I want to tell you about coming downstairs one morning last week to find Clay covered in blood, but first I have to explain about my father-in-law.
My father-in-law, a man with a heart as big as a motorhome, has reached that stage in life where he gives things away. It doesn’t really matter what it is. A half eaten box of cornflakes, a set of socket wrenches, some bent wire hangers, cash. For awhile there you couldn’t leave his house without being offered something.
“Take it. I don’t need it.”
After his wife died, he began gradually stripping his place to the bare essentials. I used to imagine that one day I’d visit, and he would be sitting in his underwear on a lawn chair in an otherwise empty house.
“Take the chair,” he’d say. “What do I need it for?”
At the moment he is in rehab after a brief hospital stay, preparing for a move to a new living situation. (“So happy to hear,” Clay typed, when we told him about his Grandpa Tony’s new digs.)
During a visit two weeks ago, my wife found her father using an odd nail clipper contraption like something from the Inquisition. The key element to this rig was an adjustable cutting area that swings in a 360 degree radius, allowing you, for example, to cut the toenails of a camel – if you happen to be in the Sahara and are killing time in an oasis after dinner. He ordered it special from a catalog. Naturally, he offered the device to my wife. Cutting Clay’s fingernails and toenails can be an interesting challenge, much like attempting caligraphy in a row boat during a hurricane, so we are always in search of any advantage. She put the clippers in her purse.
Which brings us to this past Monday morning. On my way downstairs to grab some breakfast, I notice Clay’s bus waiting in our driveway. Clay and my wife are in the kitchen, and I point this out. My wife blurts out a word that captures her feelings about that circumstance and bolts out the back door – like I use to when the ice cream man was waiting in the street. Wanting to be helpful, I grab Clay’s backpack and hustle him down the walk.
We get to the gate, and she stops me.
“What are you doing?”
“He’s covered in blood,” she says.
I look down and sure enough, his hands look like he dipped them in ink and his shirt and shorts are spattered with quarter-size red blotches. Don’t snicker. You wouldn’t have noticed either in all the excitement.
“I was trying to cut his fingernails with the clippers from my father, and took off a chunk of skin at the top of his finger. Those things are a menace.”
It isn’t clear exactly how this transpired, but this isn’t the time to dig for details. Clay can remove a bandage quicker than you can put it on. It is a special skill. So, after two solo attempts by my wife, I join in, and together we overlap three Band Aids, buying a few minutes for the bleeding to stop. We change his clothes, get his hands cleaned up and my wife drives him to school.
Clay takes the whole thing in stride. My wife is ready for a shot of Grandpa’s Sambuca in her coffee at 8 a.m.
Just another Monday morning.
The moral of the story: Give a man a fishing pole, and he’ll catch his breakfast. Give him some new-fangled nail clippers and God knows what could happen.
The clippers have been returned to their rightful owner.