21 Years

I didn’t know what I wanted to do after I graduated high school. I knew what I was supposed to do, though. I was to pick a college, bury myself in student loans, and get a degree. But I didn’t know what for. Furthermore, my self-confidence was shaken. I almost flunked a couple of classes my senior year while trying to do school and a full-time job. How was I going to successfully juggle college and a job if I couldn’t manage that?

As I struggled with the decision of what to do with the rest of my life time kept ticking on. I got a job at Walmart to help pay the bills and distractions ensued.

I was initially hired on as an unloader. I spent my nights tossing boxes onto a freight line, sorting them by department, and then taking pallets full of merchandise out to the sales floor where my cheerful coworkers eagerly waited like kids parked around the fireplace waiting for Santa to appear. (Editor’s note: That was sarcasm. No one who works for Walmart is cheerful. Suffer no delusions in that regard.)

One night I was in the truck heaving boxes of all shapes, sizes, and mass onto the line. I was lost in the groove of the music pumping from the radio. I was in a zone and not paying careful attention to what I was doing. You know how it is when you’re droning through some mindless task. Your body just goes on autopilot while your mind goes to another place. Or perhaps another dimension. Or maybe just to sleep.

In my zombie-like state of mindlessness I tossed an extremely thin, but almost 6-foot tall box, onto the line with a little less force than was needed. Thus, only the front half of the box made it on to the line. The back half of the box folded downward and the end result was a box pointing, with 3-feet of its girth, one direction, and the other 3-feet of it at a 45 degree angle.

As the box folded neatly along its mid-section the unmistakable sound of glass breaking escaped from within.

Oops.

I walked over to the deformed box to see what damage I had wrought only to find that I had inadvertently turned three 6-foot long door mirrors into six 3-foot miniature door mirrors.

“Well, shit. 21 years bad luck,” I deadpanned. Little did I know just how scarily accurate my one-liner would turn out to be.

Now I’m not really a superstitious person. I’ve stepped on plenty of cracks and never once broken my momma’s back (I’m pretty sure I did break her sanity, though. Sorry, Mom.). I’ve spilled salt and never once tossed any over my shoulder (I just wiped it off the table and onto the floor to be swept up later). I’ve never once hesitated to walk under a ladder (unless I needed to duck to save my head (and sometimes not even then – ow!)). I’ve picked up many a penny who was face down, ass up. I sometimes think the only color cats come in is black. On more than one occasion I ordered lunch and it totaled up to a devilish $6.66.

I didn’t truly believe that one small act of negligence would actually curse the next 21 years of my life, but now I’m not so sure. Since that one careless act I’ve had a lot of bad luck. I’ve been married, and divorced, twice. I’ve had to declare bankruptcy. Twice. I was held hostage in a relationship I wanted no part of with threats, and at least one attempt, of suicide. That “relationship,” and the children I inherited with it, prevented me from going to college. I’ve been subjected to verbal, physical, and emotional abuse. I suffered through a 5-year-long cycle of depression catalyzed by losing half of my life with the twins only to begin a new one catalyzed by my second divorce. My then-stepson violated my then-stepdaughter under my roof and I had no clue. I’ve been accused of things so despicable I can’t even bring myself to articulate the words. I took part in a two-year-long battle with infertility, in which we prevailed, but at great emotional cost.  I spent most of the last three years adrift in a sea of isolation and empty bottles.

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It hasn’t all been doom and gloom, though. Some great things have happened to me, as well. For instance, I have three wonderful, beautiful children whom I love with every fiber of my existence. There have been a handful of happy moments, however fleeting they may have been. I fell in love not once, but twice. I mean, I fell in love with the wrong people, but it felt good while it lasted. I have (almost) 18 years of parental memories I’ll cherish as long as I breath. I hand-carved an opportunity for myself to get into a technical school and was able to jump into an IT career.

Mostly, though, life has pretty much sucked and I choose to blame those stupid fucking mirrors, because why not? Mirrors are always giving me bad news, anyhow. Hey, your hair’s messed up. There’s lettuce in your teeth. You’re ugly. That shirt does not look good on you. I mean, I knew mirrors were assholes, but who knew inanimate objects could sway future events?

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Oh, shut up. No one believes you anyhow.

There is good news, though. I was 19 on that fateful day, and I’m 40 now. My sentence has been fully served, and my luck is now free to switch back to the good side. I’d ask you to wish me good luck, but there’s no way I haven’t already used up all my bad luck by now, right?

Right??

Run Like Ya Itch, Fool!

Movie Quotes

My brother and I like to throw random movie quotes into our conversations. I’m not sure how that came to be, but it is an undeniable fact. Often when we converse others are left confused by our movie quote recitations. They don’t understand why we get a bit animated over seemingly mundane statements. They are normies.

Back in 1996, a movie called “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood” was released. It’s not a great movie. Hell, it’s not even a good movie. But it had one part in it that had my brother and I rolling.

