December 7, 2010 at 7:14 pm (Uncategorized)

The fiend who invented daughters obviously intended to cause fathers gray hairs in bunches rather than just one at a time. My two girls were no angels, I’ll admit, but they could have been much worse. Thankfully, my wife and I never had to deal with the horrors of drug addiction, or the heartbreak of teenage pregnancy. But my daughters certainly did their best to put extra snow on my roof.

Take Cindy, for instance. She was three years older than her sister, Jackie, and as strong-willed as they come. Her mother liked to call her “determined”. I called her “hard-headed”. Perhaps we were both right.

Cindy taught herself to ride a two-wheeler at the tender age of three. Somehow she convinced me to remove the training wheels from her bike, a decision that I made hesitantly. Then, while I watched with concern from a living room window, she began to practice her riding on the front sidewalk. Her first half dozen attempts ended in failure within seconds. But Cindy just gritted her teeth and kept trying. She finally wobbled the full length of our driveway, terminating her solo flight by smashing into the garage door and crumpling to the ground. She immediately leapt to her feet and exclaimed, “I did it!”

Carefully concealed behind a window curtain, her proud father pumped his fist and offered an emphatic “YESSSS!”

As the girls entered their rebellious teens, they soon found other ways to assert their independence. One of their favorite tricks was to sneak out of the house after we went to bed. They would climb through their second story bedroom window, crawl up and over the roof, and down the opposite side of the house where there was less chance of us hearing them. A mad dash to the schoolyard on the next block followed, where their friends were usually waiting. They would share a forbidden cigarette, and then try to figure out how to get back into the house without being caught. I only learned of this recently, which probably saved me many gray hairs and possibly an ulcer or two.

Cindy’s crowning achievement took place in the spring following her sixteenth birthday, shortly after she got her driver’s permit. My daughter hated to practice driving with me. I must admit, I tended to yell a bit. Well, maybe more than a bit. After a couple of weeks of this, she’d had enough and decided to take matters into her own hands.

Without anyone’s permission, Cindy borrowed her brother’s car when no one was home, and took off around the corner. I’m sure she was feeling pretty darn cocky at the moment. But she hadn’t counted on seeing me driving down the street toward her with Jackie riding shotgun. That’s when disaster struck.

Cindy ducked down beneath the steering wheel to hide. As you can imagine, it’s pretty near impossible to drive safely from there. She never saw the fire hydrant that suddenly dashed out from the curb and swan-dived into the side of the car. Ironically, we had passed by without noticing who was driving. But we certainly heard the crunch. Jackie turned to look. “Was that Cindy?” she asked incredulously.

I rolled my eyes and pulled over. Cindy quickly backed away from the mortally wounded hydrant, which was now about three feet out of the ground and bent at a weird angle, spraying water in all directions. Cindy screeched around the corner and disappeared. I continued on home, steam whooshing from both ears. Within minutes, the phone rang. Hysterical Cindy was calling from a friend’s house. Maintaining my usual cool, I bellowed, “Get your rear end back here right now!” and slammed down the receiver.

The badly injured car soon limped slowly down the block and wheezed painfully into our driveway. A five foot gash through both doors on the passenger side attested to the ferocity of the hydrant attack. Good grief! The Titanic hadn’t suffered that much damage! I waited with hands on hips, ready to administer the mother of all groundings. Cindy rushed into my arms, trembling and crying uncontrollably. I melted. “Well, as long as you didn’t get hurt…”

But I wasn’t a total pushover. I made Cindy pay for the repairs from her Sweet Sixteen money, even though my heart ached to do so. It was an expensive lesson, to be sure. But a valuable one. I like to believe that all this had some influence in producing the responsible adult woman Cindy became.

Several years later, Jackie turned sixteen. Yes, she also got her permit. What was left of my hair immediately turned white. So did the hydrant around the corner.


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