“To have and to hold…”
One day early in their marriage, mother was talking on the phone with one of her many girlfriends. The instrument she used was an old-school Bell desktop, with 12 gray plastic buttons jutting out of a beige casing, complete with a receiver so hefty and bulletproof that being composed of depleted uranium is the only thing that could explain weight.
While she was talking, my father snuck up from behind and tickled her. Mom is horribly ticklish…so ticklish that it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that she’s a 98 lbs. nerve cell. She jumped and yelled at my Dad, “Nick! Stop it!” She did not turn to look at dad — instead, she kept facing forward and continued her conversation.
Like a child told to keep his hand out of the cookie jar, he did it again. She hissed, “Nick! STOP!” Mom continued to not pay visual attention to Dad, yet he proceeded to keep tickling her.
Holding the phone receiver in her dominant hand, Mom swung it back over her shoulder and cold-cocked dad with authority. This produced a huge clap as plastic met bone. Dad immediately stopped and left Mom alone.
About half an hour later, Mom finished her conversation, hung up the phone, and stood to leave the room. This was when she discovered my father was still in the room, knocked out cold and sprawled on the floor with a big black bruise on his forehead.
To this day, he has never tickled her again.
“For richer or poorer…”
One day, the two of them were playing the game, and everything was going swimmingly — that is, until my Dad began to take advantage of the house rules whose existence incidentally had been known only to my father up to this point. Fighting and arguing resulted from these “house rules” but they continued to play for awhile. The game ended quickly enough, when Mom attempted to procure a loan from the game’s bank, but the banker–Dad–would only provide the credit line if mom paid 3.59% compound interest per roll of the dice and secured the loan with the four Railroads & The Electric Company.
Years later, I was born. It wouldn’t be until college that I saw my first Monopoly game, as it was permanently banned from our household.
“In sickness and in health…”
My dad’s mother was a curious creature. I didn’t know Grandmother as well as my mother’s mom, Nana. She was a creature whose hobbies were being crotchety and holding grudges up until her final breath.
In the 1960’s, my parents had just started dating, and Grandmother made no secret that she did not like my Dad’s choice for a girlfriend. To her, no one was good enough to date her son. After accepting my father’s proposal, Mom reached out often in an attempt to win the heart of her future mother-in-law.
One night, the two of them went over to Grandmother’s house to break bread over a home-cooked dinner with Dad’s parents. Grandmother and her husband Gaylord greeted the two as they arrived. Gaylord truly enjoyed my mother and was grateful for her company, while Grandmother at least remained on good behavior.
The quartet dined on Salisbury Steak, with the standard veggie and starch for sides. After dinner, my mother spoke with Grandmother and complimented her on the fine meal. In fact, Mom made it a special point to comment about the tasty mushroom sauce that smothered their steaks. Grandmother smiled and bragged that it was homemade, using wild mushrooms that she had personally picked from the backyard.
Later that evening, all four of them were at the hospital, getting their wrenching stomachs pumped.
“‘Till death do us apart.”
After dinner one night, my father complained about some minor abdominal distress. He was sweating a little and his stomach was feeling twisted into knots. Our next door neighbor was a registered nurse, so Mom telephoned for her to come over and take a look. By the time she arrived, Dad was starting to feel worse.
The nurse asked some questions and briefly examined my father. Her diagnosis: indigestion. Recommended treatment: administer an enema.
I guess she forgot to bring along her leeches.
Dad was feeling bad enough that Mom and the nurse had to administer the enema. I still cannot fathom how awkward of a scene this might have been, especially for the one who was being internally flushed by warm liquids. But it seemed to work, for after the procedure, Dad reported that he felt somewhat improved.
Later in the evening, Dad woke up feeling worse many times over. He was now terribly feverish, and sweat gushed from his forehead. He woke up Mom to report this news, and she got up to take him to the nearest emergency room.
The doctor they met asked some questions and briefly examined my father. His diagnosis: bursting appendix. Recommended treatment: life-saving emergency surgery.
It is my assumption that the nurse and the doctor did not go to the same medical school.
Dad was operated on that night and the surgery was routine and successful. The next day, he was scheduled to be discharged and Mom went over to take him home.
She had to wait in the hospital lobby, a long plain room filled with lots of other waiting people. She stood near the entrance at one end; facing her at the other end was a bank of elevators.
Some time passed, and then the elevator chimed. Its silver doors parted, and inside was a nurse standing behind a wheelchair that held my father. The two of them wheeled out into the lobby
Dad spotted Mom from across the crowded room. He then stood up out of his wheelchair, pointed at her, and shouted, “That bitch tried to kill me!” Everyone in the lobby heard him and followed his gesture until they were locking eyes with my speechless mother.
Speaking of speechless, the two of them did not speak to one another for nearly two weeks.