Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Lost Pearl

Pearl It is 1995.

My father and I are outside the hardware store in Idyllwild, a small mountain community in Southern California. He’s sitting in the passenger seat of the truck and I’m standing next to it.

A car pulls in. Sarah Clayton gets out.

One of the good things about living in a small town are the people. Sarah and her husband, Chuck, are the best of the best.

When my father started having problems walking, they came over with a truck full of lumber and built a bridge from the porch to the street to make it easier for my father to get in and out of the house.

I can tell right away she is in distress. She walks over and I ask her if she’s okay. She holds out her left hand. On her ring finger is her engagement ring and wedding band, and another gold band with a stem of metal sticking out.

She has lost the pearl on a ring of great sentimental value. She is retracing her steps from her travels around town this morning. She knows she had it when she left home. We offer our sympathy and wish her good luck. She enters the hardware store.

I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes. I can’t keep deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning straight, but I am generally good at finding things.

I want to find her pearl. Very badly. My brain starts firing.

“You know, that cement they use doesn’t just stop working.”

My father agrees with me.

“So the pearl didn’t just ‘fall off’.”

Again, my father agrees with me.

“I’m thinking she hit it on something. I’m thinking that was most likely in a confined space.”

I’m thinking…

“If that’s correct, it’s most likely to have been a space confined on her left side.”

A picture flashes in my mind.

I look at Sarah’s car. I walk over and stick my head through the open window on the driver side door. I look down.

On the carpet between the seat and the door is the pearl.

I am happy to have found it for her. But the real reason I wanted to find it was my father is impressed.

I’m still eight-years-old inside.

#TBT The Mouse That Roared With Laughter

mouseIt is 1978.

I am hanging out with my girlfriend, Susie, in the living room of my mother’s house. Mom’s in the kitchen. My brother and sister are out.

Suddenly my mother screams. It is, to use a cliché, ‘bloodcurdling’. As I rise from my chair many possible scenarios are going through my mind. Could she have just stabbed herself accidentally? I propel myself up the steps, through the entry way into the dining room. Susie is right behind me.

The scene that confronts me as I round the corner into the kitchen is straight out of a Warner Brothers cartoon. My mother is standing on her tiptoes on the footstool I made in shop class (Yes, it held together that long). On the floor looking up at her is a teeny tiny little mouse. Teeny. Mouse.

I know she has a fear of these things, but I can’t help myself. I start laughing, and not just a little. I laugh hysterically. I grab an empty coffee can off the counter. The mouse turns and shoots past me out of the kitchen. While Susie helps my mom down, I give chase. The mouse scurries through the dining room, across the entry way, and then jumps down the two steps into the shag carpet in the living room. I’m still laughing as I reach the living room.

Suddenly the mouse stops. I stop. Just as my mom and Susie come around the corner, the mouse turns and without hesitation runs straight at me.

I think I made a sound. I’m fairly sure I did. It probably sounded like I was scared. Maybe. A little.

The mouse beelines for me and, before I can move a muscle, reaches my ankle and disappears under my pants cuff.

I start dancing. I shake my leg, trying to dislodge the little fella and protect the, uh, you know. The mouse is persistent. He makes it past my knee. I grab my thigh, trying to keep it from achieving the target. I finally manage to dislodge it and it falls back down onto the floor. The mouse retraces it’s ‘steps’ back to the kitchen.

It goes right past my mom, but she’s not scared. She’s laughing at ME now.

Can’t say I blame her.

#TBT Mother’s Day

Mom and I.It is 1974. It’s the weekend. According to mom it’s a yard work day.

My brother Scott and I mow and edge the front lawn, trim the grass around the trees. Done!

We move to the back yard. First we are dispatched to trim the plants around the patio while mom sits astride the footstool I made in shop class. She wears rubber kitchen gloves to pull weeds, carefully working an area until it is clear. Then she picks up the stool and moves over a foot, maybe two. Then she starts the process again, the methodical mission to eradicate all weeds.

“Are we done?”

“No. Now sweep up the trimmings and then the entire patio.”

When we complain she goes into her standard routine.

“Your friends like it when I give them things to do.”

We disagree.

“Oh, no. That’s one of the reasons they like coming over here. Because I put them TO WORK.”

This is not true. None of our friends has ever confided a secret desire to perform domestic tasks at our house because somehow it’s more fun when my mom asks them.

Scott and I do the sweeping up.

“NOW are we done?”

Nope. She picks up the footstool and moves in for the kill on the next square foot of weeds. We are instructed to hose off the patio.

“We just SWEPT it!”

Her theory is get rid of the dirt so it doesn’t make ‘mud’ when we hose it off. I get the hose, attach the nozzle with the pistol grip. Scott moves the patio furniture around as I hose down the Palos Verdes stones my father put in.

Mom gets up to move the stool just as I finish.

“Are we done NOW?”

“Now you can help pull the rest of the weeds in the lawn.”

I lose it. I am standing there looking at my mom, holding the pistol grip of the pressure nozzle. I squeeze the trigger. A stream of water shoots across the yard. She is instantly soaked. I figure I am in for it.

She throws her arms across her chest and turns sideways, then throws out one hand to block the stream from the nozzle. And she starts laughing. The more I spray, the harder she laughs. I never saw her laugh so hard.

God, I miss her.

Fathers and Sons

In the spring of 1977, when I was almost 18, I was watching television after school. A Public Service Announcement about breast cancer came on. I wasn’t really paying attention, until they went from advising women to examine their breasts to showing a woman examining her breast. Right there in our dining room was a boob on the tube. I’d never seen anything like this before (And, frankly haven’t since).Dad and I at Holly's

The woman used her index and middle fingers, gently working in a circular pattern outward. I couldn’t help it – I slipped my hand up under my T-shirt and began aping her movements. I was in hysterics.

Until I felt the lump.

It was just on the perimeter of what I quickly came to learn was the areola, the dark tissue surrounding the nipple. It was about the size of a pea and hard. I felt around both my breasts to see how they felt. Other than the lump, I felt nothing odd. But, there was a lump.

I showed it to my mother. She felt it. My father came home and they had a ‘conference’. A doctor’s appointment was made. I was old enough to drive, even had my own car by then, but my father insisted on going with me. We drove there in our mustard-colored Volvo.

The doctor had me remove my shirt and duplicated my examination, carefully drawing the location of the ‘mass’ on a drawing of a breast in my medical chart. He measured it and added the dimensions in millimeters. And then he faced us.

“I want to have the surgeon look at him right away. This might be nothing. But we should have it biopsied as soon as possible to make sure.”

He gave us the name of the surgeon and contact information. I never got the biopsy, but two weeks later the lump was completely gone. Apparently these types of masses can occur for a variety of reasons, one of which is consuming lots of caffeine.

I am very thankful that it wasn’t a tumor, let alone cancer. But I am equally thankful for the experience, because it showed me how much my father cared for me. We had, at times, a problematic relationship. Perhaps it was because we were so much alike – in temperament as much as appearance. He sometimes had a temper and I was a smart ass. But he was one of the things that made me smart.

What I recognize now is the amount of concern he had for me that day. And love. For that I am grateful.

Now, each morning and evening I walk out into my backyard and look up at the peak where his ashes are buried.

And I thank my father for everything he did for me.