I grew up in the era of Watergate, when it became a household word, identifying a scandal, and not the hotel that was once a hot spot for both democrats and republicans alike. My parents, being the politically-aware people they were, encouraged (made) my brother and I spend our summer vacation watching television. Don’t get me wrong, Greg and I could spend some hours watching tv–reruns of Batman, I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gilligan’s Island, Slam-Bang Theater, and Andy Griffith. However, in the summer of 1973, our television line-up wasn’t filled with sitcoms, but rather consisted of watching the infamous Watergate hearings.
It was during those days that I first heard of the phrase “expletive deleted.” In case you don’t know it’s meaning or origin, expletive deleted refers to profanity which has been censored by the author or by a subsequent censor, usually appearing in place of the profanity. The phrase became popular after the Watergate scandal when President Nixon was shocked upon seeing the foul language used by White House staffers when reading the transcripts of the White House tapes. He ordered all the cuss words to be removed and replaced with “expletive deleted.” Since I was in upper elementary school at this time, I didn’t quite understand that the exact meaning was “the expletive was deleted.” I thought the entire phrase was a synonym for “cussing” and reported to my parents whenever I heard other kids using “expletive deleteds” at school.
Growing up, my mother always told me that cursing and using foul language was a sign of a poor vocabulary and by using descriptive, big words, you could make your point much better, and might even cause the other person to whom you are having the discussion to at some point refer to a dictionary. I completely agree with her, but honestly, have to admit, I don’t always use those big dictionary words. Sometimes the others just seem to come billowing out instead.
So after that long introduction on potty-mouth decorum, I will get to my point. 2019 has been challenging, to say the least. The chain of unfortunate events began two weeks in, when we had to put our dog of almost 16 years to sleep, and has continued as recently as the week of Easter, when on my way to work one morning, I ran over a rabbit. I mean, who does that four days before Easter? It just seemed like completely bad luck, but I worried that if children across America didn’t receive their chocolates and the like, it may be my fault. I did tell one young and exhausted mother, that if she needed a break from it, she could use me as an excuse, but then I thought about how horrible it would be to tell innocent young children that Mrs. Keith left tire marks all over the Easter Bunny. If only he had been hopping down the bunny trail instead of trying to cross a busy highway.
So in between losing my dog Duke and ending a bunny’s life, here’s what happened. The first incident occurred before school one morning. I stopped at the gas station in Overton and filled up my car, went inside and got a drink, visited with some people I knew, and then got back in the car and drove around the corner to the bank. I should state that this was on one of the coldest mornings of 2019. The bank was located on the left side of the street, and the parking spaces seem to have an extra slant to them, so when you pull in, you have to turn your car around sharply and quickly to get into the space correctly. It was 7:10, there were no other cars around, so I just whipped in haphazardly, not worrying that I was crossing the lines, and my car looked as if it had been parked by a mentally deranged person who was on a all-night bender, and still highly intoxicated. Amazingly, I am a very thorough person and actually do think things through. I had debated leaving my car running, but since another car pulled up after me, I reconsidered. I mean the person could have been a car thief who was just waiting for the right person to leave her car running while at the ATM. I decided to play it safe (as if the streets of Overton are in the least bit unsafe) and turned the ignition off. I jumped out of the car, ran to the machine, and quickly typed in my info, since it was FREEZING outside. I grabbed my money and receipt, and got back in my car. Something just didn’t seem right. The light didn’t come on. I put my key in the ignition, and when I turned it, there was NOTHING. Not a grinding noise, nor a clicking noise. NOTHING. And then it happened. I said a cuss word…*expletive deleted.* It didn’t help the situation at all, but I thought it might make me feel better. I made the dreaded call to my husband, Brian, to inform him that I was once again in a pickle, stranded in front of Texas Bank and Trust in Overton while parked in a manner that was highly embarrassing, and my battery was dead. The phone rang and rang and I didn’t get an answer. I then called the assistant principal, because he’s always at work early too. And again, no answer. I called Brian back, and the same thing happened. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. I was beginning to panic, and decided to call the teacher whose class I was going to be in that day (I’m a JH counselor and it was my day to meet with 7th graders). She didn’t answer either. So then I’m thinking, are they all screening their calls? What the heck? Except I said the other word. *expletive deleted.* I continued my calling frenzy, and finally caught the AP, and he passed the news on to Brian, who showed up about 15 minutes later. He took me to school, and then had to go back and deal with the car. I did contact a friend who works at the bank and told her it was my vehicle, and that contrary to my parking skills, I was okay, but my battery wasn’t. She laughed and said, “You were parked pretty crooked.” On days like that day, I’m extra thankful for small towns and understanding friends.
