I’m one of five kids, all very close in age. When you have five kids, there’s some competition, and some jockeying to be the favorite. Even as adults, though it’s more subtle and no one really admits it, we all want to be seen as "the best" by my dad.
I usually never win. I’m handicapped by the panic and hysteria that are in direct contrast to his calm and rational personality, and I firmly believe he has spent at least half his life rolling his eyes at me.
Now my dad lives with us, in a basement apartment, and while he’s incredibly self-sufficient and rarely asks me for help, occasionally he needs something.
And, because I want him to acknowledge (just once) that yes, I am the best of the bunch, I react swiftly when he needs something. Sometimes too swiftly.
My phone rang. Caller ID showed it was my dad.
"Hey, Jul, do you have a mouse trap?"
"Um, no, not handy. Did you see a mouse?"
"Yes, I saw a mouse scurry by..."
I cut him off. I had my orders.
"Dad, say no more. I’m on it. Don’t worry."
In a girly panic, I called the exterminator. On his cell phone. And told him to come over, NOW, with mouse-hunting gear at the ready. I told him to spare no expense, spare no equipment...just "find that stinkin' mouse."
My dad was running an errand when the exterminator came. I practically gave this man license to knock down walls. He searched every cabinet, every closet, every corner of my dad’s apartment. He looked through the linen closet and behind the refrigerator. He set sticky traps everywhere. He sprayed mind-numbing anti-mouse spray. He possibly cast an anti-mouse spell, because I made it clear to him we are not a hospitable mouse house and he was to do whatever it took to eradicate all mice and ban them for good.
After a solid hour (plus), he came upstairs.
"Mrs. Kennon," he said, mopping his sweaty brow, "I turned that place upside down. I don’t see evidence of a single mouse. I don’t know that there was a mouse, but that place is totally mouse free now. And I’m pretty sure no mouse could survive down there for long, so it should stay mouse free."
I thanked him and wrote him a check. Not a small check. Because it was an emergency, and we were to make absolutely sure my dad didn’t have to worry about mice. Because I care. Because I am a fantastic daughter.
A few hours later, I told my dad what I had done. I was quite proud of the lengths to which I’d gone to solve the problem, so I described in detail every mouse-icidal measure we had taken.
Admittedly, there was a strong hint of "Look at what a good daughter I am, you had a problem and I fixed it quickly and well and you didn’t have to worry about a thing" in my delivery.
"You never let me finish."
"The mouse I saw was outside."
OUTSIDE? You saw a mouse OUTSIDE? That’s where they BELONG, Dad. You don’t set mouse traps OUTSIDE. And you don’t say, "I saw a mouse" to your panic-y DAUGHTER and not expect her to go into DEFCON 1. You don’t let me cut you off without giving me that important detail, Dad. Because I just spent a fortune and eliminated every mouse in the damn county because I was being THE BEST CHILD, Dad.
Did I say that? No.
He was looking far too amused for me to spoil it.