Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lessons learned

Last week, Momma Bone shared a little anecdote with me about dialing directory assistance. First of all, I'm pretty sure my mother keeps 411 in business. She dials it more than anyone I know. Come to think of it, she's the only person I know who ever uses it. Anyway, she had gotten some automated message that the system could not process her request.

"So I called back and went Mummummumm," she continued, putting her hand over her mouth as she mumbled the last few syllables.

"Mummummumm?" I asked.

"Yeah, if you do that, a real person will pick up."

I laughed, wondering to myself how Mom figured this out. How long it took her. And what other little tips and tricks she has devised and discovered that I don't know about yet.

I decided that from Mom, I learn the practical things in life, to get me through everyday situations. Things like where's the best public restroom in town; how to bypass the automated system on 411; and maybe most importantly, if a restaurant undercooks your steak, always eat your baked potato before sending it back because they'll bring you a whole new potato after they recook your steak. She'll kill me if she finds out I told that last one.

Meanwhile from Dad, I have learned things about how to survive and preserve myself during times of natural disasters and other dire situations. Things like don't shower during a thunderstorm; the best place to be in a tornado is driving around in the car, despite what every weather person and tornado safety manual ever printed says; and of course, eating more fish will help fight off radiation poisoning in case of a nuclear attack.

Will it? I have no idea, but I probably eat more fish than most land lovers. Also, it wasn't until the last couple of years that I would dare get into a bathtub if it was thundering outside. And I'm still not crazy about the idea.

As he is wont to do, Dad was imparting even more infallible wisdom when he took me out for birthday lunch recently. "Son, I still have the mind of a 16-year-old. It's just the body doesn't want to cooperate anymore."

The mind of a 16-year-old? Really, Dad? Well, at least I come by that honest.

Do you ever wonder how your parents even got this far in life? Sometimes I just shake my head in amazement. Mom still refuses to learn to set a digital watch or the clock in her car. She's never had a mozzarella stick in her life, ever. And she thought Warren Sapp was "The Refrigerator" the whole time he was on Dancing With The Stars, and still does.

Dad called me just tonight to tell me they'd ordered the Bible on mp3, then went on to ask, "How much would an mp3 player cost?" And the whole VCR fad completely came and went without either of them ever learning to program one, I think.

If I asked Dad how he got this far in life, his answer would in all likelihood begin with the phrase, "Well son, when you're this good-looking..."

Both my parents turn 59 this year. For so long, they appeared invincible and always just kinda seemed the same age. Then one day, something happens. Probably not even anything major. Just some little something occurs and it smacks you in the face that suddenly they're twenty years older.

I want them to always be 35. Mom riding her bicycle for miles every Saturday afternoon, taking my sister and me to pick up Mamaw and carry her to town on summer mornings. Dad doing his woodwork out in his shop, reading his encyclopedias and watching the Discovery Channel to learn about thunderstorms and fish and the like. Keeping every sort of harm and danger away from our door. And there never being a problem they couldn't take care of.

When I think about my childhood, that's what I miss the most.

Seeing my parents get older is one of the hardest things about life. Few things get to me like that does. It's one of those things that if it creeps into my mind, I try and push it out immediately. I don't want to think about it.

Some lessons you don't ever want to learn.

"Wish change would just leave well enough alone. Those days are gone now, when Daddy was a strong man and Momma was a blonde..."


  1. I think we are near the same age and I still think of my parents in their mid 30's even if pops is going bald and mama has more wrinkles and gray hair. I know I'm lying to myself but I think I can continue the lie at least for a few more years until I cross into that decade of years that begins with four. After that, my parents can't possibly be younger than me.

  2. Nice post, Bone. When I flew home last November and was met at the airport by my parents, I remember thinking for the first time that my Dad was looking old (of course, your parents are only 7 years older than me). He always looked so young, but taking care of my mom for the past few years is wearing on him.

  3. She's never had a mozzarella stick ? Shut up!
    This was a good post. It kind of made me sad that my parents are getting old, and I started to realize it this year. I think my dad is finally getting at the age where he can't run half marathons with me. Sad.

  4. My dad's dad passed away about a year ago, and I remember having the thought one day, "I wonder when Pepaw got old in my dad's eyes." Because I don't even remember when he got old in MY eyes...

    And by the way, I totally have tears in my eyes and it's not even 9 in the morning. NOT a good start to the day...

  5. You want somebody to protect you. Your parents would love to but can't It's not a parent's job to protect an adult. It's the opposite of the job description

    Your memories are wonderful. Ever think memories are supposed to make you nostalgic? And be a bit painful besides beautiful?

