It was the end of another long day. Varied and sundry thumps, bumps and knocks still sounded overhead. Somewhere, Someone’s children were not all settled, and the house was not yet still.
Burrowing at last beneath the covers, I sighed. “I wish I could be a Marine.” I peered at the Someone whose children still clattered above. “You know, FILO. First in, last out. But most days, I’m FIFO. First in…” He sighed, too, and went back to his nightly routine.
Routines. Ours were different, alright, and preparing for bed was a perfect example. My nightly preps were minimal and basic. “The quicker, the better.” That was my motto, and that was just how I rolled. Finished, I would slip, shadow like, between the sheets. First in.
Not him. His routine was long and complex, never varying in the slightest degree. Like a mail carrier, “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays this bedtime prepper from the fullest completion of his appointed rounds.” Last in.
It was the “last in” that had caused an issue, which led to a bit of “dialogue,” to use a popular word. For when the “first in” has wallowed just long enough to find the perfect spot and a little pocket of warmth has begun to form, it upsets the fragile ecosystem when the covers are rudely flung back.
“Look,” I said one midwinter night when The Flinger had flung yet again. “I don’t care if you do a seven-point dive on the way in. I’ll even score it with placards on my pillow (think Olympics and medals), but could you please not fling the covers to kingdom come?”
He sighed, heavy and low, as though I’d asked him to donate a kidney or paper the kitchen with one arm tied behind his back. “I’m not much of a diver,” he said. “I’m more like a dog. I have to turn around three times before I get in.”
“Whatever,” I said. “But can you pretty please tweak your technique?”
One ought not gather from this small exchange that this writer always has the last word. Or the upper hand, for that matter, for Mr. Schrock is quick and clever in his own right. It was on Sunday last that we were preparing for church, running late, when I found him peering closely at his reflection in the mirror.
“We need to hoof it,” I said. “You can have a whole, entire hour later to examine your complexion and polish your pores.”
He snorted, then began whistling a tune I recognized from Disney’s Robin Hood movie. “Hear that?” he called into the other room where I’d retreated. “I live with the Sheriff of Nottingham.”
I’ll admit it. I laughed. Oh, not out loud, of course, but quietly into my fist. I can’t have him getting the big head, so let’s keep it between us, okay?
If only it would stop with him, it would help. Maybe I could regain my equilibrium and get some traction if The Mister’s children were slower on the uptake, but no. Take what happened in the laundry room recently. Little Schrock was playing with a rubber ball. Toward winter’s end, he’d taken to bouncing it off walls, floors and doorways, which is when Mother knew it was time for Old Man Winter to go.
Anyway, there he was, and there we were, his dad and I, sharing a kiss by the dryer. And that quick, it came. Rearing back, he cocked his arm, aimed the ball at Daddy, and said to me, “Do you know this man?” As one of my friends said later, “And a new comedian is born!”
A new comedian, huh? I suppose that means years more of comedic routines, of stand up and improv and side-splitting lines, which are simply routine over here.
I know this will shock you, but every once in a great while when the wind’s angling in from the north just so and the planets are properly aligned, I do a little something to break up the routine. I throw a small hand grenade down to blow it up.
When you’re raising teenagers and young adults, you learn not to express shock. You learn to stay calm and say, “Please tell me more,” no matter what hair-raising questions or shenanigans they come up with. (For some reason, these often arise when you’re driving somewhere, and that’s when keeping cool saves lives.)
That’s why, when the above conditions have been met, I’ll say what I said at the dinner table one night: “If you kids would leave the room, Dad and I could make out.”
In all my born days, I’ve never seen a room clear that quick. To a man, they blanched. Three sets of eyebrows shot north, tangling in the roots of their hair, and three pairs of feet went pounding for the property line to the east.
Their dad and I howled. Then we sat back and reveled in the quiet, happy for the break in routine.