As I came down the driveway, I saw one of my son’s playing basketball. As I pulled in further, I saw my wife, the two other children and our dog hanging out on our stone patio. The sun was beaming down, there were smiles on faces and my wife waved to me as I came to a stop. All good signs.
I looked at my watch. It read 11:30am. I figured we had another eight hours to go. It was going to be a long stretch but so far things seemed to be fine. My wife loves it when the kids are outside and away from the electronics. If we just took it slowly, kept my wife in a good mood, and if I dropped a few Mother’s Day guilt seeds on the kids, we could just make it.
At times I feel like one of those sherpas hiking up Everest. Using a long stick I poke into the snow ahead of me just to make sure the ground won’t give way, plummeting the entire expedition to their death. I grabbed my purchase from the car and slowly walked towards the patio to join my perfect family. As I was about to sit, my wife asked me how I enjoyed the gym. I paused, waited for some echoes of sarcasm in the question. None to be had. The ground was solid. I was on my way to the peak, so I wished her a happy Mother’s Day.
“Oh, thank you, honey.”
Feeling like I was about to plant the flag, I sat down and decided to tell her about the news story I watched on my elliptical. I went into detail about the spa-like treatments people were receiving to blast the spackle out of their colon and feel light years younger. How trusted luminaries were lining up to have gleaming, clear plastic hoses lunged into their innards, to be spritzed with warm saline solutions (or other concoctions – Janet Jackson likes coffee grinds), and to end with a final fountain flush of feces that would eradicate terrible toxins and provide a squeaky clean digestive tract – one so clean you could probably eat off of it. And I had heard it all on the CBS Morning News with Charles Osgood.
“That is disgusting,” my daughter said. The boys just shook their heads.
“Is that what people are spending their money on?” my wife said. “Don’t they know how dangerous that is? You could develop a bacterial infection if the tube the use isn’t clean. You could develop a dependency on this. It interrupts the body’s natural ability to cleanse itself, and if the unlicensed operator doesn’t know what they’re doing, they could rupture your intestinal wall. I agree, absolutely disgusting. What’s in the bag?”
How did she know about this stuff? CBS News didn’t mention any of this.
“Plant food.” It was the only response I could think of as I glanced at the pot of flowers that were in desperate need of watering under the harsh sunlight.
At the same time, I imagined that trusty sherpa’s foot taking a deep plunge into the snow. “I’m ok,” he would say to me. “Just slipped, ha, ha.”
I recovered. She didn’t blink an eye. She knew I was the one that took care of most of the foliage around the house. Once a year, she would stop at the nursery and pick up some colorful plantings, dig holes around the front of the house, drop about two cases of these things in the ground and call it a day. The other 364 days were left to me.
“I decided we would go out to dinner tonight,” she then announced.
“Dinner? The kids said they would go to dinner?” I responded. My mind already raced ahead. No one would agree on the type of restaurant to go to. One person would feel slighted, tantrums would start and Mother’s Day would end in mayhem and me eating a peanut butter & jelly sandwich alone.
“They all agreed on the Italian restaurant in town," my wife said smiling. "We’ll go early so no one gets cranky.”
“OK.” I said. Was it the memo I sent around? Did they actually internalize the message I wrote? T minus 6 hours to go.
The weather was glorious. The sun warmed us without burning us. The puffy cumulus clouds in the sky formed playful creations above. And for the most part, the children stayed outside.
For the most part, that is, until about 5:30pm. That’s when we heard the first scream.
“Let me in! I need a towel,” my oldest son yelled.
“I’m taking a crap, wait a second,” my other son replied.
The two of them share the top floor of the house with their own bathroom. Most of the time this works well except when one of them clogs the toilet and they try to use my bathroom, or when one of them wants their privacy while the other one wants to get in. The latter was occurring now.
After some more door pounding, I knew I would have to intervene, and thus the fighting would ensue.
“Open the door!,” I heard my oldest son scream as I made my way upstairs.
“Give me two seconds! I'm naked.”
“C'mon, I know what a penis looks like.”
“No. I’m coming in.” My son had found a screwdriver and was trying to pop the pushbutton lock.
“Just wait. I’ll throw a towel out.”
“Nope. This is my bathroom, too.” He popped the lock and opened the door. “Oh, my god, that’s disgusting.”
“I told you to wait, asshole.”
I got to their floor to see my son holding a piece of “used” toilet paper. As he said, he probably only needed a few more seconds, but my other son was impatient.
“I’m not an asshole," he said. "You’re an asshole. In fact, your asshole is hanging out.”
“OK, that’s enough,” I said authoritatively.
My son flushed the toilet, picked up his pants and bolted for his brother. Fists went flying along with the verbal assaults.
“You couldn’t wait for a fuckin’ towel!?”
“Break it up,” I said. But they continued wrestling with each other, slamming into the wall. They knocked a framed photograph down. It was a picture of the both of them arm-in-arm on their little league baseball team. The glass shattered.
I heard my wife race upstairs. Now, I knew we’d never reach the peak.
“You little fuckers!” I screamed. “You couldn’t hold off. It’s goddamn Mother’s Day.” I tried to separate them and got caught up in the scuffle. A 14 year-old and 16 year-old create a lot of mass and momentum. I remembered when I could hold both of them in each arm. Now, I was wrapped up in the whirlwind. We spun around and around and then slammed into another wall. This time I heard a crack.
“What the hell was that?” my wife said as she climbed the steps.
I turned to look and saw a gaping rip in the sheetrock. “Nice going, you assholes.” I said.
“You’re the asshole,” they both responded.
How could I be the asshole? I didn’t start this fight I thought to myself.
This only served to enrage me further. I used my strength and leverage and dragged them down to the floor. At this point, I could only use my weight to keep them pinned down. I felt like the guy who jumped on the hand grenade in order to save his platoon. I hoped there might be one last ditch effort to silence them before my wife got to us.
None to be had.
“Get off me, I can’t breathe,” my oldest son said.
“Good,” I responded.
“Would you get off of them,” my wife said as she stood over us. “You’re going to hurt them.”
I guess those innate motherly instincts jumped. She needed to protect her young. I don’t know if I was more shocked by her attitude or the white plastic bag she was holding in her hand.
“And what’s this?” she asked. “Why did you buy enemas?”
The boys started cracking up. They saw the Fleet twin-pack their mother pulled out of the bag.
“You actually put that in your butt?,” one son said.
“That is so disgusting,” the other added.
I got off the boys and stood up. I grabbed the package out of my wife’s hand and walked down the stairs.
“Forget it,” I said. “You can celebrate Mother's Day by yourself. I’m not going to dinner. Assholes.”