Surviving childhood (12/17/2014)

Cole is fascinated by war stories.

Both the real, historical type of documentaries and the type that entail his father as a boy.

Boy war stories, where usually a tree, pole or the sidewalk were the victors.

By the time his daddy was his age, Lamar had already suffered numerous concussions.

Lamar once had a gushing head wound.

Instead of being taken to the doctor, he was put in the bath tub so he wouldn’t bleed out on the carpet.

I get that – carpet is never truly clean. And it was white, so a protein stain like blood would be a colossal pain.

Then there was the time he was knocked unconscious and put in the tub again. I guess back then, the tub was the answer for every head injury.

I have said if I can keep Cole from having half the accidents his father did, I will be a glowing success.

Cole had a brief moment where he wanted a skateboard.

“Daddy had one,” was his argument.

“Go ask Daddy about his experience with it,” was my comeback.

He had a story about a broken collar bone to share.

Cole decided maybe he didn’t need a skate board after all.

My child can’t fathom that these are just some of the reasons that I am hyper-vigilant about his safety.

At one point, I had actually considered making him wear a helmet at all times. He was a toddler that crash landed into furniture. Or laundry baskets filled with clothes that needed to be folded thusly reinforcing my theory laundry didn’t need to be put away immediately.

My childhood was relatively unscathed, but I did have a near death experience once.

I had a few brushes with harm and scary situations. Usually it involved eating too much. Let me just say this, catfish, watermelon and ice cream all in the same August day makes one for sick chubby kid.

But my near death experience came from finding out I am deathly allergic to bees.

I told Mama the bee sting felt funny. Mama didn’t look up from her Virginia Slim and crossword puzzle long enough to notice I was already all swollen up.

“Go lie down,” was all she said.

She may have offered a Twinkie to make it feel better; back then, Twinkies were my cure -all, like wine and cheesecake are now.

I’m not sure how long it was before I was barely breathing but I do remember Granny having a wreck with the pharmacist on the way to the emergency room.

I thought for sure I was going to die. Who was going to give me anti-bee venom if she killed the pharmacist from Eckerd’s?

Amazing, I survived only to have Mama constantly ask me if I have Benadryl with me.

It may not have been as sensational as a gushing head wound, but I did cut my leg wide open once.

Being clumsy as I am, I had tripped and cut my shin. I didn’t realize I had been cut until Granny asked why I was wearing one red sock and one white. The last thing I remember about that was my blood curdling scream and the scar I still have.

I think I was more upset about my shoes getting messed up; even then, I had a thing about shoes.

“Anything else happen to you? That maybe put you in imminent danger,” my child wanted to know.

Honestly, my mother would have put me in a bubble like that kid in that horrible John Travolta movie if she could. As a parent, I am grateful and can understand, but as a child, she was a major joy-kill.

“Well, I did call the police on your Nennie once,” I said.

His eyes widened. “You did? Why?”

It was a deed every child had done – jumping on the bed. Except this little monkey fell off and bonked her head. Three times in a row. And each time, Mama rushed me to the emergency room to make sure I didn’t have some kind of internal bleeding on the brain.

If she took me to the emergency room that often now it would look suspicious, but I am fairly certain the nurses referred to her as “The Hysterical Over-reacting Redhead.”

“You called the po-po because she took you to the emergency room?” Cole asked.


After the third trip to the hospital, Mama told me, Virginia Slim held high in the air to not “jump on that bed ever again,” as she pointed to her bed. I promised I wouldn’t.

And I didn’t.

I was jumping on Granny’s guest bed, lace curtains in hand, cowgirl hat and boots on, as I called, “High Ho Silver, away!” while I held on to my stick horse.

Mama yanked me down, popped me solidly on my tater and sent me on my way.

I snuck into Granny’s bedroom and pulled down the old big, heavy black phone. One ringy-dingy later, I had an operator on the line.

“I need the po-leese,” I whispered. “What is your emergency?” the operater asked.

“I am being beaten within an inch of my life,” I said. This prompted the operator to want more info: What had happened, was I hurt, did I feel like my life was in danger?

As Mama pushed on the door, demanding to know what I was doing, I told the operator, “Oh, yes! It is!”

Mama was able to convince the operator everything was fine – she explained how the doctors practically knew me by the x-rays of my head – but assured her I was going to get an earnest whooping afterwards.

“Did Nennie spank you hard?” Cole asked.

Boy, she was mad. But she didn’t. She couldn’t.

I had made her laugh, and that’s probably why I lived to tell about it.

Mama likes to shine

Mama likes to shine

Two things always made Granny happy: Cooking and being in the hospital.

