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Kick In The Keester

Kathy Dingus

Life sure has a funny way to constantly kick you in the keester, doesn't it? It seems the longer you live the more people you meet, more experiences to enjoy and even more memories to make. Now most people would say that these things are great, and I believe that they are too, it's just that sometimes these "good" things can really hurt.

Like hearing the autumn leaves rustle on a crisp autumn day...what's wrong with that? Nothing. The leaves are brightly colored and the autumn sky is a brilliant blue. Birds are preparing to fly south for winter and the pumpkins are almost ready for children to carve into jack o' lanterns. Frost will color the grass with a glistening white any day and the sun feels especially warm in the afternoons on my face. We break out our sweaters and jackets, and drink hot spiced cider in the evenings. We start to think about Thanksgiving, what we're gonna cook when the family comes together and BOOM...you're remembering what you've lost. Family members that are no longer with us, and how autumn was their favorite time of year.

It's like taking a leisurely drive along a country road, breathing in the clean air, blowing out the cobwebs that are there from sitting inside a stuffy house for a week. You spot a couple of deer grazing in the meadow along side the road. You have to step on your breaks to avoid hitting a 'possum that's brave enough to step onto the pavement. Groundhogs peek out from under the guardrails readying the courage to make that long trek to the infamous other side of the road. You pass houses that have been on that same path for years. You see children at play in the yard and smile, thinking back to when you were a child and doing the very same thing, and then BOOM...it hits you that you're growing old slowly, day by day. What will another year bring?

You hear an owl hoot on a summer's night, hear the mosquitoes buzzing around your ears and listen to the sounds of the darkness. The katydids are singing, the frogs are making whatever noise that frogs make, and the moon is full and shining brightly, lighting up the night. Fireflies slowly rise from the hayfield and yard, making little fire dots in the air and BOOM...you remember a time when fireflies were magical. You could put them in a jar and think you could keep them forever. Times when life was more innocent than it is today. When a gravel pile, playing in the rain, and a child's imagination was at it's premium. You could do anything you wanted to do...and did, in your dreams as a child.

BOOM...Playing under the weeping willow tree, that totally covered you and your dolls from your mean brothers. Peace and solitude under that tree was found as a favorite book was read. Anything was possible as long as I stayed under the protective branches of that tree. I could grow up and marry a prince, or I could become another Joan Baez or a Barbara Walters. I could become rich and buy my parents a house and give them lots of money so my Dad wouldn't have to work so hard. Everyone would love me, even though I was a gawky little girl with knock knees and fuzzy curly hair with cat-eye glasses. Boys would vie for my attention...as I said, ANYTHING was possible while I was under that tree.

I hear my brothers playing on a rock trying to bust their caps, that wouldn't spark in their cap guns. They were always into mischief. Even pouring a little gunpowder on the caps to really make them spark wasn't above them. Thinking about that made me smile and BOOM...I was right back on that day when my brother hit a hammer on top of that gunpowder that was on top of the caps. He lost some hair and eyelashes that day. I guess he had his dreams too. I wonder what he was thinking when he did that? I don't think he was figuring the outcome would give Mom a few more gray hairs.

When I see crayons, and all of the bright colors, so many more today in that Crayola Box than I had when growing up I want to pick them up and color. Even now that I am a woman with children of my own. We had Archie, Josie and the Pussycat, and several of the Disney coloring books then to color. I loved paper and pencil and crayons. Still do, I guess. BOOM...I am transported to the time when I was about 4 years old and we were getting ready to move from the house we were living in at the time, because of a new road coming through the town. I had to take naps in the afternoons, (I think it was mainly for Mom back then), because she had three of us at the time, and she told me to put my paper, crayons and pencils up and take a nap. I gave them to her like an obedient child and laid down, watching her put my wonderful drawing and writing utensils up on top of the mantle that had already been partially dismantled.

I guess I might have laid there for about 10 minutes, just long enough for her to THINK I was asleep, and I tiptoed over to that mantle. I could barely reach it so I grabbed onto the outer edge with one hand and stretched really far to reach my prized pencils and crayons. The mantle shifted in the process, with the heavy top, made from concrete toppling over on me, knocking me down. Now I was a very fortunate little girl because when I fell backwards I just happened to land under an old rocking chair which took much of the brunt of the mantle. Small pieces broke off and hit my legs, breaking one.

My mother heard the commotion and ran in, took one look and scooped me up off the floor. That caused the bone in my leg to push through the skin, compounding my fractured leg. Poor Mom. More gray hairs. She couldn't drive, she had two small boys at home, one still in the crib, so she ran down the street calling for help. I was bleeding quite heavily at the time. I really don't remember too much about it, except the doctor lied to me. I DID get shots, and I DID have to stay in the hospital for about a month in traction and I WAS in a body cast from the waist down for what seemed like forever. I had to learn to walk again after all of that. But I was fortunate it wasn't much worse.

Whenever I see a Santa Claus, BOOM...I remember the time when I was in the hospital and it was during Christmas. Santa came around to all of the children in the ward, and gave us all a present. I eagerly opened the present and immediately was so disappointed. I was only 4 years old, and had not been to school, and the present was a Bobsey Twins book. Well, I eventually learned to read that book, and I haven't stopped reading since, so I suppose Santa really did me a favor.

Valentine's Day has just passed and I was buying Valentines for my family and husband and BOOM...I remember the agony of "liking" a boy and having him meet the family. My little sister would always come up to them and hit them in the stomach just for the fun of it, or maybe it was a trial to see if he really did like me. If they stayed around after that, well they must have been really interested in me. Sis always said that one of my boyfriends had a purple tongue...I never have been able to figure that one out.

Our family lived through other agonies as well...BOOM...my brother's car wreck that placed him and my younger brother in a hospital. My older brother was injured very badly and was sent to University of Kentucky Hospital where he was in a coma for about 10 days. The doctors told us that he would be a vegetable if he lived. He survived his heart stopping three times, his lungs collapsing twice and almost every bone in his face being broken. He is alive today and doing well. Miracles do happen.

Speaking of miracles, BOOM...our family survived my sister having a very premature little girl. She weighed 1 pound 2 ounces when she was born at 26 weeks. We were prepared for all kinds of complications, but she was tenacious and very anxious to get on with life. Her little footprints were actually used on the March of Dimes Tee-Shirt. She is so full of life it makes us all smile. Once again, miracles do happen.

Sometimes miracles DON'T happen however. BOOM...my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and he died within 21 days of his diagnois. We lived through his illness, his funeral and even past that. The times that are the worst in our lives, it seems we really grow, or grow up. We did both.

My mother was a rock through all of that and she still is. I don't know what I would do without her. My children are all healthy, and full of life. I wonder when they get to be my age what their "kick in the keester" triggers will be? Because we will all have them. I just hope I've prepared them just a little for the changes that life can bring when you least expect it.

Changes that occur everyday...BOOM...like when the crow caws, and you hear a certain song or when you smell a certain smell, like Blair liniment my Dad used for his aches and pains, or the Bay Rum he used for his cologne, or when I am looking for something and I come across his eye patch. Every year occurrences like the season changing, especially autumn, an owl hooting, fireflies in the air, bright skies, full moons, and celtic music playing on the stereo.

Yep, life sure has a way of sneaking up behind you and kicking you in the keester. The longer you live the more memories you have. The longer you live the more you lose too. Loved ones die, your children grow up and move away and your body starts to feel it's age. Memories are sometimes a good thing. They bring a smile of wistfulness to our face, and make us wish that we could be transported back in time once again to the willow tree, when all things were possible and you still had the innocence of a child.