Everybody has a Story: Mom calls bluff on ‘man of the house’



My mother was one who believed in home remedies as well as the value of herbs, minerals and vitamins in the quest for good health. She put these things into practice in her life and lived to be 94 years and 9 months old. This speaks well for her beliefs.

But she was not limited to these types of remedies. No, she had others at her disposal, as well. Case in point was how she dealt with me on the day I threatened to run away from home.

I can’t remember the details of what caused me to propose this drastic course of action. Maybe I was tired of being told what to do or just wanted some attention. Or perhaps I felt that I wasn’t being treated with the dignity deserved by a 10-year-old who was, after all, “the man of the house.”

When my father died, I was admonished by family and friends that I was the man of the house now, and I was to take care of my mother, even though I was only 9 years old at the time. Much more was expected of me now than if Dad had lived. I took the counsel seriously and tried to do what I could. But, in reality, there was little I could do to fill the shoes of my father, which frustrated me. Surely, in my mind, that effort was worth some respect, perhaps even a privilege or two.

Maybe the idea came from the Sunday comics. You know, the image of the kid with the stick over his shoulder, at the end of which was a bag containing his belongings. Or the Norman Rockwell illustration of the runaway boy seated at the lunch counter next to, and being eyed suspiciously by, a very large policeman.

Anyway, I expected my announcement would evoke a pleading for me not to go, or at least a concerned warning that it was dangerous to run away and be at the mercy of strangers. But to my surprise, this did not happen.

Instead, mother applied a home remedy to the situation. She was very calm, not showing any emotion. She went and got a bag, and opened the drawers in my dresser. As she did so she said, “Let’s see, you’ll need socks, underwear and shirts.” And on she went down the list, placing items in the bag she was preparing for me to take when I left.

Of course, I was dumbfounded.

This was not going according to my plan. My bluff had been called. I had no intension of carrying out my threat, and now, I had to decide what to do with my badly beaten pride. It was clear, even to me, that I had been cleverly outfoxed by my mother.

I learned to eat crow that day, with the feathers on.

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