yard dash. There’s not even a Greek god derived adjective to describe it.
As a writer, I have never had the delusion of grandeur to think that my writing will set the world on fire. My main purpose is to share things that I observe that provoke a response in me. That response may be anger, confusion, or (ideally) laughter. Once I have identified the response, the other purpose is to get you, the reader to enjoy the story as I have lain it out to you. If it makes you laugh, I am flattered. If not, I hope I can at least get you to understand how I feel about something.
My sources usually come from personal experiences. Some are recent. Others are from sometime in my past. Occasionally, however, I go mining for material. Sometimes, I just go to a public place such as the mall, a restaurant, or a library. Other times, I surf the Internet. Usually when I do such mining, I am looking for something unusual and amusing that I could not have conceived even in my most vivid imagination (and my mind is a pretty warped record at times). For the purpose of this writing, I decided to mine the media, peruse the news, and find the glories in the stories. I was not disappointed. Before I begin, I’d like to thank BBC.com and MSNBC.com for providing stories that would have zoned out Rod Serling and Robert Ripley would never believe.
The first piece is one I truly had sympathy for the person involved. Honestly, I did. It just didn’t look that way when I was laughing so hard at the picture to scroll down the webpage. Apparently, a dog passed away at the ripe old age of 15. This wasn’t just ANY dog. This dog was a mix of chihuahua and Chinese crested breeds. This amusing mixed breed was named Yoda. Why, you ask, would anyone give their dog such a name? As it turns out, Yoda’s appearance consisted of very short sprouts of thin hair all over her tiny body. She also had this incredible bulging eyes and a protruding tongue. The story even says that when the owner first found Yoda she was initially mistaken for a rat. However, Yoda’s true distinction comes from a contest in which she was entered by her owner in 2011.Yoda won her owner $1000 dollars for being deemed by a panel of judges as the World’s Ugliest Dog. My curiosity got the better of me so I surfed the net for the contest. Let’s just say that Yoda had her competitor’s beat hands down. To Yoda’s owner, I extend my sincere condolences and please forgive my uproarious laughter. To Yoda, the World’s Ugliest Dog, in peace rest you must. This story can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-17380971
The next story I ran across came from a small town in Italy called Falciano del Massico. Apparently this town is so small that it has run out of burial space. Therefore, the town’s mayor decided to exercise a brilliant political prerogative. This mayor passed a law that outlaws dying. That’s right, citizens of Falciano del Massico are forbidden by law to die. I presume this brilliant piece of legislation is being enforced by capital punishment. Actually, if the accused is lucky, he might get life. Find this piece at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17378497
Shifting back again to the animal kingdom, I ran across a study about the colossal squid. These creatures are incredibly huge (as their name implies). However, some scientists wanted to determine why these great sea creatures have eyeballs the size of basketballs (three times the diameter of any other animal). Now personally, I would have told these scientists to save their money. I would then tell them that the reason they have Voit written on their eyeballs is because – IT’S A GIANT SQUID. Oh but, nay nay nay, nix nix nix, spake the scientists. These eyes help to detect a sperm whale from great distances. The sperm whale is a natural predator of the colossal squid.
Don’t believe it. Go to http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46749434/ns/technology_and_science-science/#.T2KAIBGxaTk
Lastly, I found a story that rendered me unable to find the most appropriate reaction – shock? disbelief? raucous laughter? Apparently, a very unique rabbit was discovered at a zoo in Germany. This rare creature that was born out of a litter of six with no ears. As if this poor rabbit didn’t have enough problems, a camera crew showed up to film a news report. The cameraman took one step back and unintentionally stepped on this innocent rare rabbit. It was accidental but unfortunately fatal to the rabbit (his name was Til by the way). Now along with the unfortunate death of this rare rabbit, this news reporter has to live with the fact that he also killed the news story and created a new news story at the same time. This poor guy will get into a fight with his wife years later. Just when he thinks he has the upper hand in the argument, his wife will say: “Oh yeah? Well, you killed a bunny without ears”. This tragic tale of Til can be found at http://entertainment.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/15/10700716-mutant-bunny-crushed-to-death-by-cameraman-at-news-conference
Well folks, there you have it. I know many of you have read my stuff and think I have a warped sense of humor and creativity. You would be correct. As you can see, however, some things are even wilder than my imagination.
I have met a few significant individuals in my 40 plus years of living. Many of these people are significant in one way or another. One of the things that goes hand in hand with meeting such significant figures is that they have a story behind their place in my lives. My wife, my kids, my friends, my colleagues, and anyone who reads my essays can attest the fact that I can ramble on ad nauseam about someone who had a significant place in my life. Well, guess what – everyone is about to get another one of those stories.
Before I tell this story, I should offer some background. The character behind this story of significance is female. I met this significant female via another significant female. I met this significant female via my wife. The thing is, she wasn’t my wife at the time. At the time, she was a very new girlfriend who had a daughter that was less than a year old. This daughter is also not the main character of this significant female story but nonetheless plays a role. Another important detail is that this story takes place on Valentine’s Day (which happens to be two days after my birthday). Lastly, it is important to know that this story takes place inside Rochester International Airport in 1992. For better or for worse, the World Trade Center attack of September 11, 2001 now makes repeating the events of this story nearly impossible and definitely illegal. Oh yeah, one more thing, the significant female – her name is Daisy.
