Mother’s Day Pinto

Mother was a slow learner. It took her forever to learn that Daddy was not the thoughtful kind of guy who would ever surprise her with lovely gifts and gestures. He was more the kind of guy who felt sorry for himself when she got her feelings hurt or got mad. After all, he was pretty sure he’d gotten her something last year, for her birthday or Christmas, one or the other. What had she done with that eggbeater?

This year was going to be different. Virgil Hughes had a nice Pinto horse. It was a good deal since it “wasn’t broke” yet. Nobody really wanted it since it stomped Euless and broke his leg, but Daddy was sure he could make a fine riding horse out of it. Mother was scared of horses, but she’d get over that. If she didn’t, he’d ride it. Daddy stopped off on the way home from work the Friday before Mother’s Day to pick it up. It was kicking the side rails when he pulled in. He called Mother out to see her beautiful Pinto and she hit the ceiling. “Of all the things I need, you come bringing in a horse. We need another useless animal to feed like I need a hole in the head.” She stormed in, furious.

Daddy stomped off, putting the horse in the pasture. “Kathleen didn’t appreciate anything he did for her. It would be a cold day in Hell before he brought her anything else!

Happy Mother’s Day!

True Love at the Library

The world opened up to me on my first visit to the library the summer before I turned four.  My sister had just finished first grade.  Mother took her to enroll her in the summer reading program, bland enough sounding, as we pulled up to a white clapboard building just next to Davis’s Barber Shop.  I knew Sandra Davis was in first-grade with my sister, so that was important.  The small library was divided into an adult and children’s room and lined floor to ceiling with shelves.  The picture books were on low shelves under the huge windows of the front room.  I stood there staring, till a tiny, white-haired lady came out from behind a desk, pointed to the shelves and told me, “Choose anything you like.”
I’d never seen such wealth.  We had books at home, but nothing like this bounty.  I’d never thought the world might hold such wealth.  I dropped to the floor and pulled one out. Having no interest in little girls at a tea-party, I hastily slid it back in its place, looking for something a real kid might read.  I rejected a valentine book, a kitty, and an A B C book, I had just settled on a cowboy book when Mother said we needed to go.
“I didn’t get to read my book yet!”  I wailed.
“We can read it when you get home.  Don’t you want some more? You can get three,” she finished.
I’d never been offered more of anything this good.  I was stunned.  “That ol’ woman is gonna’ give me three?”
Mother covered my “that ol’ woman outburst” the best she could.  She grabbed the tea party book and the valentine book, while I handed over my cowboy book.  Miss Temple stamped the little date sticker in the books, had Mother sign the cards, and we were on our way.  As soon as we got to the car Mother hissed. “”Don’t ever call somebody an old lady again. Or I’ll warm your britches for you.”
“Why? Doesn’t she know she’s an old lady?” I asked.  I was still having a lot of trouble figuring out manners.
“Well, if she doesn’t, it’s not your place to tell her.”  She was mad.
As soon as we got home,  Mother read me Rory and Rocky the Cow Pony.  After a couple of readings, I had it memorized.  I had to take back in two weeks, but checked Rory and Rocky out all summer.  I never did read the tea party or valentine books.

Death by Bed Bath

It’s a good thing people are harder to kill than I thought in my nursing student days.  In my first few weeks, I thought I’d killed several.  My first great scare was in my first day on a clinical unit.  I was assigned to give a bed bath to a poor old lady who’d had a leg amputation.  I did NOT want to give that woman, or any patient for that matter, a bath in the bed or otherwise.  Of course we’d practiced bed baths in the lab till we were sick of it.  I dreaded clinical that day, knowing bed bathing would not be put off any longer.  I gathered my supplies, a bed pad, two sheets, a mattress cover, four bath cloths, four towels and a blanket.  In the room I introduced myself to the patient and bumbled around till I came up with gloves, a basin of warm water, soap, toothbrush, tooth paste, mouthwash, and lotion.  God forbid, I was expected to do mouth care, too.