    As Cami said thanks for making me cry. Really didn't want to start my day like this

  6. I love your mom's tips! I keep the potato so I have something to eat though. LOL

    Living so far from my parents I don't see them all that often. When my mom came out here the last time and I saw her I was shocked at how different and old she looked. Her illness is really beating her up...but sure enough within minutes she looked the same as she ever had to me. I just feel so bad for my brothers who look like my father, cuz as he got older he started looking like his mom...that isn't a pretty site. :p

  7. What a beautiful post, Bone. Your memories are the best kind: those silly memories which mean so much to you and will when you're passing those lessons along to your children and your nephew and hopefully future nieces.

    I remember a Christmas with my Mom's family a few years back, when suddenly it hit me that my brother and I got into the 20s and 30s and taken the place I always thought of my aunts and uncles. And they are now the age I think of my grandparents. I immediately wanted to turn back time, and make them young again. Partly for them, and partly for me.

    I, too, possessed some watery eyes while reading through this. But I won't complain about them: reading something so good it brings you to tears is always worth it. Always.

  8. Ed Abbey - Exactly. I'm fine with getting older myself. I can handle it. Just let my parents stay young.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Sage - Thanks. That actually crossed my mind as I was writing, what you and your dad must be going through. I can't imagine how hard that must be.

    OK Chick - Thanks. No, she hasn't. Can you believe that?

    And I think that until you officially beat your Dad in a race, he can't possibly be old.

    Cami - Yeah, I think about that often. How did my parents deal with the passing of my grandparents?

    Sorry about the tears :-/

    Pia - I know that this is how it's supposed to be, but that doesn't make it easier, or mean I have to like it right now.

    Renee - Thanks, I needed that smile :) Also, it is my experience that brothers can always use a little pity. We have to put up with sisters our whole lives, after all.

    TC - Yeah, I think that about my aunts and uncles, too. It's not easy to see them getting older, either.

    Thank you. I figure it's one of those things we all go through, so maybe at least there's comfort in that.

  9. Oh Bone, I can so relate to this. Our parents are our strength, and it's difficult to watch them show signs of frailness as they get older. Mine are both 70 now...they're still vibrant and healthy, thank God. But I can't bear to think about what I'll do without them here on this earth with me. Your post made me misty-eyed. And your parents sound very endearing!

  10. I sometimes forget this but I guess I'm lucky. I never got to see my parents really get old. Don't put your head in the sand, Bone. Think of these things. It'll make you enjoy today more (and I am cringing what a cliche that is). Take it from me.

  11. Sometimes the "mumumumumumum" thing doesn't work.

    As an Australian-American I frequently run into automated phone systems with voice-recognition software that don't let you press buttons, have trouble understanding my accent, and instead of transferring me to an operator I hear "We're sorry you're having a problem. Please try your call again later. *click*"

    And as someone who lost his 60 y/old father a few years ago, and with both his parents having passed away when I was just a young lad (well, teenager), thoughts of my own mortality were not far from my mind. Then I re-read my father's memoir and discovered both my paternal grandparents lived into their 80s, despite Alzheimer's, alcoholism, chain-smoking, etc. So Dad was just unlucky, I guess.

  12. Actually I've been a lurker for quite awhile. I think I found your blog through Sage a long time ago.

  13. I was kind of thinking this same thing when I laid down last night. I thought... Im the same age my parents were when I was in middle school and I thought they were older. Alot older. Yet I still feel (and act) 20. I hate to see them slowing down. It breaks my heart to see them not building garages and out running races. Life catches up to you fast it seems.

  14. My parents just purchased a cell phone last November. It still sits on the counter most days. On the rare occasion they do carry it, they don't turn it on unless they need to use it.

    Drives me bonkers.

    On the other hand, my dad has an iPod. I don't.

    Guess that makes me old. Yikes.

    Nice post, Bone.

  15. nice tribute to your folks!
    you're a good egg!

  16. I identify with the sad feeling about watching parents age. Of course, I'm already older than I'd like to be--35 was perfect:) I can't imagine living without my parents, but of course I will, someday. Nice post.

  17. I think this is a wonderful post. Your parents come a bit too alive for me and they resonate a bit too much due to your writing skill

  18. Fledgling Poet - Our parents are our strength

    Well put. I'm very thankful, too.

    Well, they're definitely endearing to me. And hopefully vice versa :)

    Murf - Oh goodness, I'm so sorry. I know you're right. And I do make a conscious effort to appreciate the time more after both of them had health problems last year. It's just... sometimes I wonder where all the years went.

