Sunday, December 11, 2005

Phone Calls You Don’t Want

I remember reading about the fellow who was all upset at 2am when his phone rang and it was a collect phone call from the County Jail; turned out to be a wrong number. He was muttering about this, that and the other when his wife reminded him how lucky it was that it WAS a wrong number.

Lucy and I have gotten our share of jolting phone calls. I think it’s part of being a parent and all the aspects of that wonderful roller coaster ride that goes with it. One night while on our Saturday night date at a very nice local restaurant my cell phone started to ring. I normally glance down to see whose is calling and let it go into voice mail; except this time the caller ID showed my home phone. I decided to answer and risk being one of those annoying folks who constantly talk on a cell phone when they should be enjoying a pleasant conversation and a good meal.

“Dad…”, there was a miniscule pause as my son’s voice indicated he was carefully considering his choice of words. “…do we have a second fire extinguisher?” William was trying his best to contain the extra adrenaline that was flowing. “I think I got it out; but just in case…”

Conversations that start with, “Dad, do we have a second fire extinguisher?” are a sure fire way, pardon the pun, of skipping the desert menu and heading home. It turned out that a wire from the back of the built in oven had worked loose over the years. It had arched the electricity back there enough to catch the custom cabinet on fire. William had alertly gone to the garage and flipped off all the electricity, emptied the fire extinguisher on the area where the flames had burned through and was looking for a little extra to make sure he’d gotten it all.

We got home and inspected the damage, none of which had been William’s fault. His quick thinking had likely saved the house according to the folks at the fire department. We ended up getting a remodeled kitchen, a new microwave oven along with a regular free standing oven and stove top. The old one was too small and Lucy made sure to take her turkey roasting pan along as we considered its replacement. The new cabinets were stained to match the existing ones and we put in a new floor at the same time. All we had to pay was the deductible and the cost of the flooring.

The reason I decided to write about phone calls you don’t want is because this past week Lucy got one from our oldest daughter. Bonnie called in the middle of the night from some place in Carolina. She’d flown in and picked up her rental car and had another hundred miles to go before reaching the hotel.

“Mom, could you talk with me for about thirty minutes while I drive? I’m so tired that I keep falling asleep.” That takes all the fun out of being a parent. If you could somehow slip your molecules into the phone and travel at light speed across the expanse and take over at the wheel; now wouldn’t that be worth the technological investment, something for Mr. Spock, Scotty and the rest of engineering on the Enterprise to work out for us.

I have to appreciate these “growing” experiences; no, really. I gain a deeper appreciation for my own parents and some of the aggravation I must have put them through, still do for that matter. Past that, I am able, in some small degree, to understand how my Father in Heaven must feel toward all of his children here on this road we call mortality.

Lucy and I had dinner with some friends from church this evening and we were engaged in some of the conversation which I just shared. I explained about the time my friend and I built a home made explosive device and accidentally blew out the center support of my dad’s garage. The wind from the explosion pushed the skin on our faces back, “serious cool” for a ping pong ball full of firecracker powder. My sister was about to pull the old. “I’m gonna’ tell…”; but my hands around her neck along with a death threat silenced that thought. The neighbors had all come out to catch a glimpse of some new experimental airplane, the one that had made the sonic boom, their hands shielding their eyes from the bright noonday sky and, unable to spot it they disappeared back into their houses, none of them ever noticed the small cloud of smoke that was dissipating over my dad’s garage.

Mom came home around 4pm while we were figuring out how to put it back as if it had never happened; nailing an eight foot split two by twelve together, stacking bricks and painting over it. To be sure, this was one of my more serious mistakes and I was more than a little surprised at mom’s reaction. “Keep working; I won’t say a word and it will be up to your father to notice this one.” Dad ended up working late and never noticed when he came home so we had a full day to go back and finish the job.

Several years came and went until one day, I believe it was at Christmas dinner with all the children around the table, now grown and on their own, I explained to my dad how I’d blown up the center support of his garage and fixed it without his ever having known. He didn’t believe me; mom tried to look shocked and amazed. My sister still believed that I would hold her to that oath of secrecy, the one I extracted from her under duress and so she pretended not to know anything either.

I survived my own youth long enough to become a parent, maybe that old adage is true, “What goes around comes around”. In any case, my folks were correct when they told me that parenting is one job that once you start you never can leave.

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