Archive | April 2013

Puking in Public

Our Sunday morning service includes a time designated as Prayers and Concerns.  Church members raise their hands to share prayer requests and offer updates, as well as rejoice in their joys with each other.  Everyone is welcome to participate.  Everyone.  Even our children.

I am conflicted when I see their tiny hands expectantly raised high.  I sit on the back pew, while they sit on the front row waiting for the children’s sermon, called Feeding of the Lambs. Therefore, I am powerless to give them the raised eyebrow, or menacingly shoot them the evil eye, or to firmly press a hand upon their thigh to dissuade them. I am encouraged that they feel comfortable participating in the service, and that they have empathy for others, hopefully.  And, yet, I mostly feel slightly queasy that they are so comfortable because frankly there is no predicting nor controlling what they are likely to say.  I involuntarily hold my breath and start praying that it won’t be too embarrassing.  For me, of course.  Not for them.

This past Sunday, Samuel raised his hand.  Joel saw it.  Joel called on every last adult and still Samuel patiently waited confidently holding his hand up high.  With a slightly resigned trace of a chuckle under his breath, Joel looked down from the pulpit and said warily, “Yes, Samuel?”  Samuel said with relish, “My friend (name) just returned from a trip to (his home country), and on the very first day back to school he puked all over the place.  He needs prayer.”  A subtle ripple of congregational laughter ricocheted through the pews all the way back to me on the last pew.  Just fantastic.

Unfortunately, this is not the only time that topic has been broached outside of our own private conversations.  Several years ago, we invited an older couple to our house for Thanksgiving.  They were friends and church members who could not travel that year to see their family.  We prepared our traditional Thanksgiving meal, and set the formal dining room table with our fine china and crystal and the silver utensils I inherited from my grandmother.  We sat our children at the kitchen table with the cheap everyday place settings, of course, just as any holiday meal dictated in my childhood.  You have to grow your way up to the adult table, right?  Surely from in there, no disasters could occur, neither from breaking or spilling, nor any breaches of etiquette.  Which in a very short time, I realized I had underestimated.

While sitting in the dining room with our guests, one of the boys left the table and for some unknown reason opened the door into our garage and our cat, Sterling, slipped in.  Sterling stealthily padded straight for the dining room, and directly for our guests’ legs to rub on and slither between.  Samuel ran in to grab him.  Mrs. Guest –most likely humoring Samuel –went on about how she loved cats, and couldn’t the cat please stay inside with us?

Samuel, quick on the take, sincerely and emphatically said “Oh, no!  Dad says the cat can’t be in the house because if he pees, poops, or pukes in the house, he’ll kill us!”  Ah, yes. Words to live by from Reverend Cook.  Love is patient.  Love is kind.  Unless the cat is in the house.  Prayer requests, anyone?


We spent the afternoon with our three children at the orthodontist.  He and his staff are lovely people.  And, given the amount of work needed on the road to beautiful teeth, we will see them more regularly than we see our family.  In fact, we invited them to supper next week!  We will also be giving them a lot, let me repeat, a lot more money than we give our family as we will soon have three children simultaneously wearing braces.

While scheduling the next visit, the assistant mentioned their office in another small city in Southwest Virginia and inquired if we had been there.  Oh, yes.  We know that city all too well as is it one to which we pilgrimage every December for a meal with friends.  The friends are dear.  The meal is wonderful.  The trip is not.

Every December our friend invites us to his mother’s home in Southwest Virginia for a professionally catered meal.  The invitation includes all of my husband’s immediate family and assorted mutual close friends.  Our friend and his mother are gracious hosts.  We have attended this meal since our children were infants.  Our friend’s home is elegantly furnished with luxurious fabrics and fine furniture, and decorated with expensive and fragile accents.  A delicious meal is served upon fine china, in crystal glasses, with silver utensils, and upon tables dressed in linen.  Imagine three toddlers rambling around while we anxiously hawk-eye them the entire time while we pray they don’t spill drinks or break a family heirloom. Until very recently, we were frightfully worried about the damage our children could inflict.

But, the true stress occurs during the drive there, through no fault of our friends, of course.  The journey over the Appalachian Mountain range is dark and curvy.  And, it snows every year, no matter what date the dinner is held.  The drive one direction under the best of circumstances is one and a half hours.  Unfortunately, a recent trip was far longer than that.

