Life in the not-so-fast lane

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My mother used to say things just to make me mad.

Like most teenagers, I thought I knew everything, and what I didn’t know, I didn’t want to be told.

She didn’t care. She was a grown woman, twice my age, highly educated in the school of hard knocks and apparently believed it her appointed duty to make my blood boil on occasion like cold water in hot grease.

For example: If I said I was going to a movie or a basketball game or a sleepover at my friend Martha’s house (I loved going to Martha’s house; her mother never made my blood boil), my mother would roll her eyes.

“I should’ve named you ‘Go’!” she’d say. “Go is all you do!”

“Don’t worry,” I’d say, just to make her mad. “Pretty soon I won’t be going; I’ll be gone.”

On my way out the door, she’d yell, “You need to slow yourself down before something bad does it for you! You don’t want to learn that the hard way!”

I had no idea what that meant. I thought she just wanted me to stay home with her and watch reruns of “Hee Haw.” If that was her plan, it didn’t work.

Many years later, to my mother’s great delight, I had three teenagers of my own. They thought they knew everything, and what they didn’t know, they didn’t want to be told.

I would say the same kinds of things to them that she had once said to me (if in somewhat less colorful language) with the same woeful lack of success.

That’s when I first saw it. My mother wasn’t trying to make me watch “Hee Haw.” She was trying to spare me grief.

Why do we always have to learn things “the hard way”? Why can’t we just accept the wisdom our elders try to offer us, things they had to learn “the hard way” because they refused to accept it from their elders?

You should see how big I grin when I hear my children tell my grandchildren, “You need to slow yourself down ....”

I can almost hear my mother’s voice adding “before something bad does it for you.”

It’s a good lesson for any age. Apparently, I’ve yet to learn it.

That thought lit up my mind yesterday like a bolt of lightning as I lay on a gurney getting my foot X-rayed.

Hours earlier, I had just stepped out of the shower when I heard my cell phone ringing far off out in the kitchen.

What is it about cell phones that makes us act as if they must be obeyed, no matter what, no matter where, no matter who on Earth is calling? Why didn’t I just let it go to voice mail?

My mother never had a cell phone. I can only imagine what she’d have to say on the subject.

Grabbing a towel, I ran barefoot through the house at a surprisingly fast clip, skidded sideways into the kitchen and all in one move, grabbed the phone and rammed my left foot like a torpedo into the table.

Fortunately, the call had gone to voice mail so the caller was spared hearing the manner in which I answered. I don’t recall all I said. I can assure you it was not the kind of message you’d want to record as a greeting.

Meanwhile, my foot was looking a lot like an overgrown eggplant, swollen and purple, with the toes splayed in a wide “V,” as if flashing a peace sign.

The X-ray revealed good news and bad. The good was that I didn’t need surgery. The bad was that I’d broken not one toe but two and for four to six weeks would have to wear (yes, the rest of the summer) a “post-op” shoe that looks like a mini-surfboard with Velcro straps.

I told you all of that to say this: We all need to slow ourselves down once in a while, before something bad does it for us.

My mother, rest her soul, was right about a lot of things. I wish I could tell her. Maybe one day I will.

She’ll probably make me spend eternity watching reruns of “Hee Haw.”

Sharon Randall is a columnist for McClatchy-Tribune News Service (www.sharonrandall.com).


First Published August 11, 2014 12:00 AM


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