Wouldn't It Be Something(1/7/17)
Dennis DepcikDennis Depcik  • 7个月前
Christmas and New Years is now over and I have a little more time to share some of my writings. However, my posts will not be as timely as before because I continue to babysit my grandchild several days a week.

 

The stories I share with you now will not be in chronological sequence. I am currently in the process of working on a second book and am writing about moments I remember. Some of these moments will be related to Maggie’s and my married life while others will recall times in my childhood.

 

***

 

The following short story focuses on an average day in Maggie’s and my life with our four children. We had moved to the first home we ever owned after living in one we rented for a little over a year. At the time of our move, Mike and Jenny were already born; our other two children were born after we settled in our new home.



Not Dad’s Day

 

Today is Mallday.

 

Mallday is a common occurrence during the blistering heat of summer in the far south suburbs of Chicago. That’s where we bought our first home — in a newly developing subdivision in Country Club Hills. How proud we are to say “Country Club Hills” whenever friends or family ask where we live. However, we don’t feel it’s necessary to admit that the closest edifice to a “country club” is an old dilapidated barn inhabited by squirrels, sparrows and spiders and the nearest “hills” are the mounds of dirt piled high by bull dozers still clearing the land for new construction.

 

Our subdivision is an island in the middle of a vast expanse of vacant land, adjacent to abandoned farms. It’s six square blocks dotted with flooded foundations and peppered with an occasional house.The sign at the entrance proudly proclaims“The Place To Be.”  Well, it may not be the posh community heralded by its name, but it’s far enough outside the Chicago city limits that we can afford to buy a home here.

 

There are about fifteen other homes on our block and every family seems interchangeable — each has one to three children, none beyond the age of six; each has a stay-at-home mom and a dad that works 9 to 5; and all struggle, living paycheck to paycheck. So Mallday is an event eagerly anticipated on summer weekends when the scalding sun keeps us prisoners in our homes, reluctant to use the air conditioner that doubles our electric bill.  

 

At least two Saturdays each summer month, Maggie and I and our four children pile into our sun baked station wagon and drive the twenty suffocating minutes to our oasis — Lincoln Mall. There we wander in cool comfort through the spacious corridors. We rarely buy anything. It’s more of an inexpensive adventure where, for the price of an ice cream cone or soft pretzel, our kids are happy and Maggie and I can travel on our “if only” dream trip, furnishing our new home in our heads.

 

We’re a curious sight in the mall; a young couple with four children: Erica and Paul in umbrella strollers, one pushed by Maggie the other by me; Jennifer, age five, grasping the belt on Maggie’s coat; and six year old Mike, hanging on to the left side of my jacket, his left arm flailing in front. People part as we approach and heads turn when we pass.

 

JC Penney is a frequent destination. It’s bright, has the best air conditioning, and is inexpensive. Maggie and I have been through this ritual often enough to know that four young children meandering through a department store is trouble. So, we go our separate ways. Maggie takes the girls wherever little girls and their mother go when shopping at JC Penney and I head off with the boys to the sporting goods section, hoping to indulge myself for a few minutes.

 

Keeping Paul entertained isn’t a problem since he’s usually asleep ten minutes after we leave the car. But Mike, well, he’s a different story. Mike is blind. Because he wants to feel everything he can’t see, preventing him from touching what he shouldn’t touch is always a challenge. I can only say “Don’t touch that” so often before he shrinks into himself and guilt thunders through me.

 

Once in sporting goods, I go straight to a circular rack of golf shirts. Knowing Mike likes to feel textures and shapes, I begin thumbing through the S, M, L and XL shirts, selecting a dozen of varying styles and textures as well as those with raised logos and different shaped buttons. I move them to a spot on the rack convenient to Mike, then turn his shoulders and place his right hand on a shirt.

 

“Mike! Look at how different all these shirts are.”

 

Mike seems intrigued and slides his hands among the shirts, feeling how one is ribbed in the middle, another elasticized at the waist and sleeves, some are cotton and others are silky. He explores the buttons—some round and plastic, others square and wooden —but seems especially fascinated by the logos, tracing each with his fingers. I’m certain this will fascinate him for a while and begin looking at other shirts on the rack. Within a few minutes, I notice that Mike’s face has lost its sense of discovery.

 

“Don’t like the shirts, huh Mike?”

 

“Not really.”

 

“Okay, bud. Let’s see if there’s something else you might like.”

 

I scan the area for something that will hold his attention for at least ten minutes. That’s all I want for myself —ten minutes. I can’t let him near the golf club display for fear he’ll knock them over. And I’m pretty sure his interest in touching spikes on golf shoes will wane quickly. Then I notice something just beyond the shoe display.

