There was something familiar about that girl. It was more than talking with her at a single’s conference two years prior. I didn’t want to assume she was the dark black curly haired girl from my recurring dream, with her warm embrace that always brought me comfort and peace of knowing everything was wonderful.
She had gained the interest of several guys on the dance floor. One handsome gentleman jotted down her number. That did not deter me. In fact, it gave me courage seeing she was willing to give her number out to someone she just met. I knew she wouldn’t likely remember me from all the other guys she had met since, but I confidently mentioned how we had met before. I asked her to dance and we had a nice conversation. I told her it was nice to see her again and easily transitioned into asking if I could call on her sometime. A couple days later we scheduled a date.
For some reason her toes of all things triggered something of a flashback. Yeah, her painted toenails and her stylish sandals with the flower atop the strap. It was like something I’d seen before, but I knew I hadn’t. That was the first moment of De Ja Vu. The next was something she said in the car. It was like we had been on this exact date before. I simply took her for ice cream, the type of date that I had often been on, so I chalked it up to routine. I resolved to take her on a more formal date to live theater next. In between, I typed up a devotional (as the transcript would not be ready for a while) that I had heard the next week, which seemed especially apropos for her. She thanked me profusely. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling. We walked a dog the next date. There it was again. Almost every significant thing we did felt repeated. I asked her about it after she turned me down for a fourth date and she thought I was crazy.
My mom came rushing into the house. “Your dad rolled the ATV. He needs to go to the hospital.” I was slow to the uptake. This meant grab your coat. You’re driving him there.
A thousand things went through my mind. My mom was way too calm for this to be too dire. “What happened? Is he okay?” She assured me it was just his arm but that I needed to hurry. His doctor’s office might still be open but if we needed to we would go to the ER.
The ER took us right in. We walked past a lot of other patients in varying levels of discomfort. They let my dad sit in a small upright bed. My dad was writhing in pain at times but not groaning and moaning like others we walked by. I’m sure his head was not clear. He was wincing. He asked if a little pain medicine was too much to ask for. It seemed silly to ask the doctor when they would attend to him considering the other needs around.
30-40 minutes seemed like forever to get a diagnosis. It gave me a chance to hear more details about the accident, however. I guess my dad was going up a slope and caught on a rock sideways. He knew the ATV was going over and pushed it off him as best he could as it went by. It held up on the embankment below perched atop a cliff.
The medicine would take affect in another 30-40 minutes. They looked over his arm and braced it up good. He had significant bruising and obviously damaged the bone, but they would not be able to do much to see if he needed a cast until the swelling went down. He went back to his doctor in the coming days and it was found that the bone had lifted off of itself in a painful forearm split. It would take several days in a soft cast before he would recover. I think his hand still has some nerve damage, but it could have been much worse.
We laid waste to another holiday meal. Then like all other Thanksgivings before it, bodies lie strewn about sleeping it off and contemplating whether it was worth gorging ourselves over. It felt like the refrigerator was resting on my chest. I figured if I lie there on the couch long enough the indigestion would work itself out. Yet every breath I took felt more and more compressed like I was trapped under a rock, in the confined air of a cave, in outer space.
Something was different. What was happening? I had visited my parent’s house many times before but never felt this way. I stepped out for fresh air. The walk with the kids down to the duck pond helped. I liked the theater room air. Surely it was just too much food: turkey, stuffing, cranberry, mashed potatoes, orange rolls, pie, and more. Maybe it was too little exercise or this was how getting older felt, but no one else looked to be struggling quite the same. The shallow breathing made me more tired. I survived the evening and felt better on the drive home.
Then it repeated at Christmas time. What was going on? I couldn’t understand it. No one else was experiencing this dragging feeling at all. It progressively got worse through the night. What was it about holidays? I had enjoyed many football and basketball games with family without this reaction. I couldn’t think straight. I needed oxygen. I retired to a bed for the evening. I insisted I just needed some rest but my wife worriedly watched my breathing closely. Then my brothers insisted I go to urgent care. I was breathing much better once we got there and they had no explanation. It was almost asthmatic, yet apparently symptomatic of the house.
The next time I visited I located the problem while retrieving a vacuum from where we get extra chairs. A strong smell of straw in the cold storage walls was accompanied by an allergic reaction of my lungs closing up within minutes. We don’t open that door anymore whenever I’m around.
My family loves food with few exceptions. Lots of kids don’t like vegetables. I noticed that at school or when I babysat. My mom followed special diets when she looked after other’s kids on a regular basis. But no kid was as fussy as one little boy who stayed with us one day. I have never seen anything like it before or since.
He refused to eat anything but mayonnaise sandwiches. I had never even heard of such a thing. Who can live off of bread with a thin layer of mayonnaise spread in between? I was told that he would not eat anything else. I can still remember in my mind’s eye this thin bony-framed eight year old boy with his high pitched raspy voice kindly, politely even, refusing to eat anything but mayonnaise sandwiches. I remember how he rationalize it as the only healthy option for him. He was quite well-spoken and intelligible for his age. I remember him folding his arms, and frowning, before his silent fit turned into a more vocal protest. We all tried to convince him but he just would not eat unless we fed him what his parents confirmed over the phone was the only thing he would eat. I suppose you could say I didn’t give mayonnaise sandwiches a fair chance having never really tried it myself, so how could I expect this boy to eat what I eat, but it’s not like you can’t imagine what bread and mayonnaise alone would be like–severely lacking sustenance.