Fast forward to the following weekend. That Friday, I took my mom to Urgent Care and she was treated for bronchitis. She appeared to be doing okay, and I returned back home. My oldest son called the night before and informed me that he had a “girl” he wanted us to meet. I didn’t know how to act, because he had never actually introduced us to anyone since his college days (and he is in his late twenties). This was, indeed, a red-letter day. The plan was that they would come to our house on Saturday, we would go out and eat, and then they would head back to Nacogdoches. Yes, my son lives with my mother, which is a wonderful thing for both of them. Immediately after receiving the news that he would be bringing a guest, I frantically began cleaning the house. I’d kind of let things slide a bit, still reeling from the sadness of losing my dog. I scrubbed and dusted, vacuumed and mopped, and had things back in order. It reminded me of when the boys were young and after I did some deep cleaning they would ask, “Are we having company?” In case you’re wondering, I’ve yet to receive the coveted and ever-elusive Mother of the Year award.
Saturday morning, Christopher called because he was concerned about my mother, Gramma to him, because she wasn’t acting right. I called and talked with her and sort of thought the same thing. I wanted a second opinion, so I called my brother Greg, and he did a medical intake on her and felt she was okay, that she probably still felt bad. We were in agreement that she simply needed to get some rest. It was kind of nagging at me all day, but what was I to do? Christopher was bringing a girl home, an event worthy of alerting the media! Christopher and his friend, Katie, arrived, and Brian and I, along with Charles and his fiance, Kaitlyn, went out to dinner. When we returned, we visited for a bit, then Chris announced that they were going to head back to Nacogdoches. I told him that before he did anything else, he needed to go by and check on his grandmother.
When the phone rang an hour and 15 minutes later, I knew it wasn’t going to be good. Christopher found Gramma lying on the floor in the bathroom. He got her up and back in bed, and I told him to stay with her and I was on my way. I broke many traffic laws in my journey to mom’s, and also said a few expletive deleteds. On the way, I spoke with Greg and he was heading in the same direction.
I got there first, and the plan was to take her to the emergency room as soon as he arrived. But you know what they say about the best laid plans? I helped mom to the bathroom, as my brother was arriving. When I went back in the bathroom, I found my mother on the floor, and this time she was in an awkward position, and I saw a knot forming on her nose. Greg jumped into action and called an ambulance. At this point, I should interject that Christopher’s friend, Katie, is here witnessing all the charades! As the EMT crew wheeled the gurney into the house, I looked at her and said, “Nothing like laying out all the crazy for you in one night! She laughed a polite laugh, and I hoped this wouldn’t scare her off.
As my mother was being whisked away to the hospital she exclaimed, “Sharon, please get me some undergarments! I don’t think I’m dressed appropriately.” (She was in her robe) One of the guys replied, “Mrs. Brown, they are about to put you in a hospital gown. You’re fine.”
Greg and I were going to follow behind the ambulance, and felt it was ridiculous to take two cars, so I said I would drive. He decided he needed to move his truck, since it was partially blocking the neighbor’s driveway. I was behind him, so I proceeded to back up to give him the space he needed. And then I heard a crash! What in the world? I realized that I had backed right into Christopher’s car which was also parked in the street. *expletive deleted* My rear camera hadn’t shown a thing! In my defense his car is black. I pulled up a little, and got out to inspect the damage. I found some headlight shrapnel, and his license plate was dented in. Other than that, it looked okay. In November, when the SFA basketball team went to a tournament in Ireland, Christopher’s car was parked in a garage at the airport. When he returned from the trip, he found a note on his car from an eye witness who stated that someone ran into his car and left the scene. The eye witness got the license plate number and also contacted the police, which really expedited the investigation. As I walked through the front door to inform my son that I had just backed into his car of 7 months, I asked, “Hey, have you gotten your car fixed from the hit and run accident?” He looked a little puzzled and replied, “No,” to which I added, “Well, that’s good, because I just backed into it.” Without hesitation he responded by saying, “That’s ok. It seems to be a magnet.” I apologized and jumped in my car with my brother and we went to the hospital where we discovered my mother had a UTI on top of her bronchitis and that is what made her a little loopy.