See…there was a wise, old “gangsta” in the movie who acted all bad ass and untouchable. There is a scene in the movie where everyone is hanging out on his porch when some thugs drive by and start shooting at them.

All the other characters look towards the gangsta Yoda for advice when the shooting starts and what they get is hilarious. He screams, “Run like a bitch, fool!” and dives into the house.

That quote instantly became a part of my brother and I’s movie quote lexicon.

A few years later saw my brother and I visiting family in Michigan. We were in the living room of my aunt’s house one day while we were talking. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the content of our conversation, but I do remember it leading me to recite that particular quote. And so I started.

“Run like. . .”

I suddenly realized where I was. I was in my aunt’s house and her children, my cousins, surrounded me. My cousins were extremely young, and quoting “hood” movies in their presence was definitely not a good idea.

Luckily, I have a quick mind. And somehow, without missing a beat, I finished…

“. . .like ya itch, fool!”

My brother and I were dying laughing. Not only because the quote I attempted perfectly fit whatever it was we were discussing, but because of my near faux-pas and my brilliant save. From that day forward we no longer quoted that, urm…quote, from the movie, but my improvised line necessitated by the presence of my young, impressionable cousins.

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Have you ever nearly royally fucked up only to save yourself at the last instant? This is your confessional.

 

A Haunting Decision

Blogging openly means sometimes sharing things you’re not really comfortable sharing, but you share them anyhow because 1) it’s free therapy and 2) sharing your story lets someone out there having the same problem know they aren’t alone. It’s a chance to make a difference.

Recently a good bloggy friend of mine posted a difficult piece on her stepdaughter and why she had to leave. While there were some very supportive comments left there were also some very nasty comments left judging her way too harshly. Please take a moment to click over and read the piece. Also, if you’re the sort of person who enjoys Springer read some of the comments, too. 

This unreasonable, uninformed, and caustic judgment enraged me enough to put a hiatus on my hiatus…for two reasons. One, I know the full story and completely agree with and support my bloggy friend. Two, I have been in a similar situation and have been in the unenviable position of having to choose between a stepchild and his siblings. Having to make a decision like this is not easy and there is no comfort in knowing you did the right thing because you still feel one-inch tall for having chosen to tell a child to leave your home.


In my first marriage I was a stepfather to a young boy and an even younger little girl. When their mother and I met, that little boy was 6 and the little girl was 2. Two years later I officially became Twindaddy.

My stepson (we’ll call him Doug) had behavioral issues before I ever knew him. He was hyper, rowdy, inattentive, and prone to chaotic outbursts when he was held to account for his behavior. He spent a lot of time in the corner and/or grounded because of his transgressions.

As he grew older he grew more violent and defiant. He was first diagnosed with ADD. Then ADHD. Then ODD. The last possible diagnosis they gave us (when he was 12) was psychotic, but they don’t officially diagnose someone as psychotic until age 18.

Doug became a habitual runaway. When he was punished for his misbehavior he had to be physically taken to his room, literally kicking and screaming obscenities. We had to turn the knob around on his door (at the insistence of the police) so we could lock him in his room to prevent him from running away. The police were tired of tracking him down. That failed when he leaped from his second-story window to run away once again.

I was at the end of my rope. I was worried about what the perpetual police presence and how the frequent violent outbursts were affecting the twins. They often broke into tears whenever there was a confrontation, be it verbal or physical.

At my insistence, we filed ‘beyond control’ charges against Doug. After many of the state programs failed he was taken into state custody and placed in a boys home. We visited him every weekend, but the reports were unpleasant. He was assaulting the staff on a regular basis. He was assaulting and injuring other boys in the home.

After two years, they told us he had completed the program and it was time for him to come home. Not even two days later is when our world came crashing down.

After work, all four of the kids were playing in the basement when I heard my stepdaughter begin to yell at Doug. I immediately called Doug up and asked him what was going on. Unsurprisingly, he was unsure why his sister was yelling at him. Of course, no sibling is ever sure why he or she is being yelled at. We’re all innocent, right?

Then I called my stepdaughter up and what she told me froze my blood. 11-year-old Doug had been trying to force his 7-year-old sister to sit on his lap.

I immediately separated Doug from the rest of the children. After some questioning later that night my stepdaughter revealed that Doug had been molesting her for years. Even before he had gone to live in the boys home.

The next day his mother reported the crimes to the police department and Doug was immediately taken back into state custody. When questioned by the detective handling the case, Doug freely admitted to everything he had done.

This was devastating in a variety of ways. The most crushing blow was finding out that this had happened under my roof without me having a clue what was going on. Then there were other disturbing ponderings, such as “where does a young boy learn how to molest his younger sister?” I still don’t have the answer to that question. The best answer we ever came up with was that something had happened to him when he was a toddler, but he denied anything happened and he shed no further light on where he learned this disgusting behavior.

About a week later we had a meeting with Doug’s social worker in which he unveiled a treatment plan which culminated with Doug coming home and living with us again.

