Hard way to get a good story

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Nov 24, 2013

 

Many of our favorite moments to recall are those that weren’t all that funny at the time. It’s only looking back at it later that the humor becomes apparent. (That and the fact that you survived to tell the tale.)

Like the time my mom took me and my sister to a Dairy Queen on U.S. 322 somewhere in Geauga County. I was about 15, putting my sister at about 7.

At first we were thrilled. Our mom didn’t take us too many places without my father coming along, so that alone made the trip a unique one. When she announced we were going to stop for hot-fudge sundaes, we yelled in delight.

Soon we were sitting in a booth, enjoying our treats. Things couldn’t have been better, until the door opened.

In came three boys, all about 17 or 18 years old. I only had to look at them once to know they were up to no good. They had that arrogant sneer and contemptuous attitude that defined them as hoodlums in the making.

Of course the trio decided to sit in the booth adjacent to ours. They started making sarcastic comments about me, my sister and then my mother. All the while my mom was doing a slow burn.

My mom was not afraid of a confrontation. In fact, sometimes I think she lived for them. So I was praying as hard as I could that my mom would just leave the situation alone, because I knew if she didn’t these punks wouldn’t blink at carving us up with their switchblades. (Even at 15 I had an active imagination.)

Soon the harassment escalated. Two of the tough guys began kicking the back of the booth where my mom was seated. They kicked hard enough that it actually jolted her in her seat. It also jolted her into action.

She stood up, held her hot-fudge sundae overhead as though it was a machete and warned the thugs, “If you kick this booth one more time, I’m going to dump this sundae over your head -- and if you think I’m kidding, try me!”

Fortunately by that time the DQ had called police, who arrived in time to prevent my mom from decorating the hoodlums’ heads and to give us a safe escort to our car.

My sister and I crack up laughing at the thought of our mom wielding a sundae as a weapon, even though at the time I was certain we were going to die.

Dialysis is nothing to laugh at and the complications it presents are no fun, either, but I can chuckle now at a dialysis-caused problem that nearly ruined a vacation.

For years each March my friend Jim Westerhold and I would head to Winter Haven, Fla., for the Cleveland Indians spring training. But in 2007, it looked like I wouldn’t be able to go. I’d had both kidneys removed and was on my third year of dialysis. Even if I could get the time off of work, how and where could I get the treatment I required three times a week?

Westy called one day to tell me he’d bought me a plane ticket to Tampa. He’d pick me up at the airport, he said, and would drive me to any dialysis sessions I needed. He told me that I needed to go to spring training for my own mental health.

So I found a place in Winter Haven where I could get treatments, cleared it with my insurance company after a long debate, and wound up going on the trip.

On the way, however, one of the main side effects of having no kidneys reared its head. I began to retain fluid, and it was getting significantly worse by the hour. By the time the plane landed in Tampa, my feet had swollen so badly I had to remove my shoes -- they were digging into my flesh. Once off, they were impossible to put back on.

Off the plane I came, into the waiting area, in stocking feet. I was told repeatedly to put my shoes on and explained repeatedly why I could not.

Then I saw Jim waving at me. My first words to him were, “I need to go somewhere, anywhere, to buy a pair of slippers that will fit.”

He looked down at my elephantine feet marred with blisters from the shoes I carried in my hand. And he promptly took me to Wal-Mart.

Today he and I recall that trip and chortle hilariously at the shoe incident. At the time, though, my feet hurt so bad it seemed like torture.

It’s funny how things that confound and upset us so often later become fodder for our best stories.

So when things are going lousy in my life, I console myself with the knowledge I’m just putting in the work necessary for another good story in the future.