Don’t Cry Over Spilled Grits

My 12-year-old daughter, Jessie, hates shots but somehow made it through all her vaccinations. Dad, on the other hand, is still recovering from her office visits.

I sat down to write this month’s column at the end of a grueling week. Little did I realize that a shot my mother-in-law received for bronchitis would be one of the week’s highlights.

Like any other week, there were a few inconveniences I could have done without. I returned from my morning walk to find dog poop smashed to the bottom of my sneaker. Then, I dropped my favorite pair of sunglasses on the bathroom floor, breaking the frames. I needed a haircut and stopped at the barbershop. When I got home and looked in the mirror, I noticed the hair was about an inch longer over one ear than the other. To get both sides even I had to return to the shop the next day. Then there’s my aging computer that crashes daily, which is not a good thing for a writer. But, in the whole scheme of life, these were minor inconveniences.

A spilled 24 oz. carton of grits is a slightly bigger deal. For readers who are unfamiliar, grits are ground corn and have the consistency of coarse sand. While putting away groceries, I lifted the round cardboard container from the top shelf of the pantry and it slipped from my fingers. Grits sprayed over everything – the food on two pantry shelves, the clothes in the laundry basket, and under the washer and dryer. The miniscule particles even covered the vacuum cleaner I needed for cleanup. But even this paled in comparison to the next challenge.

A lump appeared near my wife’s left ear in December. On Christmas Eve, Mattie had a CT scan that showed a tumor. Life can be sailing along, maybe with minor inconveniences like broken sunglasses, a subpar haircut, and an avalanche of grits, but when a tumor enters the picture, life changes. Mattie’s doctor suggested that the tumor be biopsied, but it took two weeks and five days to get the procedure and wait for the results. Those who have gone through this know that waiting is tough. The radiologist performed the biopsy on Monday and told Mattie the results would be back within 24-48 hours. Mattie called on Tuesday. No report. She called again Wednesday. Still no results. By this time, I was comforting myself with four ice cream cones, two for lunch and two at bedtime. Mattie said if I didn’t cut back, the next doctor we might be seeing would be for diabetes.

Fortunately, late Thursday afternoon we received good news – no cancer. This put everything else in perspective. Though the tumor will need to be removed, Mattie will be okay.

A couple days after receiving the great news, Mattie’s mother, whose bronchitis hadn’t completely cleared after a course of antibiotics, texted early in the morning, “I just got out of the doctor’s office. Got a shot in my behind and some prescriptions. I certainly am awake.”

Mattie typed back, “So is whoever gave you the shot.”

Mattie informed Jessie, “Grandmommy got a shot in the rear end.”

Jessie, remembering her vaccinations at the pediatrician’s office where the nurse used a plastic device to ease the pain of the needle, asked, “Did the doctor use a shot-blocker?”

Mattie, apparently having a mental picture of a nurse holding a piece of plastic on her mom’s behind with one hand and a needle in the other, cracked up laughing. Tears rolled down her cheeks. Jessie and I couldn’t help but join in the laughter. It felt great to laugh.

This leads me to several takeaways. I’m thankful I have the time and good health to walk my dog, even if I have to clean my sneakers afterward. I’m fortunate to have the resources to replace sunglasses, get haircuts, and buy a new computer. I’m thankful for health insurance and modern medicine that can diagnose problems quickly. I’m even lucky to have a good vacuum cleaner.

Last, but important, laughter is one of our greatest gifts. It serves as a “shot-blocker” when life is challenging. Grandmommy, thank you for taking one for the team! The laughter you provided was the shot in the arm we needed, though I’m sorry you were the butt of the laugh.

Until next month, remember to cherish the moments and laugh at the funny ones.

Note: My favorite mother-in-law, now fully recovered, approved this message.

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