During the past months, many blogger friends have commented and emailed about the gentle, thoughtful and considerate things you’ve done in my life and the lives of others. They’re absolutely right about you.
Now I want to share a flip-side-of-the coin and tell another story about a wonderful but very different thing you did one day during the summer before I started third grade.
In our neighborhood, there were 38 children of all ages, and except for kid-type squabbles we got along fine. We skated on sidewalks, rode bikes with playing cards clipped to the spokes, played tag and basketball, jumped rope, caught lightning bugs, and drank out of everyone’s garden hoses when we were thirsty. Some of the kids were the much older brothers and sisters of younger kids, and they were friendly and waved back at us as they drove by. Only one of the neighborhood kids was kind of weird, or at least several of us thought he was scary and weird. We’ll call him Gordo (not his real name, in case he’s still mean) and he had a big boxer dog he liked to sic on smaller kids.
On this day, you were in the fenced-in back yard, pulling weeds in the garden and sweeping off the porch. I was in the front yard with roller skates fastened to my shoes, learning to skate. I had skated to the drive way, turned around, and was wobbling down the long sidewalk that led to our front door, when I heard a voice behind me say, “Sic’er, Butch! Get’er.”
A dog growled and ran up behind me, lunged and knocked me down. “Get’er, Butch!” Gordo yelled, and I screamed. I kicked with the awkward skates on my feet and flailed my arms. The dog barked and jumped on me.
I was on my second blood-curdling scream when the front door flew open. Out you ran, Mom, armed with a broom. You yelled, “No! Stop that!” and Gordo laughed. But Butch stopped barking, looked up at you and tilted his head. You yelled, “No!” again and swatted him away. Then you turned on Gordo and whacked him with the broom.
He cried out, “You can’t hit me. It’s my dog’s fault!” And you swatted him again, harder, and said, “We both know whose fault it is.” You leaned closer. “You go home and tell your mother what you did. Tell her the truth, too, because I’ll be coming up to talk to her, and nobody likes a liar.” You patted Butch’s head and sent Gordo and his dog home.
I was more scared than hurt. You washed off the scratches and scrapes, and for a treat we split a bottle of Coca-cola. I asked why Gordo was so mean. You said you thought he was maybe lonely, and you hoped he’d learn to be a better boy. Then you laughed.
“Know what your grandmother would say about Gordo?” I had no idea what your sweet and gentle mother–my grandmother–would say about Gordo. As far as I knew, Grandma didn’t even know Gordo.
“Your grandmother would say she wished she had another nine boys just like him…so she could start a reform school and help them all at once.” I laughed, even though it didn’t make much sense to me. I couldn’t imagine ten Gordos in one place anywhere.
You and Gordo’s mother had a nice visit, and Gordo never sic’ed his dog on any of us kids again. Eventually things calmed down in the neighborhood. And, strangely, Gordo grew up and turned out okay.
Thanks, Mom, for being calm and kind and gentle and thoughtful…and also a raging mother lioness when necessary. I love you. Marylin
In honor of our parents who have suffered or continue to suffer with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, I suggest a wonderful book by Pat Summitt: SUM IT UP. Pat Summitt was only 21 when she became the head coach of the Tennessee Vols women’s basketball team. For 38 years she broke records, winning more games than any NCAA coach in basketball history. In 2011 her life took a shocking turn when she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. SUM IT UP is about a coach who has had 74 of her players go on to be coaches, and now she coaches readers with her continuing fighting spirit, inspiring us with her perseverance and humor.