better than diamond rings. . . .
My cell phone rang Saturday while the kids and I were out fighting the holiday shopping crowds. I fumbled through my purse to silence the obnoxious download of Jason Mraz scatting the song "I'm Yours." The familiar ringtone let me know exactly who it was--Harry.
"Babe?" His voice sounded tense, urgent even.
"Hey, baby," I spoke loudly to overcome the ambient store noise and right-in-front-of-me kid noise. "Zachary! Stop antagonizing your brother! I'm sorry. . .hey, love."
"Ummm. . .baby? We have a very serious problem."
A very serious problem? I stopped in my tracks to make sure I was listening. Fortunately my gut didn't tell me serious-serious. But his tone still warranted my full attention. "Okay. What kind of problem are we talking about? Serious or serious-serious?"
"Serious, not serious-serious. But serious, though."
"Okay. . . . " Serious-serious. Like when they stopped making our favorite coffee pods or when we lost one of Isaiah's soccer cleats. Not so bad.
"The problem is that the Falcons are at home tomorrow." What? That's it? When I didn't respond, he added, "At the Georgia Dome, babe. Against Green Bay. Tomorrow." He sighed.
For those who aren't betrothed or officially troth-ed to football fans, let me give you some background. My husband loves football. Do you hear me? Loves it. Even more than the movie Gladiator, he loves it. Even more than sweet potato pie, he loves it. Put his mama's lasagna to the left and football to the right, and the lasagna (which happens to be his favorite) wouldn't stand a chance. I am certain that the only thing that trumps it, fortunately, is our family.
Anyways, the man doesn't ask for much--but football? Fuggeddaboudit. He's sho' nuff asking when it comes to that. And although we never considered a prenuptial agreement (I actually don't know anyone with one of those) we did agree to a few things prenuptially. One of those things was that Harry would have to choose between college football and pro football. There was no way he'd be in a trance on Saturdays and Sundays.
Pro football won.
I tried to be one of those supportive spouses that learned to love it with him. I used to even go to the games until he caught me playing Scrabble on my phone during the third quarter a few years back. I finally accepted that I am simply a fair weather football fan--100% ready to root-root-root for the home team during the play offs, super bowl, or a double overtime nail-biter. (At least I admit it.)
I stood there squinting with the phone to my ear. Isaiah took this as an opportunity to start asking questions.
"Mom, does Santa Claus bring stuff in his sleigh for grown ups, too?" asked Isaiah as he looked through the toy section.
"No, sweetie. Just kids." I turned my attention back to my husband and his serious problem. "So. . . uhh. . .I'm confused, Harry. Why is this such a serious problem again?"
"Your rounds. I know you have to round tomorrow, so this is a problem. A real problem."
A real problem?
"The team is really good this year, babe. This might be our year."
"Uhhh, okay. . . ."
"Don't grown ups want gifts, too?" Isaiah persisted.
"Grown ups should have jobs so they can buy the stuff they want." I winked at a woman who turned around and offered me a thumbs up for that response. "Harry, I can try to go in earlier than usual, but you know how unpredictable things can be."
"But what if an adult doesn't have a job? Does Santa Claus make an exception?" The lady raised her eyebrows in my direction and mouthed "Ut oh."
I paused and looked at Isaiah, wondering why he chose to hit me with the inquisition in the middle of Target. Harry was in his own inquisition. Grrr.
"Do you think I'll make the game if you went early?" (See, I told you he'd ask.)
"Uuuhhh. . . .I think. . . maybe. Put that back, Zachary."
"Awww maaaan!" Zachary groaned as he put back some enormous contraption in its place.
Isaiah was now sitting cross-legged in the aisle playing with a car."If it's night time here and day time some place else, how does Santa not get caught?"
"Get off the floor, son." Isaiah quickly stood up, but looked at me expectantly for an answer. "Uuuuhh. . .God tells him when the coast is clear. God is over the whole shebang, don't you know?" An older man who looked like he could be a pastor somewhere poked his lip out and gave an approving nod as another woman on the aisle passed me saying "Nice!" under her breath.
I winked at them, too.
"Do you think I should call a sitter?" Harry kept going. I thought for a moment about all the holiday gatherings and more that would warrant our sitters on retainer. I spoke what immediately came to my head.
"No way. Shouldn't waste a sitter on that."
"So if Santa goes all over the whole world, does he have to keep going back to refill the sleigh? All the stuff would never fit. Like this--" Isaiah held up another toy. "--if all the kids had these, there wouldn't be room."
I tapped my lip for a moment and thought before answering. "Like I said, God helps with all of that. Surely you don't think a man could do all of that by himself!" (This was my thinly veiled attempt at putting a spiritual spin on things, and to not give the mythical round guy all the credit.)