Dinner was to be served at six o’clock.  We left at a quarter after four.  I drove our brand new Suburban with Joel as my co-pilot.  An exceptionally heavy fog descended upon the mountain accompanied by a misty combination of snow and sleet.  The sky loomed grey and murky and gradually turned inky without any man made light sources along the route.

Suddenly, in the indistinct shadows ahead, I saw a white car stopped in our lane.  Instinctively, when the car did not move after blowing the horn, I looked to change lanes, and could not because the only other car we had seen the entire way was driving immediately to our right.  We veered hard left into the center grassy median to avoid the obstacle—which turned out to be a white washer and dryer set.  We drove out of the median astonished and thankful that we avoided an accident with household appliances.

Just as our nerves settled down, we approached a group of assorted emergency vehicles parked ahead in the roadway.  Blue and red lights blinked, flashed and rotated. State Troopers wearing rain slickers and clear shower caps over their felt hats waved yellow signal wands to divert us off the main route because a mudslide covered all four lanes of the road ahead, only minutes from our final destination.  The detour sent us off on what became an embattled debate with On Star and eventually between Joel and myself.

We turned onto the diverted route in the soupy blackness.  Unfamiliar with this detour route and with scarce roadway signage, and by following the defective On Star route downloaded to our car after a live chat, we found ourselves thirty minutes later back to the exact same point of our initial detour.  Optimistically delusional, we attempted the detour a second time with no better results.  A debate began in which driving and navigation skills, or perceived lack of the same, were hotly contested and unfairly criticized. After all, mine weren’t the only eyes that failed to see the critical turn, were they?

I impulsively threw the Suburban into park on the gravel shoulder, jumped out, offered Joel the opportunity to drive, and slammed the car door as hard as I could.  (Just for some perspective, I am 5’3” and the side view mirror on the door is dead even with my cheekbones, so it required a lot of effort to achieve enough momentum to slam that heavy door.)  It felt so good to hear the resounding “wham”, that I momentarily considered opening it again just to slam it a second time.  Instead, I stomped around the back bumper of the car in the wintry precipitation, marched along the side of the car, and climbed into the passenger seat.   Have at it.  Good luck getting us there.  Our third attempt at the detour met with success.  We arrived three hours after leaving home.  The party had saved our meals, although the caterers were already clearing the dishes.

Our tempers calmed, our stomachs full, and our patience restored, we struck off for home—after confirming the mudslide was cleared.  We stopped at the two pump local gas station.  Fifteen minutes later, a state trooper roared up behind us with the blue lights flashing.  (Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha’ gonna do?  Whatcha’ gonna do when they come for you?  Could this evening be any more bizarre?)  We prepared for a ticket although we believed we had not sped.  Noah began panicking in the back seat that we were going to jail.  Please, Noah, be quiet and calm.  Just let Daddy talk to the trooper.

The trooper cautiously approached Joel’s window.  Did we just gas up at such and such station?  Yes.  The trooper said, “Ah, well, the clerk reported you as a drive-away without paying.”  Bewildered, Joel explained how he paid with a credit card and the pump wouldn’t work if payment had not been authorized.  The trooper was extremely polite, but asked us to follow him back to the station to sort it out.  Fifteen minutes later at the station, the clerk sheepishly admitted to making a mistake.  All for a measly seven gallons.  And a lost thirty minutes of travel time.

Friends, we have traveled the road to hell.  And it is littered with appliances, mudslides, and a police escort.


My father, Jo, is 71.  Unfortunately, I have suspected for some time now that he is losing his mind.  The signs at first were curiously concerning, but I rationalized them away.

For example, Dad had daughters.  Twin grandsons were his second chance to engage in all sorts of “boy” activities that he missed out on with us:  Scouting, fishing, sports, BB guns, etc.  But, earlier this year, when the boys were nine years old and the new James Bond movie premiered, Dad sat at my kitchen table one Saturday afternoon and suggested–with a straight face– that he take the boys to see the movie.  Mistakenly, I thought he was pulling my leg per his dryly sly sense of humor.  But, no.  He was serious.  Hang on there, Dad….let me read the review of that movie.  Humph.  Extra violent, inappropriate humor, an ambiguously bi-sexual villain, and of course the usual female love interest…..nope.  Not going to happen.  (So, I left the boys with Joel and I went with him. 😉 Just being a loving daughter.)