I will spare you the profane details of my objection, but suffice to say I vehemently disagreed with this…plan. The social worker was undeterred, however, and insisted that once treatment was complete there was no reason he couldn’t return to our home. My argument about making a victim live with her rapist had fallen on deaf, and idiotic, ears.

That night I gave my wife an ultimatum. I told her if Doug ever stepped foot into our home again I would take the twins and leave. I didn’t care how she did it, but I was not going to have my children living in a home with a sex offender.

To be completely forthcoming, she didn’t want him to come home either. She had been abused as a child and knew exactly what her daughter was going through. However, the only way to keep him from being put back in our care was for her to give up her parental rights to Doug.

She struggled mightily with that. I can’t imagine having to have made that choice, but she ultimately decided to give up her rights to him. It’s a choice that is really no choice at all, but a choice that rips your heart to shreds nevertheless. Her obligation at that point was to protect her daughter and our children. From her son. It’s a decision that haunted her then, and probably still haunts her to this very day.

Those tempestuous days are merely a speck in my rear view mirror now. Still, if I had it all to do over again I’d make the same decision. It’s not that I didn’t care about Doug. It’s not that I didn’t want to help him (if he even can be helped). But ultimately Doug had to go to ensure the safety of the other three children in our home. We obviously couldn’t protect them from him. We had to sleep sometime and it was evidently those times that Doug turned dreams into nightmares. We made the best decision we could from a plethora of shitty choices.


Kristi, I get what you’re going through. I really do. And I support you wholeheartedly. It sucks to not want your stepchild around. It sucks when your stepchild makes your life a living nightmare. It sucks to feel like a shitty person when you have to do shitty things for the sake of protecting your child, but that’s your job as a parent. If you don’t protect your child who will? Obviously those folks piling up on you have never faced such a clusterfuck, and they should all count themselves lucky for that.

Keep your chin up, Kristi. You are an amazing mom, and sometimes being an amazing mom means making horrible decisions. Don’t let these uninformed assclowns make you feel inadequate for doing what you had to do. 

That Song That Made Me Cry

Darkness blanketed the scenery. Not a single cloud littered the night sky. The stars wanly illuminated the frosty landscape. The trees were barren. The grass alternating shades of lifeless brown and faded green.  It was the dead of winter and the scene outside of my Ford Windstar certainly confirmed that.

It was January of the year 2000. The new millennium had just started, as had my official journey into fatherhood. My two beautiful baby boys were a month old, and I was on my way to work for the first time since they had come crashing into my life and completely swept me off of my feet. The stereo, as it always is when driving alone, was blaring, playing a CD of mixed songs I had made.

The song began playing just as I was pulling up to a red light. I had heard the song numerous times before. I knew the words by heart. This was, however, the first time I had listened to this song since the birth of my boys. I now had feelings to associate with this song. I could identify with it. I could see the song from a completely different perspective now. I had an emotional connection to it now. I could relate to it in a way I never could before. I was also completely drained from a lack of sleep.

It moved me. It overwhelmed me.

The song spoke of a father’s relationship with his son over the years. The times shared and the memories made. And in the end, on his wedding day, the son tells his father he’s been dreaming of being just like him.

Dad, this could be the best day of my life. I’ve been dreaming day and night of being like you.

I might have wrecked were I not at a red light. My eyes quickly filled with tears. A lump materialized in my throat. I began to sob softly. I wanted that relationship with my children. Though they were barely out of their mother’s womb, I was already looking forward to the day when they would look up to me. To aspire to be like me. To cherish their time with me. To want to spend time with me.

There have been times over the years that they emulated me. They used to flex their little arms and tell everyone how they wanted to grow up big and strong like daddy. They like to listen to the same music I do. Mostly. I have infected them with my love of Michigan and Cincinnati Bengals football. They acquired their love of pizza and buffalo chicken from me, so much so that we used to leave buffalo chicken instead of cookies for Santa.

Just me and you, doin’ what I’ve always wanted to. I’m the luckiest boy alive. This is the best day of my life.

Of course, now that I’m older, wiser, and quite aware of how fallible I am, I’d prefer that they become better men than me.

Fifteen years later, I’m not sure if they want to be like me or not. Of course, I’m not going to ask a teenager if he aspires to be like either of his parents, as I’m sure I know the answer to that question. I’m like, totes uncool, I’m sure. However, we have a veritable treasure trove of memories that I will hold dear until the day I am no longer a part of this world, and I hope they hold those memories as dear as I do.

One thing is for certain. My love for them has grown impossibly since that day.

How Gauche

Another post commemorating 15 years of twins. This was originally posted 2/20/2012.

On Saturday the wifey took Baby C and went out shopping with her mom, so it was just me and the twins.  We went and got our hair cut, then went to the park to play some basketball with my dad, who had wanted to do something with us.