Her cooking was part of the reason I was a weeble wobble as a child and the stuff of legends.

Her hospital visits were usually self-induced because she needed to rest her nerves, which were usually worn to the fray thanks to us. According to the old gal, we were a crazy bunch of fools and if it weren’t for her, we’d all starve, be dead or on the run.

Of course, her ailments were always far worse than anything anyone else has ever had in the history of medicine. God forbid her sister, Bonnie – who she had competed with her whole life – had been in the hospital. Granny would rush off to the doctor to get something put in traction just out of spite.

The hospital visits got Granny attention, alright, maybe not the kind she wanted but she was mentioned in the church bulletin and had folks visiting her. She gauged her importance in her little corner of the world based on how many people came to see her, how many called, how many flowers she received.

“Your grandmother’s on display,” Pop would say as he’d take me to the hospital. “God help us, you may have to put some poof on her so she’ll be presentable.”

“She’s sick; she’s not supposed to have poof on,” was my young logic.

Pop laughed, his deep belly laugh. “Lil’un, you’ve got a lot to learn about your Granny. This is her idea of a vacation – room service, cable and she gets a break from cooking for us. She’s gotta get all prettied up for her visitors. This is her time to shine.”

Even at my young age, I thought this was beyond warped. Who would ask to be admitted to the hospital for attention? Even if her nerves were rubbed raw from the family, it was still twisted.

After a week of being in the hospital, Granny would return home, all fresh-faced and rested where she greeted us with complaints at the state of the house. We evidently lived like a bunch of heathens while she had been recouping from whatever mysterious old lady ailment she told her doctor she had. She was disgusted with the bunch of us and would have to be re-admitted to get over being home.

But alas, there was baking to be done so a return visit would have to wait. Her hospital visit had incidentally been well-timed to get her good and rested in time for either the fall festival at my school or homecoming at church.

Now, Granny didn’t care for a lot of the stuff at the fall festival – the bobbing for apples, the vendors selling stuff; no, Granny went for the cake walk.

The cake walk was a pretty big deal, and Granny’s pride completely hinged on how many people lined up to win her coconut cake. The old gal would actually stand on the outskirts to make note – and to keep a watch on who got her cake plate. She once had to harass a doctor’s wife for months before she got that plate, which she had stolen from Mama’s sister-in-law, returned safe and sound.

If it was the church Homecoming, Granny measured her good Baptist standing on how quickly her cake or whatever dish she made was gone. One of the few things that could make that mean old lady smile was for someone to tell her that they couldn’t wait to eat whatever she had brought. We heard about it for days.

Especially when someone cooed over how she didn’t need to be in the kitchen since she just got out of the hospital. She really liked that part as she said how she had to do it, it was just the way she was – she knew they were counting on her.

“Mama, I asked Granny to make me a biscuit and she fussed; she just spent all night making that cake for someone else. Why does she do that?” I asked.

“‘Cause, Kitten, Mama likes to shine,” Mama explained.

“But she still fussed at me.”

I didn’t understand. I was a chubby kid who needed a biscuit.

I may not have oohed and ahhed over her baking prowess but I would have darn sure been grateful. But I didn’t give Granny that attention that the rest of the world did. I just selfishly wanted my biscuit and didn’t give the old gal any accolades. Probably didn’t even thank her for making her good food that made me chubby either.

It’s been years since Granny’s really cooked or baked. Arthritis has nearly crippled her, making it difficult for her to do a lot of her usual heavy duty kitchen work. However, last Thanksgiving, she did manage to have a knee replacement – she’s 93. There’s no way she’s gonna get her money’s worth off that knee.

“Mama, why in the world did that old woman decide, the week before Thanksgiving to go in the hospital and have her knee replaced?”

“She said she has to get it fixed because it’s killing her.”

“She’s 93 years old. What doctor in their right medical mind gives a 93 year old woman a new knee?” I was beyond flabbergasted – why on earth was she going into the hospital to have surgery?

When I went to see her in the hospital, there she sat, new knee propped up, emergency buzzer in her hand, “Wheel of Fortune” on the television overhead.

“How you feeling, old woman?” I asked.

“Great. I can’t wait to try out this knee. It’s gonna be a good ‘un. I just know it.”

The nurse brought her lunch in along with a new pitcher of ice, fluffed her pillow and doted on Granny, petting her head, and talking about what a sweet patient Granny was. I swear, the old gal smiled.

I called Mama on the way home.

“Mama, I think she likes the fact she had her knee operated on.”

Mama laughed. “Kitten,” she began.

“Mama likes to shine.”