In early February, we were going to Nacogdoches to watch the Lumberjacks play, and also take Kaitlyn to pick up her wedding dress which had been altered by a lady in Nacogdoches. The guys stayed at Gramma’s house, while my mother, Kaitlyn and I drove down highway 7 to retrieve her lovely gown. Kaitlyn tried it on, and it was perfect. She looked stunning. The weather had been horrible the last few days. In fact, Nacogdoches had a pretty bad freeze and the trees looked like large icicles. But I felt in my heart, today was going to be a good day. The beautiful bride-to-be was a sight to behold, the sun was coming out, and the next day, I was going to pick up my new puppy, Lorelai. Surely, things were about to change. 2019 simply had to get better.
We got in the car, after carefully placing the wedding dress in the back, and we were headed to my mom’s to get ready for the ballgame. The driveway was not paved, and because of the torrential rains that east Texas had been experiencing, it was very muddy. On either side of the narrow drive, there were deep ditches. I’m sure you can see where this is headed.
I put the car in reverse and without even touching the gas, it sort of bounced back on it’s own. When I did hit the pedal, I heard and felt a spinning sound, and exclaimed, “Oh, no! I think we’re stuck!” I should have been so lucky. I decided to move forward and get out of the rut, and then back out again. I slowly eased ahead, and then put the car in reverse, and immediately slid backwards and heard a crash. I was in the ditch to the right of the driveway! Perfectly wedged between the yard and the road, sort of like a bridge. And then I said it! *expletive deleted* I’m sure I horrified my mother, and in that moment, was thankful that she could no longer ground me. I was able to step out onto the driveway from my side of the car. I grabbed my phone, and as I was surveying the situation called my husband, who asked, “What do you want me to do? I rode with you so I can’t pull you out, and your mom’s car and Christopher’s car certainly can’t.” As usual, he was right. I told him I would have to call a wrecker. As I was about to figure out who to call, a large white truck pulled up, and the man driving asked, “Are you stuck?” I wanted to answer, “What was your first clue?” but realized, there was no other way to start the conversation, so I placed my sarcasm aside. When he said he could pull me out, I could hear the angels singing in the background, “Hallelujah!” He pulled his truck in front of my car, and he and his wife both got out. They were wearing SFA shirts and were also going to the game. They were from Houston, and had driven out to Lake Nacogdoches to look at some land before the game. As we were breaking the ice on this awkward and embarrassing situation, the passenger side door opened, and my mom was waving me over. I screamed for her to shut the door, because the ditch was on her side, and I envisioned her tumbling out of the car into the muddy trench below. “I hope your seatbelt is still on! Shut the door so you don’t fall out!” The friendly stranger connected the strap which would rescue me from this humiliating situation, and I got in the car, preparing to steer, hopefully in the right direction. As I put my seatbelt on and tried to calm my nerves my mother said, “I was trying to tell you, I believe I know those people.” I replied with, “No. They are from Houston, so maybe they just look like some people you know.” She stated again, “They look very familiar,” and I again said, “Well, I’m not sure how you could know them.”
After we were retrieved from the ditch, we all exited the car, and I heard the man and his wife exclaim, “Look! It’s Mrs. Brown!” My mother could have said, “I told you so,” but instead she said, “I knew I recognized you. You are so-and-so, and you were in my government class in 1980-something. Your wife was a cheerleader. I didn’t teach her, but I knew her.” Again, there is nothing like small towns and kind people.
If I were keeping score in 2019, it would be my car=0, the Universe=4. However, Dora the Explorer didn’t sustain any damage, and no one was injured, (well, except for that poor rabbit). For that, I can be thankful. So what have I learned? Sometimes expletive deleted words may make you feel better. They may be a way of releasing frustration, and stress. And sometimes they seem to add emphasis to certain things you’re talking about. I’ve seen a t-shirt that says, “I love Jesus, and I cuss a little.” That may be cute, but seeing that shirt is a reminder that it’s not ok to use foul language all the time. Sure, words might slip out, but I know when that happens, I need to think about my poor vocabulary and what that might represent to other people. I’ve started trying to use other phrases and even made up my own words to use instead. Of course, son-of-a-biscuit eater isn’t new, but it has come in handy from time to time.
In this journey through life, I am continually learning new things, and usually it’s because of events, situations, and circumstances that haven’t always been pleasant. We learn more from our mistakes than from our victories. In the everyday struggle of trying to be a lady, to Re-Belle, I am more aware of how important words are, and the words we choose to use to others. As a work-in-progress, some days are better than others, but being aware and making an effort to correct things is a huge step. Small victories are still victories, and should be embraced and celebrated.
Case in point: A couple of weeks ago, when my husband was driving my car, he commented, “I really need to wash your car. I can’t see a thing in the rear camera…”