On this Valentine’s Day in 1992, I was preparing to fly down to Georgia to visit my parents. It was a trip I had planned since the previous November. It was also the first time I had been to Georgia since I move to Rochester, New York in 1988. My girlfriend was kind enough to offer me a ride to the airport. I knew my feelings toward this relatively new girlfriend were strong. Still, I was somewhat reluctant to speak up about my feelings as I had already endured a marriage that did not end well. I had two kids from that marriage that I missed being able to see on a daily basis. Also along for the ride to the airport was my girlfriend’s aforementioned daughter. We made our way through airport security and we were all waiting at the gate for my flight to begin boarding. We had plenty of time to spare before boarding so I figure this was a good time for us all to relax.
As it turns out, I was mistaken about the relaxing part. My girlfriend suddenly said: “OH NO!” Apparently, her daughter needed to be changed but the diaper bag was in my girlfriend’s car in the parking lot. I offered to watch her daughter while she retrieved the diaper bag. She said: “No, I’ll take her with me in case you have to get on the plane before I get back.” She gave me a quick peck on the cheek and darted toward the parking lot. You’d have thought she was entering that stroller in a NASCAR race the way she rapidly weaved through the sea of people in the airport on her way back to the car.
I nervously waited; hoping that she would return before I had to board my flight. I alternated between looking at my watch and looking through the crowd of people for any sight of my girlfriend, her daughter, or even the stroller which I still swear was detailed with a spoiler on the back. This pattern repeated for what seemed an eternity: Check for the time, check for the girlfriend, repeat. Suddenly, I saw them – the unmistakable brown tresses of my girlfriend’s hair and the unmistakable smile of her daughter. My girlfriend and I were both relieved that she made it back before my boarding call. In case you were wondering, she even had time to change her daughter.
A brief while later, they announced my boarding call for my flight. I kissed my girlfriend and her daughter goodbye. I boarded the plane and began stowing my stuff in the overhead compartment which included a guitar. Once I had everything stowed, I was immediately approached by an airline attendant. “Excuse me, Sir.”, she stated with that friendly airline attendant smile, “I’ve been asked to give you this box.” I curiously accepted the box and sat down. It was a simple white box. On the top of the box, someone had written my name, my flight number, and my seat assignment. I wasn’t sure at this point if I was more curious or nervous about this box. I took a deep breath and I opened it.
My curiosity was met with a pleasant surprise. Inside the box was a Valentine’s Day card with a message from my girlfriend. Also in the box was a stuffed cow made by Gund. For the unaware, Gund is a company that specializes in stuffed collectibles. It even came with a cowbell around the neck. I placed the cow and the card back in the box and stowed the box under my seat. As my flight began, you couldn’t have removed my smile even if you were a dental surgeon.
Many things have transpired since that day. The girlfriend in question has been my wife now for nearly 19 years. We also had a child together which gave us a total of two boys and two girls. Two of those kids are now engaged to be married and a third (the one that came with me to the airport) is pregnant. The cow, since named Daisy, travelled with us all over the years as we moved several times. Sadly, somewhere along the line between the first house and the current residence, Daisy disappeared. It was unfortunate and sad but such things happen when you move from one place to another.
I got a call from my wife the other day on the way home from work. “Guess what was delivered to the house today.” she said coyly. I sarcastically replied: “Our new dinette set?” “NO!” she said, “Daisy’s BACK!”. My wife had scoured the Internet and found another Gund cow identical to the one she gave me in 1992. I hate that it was so hard for her to find but then again, I am not a supporter of Gund control. (Did you REALLY think I was going to let that one pass by?)
Author’s note: This piece was one that I wrote specifically for the purpose of entering a writing competition. I did not win that competition but I wanted to share the piece with you anyway. I hope you enjoy it. – PSM
I became a parent for the first time back in 19…well, it was some time back anyway. Like most expectant fathers, I bought a bunch of books that I thought would prepare me for this forthcoming event. I mean, I easily spent close to $100 in books. Those books might as well have been released as a set of several volumes entitled: Some Books That Make You Think You Know What’s Coming and Make You Feel Good About Yourself. Someone should have just typed the following on a sheet of paper for 25 cents each: “YOU DON’T HAVE THE SLIGHTEST CLUE WHAT IS COMING TO YOU! SAVE YOUR BOOK MONEY! YOUR CHILD WILL NEED IT MORE!” Then again, it is quite possible that such a truth was written and prepared for circulation. I suspect that a gang of leather-clad-book-writing child psychologists lead by Eyemokay Yerokay, Ph.D. found the author and beat the truth telling tar out of him.
Once my child arrived, my confidence and courage was quickly replaced by changing and crying. Occasionally, my child required more change and cried louder than I did. This little soul turned my world upside down, drained my wallet, sucked away my sleep cycle, and had me second guessing myself day after day. I endured all of these trials and ultimately reacted in the same way that 95% of parents in my situation have reacted throughout history —I had more children.
During the span of just over 5 years, I was blessed with 4 children: 2 boys and 2 girls. I decided at this point that my Biblical quiver was full. Besides, a tied score of boys and girls is hard to beat. In the years that followed, I made multiple trips to the emergency room, stopped many sibling wrestling matches, endured enough contractions of chicken pox to make me and my wife start clucking uncontrollably, and retrieved one child from the roof of our house. On the other hand, I have also attended many choir concerts, received many exhibits of child created art, and watched my kids have the time of their lives playing on a dining room table that I coated with shaving cream.
All these years later, I can tell you my worst error — I blinked. By this coming autumn, one daughter will be married. Another daughter will deliver our first grandchild. Between the two daughters alone, I know I have many grandparental adventures ahead of me. I also know this: “I DON’T HAVE THE SLIGHTEST CLUE WHAT IS COMING TO YOU! I’M SAVING MY BOOK MONEY! MY GRANDCHILDREN WILL NEED IT MORE!”