We played for roughly two hours, after which time we were thoroughly exhausted.  We decided to go to Dairy Queen to get a blizzard since the only sensible thing to do after good exercise is to ingest enough sugar to induce a diabetic coma.

So there we are in Dairy Queen, eating our blizzards and conversing.  At one point, Baby B dropped his spoon on the floor.  He picked up and held it out for me to behold, his look clearly asking, “What do I do?”

At 12 years old, the common sense gene still has yet to kick in, much to my dismay.  I told him to go to the counter and get another spoon, which he did.  On his way back, instead of walking around the booth next to us to get to his seat, he climbed through the booth.

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“Son!” I said, exasperated.

“What did he do, go through the booth?” my father inquired.

“Yes,” I answered.

By this time, Baby B was back in his seat and had a spoonful of ice cream.  My father, who was seated next to Baby B, looked at him and deadpanned, “How gauche.”

“I don’t know what that means!” Baby B exclaimed.

I told him that he could look it up when we got home, as I always do when they ask me what something means.  I always encourage them to find answers themselves as a way to make them more self-reliant.  However, I remembered that I had recently installed the dictionary.com app on my phone, so I decided to look it up and read the definition to my son.  This is what I read:

lacking social grace, sensitivity, or acuteness; awkward; crude; tactless:

Indignant after hearing the definition, all he could do was cry, “Hey!”  And we all laughed at him.

I love my children.

Becoming Twindaddy

Life-changing moments are just that. Obviously. They change your life and have a lasting impact on you for the remainder of your days. I have experienced many such moments, yet very few have had a positive impact. One such positive impact occurred on Friday, December 3 1999.

That day, at precisely 12:00pm, I became a father.

December 3rd 1999, was the ending of an incredibly long journey. My ex and I first found out she was pregnant while we still lived in Michigan. It had already been decided that we would be moving back to the Cincinnati area and getting married before we found out, and we followed through with those plans.

Five or six weeks in, I can’t rightly recall, we had an appointment to hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time. The doctor was unable to locate the heartbeat, instead hearing only erratic echos of the heartbeat. The fact that there was a heartbeat was good. The fact that they couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from was not so good. They scheduled an ultrasound immediately to determine what the abnormality was.

Unfortunately, their next available appointment was exactly a week into the future, and they made us wait every second of it. That week was the most excruciating week I can recall. We spent that week agonizing over what could be wrong. Was our baby deformed? Was there something wrong with his or her heart? Was the baby in danger? What’s the deal?

It felt like years passed by during that week, but we finally arrived to have the ultrasound. They popped my ex up on the table, squirted that cold, blue jelly stuff all over her belly, and started scanning her innards. I stared intently at a screen full of indiscernible static. I fought the urge to find a set of rabbit ears and begin adjusting them.

After just a few seconds the ultrasound tech told us with a chuckle that she knew why there had been trouble narrowing down the heartbeat the prior week. She directed us both to look at the screen. She gestured toward the monitor with her free hand, “Here’s a baby here,” she said, then moved the little ultrasound wand across my ex’s belly, “and here’s another baby here.”

My heart stopped, dropped, and rolled. My jaw hit the floor. My ex was leaking tears of joy. It literally took me hours to wrap my head around the fact that my first child had somehow morphed into two first children (I used to joke that the hospital was having a “buy one get one free” sale.). I had been mentally prepared for one child, but two? Two infants at one time I was not prepared for. There was so much to worry about. We weren’t exactly set financially. We were living with her Aunt and Uncle at the time. She was missing a lot of work due to morning sickness and my income alone wouldn’t sustain us.

By the end of the day, though, the shock and worry had dissipated and I was ecstatic. My love for those two little fetuses washed away my anxiety and fears. I told everyone. I called everyone. I went to people’s houses and told them. Everyone was ecstatic for us, except for my dad, who muttered, “Oh, shit.”  Apparently, he didn’t think we were ready…

Months went by. Doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds, and stress tests piled up.  When you’re pregnant with more than one baby you’re automatically categorized as high-risk. Their due date was December 17, if I recall correctly. They assured us she’d never make it the full 40 weeks. They said with twins they’d happy if she just made it to 32 weeks. They’d be euphoric if she made it to 36 weeks.

My ex made it to 32 weeks. Then she made it to 36 weeks. At the beginning of week 38, my ex finally convinced the doctors that she had suffered enough and they scheduled her to be induced that Friday.

The boys had been given their eviction notice.

I made arrangements at work during the week to take the next month off. When Friday finally rolled around, we had to get up at the asscrack of the middle of the night. Well, not really, but it felt like it. We had to be there at 6am, so we were. I don’t know why, though, because the nurses didn’t come by to start anything until almost 8:00. That was 2 additional hours of sleep I could have used.

They hooked all the monitors to her and one nurse asked the other if they had already started administering the drugs. The other answered in the negative, which I thought should have been plainly obvious since my ex had no IV or any other scary hospital equipment connected to her. “Well, she’s in labor,” the first nurse declared. I thought that ironic since she was there to be induced.