To this day I wonder if he changed his mind about his diet and has ever tried some real foods. I wonder if I will see him on one of these crazy eating disorder shows. I watched an episode where a lady claims she only eats and lives off of french fries after all. Don’t ask me how that is sustainable. It would sure make deciding what to eat for meal preparation easier though.
What would it be like to be a morning person? Does the sun shine brighter or the birds tweet sweeter? The idea of a body clock is nearly a foreign concept to me. I have probably woken up a couple times feeling “up and at ’em,” or maybe that was just indigestion.
Don’t get me wrong. Being an adult has necessitated the habit of waking up more readily. I get to work on time. But, the ill-fated truth is that some of my childhood habits inevitably creep back in. Some days I am worse than my office computer, which often takes an extra fifteen minutes to boot up.
My morning routine used to be a few slaps of the snooze button. I would milk every minute I could afford. Then I would race to the shower, throw on some clothes, and mix-up Carnation Instant Breakfast on may way out the door. Okay, not much has changed, except I guess I calculate the minutes I can spare a little bit better. Back in high school I still didn’t have it down to a Science, so-to-speak.
A kid on the bus started to feel threatened by me to the point that he began toting a knife to school. There was something not quite right about that kid. (But that’s another story: See Bus Stopper). I happened to be sick the day he was planning on knifing me. Rather than escalate the conflict I decided to get a rides to school from my mom. She had been driving the stragglers who missed the bus more and more anyway.
Then my tardy slips started piling up. Although my brothers knew the sure bet to being on time was to catch the bus it wasn’t fair to them. I was usually last to the car. I think I was a Senior. My first hour teacher would lecture me for being late, but five minutes didn’t matter to him, and I knew multiple tardy slips would not provoke detention from him. My brothers’ teachers were not so lenient, however. Sorry Scot. I should have insisted on taking his detention.
A couple Christian friends tentatively approached. They knew my standard not to watch R-rated movies and were curious to hear about what happened in Economics class the previous hour. Don’t ask me how R-rated movies became an integral part of the course. I figured they were only asking because they knew an R-rated movie was being shown, but I should have known better. In a small-town-school word gets around quickly, especially with an instance that stands out like this.
I told my friends how Mr. Meyerholtz threatened a quiz on the movie and he would fail me if I left. He even guarded the exit by standing in front of a closed door. I believed I could call his bluff. As important as he and I both knew grades were for me, and as stubborn as he was, I knew he did not have more resolve than me to win the point. At first I hunkered down in my chair. Defiantly I plugged my ears, closed my eyes, and laid my head on my desk. I said a silent prayer to ask what to do.
I thought the teacher would have to leave his post, even momentarily, to start the movie and then I would make my escape to the library–my sanctuary. I was supposed to have a library pass signed by my teacher for that hour, but they always knew what was going on. I wondered if the Principal knew and just looked the other way as well. The teacher was prepared. He had a remote and turned the movie on from where he stood. Just then a man child of a friend, Rob Hacquet, tapped me on the shoulder. He pushed past the teacher claiming he had to get a drink and waved me through the exit.
Little did I know English class, which I was now in, had an R-rated literature-related movie, to show us. My English teacher quietly excused me to go back to the library. That’s where I spent those two class periods the next couple days.
Editor’s Note: “I feel to provide a disclaimer of sorts. My view is just one perspective that may or may not be shared by others. The portrayal is not intended to be the definitive source of said events, nor is one instance meant to define the characters of anyone portrayed here, as if it were a microcosm of anyone’s life. It is a simple memory, but it also can’t easily be safeguarded by simply changing names, as though those who knew me would not know I attended Covington High School, not know the story referenced or the players involved, and not have formed their own opinions about who each of us were then and even who we have become now. I take full credit for my telling this non-generic tale as given above.” –-Chad Parker
My parents grew up rarely using seat-belts if you had them at all. We kids grew up unbuckling are seat-belts to lay down and sleep, especially during long road trips. Today’s kids are buckled into a car-seat for more than half of their childhood. Each scenario has the possibility for some interesting stories.
We used to lay the middle mini-van seat back as a bed connecting to the back bench. One of us would sleep on the floor underneath the back rest. There was very little light and with the chair on your chest you felt there wasn’t much air either. But if you controlled your breathing you could fall asleep. Usually my brothers were playing a car board game or talking above me so I knew I could reach up and get someone’s attention if I wanted out. There were a few times I woke up in a panic, however. You could yell pretty good and with the road noise and the other commotion they didn’t always here you. I remember yelling, slapping my hand up the side hole where there wasn’t enough room to squeeze your body out of, and finally pinching a brother’s leg before getting out once.
