"I'm going to meet a woman who always yells at Daddy," I told her.
"Oh," she said. "Say hi to Mom."
"Maybe a video or something educational?" I asked.
"No, that's not it," she said.
We wandered the aisles until something caught her eye: a laser gun with flashing lights and 15 different high-pitched sounds.
"This is perfect," she said, beaming. "My daughter-in-law will hate it."
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"Oh, yes," she replied, "he put his money in it the same day."
"No burglar would think to look on the work shelf!" I gloated.
"They won't have to," my mom replied. "He keeps the paint can in his underwear drawer."
This explanation satisfied him for only a moment. Puzzled, he asked, "What's a Tupperware party, Dad?"
I've always given my son honest answers, so I figured a simple explanation would be the best approach. "Well, Brian," I said, "at a Tupperware party, a bunch of ladies sit around and sell plastic bowls to each other."
Brian nodded, indicating that he understood. Then he burst into laughter. "Come on, Dad," he said. "What is it really?"
"Change the radio station," she said.
During one visit, one of his daughters told a rancher's daughter, "We're Italian."
Somewhat confused, the little girl replied, "We're Ranch."
"Does Dylan Houseman live here?"
"Yup," the voice answered. "Leave him on the front porch. We'll drag him in later."
Glancing out my window moments later, I saw him wearily boarding the bus. He was carrying his backpack, his lunchbox and a big white bag of garbage.
In a loud voice, my four-year-old asked, "Mom, what's in the box?"
"Listen to me, Matthew," his mother said sharply. "From now on when you want to go someplace, you tell Mommy first, okay?"
Matthew thought about that for a moment and said, "Okay. Disney World."
"Sure," I answered, "as long as you called."
When I hung up, my wife asked who was on the phone.
"One of the boys," I replied. "I gave them permission to stay out late."
"Not our boys," she said. "They're both downstairs in the basement."
Without hesitation she replied, "Tell Mom!"
She was accepted.
A few days later my relieved spouse was on the phone, telling his brother about the whole adventure. "Did you happen to mention to the FBI that you have an identical twin?" his horrified brother interrupted. "Who lives next door?"
"Dad," the teenager asked, "how are they going to keep my mouth open during surgery?"
Without hesitation her father quipped, "They're going to give you a phone."
“I’ll see the doctor,” she said, “and then tell you what’s wrong with us.”
The next day she called to say, “Guess what, Mom. We’re pregnant!”
Using a new word this time, he smiled and said, "Oh, no, Mommy! You look flabulous!"
After my wife had a sonogram, I asked my mother-in-law to guess the sex of the twins her daughter was carrying.
"Two boys," she said.
I shook my head.
"It must be two girls," she offered.
Again I told her no.
"Well, then," she asked, "what are they?"
Pointing to her nose and my chin, my sister said, "Different plastic surgeons."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because," he explained, "with a clarinet, she can't sing along."
She admitted the decisions she made and advice she gave as a mother were based on hope and instinct rather than any certainty of what was best. I agreed, but said our parents probably felt the same way—and we hadn't turned out too badly.
"Yeah," she replied. "But we had real parents. Our kids just have us."
I understood exactly what she meant.
—Contributed by John R. Griffin
Impressed, my husband asked, "How did you fix it?"
"I turned up the volume on the radio," I confessed.
Frantic, he dropped the receiver and came charging outside screaming, "Dad! They've got Mom! And they want money!"
"He was born at home," I answered.
The man looked at me, then said, "Wow, you don't get out much, do you?"
Later that evening my son walked in the door, home for a surprise visit. Taking one look at my coat-hanger friend sitting on the couch, he said, "Mom, it's not that bad, is it?"
She looked at me bewildered and replied, "But I didn't order milk."
Over the loud buzzing of the smoke alarm, I asked them to identify the sound.
"It's the smoke detector," they replied in unison.
"Do you know what that sound means?" I demanded.
"Sure," my oldest replied. "Dinner's ready."
I cleaned the table and left to do my grocery shopping. When I came home I couldn't set my bags down anywhere. Sitting in the middle of the kitchen table was a car muffler.
"Thirty-nine," I told her.
"And how old will you be?"
"Forty," I said sadly.
"But Mommy," she exclaimed, "you're winning!"
"I'll get it, Daddy," Lauren called, nimbly crawling under the newly erected barrier.
On the way to the multiplex my husband glanced in the rearview mirror and caught our teen applying lipstick and blush, which produced the predictable lecture. "Look at your mom," he said. "She didn't put on any makeup just to go sit in a dark movie theater."
From the back I heard, "Yeah, but Mom doesn't need makeup."
My heart swelling with the compliment, I turned back to thank this sweet, wonderful daughter of mine just as she continued, "Nobody looks at her."
Recently, I was traveling with my parents in their new car when we hit a wide-open expanse of highway. My dad leaned back and said, "I think I'll let Tom drive for a while."
"Tom who?" I asked.
My mother translated for me: "Tom Cruise, of course."
"Some are quite effective," my friend corrected me. "Last summer, my teenager spent a lot of time at the neighbors'. Whenever I wanted him home, I'd go out to our driveway and jostle his car."