But, perhaps most strange was when about three years ago he acquiesced to my Mother’s plea to buy a standard size poodle puppy.  During my childhood, Dad tolerated our assorted dogs…two toy poodles, and later a three pound Chihuahua.  Dad is a cat person.  And, once he raised me and my sister and sent us into the world, there would be no reason for him to ever own another dog.

So, throwing common sense to the wind, enter Bo, the black standard poodle.  Bo is at least as smart as a three year old child, and far less mannerly.  I recall in my raising being expected to mind my parents, and I never got away with anything.  Bo?  Not so.  Bo is incorrigible.  And, my parents are not upset by his antics.  No, they laugh!  They tell tales about him that horrify me.  I know they are capable of better, obviously, since they raised me and my sister!  They were uber alpha dog with us, so to speak.  When they said sit, we sat and said yes sir, thank you, sir.  Bo?  So far, he has eaten, chewed, and mangled no less than twelve leashes, two wallets, one cell phone, a several hundred dollar pair of prescription glasses, countless socks, a door facing or two, and several sandwiches left unattended on the kitchen counter for milliseconds.  Bo understands Spanish and English, especially when pertaining to his intended bedtime or being placed in his crate resulting in my parents resorting to spelling or subtle eye movements to communicate around the dog.  All this despite professional obedience training. 

And, in yet the strangest twist, guess who Bo adores?  Exactly.  Not Mom.  Bo is extremely possessive of Dad to the extent that he wedges between them when they hug, and he sleeps in the bed between them.  A sixty-five pound dog, in my father’s bed—without objection from Dad?  This is certainly not the father with whom I lived.  Who has kidnapped him and where have they taken him?  Now I’m really worried that early dementia is setting in.

But, tonight I received confirmation that my father is slipping away.  He sent email, which I have pasted below:


I have just come in from walking Bo. I asked permission from Doris to beat him, but she won’t let me.

When I started out with him I gave him a chance to poop in our yard. If he will do that before we get into the road I don’t have to scoop it up into a plastic bag from the road and then carry it in one hand all around the neighborhood. He didn’t accept my offer to poop in the yard. So we headed out down the road with his leash securely around one wrist so he can’t get away from me. I called my sister on the cell phone to talk with her as I walked, as we talk every Sunday evening. We had only gone about fifteen yards, just past my neighbor’s driveway when Bo began to squat to poop. Great, Bo. Couldn’t you have done this one minute ago before we left the yard?

I told my sister I had to lay the phone down a minute to clean up after him. I placed the phone on the road pavement and squatted down on my knees to scoop poop. The leash was still around my right wrist. While starting to scoop poop, I felt Bo pulling on my right wrist, toward my neighbor’s yard. I looked to my right and there in the brown mulch surrounding one of his trees was a brown calico cat that blended in almost perfectly with the mulch. Almost. But Bo saw him. Bo suddenly bolted, and with the leash attached to my right wrist he suddenly jerked me off my knees to the pavement, landing on the right side of my chest.

While I am stretched out in the road, I hear a car coming around the curve. Great. I’m on my side in the road and the phone is on the pavement to my left. If only the phone is about to get smashed by the oncoming car that will be great. I just hope he doesn’t hit me.

Fortunately the driver saw me and stopped. I recovered the phone, got up, and walked on. My chest is a little sore and hurts a little when I cough, but I don’t think I broke a rib. We went on around the curve and Bo spotted the cat again, once more in the next tree bed around the curve. Fortunately I was on my feet and could stop another rush at the cat.

Now I ask you – am I justified in beating the dog tonight?


Now, in his younger years, Dad would not have asked permission of any sort.  What crazy stranglehold does this dog  have on Dad?  Sadly, my mother’s take on it came minutes later via Dad’s second email:


Doris just said, “The only thing worse would have been if Bo got away.”

HELLO – How about if the car had flattened me? Would that maybe have been worse than Bo getting away?


It is so sad to see a parent start to slip away, to become a shell of the person they once were.  Dad, I promise when I select your assisted living home, it will be the best money can buy.