Of Vienna Sausages, Cuties and Waffles

I hear Jack and Maggie whispering in the hallway. 

It’s just the five of us at home. Me and the four kiddos. Severe thunderstorms over the past couple days have my lineman husband pulling eighteen hour shifts with the power company. It’s hard when he’s gone. We rely on him. I rely on him! 

And, today is my third child Caleb’s fifth birthday. He hasn’t seen his Dad in forty eight hours. 

Caleb asked all day when Daddy will be home. And when will have cake at Papa and Grammy’s house. “Sorry, K-Cat, Daddy is working late. And we aren’t going to Grammy’s until tomorrow night, remember?” I explained. My mother was sick again this week so we put off our family birthday dinner until the weekend. 

Throughout the day I tried creating special moments for him. Dozens of balloons were scattered all over the room. We played games. And he got to watch anything he wanted on TV – which meant a full day of YouTubers cracking open egg surprises, beating minion apps, and talking over Angry Birds Go. 

“When will Daddy be home?” he asked again during school carline. As Maggie and Jack scrambled into the car, bookbags falling to the floor, Caleb, seated in the third row, shared his excitement about family birthday dinner tomorrow night at Grammy and Papa’s house.  

“But I wished it was tonight,” he said sadly. 

And now here it is 5:15 pm. 

Caleb picked dinner so I’m making waffles with hot fudge and nut topping for everyone. Oh, and buttered popcorn. I may him drink from the two liter Cherry Pepsi bottle too. He always laughs so hard when he gets to do that. 

And now I hear Maggie and Jack whispering in the hall. They’ve disappeared together five minutes ago. I wonder what they’re up to?

Silence. And then….

They both yelled excitedly, in sync, “Caleb come here!!”

Caleb hopped off the couch where he had been stationed in front of another Egg Surprise YouTube video, ran through the living room, down the long hall, and found them in den. 

“Surprise!” I heard them cheer. 

And then they sang Happy Birthday to Caleb. 

I peeped in the den just in time to see them present him with a plate full of Vienna Sausages and Cuties oranges. 

“It’s your favorite treats ever!” Maggie said in her animated six year old way. “It’s not as good as Papa’s house but we can pretend!”

And then he smiled at them. And grabbed them both in a group hug. They were giggling as I snuck away unnoticed. After all, I had waffles and hot fudge to tend. 

Storms are Approaching

I pulled into the drive. 2:15 pm. Mom & Dad’s little yellow house. 

Dark grey clouds loom. Thunder churns. The wind picks up. Midlands schools are cancelling evening activities. 

A tornado alert just sounded on my phone. 

My father, Jack, will be 70 years old this December. I spy him seated, alone, on the front deck that he built sixteen years ago. Watching lightning storms use to one of my favorite things to do with him as a child. Of course he’d be out here now. Daddy never changes. 

His wrinkled, permanently calloused hands are folded together. Staring silently off towards the coming storm, he’s motionless. 

Well, except for his solid white hair.

The North Tower

Today is just one of many trips up the long sidewalk towards the North Tower.
I always tell the kids that this is *our* hospital.
It’s in our blood.
It’s where our family is born.
And it’s where we die.

Decades of poignant personal memories are buried in these hallways.

Holding my hand, Maggie asks if we remember the time we all watched fireworks from the 7th floor window at midnight as 2015 rolled in. She deliberately hops over the sidewalk cracks as we chat. Caleb, who will be five years old in two weeks, is holding my other hand. He’s wearing his muscular Robin costume from Halloween and skipping with the same concentration as his sister. He had surprised me by asking that same question yesterday morning during another trip up that sidewalk. He had been so young at the time!

“Step on a crack, break your mother’s back!” both kids shout suddenly, clueing me into their shared game.

Jack, a few feet ahead, looks back and comments that this is where they all had their very first sleep over – right after being born! That evolves into me relaying silly birth stories for each kid. My straight and narrow eldest son is always embarrassed when I tease that he was born completely naked in front of everyone.

We keep walking. Hand in hand.

I have a memory from when I was 2 years old of walking up a hospital sidewalk to visit Mr. Wilber, a sweet elderly gentleman who played a grandfather role in my life. I was holding my Dad’s hand on the right and my Granny’s hand on the left. I was wearing a frilly spring dress. And white Sunday church shoes.

Will my kids catalog all of their childhood moments as vividly as I always did? I hope not. The human capacity to remember is often nothing more than a rancid curse.

On the slow elevator ride up to the 7th floor, we learn that The Terrace Cafe on the lower level of the North Tower is closed today. The $5.00 guest tray available through room service will be our only dinner option. And I hate that. I was looking forward to the large make-your-own-salad at the Cafe, where you can fill up on all of your favorite toppings for one low price. But alas. Pretty sure The Rolling Stones wrote a terrific song in 1969 just for moments like this.

And then the elevator doors opened and we all stepped off.

We Don’t Like Vanilla Cake

So my dad, Jack, just celebrated his 69th birthday on Monday. 

For cake, my mom baked him a Pineapple Upside Down Cake and I gave him a Lemon meringue pie. Both are his favorites. We only used six candles though as burning the house down wasn’t on his birthday wish list. 

None of us particularly care for traditional plain vanilla “birthday” cakes. And store bought ones, while gorgeous, are tasteless. And blah. And often lack authenticity.

 So we all get desserts catered to our own tastes instead. Thanks, Mom!