    Capn John - Hmm, now I'm wondering what Mom would do if she ran into a system where her little trick didn't work.

    I'm sorry for your losses. Makes me feel like I should stop whining and appreciate what I have.

    Ed Abbey - Ah, it warms my heart to know that in this day and time there are still a few good lurkers around.

    Kerry - I think similar things a lot. Like "When my Dad my age, I was 13." And it's just like wow!

    Charlotta - Mom gets me to send text messages for her from her cell phone. Come to think of it, it's kinda nice to be needed.


    Daily Panic - Thank you. I'm not sure about that last statement, but I'll accept the "nice tribute" compliment :)

    Actonbell - Thanks. 35 was perfect! I also very much enjoyed 17, 19, and 23 :)

    Pia - Thank you. Someone once told me it's all in the details.

  19. I get this. I really get it. It's almost a hesitant thing to even admit it. curious, this aging thing. but, it happens.

    Hey - you have to come back to my post today and look at what TC wrote .. it's strangely akin to what you wrote!! :)

  20. Wait until you have to have the death talk with your folks. You know, the talk about how they want to be taken care of when they do die, where their paperwork is, if they have a will, etc. It might not be so bad for you because you have a sibling with whom to share the information. I recently had the talk with my dad, then got off the phone and cried for a good 15 minutes.

  21. Your mozzarella stick comment reminded me of the time I watched my mom eat string cheese for the first time. I was having fun pulling off the tiniest threads of cheese to make mine last as long as possible, so I was horrified to see her chomp down on the end of hers. She just couldn't be bothered with the tedious dissection process that brought me such delight...

  22. Be sure to tell Mom that she can dial 800goog411 for FREE directory assistance(put it on speed dial!)! I love Google!!

    Anyway...'always eat your baked potato before sending it back because they'll bring you a whole new potato after they recook your steak.' a good rule to live by, but not as helpful as the rest room tip though! As for the eating more fish will help fight off radiation poisoning in case of a nuclear attack... could it have to do with all the mercury in it? lol

    I think I liked my parents more when they got older. Both were/are type A, and fairly self-centered people. Age mellowed them a lot. Ohhh that sounds terribly selfish of me and I too am a type A personality! OMG I am my parents! uggg

    Anyway, when I went to Europe with my Dad 2 years ago, I really saw his age. I became the parent in many situations... It was a tough nut to swallow.

    Ageing sucks. For them, and for me... lol

    Btw this Mom will always be a blonde! *wink

  23. I can really relate to this. The equivalent of those things are the things that I miss the most now. Whenever I'm feeling down, I'm back watching my mum cook dinner or my dad listening to music with his enormous headphones. It's sad that we have to grow up sometimes.

    Also, does that 'mummummumm...' thing really work?! I wonder if it will work for other companies... I'll have to try it!

  24. I love that your mother has figured out how to trick 411... true talent runs through your blood. I feel the opposite... I HATE when the automated system doesn't understand what I'm saying... like I'm speaking alien.

    Watching your parents grow old is a scary thing. When I lost my grandfather a year and a half ago, I expected it. He was old since I was little.

    But our parents? They aren't old... even if they are. They're not supposed to be achy and slow and confused. They're supposed to have all of the answers to life's ridiculous questions. They're supposed to be there... forever.

    Keep pushing it from your mind, Mr. Bone. Dwelling won't change anything... it's only make you sad. Just remember to enjoy your time with them.

    My grandpa was my mom's dad. He was never supposed to get old in her mind either.

  25. I loved this Bone, but I am surprised your mother even allowed you to use a public restroom. ;)

  26. Gorgeous post!

    I'm totally trying that trick to get a human on the line!

  27. oh bone, this was THE sweetest tribute to parents that i've ever read! I really really was touched until... I read that they were ONLY 59!! that had me laughing and then scared!! They are only 10 yrs. older than me!! holy cow! I was picturing folks in their 70's. They are still young bone!! YOUNG! do u hear me? No need to get all worrisome yet!
    they sound like such great people and I bet they know how lucky they are to have u for their son!
    great post! xo

  28. See Bone how inspirational this post was. It got me to write something I do love

    Thank you for sharing (omigod the 80's are alive at my house, well not my house but the townhouse)

  29. Oh I was on the (cordless) phone with my closest friend. It was raining. I heard a jolt and saw a little spark. At that moment it began thundering and lightening something fierce

    Now I think most of the electricity in cordless phones go to the base station but yes there was lightening

    I think I might begin to listen to your father

  30. I hope you're out playing in the snow!

  31. I loved this post. I hope you are getting the snow that I have heard about in Alabama.