Yesterday I read that Eminem was celebrating his 10th year being sober. So glad for him and anyone who gets sober! It got me to thinking about addictions and hard-to-break habits in general. Someday I hope to write a story celebrating how I’ve finally kicked my bad nail biting habit….but not today. Today I’m going to tell a tale about inheritance. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it.
I inherited my sense of humor, (I think), from my dad. The other thing I inherited, (besides a pair of golf shoes that were a little too tight), is his nasal passages. My morning ritual usually includes an hour of throat clearing and nose blowing. I’ve not noticed this in any of my boys so much, so hopefully that gene has died on the vine.
Dad was addicted I think to nasal sprays; Dristan was the drug of choice. If you’re not familiar, here’s how nasal sprays work. (Link) Apparently they shrink the blood vessels in the nose and that works to clear up the congestion but continued use works for shorter and shorter times. Having nasal spray around was almost as important as having cigarettes (link).
The timeframe for this story would have been around 1964, first or second grade. We never really attended church while we lived on Goodman Ave but when summer came around, there was good old VBS – vacation bible school at the Ross Avenue Church of God. I didn’t mind being sent out in the morning in my clip on tie as long as my friend Timmy (link) had to go too. Otherwise, it was a boring few hours every morning for 1-2 weeks. I don’t remember anything exciting, nor do I remember any of the kids except one who had the same name as I had, (Robbie, last name “I”). There was that one day though…
One day, Robbie I snuck in a squirt gun. Let the fun begin. We kids all sat together at a big rectangular table with the teacher sitting at one end of the table. She had a perfect position for which to see us all, however, (fortunate for Robbie I), she did not have Superman X-ray vision so she could not see through the wood table. If she had, she would have been able to see us boys being blasted underneath.
I have to hand it to Robbie I. He had thought this through. Either he had decided to only shoot the boys or else he knew his chances of getting caught were much lower if he didn’t target the girls. Had he shot a girl, there was a strong possibility of getting ‘told on’.
That’s what it was called, being told on. If you wanted to call in the official powers, you’d tell someone that you were telling on them. “I’m telling” or “I’m gonna’ tell”.
Boys had a pact; we didn’t tell on each other. The crime had to be very severe for one of us to ‘tell on’ the other. Nothing short of a broken arm or an eyeball being pulled out of the socket would be serious enough to bring in the adults. Instead, we boys got even.
On that day, several boys were seen walking out of church, looking like they had not been allowed to go to the bathroom. Robbie I had been the first to take the initiative and had gotten the upper hand on the rest of us. Ha! Little did he know that revenge would be mine tomorrow!
What to do, what to do? Timmy had a squirt gun but I did not. My dad however, (always seen squirting something in his nose), must have one of those Dristan bottles somewhere in the house. Aha, the medicine cabinet! I had found one. Unfortunately, it was filled with some kind of stinky liquid so naturally I took off the top and filled it up with water. I are a super-genius, after all.
The bottle was small but that only made concealment very easy. This was the one day I was excited to go to church. Timmy and I arrived on time and took our positions. Let the war begin. To make things even better, Robbie I had chosen not to bring his weapon….aw, too bad…that’s a shame. With two under-table weapons aimed at the bull’s-eye crotch of Robbie I, it was easy pickings. Rack up one VBS casualty and a victory for the Goodman Ave boys!
Timmy and I laughed and chuckled, celebrating our victory all the way home from church that day. All day long, we reminisced about the incredible accuracy, the way in which we thwarted our enemy with perilous water bullets. Like any good schemer, after the day’s battle was over, I simply refilled the Dristan bottle with good ‘ole H2o…tap water from the bathroom sink…and placed the bottle right back up on he bottom shelf of the medicine cabinet, right where I found it. No one would be the wiser.
What was I thinking? That he wouldn’t notice? That I could blame my brothers or Mom? I must not have learned anything yet from playing Stratego.
It was a fine day indeed. It was a fine day…until Dad got home from work, that is.
Sometime after dinner, Dad ran out of his current stash of Dristan and went looking for his new bottle; you know, the one I had refilled with water? Ok, this sure wasn’t funny for me at the time, but as I’m writing it now I sure am getting a kick out of picturing Dad taking a big shot of water up the schnozzola! 🙂
Imagine being addicted to anything, cigarettes, alcohol, anything and thinking you were covered; you knew you had a new supply just waiting for you. And then, when you go to ‘light up’ you discover someone has replaced your tobacco, (alcohol, pot, anything), with something like dead grass. Dad was absolutely furious! Perhaps that’s why I remember this so well, he was livid with anger.
I’ve told you all how he felt about lying and stealing in this story (link). Well, I got the stealing ‘lecture’ that day all right. First, he came into our bedroom. I was sitting on the old hardwood floor, playing a board game by myself, (I think it was Monopoly). He started ‘lecturing’ me on the importance of not taking something that didn’t belong to me by stomping all over my game and the box. “Did you like that?” Then, the next part of the lecture was taken to the backyard, on the back of my legs with a switch from the crabapple tree in our backyard. Let me tell you, you get a switching and you remember it, and you remember what for!
I didn’t take any squirt bottles with me to VBS the next day.
Many years ago, I led a small initiative in an effort to learn more about substance addiction with a goal of bringing some education back to the place where we worked. We visited several of the support group meetings in the area and got to hear all kinds of stories ; stories related to addictions and how difficult it really is to kick an addiction. Even cigarettes, they shared, was an addiction tougher to break than their other drugs of choice. I do feel sorry for smokers who don’t want to be hooked. It’s a terrible habit.
I used Dristan maybe a half dozen times in my entire life. It works wonderfully. I’ll tell you though, it’s easy to think that you ‘need’ something like that when you just cannot breathe from your nose so I can easily see today how Dad became habitually addicted to the stuff. He always kept a little bottle in his front shirt pocket. I’ve been a nail biter for a solid 50 years, (after getting hit by a bus), and I’ve been trying to kick that habit for at least 20 years. I’ll have a non-stressful week or two and my nails begin to look ‘normal’ but then something happens. Maybe it’s something as simple as a scary thriller movie where at one point I realize I’ve chewed my last two weeks off. (Sigh) Maybe I’ll never stop.
At this point, I see that in the beginning of this story I said this would be about ‘inheritance’. So let me add a short note here and hopefully provide you with a useful tip. When I studied for the CFP test, I learned a whole heck of a lot about the importance of having a will, living trusts, estate plans, etc. I always thought those things were only for rich people – they’re not! My parents divorced when I was 12 and they both remarried. When Dad died, he died without a will so his house and any pension or savings he had went to his spouse. She died only a few years later and so the proceeds from the house sale and anything else all went to her sole daughter. None of his children received anything. At least one of my siblings could have used a little help. This could easily have been avoided.
Everyone should learn a little about these documents so I’m including a link here. Please visit this site and follow through with these. No one really likes to think about this somber topic but don’t die without thinking through what will happen when you pass.
Dad was right, I was wrong. Somehow, somewhere in my little pea-brain, I thought I could get away with a switch from medicine to water. That did not work out so well – all I got was the switch. I hated the switch and the belt and promised myself that I’d never use either of them on any of my kids. I do believe in immediate discipline for children in situations of danger or harm to themselves or others….but I kept my promise.