I read a story this morning about boys who stick magnets up their noses.
I was a boy. I have three boys. It’s what we do.
But I do feel as if perhaps it was a sign from the parenting Gods that the time might be right to share the story of our youngest son’s visit to the ER at age 3 for a high fever, vomiting, etc.
It was a mix of the standard procedures from the ER doc: open up and say ahhhhhh, let me listen to your heart, cough for me, and so on …
The routine peek into his ears then produces a bit of a startled jolt backward. The doc leans in for a second look. “Well, hmmmmm,” he says.
And then it’s a look into the other ear, this time with a “Um, heh, well …”
Then he looks at me with a somewhat curious drop of his right brow, turning to reach for some extremely long tweezers, careful to make sure Cooper doesn’t see that those things are about a foot long. “Hold still, Cooper …”
Ol’ Dr. Houdini proceeds to reach in and extract something small and round. And then another thing small and round. He extends the third small and round thing toward the fluorescent lighting, squinting, then grinning — like a man who’d happened onto an Indian head penny while sweeping out an old shed.
He moves to the second ear, pulling out another small and round thing, then another — like one of those never-ending clown handkerchiefs. The look on the nurse’s face as she holds the pan of small and round things is pretty much priceless. Let’s just say I’m not sure they cover these sorts of things in nursing school. (“Okay, students, please turn to Chapter 17, Toddlers and Their Ears.”)
Cooper sits quietly on the examination table — his bright-red, puffy face, his snotty nose, his watery eyes — and is curiously serene with the whole experience. His eyes are fixed on the floor, darting up to meet mine only when he thinks I’m not looking at him.
Doctor Forceps takes one final look into each ear, announces “Alrighty!” and then nods for the nurse to show me a closer look at her pan, which reveals a dozen or so tiny red foam balls. “Has Cooper perhaps been involved with any craft activities lately?” he asks with a slight chuckle, removing his rubber gloves.
“Coop?” I ask. “Cooper! Cooper. Jeffery. Riley. Answer the question.”
It’s of no use — Coop is pleading the fifth. Plus, it’s hard to go all Dad on him when you know full well that it’s the Jeffery part of his genes that landed him here in the first place.
“Hang on, Doc. I’ll be right back.”
I go into the waiting room to make a quick call home.
[Now, as parenting calls go, this one instantly cracks the Top 5. Numero Uno remains “What do you mean he was crapping in the neighbor’s yard?” By a landslide. But that’s a different kid, a different story, and for a different day.]
Dad: “They dug about a dozen little red foam balls out of his ears.”
Dad: “Any idea?”
Begin Quick Sidebar …
This was back when I traveled on business a lot, sometimes coming back in the door with a loosened tie and luggage in each hand at 9 o’clock, after a half a day’s worth of flight delays in Memphis — and Mrs. Riley having been cooped up (pardon the pun) for three days with three boys under the age of 10 and two feet of snow on the ground and minus-15 wind chills outside.
As I’d stand in the doorway, I’d get a battlefield report that would have made General Patton proud: “This one is grounded. That one — you tell your father what you did to the dog, Mister! The dog hasn’t come out from under the couch since Tuesday. That one? I don’t know what’s wrong with that one but we’ve done the cold washrags and Tylenol and his fever still hasn’t broken and he’s tugging at his ears but says nothing is wrong with his ears and I was up with him all night last night and now your flight delays and I don’t know, he just needs to be seen.”
So I’d drop my luggage, distribute my stern Dad Looks to the other two (now slinking off to bed), and then scoop up the third one to head off to the only doctor open at 9 o’clock: the ER.
Now, when the Vatican comes calling, looking for evidence of the three miracles requisite of Mrs. Riley’s sainthood, I will call for these three knuckleheads and then line them up on the front porch. The Pope’s Men will measure their height, their weight, and maybe look in an ear or two, and then they will say Thank You and put their instruments back in their briefcases. And Mrs. Riley will be anointed by the following Wednesday.
… End Quick Sidebar
Mom: “Little red foam balls?”
Dad: “Yup, baker’s dozen.”
Mom: “Oh, wait, no! Really? We were doing a craft the other night and he was in charge of glueing the little red noses onto the reindeer!”
Dad: “Are your reindeer without noses, ma’am?”
Now, upon her immediate inspection of the Santa craft, the reindeer indeed had their noses. But you know craft stores: why sell you the dozen little red reindeer noses you need for sixteen cents when they can sell you a bag of 1,000 for four bucks? So yeah, <insert shrug>, what’s a kid to do with all these extra reindeer noses while Mom tries to get the dog out from under the couch with a broom handle?
So, we fast forward to today. It’s nearly 15 years later and he’s STILL banned from craft projects. When he dares to even mutter, “Hey, anybody seen the … ” he is greeted with a parenting chorus of “NO!” before he even gets to the word “glue.”
“Jeez!” he says.
“I’ll Jeez you, Mister.” <insert stern Dad Look>