"Jesus was a man."
"Santa Claus isn't Jesus, Isaiah."
He sighed and furrowed his brow. "So how does God help him do it then? I mean, Santa." Grrrr. I thought these kinds of questions didn't start until first or second grade? I now had a small crowd of folks on my row at Target waiting to hear how I'd master this zinger.
"Uhhh. . . .you know those toys that come in those little bitty packages. . .that are shrunken down super, duper tiny like a chewable vitamin? You know. . .the kind that then when you add water they expand? Yeah. . .well. . . .all the toys are shrunken down like that to get them all in the sleigh. Plus they need to be shrunken to get through the chimney, anyways. Then--voila!-- they're all re-expanded under your tree. It's all very complicated, son. Like I told you, God is over the whole shebang." By this point, the five people on the toy aisle were offering me silent applause and fist pumps. (Even the pastor-looking dude who'd appreciated my spiritual slant earlier.) The minute Isaiah turned his head, I playfully gave air hi-fives to my "fans." Isaiah seemed to accept that answer for now. Whew.
At least I had one serious problem solved. I nearly forgot all about Harry.
But he hadn't forgotten about me.
"I know you're taking care of human beings, and that's more important than football. . . .Damn. . .I wish I'd remembered -- I could have gotten a sitter," he said somberly. Wow, this was serious, man.
"Naaah. It'll be okay. We need to save up our sitters for the holiday parties. Plus I'm on wards over Christmas. Should be fine. I don't have that many patients right now on the service, and a lot of them are awaiting tests Monday."
"Okay." Harry sounded almost childlike in that response. Like a kid whose parent said maybe we'll go to the beach or to Six Flags. I almost wanted to chuck him under his chin.
On Sunday, I went in early to round. The patients seemed to be in cahoots with Harry's need to make it to the Georgia Dome. No unexpected issues or complications. Clinically on the upswings and not the downswings. Families at the bedside at the right times for discussions. Several of my favorite nurses working which made things go even more smoothly.
And here's the other amusing observation--Harry wasn't the only one with football on the brain. First, I see a patient who has vacillated between completely delusional/combative to scarily docile. Today, he was unusually fine. When the team walks in, he is sitting in a bedside chair watching a televised church service.
"Hey there, sir! What you watchin'?" I asked cheerfully. I still wasn't sure what to expect today.
"Right now, I'm just watching church service. But I'm really waiting to see what these Falcons gon' do with these Packers."
My intern chimed in. "You like the Falcons, sir?"
"Man, I just like football. But yeah. . .since this is my home, I like the Falcons. We look good this year, too."
This was the most lucid he had sounded in the whole time I'd been seeing him. Good ol' football.
A few moments later we were seeing one of the sicker patients on our service--a Grady elder with multiple medical problems. As soon as we walked into his room, I asked if I could turn down the television. In his wobbly voice, he said, "Yeah, I ain't even lookin' at it 'til these Falcons come on at 1. Then y'all got to get out my way."
I laughed out loud. "What is the deal with you guys and 'these Falcons?' " I said with a head shake.
"It's football, sugar. It's football," replied my patient muffled from beneath the mask of his breathing treatment.
"What do you think about Michael Vick?" my intern (also a football fan, I forgot to add) piped in.
The Grady elder lifted his mask and retorted, "I thank he don't play for Atlanta no more, tha's what I thank." We all shared a collective chuckle.
Even with leisurely rounding, since we had a fairly sensible number of patients with problems going in the right directions, I was done rounding by 11:30 a.m. The relief in Harry's eyes when the alarm chimed upon my noon arrival was downright endearing. He gave me a waaaaay too overzealous hug, and thanked me like I'd just bought him a pair of red suede peep-toe platforms and a Chanel bag. (Okay, maybe that's more my kind of happy. . .but you get my point.)
I poured myself a cup of coffee and smiled. I could hear Harry cheerfully singing at the top of his lungs from the bedroom as he scrambled to get ready to go to the game. Isaiah and Zachary played with their action figures on the floor. The sun was shining through the multicolored trees outside the sun room. All was well on the Southern front.
Harry whistled right over to me and the kids, kissed us all on our foreheads, and tap danced out the door. No need to chuck his chin now.
"Daddy sure is happy!" Zachary accurately assessed.
"Yeah! He's SUPER happy!" Isaiah agreed.
As I watched his truck pull to the end of the driveway from the window, I looked at the kids and shrugged.
"Of course, he's happy. It's football, sugar."
The closing theme to Wildcats with Goldie Hawn's classic line. . . "Football!"