Time passed, and by the time he was born, I had done a “180”, and was eagerly anticipating this “bundle from heaven.” The day he was born is another whole story for later telling. But it didn’t take long for the gold on this little bundle to lose its shine.
David’s early years were quite an education for me. He was all over the place and into everything. There was the time when he was about three that he got into my purse. He stole all my change, completely destroyed two new lipsticks (along with their fancy jeweled cases) and smeared lipstick over everything in my room, including my furniture, bedspread, telephone, and walls. And any boyfriend who came into my life was required to entertain the dear little tyke in order to keep company with me. But I was good — I let him live.
Because of my father’s job with the FBI, they got transferred when David was six. Since I was fourteen years older than him, I was already married and expecting my own child when they left Albuquerque and moved to first Monterrey, California, and then New York City, and finally to Washington, D.C. During those years, David grew into a teenager. Of course, by then he knew everything about everything.
It was really infuriating sometimes. Not only did he let you know that he had all the answers, he managed to convey that the rest of us were not all that bright. No matter what his parents or I said to him, he alone knew how things worked. The sad part was that he was frequently right. He would be warned of the danger of some action he was contemplating and he would ignore the warning. When the danger never came, he believed he was right about it being non-existent. After awhile, he thought he was truly invincible.
Because they lived so far away, I was spared most of this behavior. During that time, I saw him only once every two or three years. Don’t get me wrong. I was fond of the kid, it was just this youthful cockiness that got to me sometimes.
One summer my husband, daughter, our miniature poodle, Pepie, and I were visiting my parents and brother at their home in Maryland. That year David was 17 years old and graduating from high school. Several extended family members also traveled there to attend the graduation ceremonies. On this particular evening we were all gathered in the living room watching TV. My brother was on the floor on his stomach, and I was sitting next to him, along with my daughter and Pepie. The dog loved to play and David was always rough housing with him.
Earlier that evening, Pepie had gone outside and found some chicken bones and scraps my mother buried in a distant corner of the back yard. He loved chicken, but we had to make sure he didn’t eat too much, and that he didn’t get any of the bones. When he did, he had a tendency to throw up. On this night, we were pretty sure he’d managed to eat some of the chicken, and maybe some of the smaller bones. So we were watching him carefully.
David started playing with Pepie, rolling him around, and I told him he’d better stop. I said the dog was likely to throw up if they played too hard. I thought this would definitely get David’s attention because he was terribly squeamish and would be completely unraveled if anything like that ever touched any part of his body. But no. David knew better. The dog was just fine, he said. David would be able to tell if there was going to be a problem.
After a few more attempts to stop the play I gave up. Then, while David was lying on his stomach, chin propped in his hands, the dog got on his back and started nipping at his hair and neck. Pepie wanted to play some more. Suddenly he started his little heaving motion that I knew only too well. I said, “David, Pepie is going to throw up. You’d better get him off your back!”
David thought I was still just trying to alarm him, and said, “Oh stop worrying! He’s just fine.” At that moment, the dog let loose with a large portion of his stomach contents, right on David’s neck and shoulders, soaking through his shirt. David yelled and jumped up like he had been hit with a lightening bolt. The rest of us were on the floor, doubled over with laughter because he looked so shocked and disgusted. He raced up the stairs, tore off his clothes, and got into the shower. All the while he was yelling, “Eyeeew, yuck, gross!”
I quickly put the dog out in the garage in case he wasn’t finished, and my mother and I cleaned up the mess. David came back downstairs in a few moments, clean and somewhat humbled. But God wasn’t finished with him yet.
Since we had so many relatives sleeping over, David and our cousin had been bunking downstairs in the living room. The cousin got the couch for a bed, and David gallantly took the vinyl patio chaise lounge mattress, which he put on the floor for his bed. During the daytime, the lounge mattress was stashed in the garage, out of the way. So about an hour after the “dog incident” (as it came to be known), we decided to turn in for the night. David went out to the garage to get the mattress and I went along to bring in the dog. It occurred to me that David should use caution and inspect the mattress before he brought it in. I thought the dog might have had another “accident” and the mattress could be soiled.
You would have thought the boy had learned something from his recent experience; but that, apparently, is not the nature of teenage males. Once again he saw no need for my concern, and as he reached for the mattress, his head was turned toward me to explain that I was just paranoid. In that moment as he lifted the mattress up toward him, it formed a sort of “taco” shape. I saw something liquid and pukey-looking traveling rapidly down the funnel shape of the mattress, and it was headed straight for David’s chest. It was a slow motion moment. I opened my mouth to shout my warning, but before the sound could leave my throat, the vile mess was splashing on his chest, dribbling down his front. As it hit, his head swiveled back toward the onslaught and a scream of horror rose from his lips like the last anguished cry of a man falling from a tall building.
The dog, terrified, ran back into the house and hid behind the couch. The rest of the family, rushing to the door to see the cause of the commotion, were brought up short by the sight before them, slamming into each other, one by one. No one could have planned a better scene. It was like a Three Stooges movie. David flung the mattress violently from him and stripped off his shirt right there on the spot, in front of God and the entire assembly, and ran back up the stairs to the still wet shower.
It was a night that still lives warmly in our memories (well, maybe not so warmly in David’s memory). To this day, all I have to do to cheer up my Mom or my daughter is to say, “Remember the night Pepie threw up on David?”, and we’re back in the moment, laughing heartily, and feeling vindicated that perhaps, after all, the lad wasn’t always right!