For the entirety of the pregnancy, the doctors had told us that unless both babies were head down, they wouldn’t even attempt a natural delivery.  My ex argued and complained and swore she’d give birth naturally, but I told her that we needed to do whatever was best for our children. If the doctor says a c-section is safer if one of them is breach then we need to do a c-section. She reluctantly agreed.

Just two short days prior both babies were head down. I figured they wouldn’t have moved much because a)it had only been two days and b)there was no room to move in there. I was wrong, though. They did an ultrasound to see where the babies were and Baby B was breach. My ex cried as they told her that they would be doing a c-section.

They scheduled the operation and got an operating room ready. I had to dress up in scrubs and wear a goofy mask. They took my ex and I back to the operating room. I had to wait outside while they set everything up. When all was ready, a nurse came and retrieved me.

I walked into the room and halfway up my ex’s torso there was a huge, makeshift curtain so that we couldn’t see her entrails while they operated on her. She was crucified to the operating table. Literally. Her arms were clamped down and stretched way out. At one point she asked if they were still there because she couldn’t feel them. They gave me a stool to sit on, and I sat to the right of her head.

I was so nervous I was shaking. I had heard horror stories of my dad passing out during my birth (I was born Caesarian, too) and I was afraid I was going to pass out, too. I didn’t, though, and was able to witness two of the greatest three things to ever happen to me, both within a 60 second span. At exactly noon, Baby A was pulled out of my ex’s eviscerated belly. I stared in wonder at this infant, my infant, that was completely covered in blood and chalky white amniotic fluid. They cut his cord (which, to me, is one of the weirdest looking things ever) and took him to one of the warming stations to check his health and clean him up. Seconds later, they pulled Baby B out, and he promptly pissed all over his mother’s internal organs. They took him to the other warming station, and began to work on him.

Moments later, a nurse told me that I could come and hold Baby A. In a daze, I went to see him. The entire experience felt surreal; like I was viewing someone else’s life from a first-person viewpoint. I’m a father? These kids are mine?

I picked Baby A up and cradled him in my arms. I just started at him. I couldn’t believe the moment had finally come. I was a father. I was holding my child. I was grinning like an idiot. Love radiated from me like light from the sun. I may have even shed a tear, but don’t tell anybody that.

I took him over to my ex so she could see him. When Baby B was all cleaned up and swaddled in his blanket, I put Baby A back in his warming station and grabbed Baby B and repeated the procedure. I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of love I had for these two little people I had only just met. I was riding a natural high that entire day. I was beaming. I couldn’t stop smiling despite my lack of sleep.

The twins were taken to the nursery for a couple of hours before they were brought to our room.  I don’t recall if there was a reason for that or if it was just standard operating procedure then.

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Baby A weighed 5lbs 14oz and Baby B weighed 6lbs 6oz. I’m getting all teary-eyed just looking at this pic, dammit.

While my ex was in recovery, I took family members back to the nursery and showed off my babies.  They had the little “anti-theft” bracelets around their tiny ankles.  Baby A had a pretty decent head of hair.  Baby B, not so much.  They both had beautiful, dark blue eyes and the cutest little faces.

15 years later and I am very much a proud father of those two boys.  They are the best kids you could ask for. They rarely get in trouble, they are both honor-roll students, and they both would do anything for anyone. They love to help and to give. They both have a great sense of humor, though Baby B is a little more outgoing than Baby A. Their capacity to love is unmatched and I still have fun playing with them. These days it’s either sports or video games, but I still have fun with them.

I know I’m not always the best dad, I get impatient at times, but I’m proud of the way they have turned out so far.  I hope that they know how deeply I love them. I try to show them as often as I can and thankfully they haven’t reached the age yet where they push me away when I hug them.  I’m dreading that day.

Today we celebrate 15 years. 15 years of memories. 15 years of laughter. Of learning. Of, sometimes, annoyance. We’ve had our ups and downs over the last 15 years, but I wouldn’t trade in a single moment with them. My children are, and forever will be, the reason I strive to be a better person.

Happy birthday, boys.

 

I’m Not a Genius

Another post celebrating 15 years of twins. This hilarious anecdote was originally published on 1-8-2012.

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The twins and I were in the living room watching football. I happened to notice that Baby A had left a pair of his shoes on the living room floor, so I asked my then seven-year-old to put them away.

My children, sadly, have their grandmother’s grace. Or, more specifically, the lack thereof. Baby A proceeded to jump off of the couch. Instead of landing on his feet, his feet got caught on the edge of the couch and he landed face-first on the floor.

“Way to go, genius,” I deadpanned.

Baby A, completely serious, replied, “I’m not a genius. If I was a genius I wouldn’t have fallen off the couch.”

I laughed like I had never laughed before. This was, and still is, one of the most hysterical things I’ve experienced in my life. To this day, I take every opportunity I can to remind Baby A that he’s “not a genius.”