One of our friend’s wanted to give it a try. He was probably 10 years old. We checked on him a couple times and he said he was good. After a while we even covered the seating with blankets so we all could get some sleep. He woke up in the dark. His hot breath was coming back to him in close proximity to his coffin-like surroundings. He slapped the cushions above him but that didn’t make any noise. He started screaming. It took a while before he was able to rouse any of us. He came out sweaty and looking sick from fear. He told us how he forgot where he was and it freaked him out more than he had ever felt before. From then on we made sure someone stayed awake when anyone was down there, but we also didn’t go down there as much.
My favorite coach would have to be my dad, who dedicated countless hours devoted to teaching his kids teamwork, strategy, and the sheer enjoyment of playing sports competitions. My dad coached several of my teams. We won a lot of games together in baseball and soccer. A close second of my coaches was an assistant to my dad who reminded me a lot of the mentor in Karate Kid.
He was also named Mr. Miyagi. Safe fun was the main aspect he focused on. He had incentives for the offense and the defense and the whole team. If we won a game he would take the whole team out for ice cream for example. I remember how jovial he was, smiling and laughing, as we subbed out of a game. “Get some rest.” “Get some water.” “Oh, and get some candy for energy.” “You’re going back in soon.” He would say. We had jolly ranchers that I would suck on as I drank my water. Then I would get back into the game and play as hard as I could knowing we could sub at that age level as much as the coaches wanted.
Then I graduated from the city league into high school soccer. I used to practice or play a game and then come over to help my dad and his assistant with their soccer team. I would run drills and play keep away and give their team a higher level of offense to defend against. One day I came hobbling over after a high school scrimmage. I had twisted an ankle. It was already swelling and bruising.
Mr. Miyagi wanted to take a look. He was a scientist and had a doctoral degree. He knew a lot about musculature, ligaments, and bones. He held my calf in one hand and my ankle in the other, examined it, rubbed and pinpointed some areas to see where it hurt. Only twisting it hurt. He distracted me momentarily. With a quick painful twist, I yelped, but amazing relief followed and I was able to play without difficulty the next day.
I was only sent to the Principal’s office once or twice in my life. I remember a few different punishments through my school days but only once does standing in the actual Principal’s office come to mind. I’ll save the other main instances, a bathroom mess and a lunchroom food frenzy, for another time. The reason I was punished this time was for something significantly less extreme.
Ms. Bush was a rather mean English teacher. I suppose she just wanted to keep order in the classroom but it felt more like her making a power grab for indisputable control of her students. Sometimes I forgot to put in my contacts before running out the door to go to school. It wasn’t as obvious as forgetting your glasses, but I could not see the chalkboard to define the next word as we went around the room. Apparently this was cause for reporting me to the Principal’s office.
I saw the paddle dangling in the office and wondered if my parents had given the Principal permission to use it. He thought the whole thing was silly, perhaps like my dad must have felt when he had to punish his kids for mischief he hadn’t witnessed himself, while he was away at work. The Principal casually chatted with me the rest of that hour about life and my family. I’m sure he figured I learned my lesson. Ms. Bush made sure to still fail me on that assignment, even though I had thoroughly done the homework the previous night and had turned it in on her desk on time before I went to the Principal’s office. The main thing I learned that day was a lesson in life but maybe not exactly what she had in mind.
I learned that Ms. Bush’s punishments don’t match the crime. I feared her rather than revered her. It was hard to learn in that setting. I much preferred being inspired and knowledge expanded freely rather than being threatened and worrying about how well I could retain and recount understanding forced on me.
It was freezing outside, literally. It was nothing new. We waited for the bus in below zero temperatures before. Well, sometimes we waited in the house and then ran to the heated bus. This day was around 30 degrees below.
It was always freezing in the morning on a wintry day in Minnesota. It’s the wind chill that will kill you. Many days just like this one were reported at 60 degrees below when factoring in the wind. It was not a good day for our bus to drop us off early.
Standing outside waiting for the school doors to be unlocked, I had quit shivering. I had gone numb, all over. It was not a joking matter. My right hand held my baritone mouthpiece. I kept thinking we would be let inside before too much longer. My pockets were too tight to slide it into and I didn’t want to bare my skin to the cold long enough to fiddle with my coat pocket zippers. I tried to sneak my hands farther up in my coat, to no avail.
When I got inside, my skin was stinging around my nose but I couldn’t feel my hands. I tried to let go of my mouthpiece. I couldn’t open my hand. I rose my hand in the air to get the teacher’s attention.
“Yes, Chad, you have a question?”
“Teacher I can’t feel my hand.”
She busied herself with some papers at her desk. “Put your mouthpiece down.”
“I can’t!” Fear turned into a tear or two that froze on my reddened cheek.
“What do you mean.” The teacher hurried over and tried to pry my fingers from the mouthpiece which only teared at my skin. It hurt. A good sign, I guess.
I was sent to the Nurse’s office. I don’t remember how we removed the mouthpiece, short of warming up my hand until it came loose. It wasn’t a good enough reason to go home. Minnesota doesn’t use many snow day excuses.