Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jed, Jethro and the Great Sleep Caper

Several years ago, my son decided for whatever reason that he did not like his bed. So, over my strenuous objections, his mother indulged his whine and pleas party by buying a futon for him.
This decision will one day have a display case in the “Things Darrell Doesn’t Understand” Hall of Fame.
Stubborn as always, he’s been sleeping on that futon ever since.
Shockingly, he began recently to complain that he hasn’t been sleeping well in the Fabulous Bachelor Pad. Well, let me tell you something: Daddy isn’t buying him a new bed.
It has dawned on me that I may have been manipulated. See, my wife went to the furniture store and bought a new mattress for us and gave him our old one. Then, she went into the attic and dug out the headboard, footboard and slats from her old apartment bed.

As much as all this made me cross my eyes, I have to admit it led to some moments of hilarity. My son borrowed his grandfather’s truck and rounded up one of his friends to rearrange all of his sleeping accommodations.
The futon had to go to storage, because by God we will not give it away or throw it away.
Guys in Grateful dead tie-dye tee shirts may not be the most skillful movers, so there was concern that their cargo wasn’t particularly secure.

I suggested that his friend ride in the back of the truck on top of the mattress to make sure it doesn’t bounce out in transit. They looked at me like I was crazy. I said, “Well, that’s what I would do.”
Well, whaddaya know? They listened to me, even though I was asked if I’m sure it’s legal.
I’m not certain, but on a beautiful springtime evening, it surely looked comfortable.

To their credit, they easily laughed at themselves, the bed was successfully delivered and assembled. Better yet, nobody and nothing fell off the truck.
Maybe now, without having to dodge bumps and rough spots in the well-worn futon, a guy can get a good night’s sleep.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Invasion of the Pizza Roll Snatchers

At times over the last three days, it seemed that almost every horizontal surface in our house was occupied by a college student. Eighteen of them spent two nights with us, an idea that caused many eyebrows to arch as we told friends and family how many were coming.

It was widely assumed that our daughter lured seventeen friends to town for some kind of party. The purpose of the trip, however, was quite the opposite. They were here on a mission, spending the weekend offering services to homeless people downtown. Most of the missionaries in our group were from TCU, with one from Louisiana Tech and another from Dallas Baptist University mixing in effortlessly. A contingent of LSU students also came to town. They converged with the goal of addressing a few basic needs of the people they encountered. This kind of thing goes on quietly but consistently thanks to an organization called The Hub Urban Ministries. On this particular weekend, The Hub and its volunteers, among many other activities, put together a springtime cookout. The folks from our house also spent time in “the basement,” The hub’s downtown day shelter.

The students were encouraged to be proactive in their outreach, which led them to see some of the ugly underbelly of the city; but when their days’ duties were behind them, they were aglow with a sense of accomplishment. There were varied stories about how their lives were touched and how they hoped that, if only for a moment, they may have made someone else’s life just a little better.

It was remarkable how low-key they were at the house. We had stocked provisions for them. They ate abundantly and gratefully. There was a big breakfast buffet featuring troughs of coffee, vats of fruit salad, silos of cereal, mounds of bacon and me dutifully manning the pancake grill. It was one of the happiest mornings I’ve had in months.

They were serious about their business, but they had their share of fun. Our daughter was the hostess and organizer. She was pleased to show her college friends her hometown, even if the downtown area seems a little sleepy on a Saturday and generally back on its heels. They walked around and goofed around, posing for photos along the way. I’m not sure what was going on, but some of the images look like potential album covers.

They stayed up late, of course and engaged in more of the kind of consumption you would expect from college kids. Sacks of pizza rolls evaporated. Chips and salsa were annihilated and the recycling bin shows evidence of gallons of guzzled soft drinks. But guess what: when they pulled out of the driveway, the kitchen was cleaned up, the rest of the house was in order and there was a thank-you note signed by all of them attached to a bouquet of purple flowers. I told them to come back when they can stay longer. I hope they do.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Keeping the Boss Happy

It’s been thirty years since my father shuttered his business and went into retirement. Make no mistake about it, though; he’s still the boss.

Somehow, I got talked into “helping” him build a tin roof tool shed on some property he owns out in the woods. If you define “helping” as doing the work like a trained monkey while the boss calls the shots, then mission accomplished.

My wife and her mother tagged along for the fresh air and sunshine and tried to lend a hand a couple of times. But the boss is old school and this kind of heavy lifting isn’t women’s work. There were a few suggestions made along the way, but it was quickly determined that that was wasted breath.

You see, my father was a micromanager before anybody had ever heard the word. My brother and several of my friends worked for him at Rebouche Plumbing and Heating along the way. We learned very quickly that thinking for ourselves while under his dominion was, shall we say, frowned upon. He knew the best way to do things and there was no reason to discuss it, really. One of my cousins who earned a summer paycheck a couple of times says, “Darrell, he was just mean.” Maybe he was, especially if he had to put up with backtalk. “Backtalk” here can be defined as “mentioning there might be a different way to accomplish the job.” See, if you had ideas, you just weren’t thinking straight. If you committed this transgression, the boss would be forced to “talk hard to you.”