Yesterday, Baby A decided to remind me that he is not a genius. I asked him to take the dog out quickly before we played some basketball outside. I was already shooting around when he brought the dog out, and then proceeded to take the dog to the muddiest part of the yard. Then, instead of letting the dog use the entire length of the 25-foot retractable leash, he pressed the button, leaving the dog with only a couple of feet of the leash to use. She then took off like her tail was on fire. Baby A got spun around and the slipped and fell into the puddle of mud. He had mud going all the way up his pants and jacket, and all the way down his arm and completely covering his left hand.

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I took the opportunity to again remind him that he’s not a genius. He didn’t respond since he’s heard the previous story repeatedly since it happened. He tried to defend himself by saying he didn’t know there was mud there. There is ALWAYS mud there. That part of the yard turns into a swamp every time it rains or snows. Moreover, he was standing in it. It was impossible for him not to know he was standing in it.

I told him to go into the basement, which is on the other side of our garage, and strip down and throw all of his clothes into the washer.  He did so, then headed upstairs where my wife demanded to know why he was streaking through the house in naught but his underwear. That was the first time he had to tell the story.

Later, we had gone to my nephew’s 2nd birthday party and I told the entire family about his embarrassing ordeal. His face bore an uncanny resemblance to that of an apple while I did so. He tried extremely hard not to laugh while I told his tale of woe, but he failed. We all had a good laugh.

I love my children dearly, but I cannot wait until they develop some common sense (Note: Three years later and I’m still waiting.).

Once Upon a Time

The twins turn 15 this in a couple of days, so I thought I’d commemorate the occasion by telling stories about them this week.

I carry with me many fond memories of the twins from the last 15 years. Goofy things they’ve said and done. Cute things that used to make me smile so wide I would nearly break my face. For instance, the time one of them fell asleep in his closet under a mountain of stuffed animals when he was supposed to be cleaning his room.

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Of course I took a picture. So what?

One of my most favorite memories is bedtime. Bedtime stories specifically. Bedtime stories started out much like they do with every child. The twins would get into bed and either their mother or I would read to them from one of their many books.

Storytime morphed somewhere along the way. The tables were turned. I’m not sure how or why it happened. It eventually turned into the twins telling us bedtime stories.

Every night the four of us would gather in the bed their mother and I shared. We would cuddle underneath the blankets while the twins told wild and outlandish stories that only the mind of a 5-year-old could conceive. Other times they would simply recount something that happened during the course of their day.

“Once upon a time there was a daddy takin’ a video of me. With a video camera. The end.”
Baby B

Two things were consistent, though: the beginnings and endings. Every story began with the line “Once upon a time,” and every story ended with the line, “The end.” Those are obviously classic fairytale lines which I cannot for the life of me figure out where they were learned. We didn’t read them classic fairytales. We read them Bob the Builder and Elmo books.

Can we annoy you? Yes we can!

It was the cutest damned thing ever. After all of the stories were told (often nights they’d both tell multiple stories) we’d all climb out of my bed and head to their room where we would say our final goodnight, a routine I have carried over to Baby C.

“Goodnight.” I would say.

“GOODNIGHT!”

“I love you.”

“I LOVE YOU!”

“I’ll see you in the morning.”

“SEE YOU IN THE MORNING!”

Once upon a time my boys were precious and cute. Now they’re young men, wonderful big brothers, and uncles. They are nearly as tall as I am. They both have the beginnings of a mustache sprouting above their lips. Their voices are a far cry from the squeaky, infantile tones of their childhood years.

Sigh. Time goes by entirely too fast for my liking.

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (or more likely, Hell’s Gate)

I made it through my life without ever having the flu until 2008. What a horrible illness that is. High fever. No energy. No appetite. Sore throat. Runny nose. You pretty much feel like Jabba the Hutt looks when you have the flu.

I went to the doctor on a Thursday afternoon. The initial flu test came back negative, so the doctor diagnosed me with sinusitis, I think. He prescribed me an antibiotic and some Clarinex.

The Clarinex wasn’t really helping my symptoms. In fact, it made me feel even worse, though in my foggy state of mind it didn’t occur to me to stop taking it. Instead, I called the pharmacist the next day (Friday) and asked if it would be okay to take some Advil Cold and Sinus since I know my body responds well to that medicine. The pharmacist knew I was taking Clarinex, obviously, because he filled the prescription. Plus, I told him so.

Big mistake, Indy!

The next thing I know my body is on fire. I took my temperature and it was almost 104 degrees. My throat and face began to swell. My breathing became labored. I could barely talk. I freaked the fuck out.

I first called my wife. She wasn’t working that day and was out shopping. I asked her to come home so she could take me to the emergency room. She seemed irritated by my request, but agreed to do it. After such a reassuring phone call, I didn’t feel like I was going much support from her other than a ride to the hospital, so I called my mommy.

Yeah, I’m a momma’s boy. No shame.

