My brother became a father on January 22, 2015, but he didn’t become a dad until last Friday when he suffered a massive back injury while typing an email.
I didn’t see him limp in early from work that afternoon, but I knew the situation was serious when my nephew informed me that no one was allowed to run the vacuum or play the piano until further notice.
In case you didn’t catch that date earlier, let me make one thing clear: my nephew is two.
It was around 7 p.m. when my brother inched down the steps and attempted to step into a pair of sneakers without bending his knees or moving his arms.
“I’m going to CVS to buy a heating pad,” he said.
“Stay here,” I said. “I can go.”
He wasn’t listening, probably because he was using every ounce of his physical and mental energy to shuffle to the front door.
I didn’t like this plan, but I knew better than to argue with a man in pain. Sometimes, it’s easier just to worry, which is what I did for the next thirty minutes. When my brother walked back in the front door, I realized the cause of his delay: he had also stopped to purchase a foot-long sub and two family size bags of potato chips.
“You want some chips?” he asked. “They were buy one get one free.”
“They’re always buy one get one free,” I answered.
“Then why don’t we always have chips?” he demanded.
The following day, my brother’s wife – a woman who I commonly refer to as Saint Rena – convinced him to visit an urgent care clinic. The doctor who examined him gave him a seven-day supply of steroids, a prescription for muscle relaxers and one big lecture about preventative care.
Upon returning home, my brother took his medicine with a side of chips and went to bed, which is where I expected him to stay for the rest of the weekend. He, of course, had other plans. When I returned from a coffee shop a few hours later, I found him in the living room, fully upright and holding a cell phone to his ear.
“I guess you’re feeling better,” I said.
“I am,” he answered. “What should we rename the home network?”
“Excuse me?” I asked.
“I decided to catch up on some mail,” he explained. “So I was looking at the cable bill and saw that Comcast has been overcharging me 40 bucks a month. So I called them to complain!”
I nodded. “Seems reasonable. That’s what I like to do on a Saturday afternoon: Take a muscle relaxer and then call the cable company.”
“Then!” he continued. “Then I realized they were charging me an extra $10 for a router. And I said, ‘Well I have my own router!’ So I had them turn that off. And I hooked up the old one.”
“Makes sense,” I said. “Exactly what I would be doing if I were in your situation.”
“But the internet doesn’t work now,” he said. “That’s the only problem. So I’m on hold with the router people.”
“That is not the only problem here,” I said. “Trust me.”
By Day 2 of his steroid pack, my brother was not only back on the move, but considering signing up for a Cross Fit class.
“That’s the last thing you need,” I warned. Though, to be fair, I find it hard to believe anyone really needs a Cross Fit class.
“My problem is that I only have time to go to the gym once a week and I try to cram in three workouts,” my brother complained. “And then I get injured.”
I’m no expert, but I think that’s exactly what Cross Fit is: a turbo charged path to a torn rotator cuff and some chronic lower back pain.
“Why don’t you just go to the gym more often,” Saint Rena suggested. “But don’t overdo it while you’re there.”
I snorted. Does she realize who she’s talking to? Like the man who brought home a foot-long sandwich and two bags of potato chips in the midst of a major back spasm understands the concept of moderation.
By Day 4, my brother’s back injury was but a distant memory and conversation had moved on to more pressing matters, namely the wild animal living in his basement.
“It’s a field mouse,” he claimed. “I saw it.”
“Did you see the size of the droppings on the steps?” I fired back. “That’s no mouse!”
“I saw it,” he insisted. “It’s a mouse. It’s enormous!”
“The poop isn’t even in the right shape to be a mouse,” I continued. “It’s round! Not pellets. It looks like deer poop.”
“Well there’s no deer in the basement,” he sighed.
“You don’t know that!” I argued.
“YES I DO!” he yelled. “I saw the mouse. It’s a field mouse.”
Admittedly, I don’t know much about field mice. But I don’t think that you’re supposed to catch them by setting an ordinary spring trap directly on top of the trigger to a Havahart small animal trap, which is what my brother decided to do. It was an invention that he then tested repeatedly on a kitchen stool before moving it down to the basement.
I was very doubtful either trap would work, mostly because I still believed we were dealing with a deer. I won’t be convinced otherwise until I see this alleged mouse with my own two eyes and also receive an uncompromised stool sample.
I’ll keep you posted as that situation develops. In the mean time, I wish this dad, my dad, your dad and all the dads a happy and healthy Father’s Day. Enjoy – but don’t overdo it.
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Want more dad stories? Check out this one about my father: I quit my job. And everything is going to be fine.