“How long you had them teeth Earl?”

I grew up not really knowing what a father was.  I had moments where there glimpses of the possibilities but that experience would not be mine until I became an adult and had a family of my own.

My stepfather Doyle came into my life when I was 21 and my son was two and a half.  He was just another man that I would try to keep at arm’s length until he went away.  Well, he didn’t go away and I had to get used to the idea that he was going to stick around.  When I was first introduced I simply tolerated him out of respect for my mom but he did start to grow on me…kind of like a fungus that sticks to the surface.  It was going to take some heavy duty cleaner to get rid of this one!  I say this with love and yes, he gets my sense of humor.

He came to the family with 6 kids of his own and two that were still under the age of 18.  Imagine gaining 6 siblings!  It was greater than the “Brady Bunch” family…it was “Cheaper by the Dozen” in this case.  I’m not sure mom realized the scope of the situation until she said, “I do”.  But she opened her heart wide and embraced the kids with lots of love.  Even to the point of helping to raise the two youngest boys.  I cannot fathom the countless hours of cooking my mom did for all of her kids…but this is about how the man that wouldn’t go away became my Pops.  Mom is another story and I can’t wait to write that one ♥.

Pops was and is mischevious.  Everyone that knows him understands this comment all too well.  He loves to stir a hornets nest.  His greatest attribute is his ability to get in trouble without even saying a word.  He has been the subject of many family conversations and they usually end with a hearty laugh.  What he has brought to the family is a dimension of character.  I say that with a twinkle in my eye.

Many of my “aha” moments did not come until my mid-thirties.  When I was going through my divorce in my thirties, Mom and Pops were there to support me and cheer me on.  In February 2003 I had a medical emergency.  I was at home with my oldest son and youngest daughter  (the other two kids were not in the picture yet) and one evening I found myself in pain and tried to go to bed.  At ten o’clock the pain was not going away and it managed to become even greater.  My fear was that I had really bad gas and I certainly didn’t want to admit that to my son was 16 at the time.  Yet the pain got out of control and I started shaking.  I got my son from his bedroom and asked him to take my daughter to the neighbor and then drive me to the hospital.  We got into his truck and proceeded to the emergency room but on the way I was shaking so bad that I feared something far worse than food poisoning or bad gas.  He pulled over and called 911.  The ambulance came and took me to the hospital.  He followed in his truck.  He waited patiently for a prognosis.  There we were in a new place and no next of kin near us.  He called my Mom and Pops who were 8 hours away.  With a moments notice they packed up and headed our way.  Hours later I was given a diagnosis.  I had a tumor which had wrapped around my left ovary and it had become dead tissue.  During the surgery they removed scar tissue from previous surgeries.  My stomach had attached to my abdominal wall and there was an additional tumor.  Thank God they were both non-malignant.  Something happened in that surgery room that I cannot explain.  When I woke up I had a strong desire to move through my issues and get on with life.  A renewal that brought an awareness of all of the possibilities.  Although when I thought of all that I would have to do, I became fearful of the changes.  Mom and Pops had arrived and were taking care of the kids for me.  I was so thankful that they were there.  I had no one else to count on at that time.

The time my parents spent with me was encouraging and healing.  The day came for them to go back home.  I didn’t want them to leave but I was trying to put on a brave face.  Inside I was a scared little girl pretending to be a grown-up.  They packed their bags and we decided to have lunch before they left.  It was a local joint where the old-timers would hang out.  We ordered our food and the air was heavy with contemplation and sadness.  Me trying to be brave and my parents not wanting to leave me behind.  Then came the joke that God inserted into my life.  There was a couple of old timers sitting at a table next to us and one of the men was in striped overalls and very hard of hearing.  We were trying to keep to our business at our booth but because of the man’s hearing issue I think the whole restaurant heard their conversation.  Apparently he had just gotten a new set of dentures and a man across the table from him asked, “How long you had them teeth Earl?”.  He didn’t hear the question so someone repeated it even louder.  The first time someone asked I looked at my mischevious Pops and we both smirked and tried not to laugh but when the question was asked even louder a second time, well, I initially tried to hold the laughter in but the more I tried to keep quiet, the more I laughed out loud.  I laughed until I cried.  I had to remove myself from the table and go outside.  I was speechless with laughter.  Pops was right there with me laughing.  We had embarassed the family but I just couldn’t help myself.  To this day I don’t know what was so funny but it was at that moment that I realized that my sense of humor was still intact and I was going to be okay.

Mom and Pops went home and that day ended on a good note.  There are still days that challenge me and Pops knows when I need to be reminded of laughter because he will ask me, “How long you had them teeth Earl?”

2 Comments on ““How long you had them teeth Earl?”

  1. I still have to laugh out loud when I think about them teeth. You’re right about the complete incident. WE were so worried about you and having to leave you but I somehow knew that you had a sort of peace come from within and suddenly knew you were indeed going to be okay. You have become so strong and self-assured since that trying time and have persevered through so much , I am in awe of my beautiful and accomplished ray of sunshine daughter. Much love from mom.


  2. I love you Mom! I love you Pops…my two biggest fans and I Am so very thankful to have you both in my life. Thank you for believing in me and thank you for reminding me that humor can be healing. Love, love, love ♥


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