My mom didn’t even recognize my voice on the phone. It was cracking and squeaky. I mean, I could barely breathe. I told her what was going on and asked her if she would meet me at the hospital, and she obviously agreed.

I was dressed by the time my wife got home. She wasn’t hiding her irritation at all. On the drive to the hospital I gave in to my panic. I had never had an allergic reaction before. I didn’t have the slightest idea what was happening to me. My throat was almost completely closed and I could barely breathe or talk. With the words I did manage to get out I said some things about my children losing their father and how I wasn’t ready to leave my kids. As I said, I was panicking. Obviously.

My wife responded with annoyance. She pretty much implied that I was being stupid for thinking that I was knocking on death’s door.  She irritably, instead of reassuringly, insisted repeatedly that I wasn’t going to die, which is clearly the only appropriate way to deal with someone in a severe state of panic. Sigh…

My mom was already in the waiting room when we finally got to the hospital. The intake nurse brought me to a small examination room to take my vitals and question me. That particular nurse was a moron who didn’t even know how to use a thermometer. She took my temperature, and gave me a “bitch, please” look when it only registered a little over 100. Despite the fact that my breath was labored, my face swollen and red, and my assurance that my thermometer at home told me I was running a dangerously high fever, she didn’t think to retry taking my temperature.

I told the nurse that I had taken both Clarinex and Advil Cold and Sinus. I also told her that my pharmacist had told me it would be okay to do so since they contained different ingredients. She told me that they’re both decongestants and probably shouldn’t have been taken at the same time.

“So I can sue my pharmacist for this ER bill?” I asked her.

She stuttered and backtracked and gave me a noncommittal response. I then had to explain to her that I was joking. It’s kinda my thing.

My panic attack continued even after I had been taken back and put in a room. Nobody had done anything yet to reassure me that I was going to be fine and would live to continue making stupid jokes. While we waited for the doctor to come in and see me, my wife, who had a lot of nurse training because she worked with special needs children, grabbed a thermometer off the wall and took my temperature. It read almost 104. It was comforting to know the intake nurse couldn’t even properly use a thermometer. It really builds confidence in the rest of the staff.

They took some blood (they missed the first time) and I waited rather impatiently while they tested my blood to see what the hell was wrong with me. I remember a tear escaping my eyes while I waited and I felt it burn its way down my cheek.

I’m not sure how long we waited for the doctor to return with the results of the blood test, but by the time he had my temperature and swelling had gone down. I was breathing and speaking normally again and had a manageable fever of about 100. The blood tests came back normal (because allergic reaction – duh). They gave me some motrin and sent me home.

I have no idea if I nearly died that day, but I know for a while I feared I would. Having an anxiety attack on top of an allergic reaction on top of the flu is the perfect recipe for a visit to the ER best described as a clusterfuck. Of course, I didn’t know I had the flu until the following Monday, when the doctor called me and said that the culture they left over the weekend tested positive. At least, I think that’s how he explained it.

I’m not sure if it was the Clarinex (which made me feel weird both times I had taken it to that point) or the combination of the Clarinex, Advil, and the flu that put me in the hospital that day, but since then I’ve told every doctor and pharmacist I’ve seen that I’m allergic to Clarinex. That is an experience I don’t wish to repeat.


This has been a

Finish the Sentence Friday

post, where writers and bloggers link up with
relevant posts. This week’s sentence
is “I thought I might die when…”

The Claw

My father is a craftsman. He likes to build things and he’s very good at it. He’s finished at least a section of every basement he’s ever owned. Every place he’s ever lived has a dedicated workshop to house the copious amounts of tools he owns. I remember getting a set of youth tools as a Christmas present when I was 5 or 6 years old. Baby C received a Home Depot tool toy set for Christmas last year. To say my father is somewhat addicted to woodwork is a bit of an understatement.

I have two younger brothers. One of them is merely 13 months younger than me. The other is a little over 3 years younger than me. Needless to say, at any given time in my childhood our home was overrun with toys. We had Star Wars playsets. We had Transformers, GI Joe, WWF, Thundercats, and Voltron action figures. We had starships, cars, planes, and legos. Frankly, we were spoiled little shits in the toy department. We had more toys than places to put them.

Enter my father.

A trip to the store for some lumber and a few nails plus some blood, sweat, and tears would remedy our toy storage problem.

Our designated play area was the basement. That’s where our toys were so that’s where we played. The dry wall beside the staircase descending into the basement was bare – until Dad got a hold of it.

Dad built a toy box out of quarter-inch plywood which spanned the entire wall. Our toy box, which we thought was awesome, had two leviathan lids equally spaced apart, also made from quarter-inch plywood.

A dramatic recreation of the basement and the infamous toy box.
A dramatic recreation of the basement and the infamous toy box.

That toy box would take from me something I’d never fully recover.