 

“Mike! Hang on a minute. I have a surprise for you.” He stands quietly while I rearrange the shirts and ensure that Paul is still asleep in the stroller.

 

“All right, let’s go, bud.”

 

Mike grabs my left elbow as I guide him toward a barrel filled with golf balls and stop about a foot away. “I want you to feel something, Mike. It’s a big wooden barrel.”

 

Since I can’t recall if he’s ever felt a barrel, I take his right hand and slowly extend it, placing it on the rim. As Mike touches it, I walk him around the circumference so he can visualize its size. He uses both hands to slide across the rim and then, in almost rhythmic swirls, brushes his hands across the outside of the barrel, top to bottom.

 

“Wait until you see what’s inside, Mike. There’s a bunch of little balls in here.”

 

I guide his right hand over the edge of the barrel that rises to the middle of his chest and slowly lower it to the golf balls. Mike resists slightly, but as he touches the balls a quizzical look crosses his face. He tilts his head to the left and smiles in my direction.

 

“They are little. Why are they so small?”

 

“They’re golf balls, Mike. Do you notice anything different about them?”

 

He picks up one golf ball, rolls it around in both hands, lightly touching it with the tips of his fingers, then brings it to his face and rolls it against his cheeks. “It feels funny; like it has little holes in it.”

 

“Those are dimples, Mike. That’s how all golf balls are.”

 

Mike doesn’t need further explanation and spends the next twenty seconds simply feeling the dimples.

 

“Hey Mike,” I whisper. “These balls are all different colors.”

 

I don’t know why I tell him this. I know he can’t feel colors, but I’m not sure what remains in his memory from before he went blind three years ago. Maybe he can recall. Anyway, I just think he should know.

 

Mike cradles a ball in his hand and asks, “What color is this one, dad?”

 

“That one’s yellow.”

 

Picking up another, he asks “How about this one?”

 

“Pink, Mike.”

 

This happens several times as I help Mike identify the white, orange, yellow and pink balls. He carefully caresses each one now, bringing it to his ears and then to his upper lip, as if these senses are helping him differentiate the colors he cannot see. As he’s doing this, I pick up two balls and tap them together next to his left ear.

 

“Hear that Mike. That’s a cool sound, ain’t it?”  

 

Mike is captivated.  He takes both balls from my hands and begins clicking them together, first near his left ear, then his right. He doesn’t say anything, just continues the clicking. When he tires of the two he has in his hands, he throws them back in the barrel and picks up two more. Realizing that he likes the sound of the balls bouncing in the barrel, he begins alternating his new discovery — clicking and throwing, clicking and throwing.

 

Mike’s in his glory. Now I’m free to move among the racks of 50% off shirts, occasionally looking back to be sure that Mike’s still entertained. After a few minutes, I move to the display of discounted golf clubs. I lift the seven iron from the Titleist set and indulge myself in my fantasy of buying clubs I can’t afford. I take several practice swings when I hear a distant, timid voice,

 

“Dad?”

 

I pause, and hearing nothing, I continue my practice swings. The timid voice becomes a desperate shout, “Dad! Dad! Help!!”

 

It’s Mike.

 

I glance in Mike’s direction and see him struggling with a leaning barrel — his scrawny legs buckling beneath him and his arms bent into his tiny body. “Dad!!” he yells again as the barrel begins to clearly win this battle. I quickly run to Mike and pull him to my side as the barrel crashes to the tile floor. Golf balls are bouncing everywhere — a stippled stream of white, yellow pink and orange, rushing a hundred feet down the aisles, crashing in every direction —banging off walls, display counters, and store clerks.

 

I stand there, frozen, holding Mike close. Clerks and customers are dodging the cascade of balls while glaring through me.

 

“HE’S BLIND! HE’S BLIND!! HE WAS ONLY PLAYING!” I shout, as I frantically begin chasing and gathering the balls. Mike stands there frightened and confused. The clerks and customers turn their heads to him. Their faces morph from anger to concern as they rush to my aid, scurrying after the bouncing balls.

 

They have pity in their eyes now — pity for the little blind boy and perhaps some for the poor old dad with a baby still sleeping in the stroller.

 

***

January 7, 2017

Christmas and New Years is now over and I have a little more time to share some of my writings. However, my posts will not be as timely as before because I continue to babysit my grandchild several days a week.

The stories I share with you now will not be in chronological sequence. I am currently in the process of working on a second book and am writing about moments I remember. Some of these moments will be related to Maggie’s and my married life while others will recall times in my childhood.

***

The following short story focuses on an average day in Maggie’s and my life with our four children. We had moved to the first home we ever owned after living in one we rented for a little over a year. At the time of our move, Mike and Jenny were already born; our other two children were born after we settled in our new home.

Attach “Not Dad’s Day”

*****
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