My mom raised three kids, sometimes giving up A for B, and then settling on C but we were happy. Still, I did not comprehend her sacrifices until my wife, Tina, left me with our children to attend a wedding (not hers).
Experience taught me how to interact with those who are difficult to understand and liable to become melodramatic at a moment’s notice. Yes, we have teenagers who were now in my total care!
On day one with my wife gone, I walked to the bus stop to hug my daughters. While peers gawked, my girls whispered, “Dad, you can leave now.”
When my son came home, I threw open the door, announcing, “Surprise!” He greeted me with a question every father loves to hear: “Where’s Mom?”
That week, a teacher looked at my son’s disheveled appearance and asked whether everything was fine at home. My son replied, “Sure, but my mom’s out of town.” ‘Nuff said.
Las Vegas bookies would have given us a week before the children and I wrestled each other for the last can of beets. By day two, I figure I ate half an acre of salad (every last leaf!), a squash, and something in the back of the fridge, genus unknown.
The only nutrients left were toothpaste and a MRE, or military meal-ready-to-eat, which I found in some old Army boots. I felt a little ashamed when the children discovered me in the closet nibbling on ice and licking the remnants of a tub of cake icing.
I almost ate my toenails but opted for a dying houseplant. For dessert, I raided the neighbor’s bird feeder.
My shopping skills were nil. Grocery shopping with my wife Tina is like hide-and-seek — she finds cookies that mysteriously ended up in the shopping cart under bags of salad and throws them back.
We tried restaurants. Who knew Pilates is a form of exercise instead of an Italian eatery?
I began taking the kids door-to-door in the neighborhood at dinnertime pretending to search for our lost puppy (we don't own a dog). Then I would nudge one of them, who would comment: “Wow! Something sure smells great. We're having fried bologna...again.”
In a moment of weakness our neighbors opened their doors just enough for us to barge in while extracting forks, seasoning, napkins and doggy bags from our pockets.
One night, I rolled up to the local park in our mini-van, opened the door and yelled, “Children, time to go home.” They were shocked.
I explained: “Look, this isn’t a scene from ‘The Warriors.’ We live on a military post. It’s pretty benign, so chillax” adding, “‘tough’ is growing up named Zoltan, wearing polyester and listening to disco. Next time I’ll have tube socks pulled up past my knees, wearing Speedos and blasting K-Tel’s ‘Sounds from the Seventies.’”
I once read that things work out best for people who make the best with the way things turn out. That week my children and I came together but were ecstatic when Mom walked in the front door.
I rediscovered that my wife does much more than cautioning me not to buy seafood or financial stocks at flea markets and making sure I don’t go out with pink socks clinging to my shirt. She is a woman who brings calm out of disorder.
So here’s to you honey, and all the moms, dads and single parents who sacrifice for their families. This Mother’s Day, I salute you all!