Because the toy box was built into the wall adjacent to the staircase, one of the lids, when open, leaned against the handrail for the staircase. One lazy summer day my youngest brother was walking up the stairs, dragging his hand along the rail while I rummaged around in the toy box below. My brother’s hand barely grazed the lid, but that was enough to send it crashing down.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw the lid coming down. At that point the only part of my body still in the toy box was my left hand, which I quickly yanked out of the way. I got my hand out, but only in the nick of time.

Or so I thought.

Despite having felt nothing, I looked at my seven-year-old hand…and discovered something was missing. Like a mad man I tore up the stairs. I flung the door open where I happened upon my mother, who was on the phone with her sister. Mom always seemed to be on the phone with one of her sisters when we had an emergency at our house, which makes me wonder why she continued to talk to them.

Without a word, I held up my left hand so she could see what had happened. After seeing my hand, which by this time was red with blood, had been deprived of the tip of its ring finger, my mother’s jaw hit the floor like a man who’d just been clocked by Mike Tyson

Dramatically, she dropped the phone and screamed. Through the phone, which was bouncing up and down at the end of its coiled cord, I could hear my aunt frantically screaming my mother’s name.

The details get a bit fuzzy after that. My mom has assured me that she took me to the local hospital, but they just kind of looked at each other, shrugged, and said, “We don’t know what to do.” They sent her (and me, for that matter) to a neighboring hospital. I remember none of this.

What I do remember is arriving at the second hospital. I was in the back seat with a wad of paper towels the size of my head pressed down on the stump at the end of my finger. Once she parked the car, she whipped around to where I was sitting and opened the door. She walked me into the emergency room with one hand holding my injured hand and the other pressing the wad of paper towels down on my finger with ungodly might. The pressure she was putting on my injured finger was painful in a way I can’t adequately describe, so I’ll just say it fucking hurt. A lot.

Things get fuzzy again after that point. I know we sat in the waiting room for a bit, and that’s where we were when my dad arrived. He had been at work, and I have no idea who called him or how he knew where we were, but he came up from behind me and put a dixie cup in front of my face.

I looked down into what I assumed would be a cup full of water to find the tip of my finger laying atop half a cup of ice…and I about lost my lunch. Or breakfast. I’m not really sure what time of the day it was. I’m not sure what, if anything, I said to my father in response to that, but I remember not being all that impressed.

More time passed and I was eventually in an operating room, where they were going to attempt to sew my finger tip back on. I don’t remember saying so, but according to my mother I told the doctor to kick her out of the room so she didn’t pass out. The anesthesiologist came in and injected each side of my finger with something which would render my finger numb.

While I lay on the operating table waiting for the pain medicine to kick in, I stared ponderously at the inside of my finger – and nearly vomited all over myself. I don’t handle flesh and blood well, I learned. I put my hand back down and willed myself not to look at it. I made a point to look away while the surgeon methodically stitched my finger back together. The next time I saw my finger it was buried beneath a mountain of bandages and a metal stent, which prevented me from bending my finger.

Unfortunately, my finger tip had been separated from my body too long for it to heal properly, which I guess has something to do with the first hospital turning us away. My fingertip did grow back in a way, but it was, and still is, somewhat grotesque in appearance.

My finger was separated at the base of the nail. Somehow the bone avoided injury. Of course, if the lid had hit bone it might not have been able to rip the tip of my finger off. But that’s neither here nor there. If you look at my fingertip from the side, the nail looks like a huge claw. By the time my finger finished healing weeks later, I had a huge ball of scar tissue wedged underneath my nail and sticking out from the end of my finger. It was, and still is, extremely sensitive and pain shoots through me any time anything touches that scar tissue. I had to go back under the knife to have it removed, but they couldn’t get all of it. I still have a bit of that scar tissue buried beneath my nail.

The remaining scar tissue under my fingernail causes the nail to stick out from the end of my finger a bit. My fingernail of get’s caught on things. On occasion, when lifting something heavy, I’ve lost my grip on said heavy object, which then catches the nail and rips the end off. Fucking ow!. One time my brother Revis was running from me while we were playing. I grabbed at his shoulder with my left hand and accidentally tore a chunk out of his shoulder with my nail. While picking up my stepson by his shirt once, I inadvertently left a scratch mark across his chest.

On the bright side, the claw is excellent for scratching a pesky itch, opening pop cans (those tabs are sometimes impossible to get under), and, if I can be gauche for a moment, picking my nose. Oh, come on. We all do it.

The claw has, at times, been a great conversation starter. Like the time the most popular girl in high school yanked my hand off the table and yelled, “OMG! What happened to your hand???” while studying it intensely. Sure, that’s actually kinda rude, but I had a crush on her and I was more excited than offended. Plus I was only 14. I wasn’t nearly the sophisticated being I am these days. Stop laughing, asshole.

The claw has been a part of me for over 30 (shit, I’m old) years now. I remember arguing about having pictures of my hand (with a brand new wedding ring on it) taken. I’ve since accepted it. It’s as much a part of me as my caustic sarcasm, my juvenile sense of humor, or my one-dimpled smile.