Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Go ahead. Lick the icicle.

I love my parents. All of them. Because I am the product of a divorce, I have a bundle of them. Two regular parents, and two parent-lites. Each of them is extremely funny in their own way and each is happy to laugh at themselves and the way they raised their kids.

Maya Angelou once said that you do what you know and when you know better, you do better. That's a natural fact and the truth with every parent in the history of the world. You do the best you can with the information you have and you just pray you won't someday be watching the news and see a reporter interviewing your kid's neighbors and hearing how she always kept to herself before the "incident".

When I start thinking about my own kids, I'm amazed they are even alive. I remember bringing home my brand new daughter when I was scarcely twenty and crying right along with her every time she cried. If the hospital would have called the first week after she was born and politely asked for her back, I'd have run the whole way. I'd have even thrown in all the breast milk I could pump.

But God is in control and He makes sure you soon become attached to the little screamers. I loved her terrible and thought that she was the most beautiful little girl angel ever born. I still do.

I loved her so much, that as she got a little older and could eat solid foods, I monitored very closely everything that went in her mouth. Like some kind of giant mother bird, I'd chew up chunks of ice and plop tiny slivers in her mouth. I'd bite the popcorn I was eating in two and then take out the hard part so she could have some. I'd get out a steak knife and a fork and cut grapes into microscopic pieces so thin, you could see through them.

And then I'd hand her two entire hotdogs... one for each hand... and let her toddle around the house.

It's a miracle she is still around.

My parent's were no different. Clueless.

When I was a baby, I had something wrong inside my giant noggin which caused me to throw up pretty much constantly. I hate to be indelicate, but I was a puker like no other. Mother and Daddy tell me that I spent a lot of time at doctor's and hospitals.

My Grandma Rosie has always had problems with ulcers, and as a result she was the resident expert on nausea. She always knew just how to fix me right up.

"You hang on a minute Honey and Grandma will put a little ammonia in some Coke and we'll get you fixed right up."

The thing is, not one human being anywhere then or now has ever been able to explain to me what in the heck she was adding to my soda. It had quite the aroma, to put it mildly. I probably wouldn't be too far off base in my assumption that it was something they soaked dead people in to make them smell even worse. It never stopped me from being sick, but it encouraged me to keep my mouth shut about it so I wouldn't have to drink any more.

She also loved to give me Paragoric with my Coke as well. If you don't know what that is, you're not alone. A quick internet search says it's something for diarhea. So why was I getting it for nausea??? I always thought Maw-Maw adored me, but looking back, it seems clear she was trying to kill me.

My family was all about doctoring ourselves. In fact, I come from a long line of work at home, degree challenged, physicians. My great-grandmother on my Mother's side was the lady you called if you were sick, having a baby or your Grandma put ammonia in your drink and you died. I'm told she took care of everything from magically stopping bleeding to preparing bodies for funerals.

My Paw-Paw told me that she had a special verse she'd recite whenever someone was bleeding which would cause it to instantly stop. When he was just a child, she told it to him. Armed with his new powers, he said he went out to the hog they had just slaughtered and laid hands on it. Sure enough, the hog stopped bleeding and the meat was to throw out. That didn't make his Momma very happy and she told him to lay off healing potential suppers.

If my Daddy was around and heard you coughing or sounding congested, he'd show up at your bed with a cup full of whiskey, rock candy and some other stuff he felt would sweat the sick out of you. Strangely enough, my sister Connie and I found that the winter of 1980 was an especially tough one on us as we seemed to have been struck down with undiagnosed and especially whiskey-resillient cases of the whooping cough.

My mother, bless her heart, was not terribly good at mixing up potions or laying on hands. But, she did know exactly how to take care of a sick daughter.

"You need to take a shower and put on some make-up", she'd say.

"But mom! I've been throwing up all night and my fever is 104!"

"Trust me. You'll feel better when you look better. Now get going."

No matter what the illness, no matter how severe the problem, there was nothing a hot shower and enough make-up couldn't cure.

"Mother, I'm in labor."

"Well, when I had my kids the nurses told me I looked just like a soap opera star because when it was all over my hair and make-up were still perfect. Trust me. Go put on some make-up."

"Mother, I think my husband is cheating on me."

"She probably wears make-up. Men like that. Trust me. You need to wear more make-up."

"Mother, my arm was chewed off by a giant shark."

"Well then jump in the shower and I'll help you put your make-up on until you learn to do it with one hand."

Mother was very good at preventative medicine, however. She made sure we kids didn't get into anything that would hurt us. We had a clear cut set of rules that we knew would keep us from harm.

For example, we knew that if we licked the long, clear icicles that formed on the sides of the house in winter, we'd die. Plain and simple. No maybes. No chance of survival. Only immediate and certain death.

Same if we touched African Violets. I don't know how people grew the deadly things in the first place. It must have involved some sort of full body gear and Darth Vader breathing apparatus so as to avoid death.

Mother also made sure we knew, as her mother did for her when she was little, that cats would steal your breath when you were sleeping. That put an end to wanting a kitty under the Christmas tree.

It's tough being a parent. We're really all just a bunch of kids ourselves when it gets right down to it. We don't have a clue, so in order to get through it, we just make it up as we go. If that means rubbing whiskey on a teething baby's gums or telling our kids that if they stick their hands out car windows, they'll blow off, so be it. They'll do it to their kids, too. It's the law of child-rearing.

And when we are grandparents, we can tell our kids how much better we were at raising children than them. They won't figure out what idiots we really were until they are about forty and by then, we'll be busy kissing up to them so we get the "good" nursing home and they'll be kissing up to us so we don't spend their entire inheritance taking bus tours of the best kitchen towel factories in America.

It all evens out. Just the way God intended.

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Copyright © 2004, Sherri Bailey
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