“Helping” with the shed brought back memories. Even when he tried to be complimentary by saying something like “you’re working real good today,” he said it with a tone of surprise. So it comes across as “I didn’t think you had it in you.” Hold on, am I exposing old scars?

All of this is actually true and only slightly exaggerated, if at all. It must be noted that almost everyone who recalls their days in the plumbing truck speaks of these things with love, admiration, respect and amusement. We all agree that the work experience we got thanks to his success in business has helped us in many ways. Do the math. He will be 85 years old this summer and he’s been retired for thirty years. That tells you something.
The exception is my older brother, the only one of us who stuck with him and worked at the company for years. Their “working relationship” remains largely unchanged to this day. My father calls, tells my brother he has to do something, and he does it. They come into silent conflict because my brother, a veteran plumber himself on the precipice of retirement at 64, has well-developed thoughts about the way things should be done. If his ideas (“notions” my father might call them) are rejected, as they often are; he carries on doing things the boss’s way, but complains about it under his breath to anyone who will listen. If no one will listen, he complains anyway.

At one moment during the shed construction, I looked at my wife and mother-in-law and said “this is why I went into TV news.”

This was just after a boss-imposed lunch break. I wanted to keep moving until I was finished, but the women had dutifully driven into town to grab something to eat. When the food arrived, lunchtime was declared. So, I left my tools on top of the ladder and stepped away. When I returned to the job, I failed to remember this important detail and moved the ladder. A pair of pliers, a crescent wrench and a claw hammer rained down upon me, banging me right on top of the head.
It must have knocked some sense into me because I worked with renewed vigor after that, following the boss’s instructions to the smallest detail as we wrapped things up.
It was a beautiful day and we all spent time together. A nice little shed was built. My father was happy because he got his structure erected his way. Since I knew exactly what to expect, it was all very pleasant. Nobody was mean. Now, I’ve got to do something about that knot on my head…..

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Friday, April 08, 2011

Avert Your Gaze. I'm Hideous

I have what I hope is a healthy awareness of the potential problems with skin cancer. I’ve noticed recently a couple of places on the aging skin that seem to be changing. So, I made an appointment with a physician of my acquaintance and asked him to look things over. When I got to his office, he put on some funny-looking glasses, checked things out and quickly went into “better safe than sorry” mode. Moments later, I was leaning back in a procedure room, covered in sterile draping as a variety of violations of my personal surface were committed. There was scraping, freezing, slicing and stitching. And now there are black sutures front and center on my face. Antibiotic ointment has been applied and band-aids have been affixed. It looks like I got into a fight.

My scalp long ago surrendered its grip on my once-legendary head of hair. This means my noggin isn’t protected from evil sun rays. So, guess what? The top of my head was assaulted, too. I’m not sure what it was that he applied to my crown, but as it approached there was some kind of steam being emitted from it.

Here’s a sentence I had hoped would never be spoken in reference to me, but was uttered by my loving wife a couple of hours after the procedures: “Your head is oozing.” I can wear a cap for a few days to cover up the ooze, but short of a wrestling mask there’s not much to do about the face except proudly don the fabric bandages.

People aren’t running in fear from me. A younger female co-worker said, “Places on your face? That’s your cover story for having work done?” Look, if I had had “work” (code for cosmetic surgery) done, It would be in different areas; you can take that to the bank.

I am a little concerned about the way I look, especially since I’m on the schedule at the church for Sunday. I will be a Eucharistic minister, and I have no desire to frighten people who come to the communion rail. I sent a text message to my kind, compassionate priest to let him know about the way things are. I even sent a photo. He said not to worry about it and added, pastorally, “See if you can work in a couple of neck bolts.” Everybody’s a comedian.

One person seems to be enjoying all this. My wife, a registered nurse by education but a high-level healthcare manager by position, seems to be reveling in the opportunity to provide intensive care to a patient. Trust me, she wants to clean the ooze and dress the incisions. This will be a happy weekend for her. She will be humming and doting, so who am I to complain?

I have to admit I struggled a little during all the injecting, incising and excising. I got light headed and broke out into a cold sweat. When it was all said and done, I told the doctor and the lady who assisted him that I considered it a great victory that there was no vomit. I don’t do well with needle sticks. Slicing and stitching? That’s a whole new level.

My wife stayed in the room the whole time. It was like a vacation for her or something. As I sat up, trying to towel off a little, she was giving me a good once-over. I said, “Stop looking at me clinically. You’re my wife, not my nurse.” But, she couldn’t help herself and that’s one of the countless things I admire about her.

I hadn’t looked in a mirror, but I had a sense of how ridiculous I must have looked, pre-Band-Aid with betadine smeared all over my cheeks and dripping down the back of my head. As she stared, I said “Oh, yeah. I’m getting sweet, sweet love tonight.” I guess that’s when the doctor and his people decided I was okay. They laughed and left the room. I will not go into seclusion, but I plan to lie low a little. But, who knows? If these things heal well, I might go back and have some work done.

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