Done properly, a bed bath and bed change can be accomplished in minutes.  I believe I probably tormented that poor woman the better part of two hours.  I won’t bore you with the details but I slopped water all over the patient, the bed, myself, and the floor before I was finally through.  I left her wet, uncovered, and freezing, I am sure.  Finally I labored long enough to get her in a clean gown and do mouth care.  I was so relieved to be through when she looked at me with sad eyes and said.  “You put my gown on inside out.”

Sure enough, it was.  Hopefully I suggested, “You don’t want me to change it, do you?”

“Yes.” she moaned.

I wanted to argue, but knew I had it to do.  I worked till I got it fixed, but snatched her IV out in the process.  I hadn’t gotten to the point I could start IVs, so my nursing instructor had to do it.  She was not happy.

Not long after I escaped from her room, her family returned.  The doctor made rounds with the head nurse. They all came came out with their heads together.  I was sure they were all discussing the horrible bath I’d given.  I had no idea they’d be able to tell.  I was mortified. Fortunately, that was not the problem, but it was an awful day.

If It Weren’t for Bad Luck…….

Mother was laughing when I picked her up at the tire store this morning, after a conversation with a grumpy old man. She’d admired his luxury cherry-red sedan.

“I don’t like this car. I had me a real nice big pick up rigged out just like I wanted it, then in 2014, the doctor said I had cancer and probably wouldn’t make it six months. Well, my ol’lady didn’t want to have to drive that truck after I was gone, so she talked me into tradin’ it in on this car. I figured it didn’t matter none, since I wasn’t gonna be driving it no way.

Well, next time I went back to the doctor, he said I didn’t have cancer after all. Now I’m stuck with this danged car.”

Spilt Milk, Broken Dishes, and Trashy Girls

Spilt milk or broken dishes were reason a’plenty to cry when I was a kid. Daddy was highly volatile. Nothing shattered his nerves like a broken dish. Life with him was like walking a delicate precipice. Catastrope could strike without provocation: milk spilled at breakfast, the crash of shattered glass, the shrill shriek of a child. Even when things were going their best, any startling or embarrassing incident could end in a conflagration with Daddy taking his belt to the unfortunate instigator and descending into an anger that could last for days. Early on, we all learned we needed to keep Daddy happy. He doted on babies and toddlers, but rowdy children with opinions and boisterous behavior easily triggered his thunderous disapproval. Talking too much was a sure way to blunder into trouble. I invariably repeated a joke or word I didn’t understand, much to my sorrow. Failure to be circumspect ensured punishment. Nothing triggered him faster than shame. He intended for his children to reflect well, never subject to the possibility of criticism, justified or not. He only had to suspect a behavioral rule for modest female behavior to exist for it to become law. For us older girls, that meant no shorts, no public swimming, no dancing, no talking to boys, or dating until sixteen. Fortunately for my younger sisters, the road to Hell was not so broad. The worst thing we could have done was “trashy” behavior, namely promiscuity. Drinking and smoking were too far beyond the pale to ever enter the conversation.

“Trashy” girls ran around with wild boys, smoked, drank, danced, skipped school, cursed, talked back, and of course, had sex. It was understood they were an abomination not to be tolerated. I had cousins who were “trashy” long before I knew the specifics of what it involved. I just knew Cousin Carly’s boyfriend honked the horn at the street. She ran right past my shouting aunt, jumped in the car, and the boy spun out. She stayed out late, smoked cigarettes, slipped out when grounded. She got a speeding ticket driving her boyfriend’s car sixty miles from home on a school day. There was no way this way going to end up any way but badly. Of course, she dropped out of high school.

Not long afterward, Aunt Lou announced Carly had married an Air Force guy. Nobody ever saw him. Carly had a baby. Aunt Lou went to the Air Force Base and got Carly a divorce one day while Carly was working at the Firestone Plant. Carly couldn’t get the day off. Shortly thereafter, Carly married Phil, had two more children, and became as dull as mud. Thereafter, her life was entirely unremarkable except for the excellent example of how “trashy” girls behave. Thank you, Carly.