Just the Other Day: Why Wait?

What are you waiting for?  I ask this all the time.  You don’t have to wait for Veterans Day to thank a vet.  Nor wait until May to send your mom roses and tell her you love her.  Why wait until Valentine’s Day to tell your sweetie how much you love them – or an anniversary to tell your spouse they mean the world to you.  Today is a good day to do any, or all these things.


Events around our house today caused me to think of a Paul Overstreet song which I dearly love “Seein’ My Father In Me.”  The song always makes me think of my own dad and how I find myself to be more like him with time.


It all started when I decided a grilled cheese sandwich would sure be tasty.  I would use a combination of American and Muenster cheese with our favorite bread – Sara Lee, Old Style, 12 Grain. Mmm…this was going to be good. June Bug agreed, and stood at my feet, watching for anything that should fall from the counter to the floor.


Since there were only two slices of bread left in the loaf, I would apply an old technique my dad taught me:  turn the heel of the loaf to the inside of the sandwich and no one, especially heel haters, would know they were getting the end slice of bread.


The sandwich was grilled to perfection, with yellow and white cheese oozing over the golden toasted edges. The heel also toasted perfectly, looking like a normal piece of bread. The thought of it was too much to enjoy alone.  I needed to share this moment.


I carried the sandwich on a plate to the living room, where my wife was comfy on the couch, watching a movie.  She doesn’t care for the end of a loaf, so I thought I would see if she even noticed.  I smiled, displaying the delightful sandwich, offering, “I love you so much, I’m going to let you have the first bite of my sandwich.”


Her eyes lit up, her mouth-watering at the sight of this toasted treat. “Really?  You love me enough you would do that for me?”  “Absolutely, I do.” I answered, adding, “There is something very special about this sandwich. I wanted to see if you would notice.”


Her charming enthusiasm faded away, her face became cross and leery. Even the tone of her voice carried skepticism. “What did you do to it?”  She charged.  “Nothing bad.” I assured, “I made it with American and Muenster cheese.  Go ahead and try it.”


As she lifted a half, the melted cheese in the center where the sandwich had been cut, stretched, trying to hold the two pieces together as one. She twisted the bread a bit as she pulled until the strings of cheese became so thin, they broke apart.


Taking one bite, she melted saying, “This is really good.” That’s when I told her I used the heel for one of the slices of bread. “Uh uh.” She said in disbelief, then took another bite.


“Woah!  Hold on there, my sweetness.  I said you could have the first bite, not half my sandwich!  Especially the bigger half!”  She batted her baby blue eyes my way, saying, “But Honey, I’m so hungry.  Aren’t you going to make a second sandwich anyway?”  Reduced to putty, I said “Okay.” Then took my smaller half and returned to the kitchen.


I pulled the butter and cheese slices out of the refrigerator. Hearing the door move, June joined me in the kitchen, again ready to assist should anything fall to the floor.  From the cabinet I retrieved a fresh loaf of bread. The bread was on sale at the grocery store; the package bore a round orange sticker: “Special.”


I began thinking back to my childhood days. When eating a banana my dad would peel the sticker from the fruit, then apply the yellow and blue label to the forehead of the nearest kid around.  I liked it when he put the sticker on me.  It made me feel like I was the most special banana in the bunch.


I continued his tradition. When my daughters were little, I would put banana stickers on their foreheads or on the tip of their nose. They seemed to like it every bit as much as I did.  Maybe it made them feel special, just as I did when I was their age.   I always preferred Chiquita, over Dole brand. The lady wearing a big hat covered with fruit; The Chiquita Banana Lady, formally, Miss Chiquita – just made their bananas seem more classy.


As I stood there reflecting on this fond memory, I peeled the orange label from the bread package, then positioned it on my assistant’s forehead.  “Melissa, call your dog!”  I cried out toward the living room.  “June Bug! Come here, baby.” She called back.


June trotted off to the living room excited, most likely expecting a treat, or perhaps thinking Melissa would throw a toy for her to catch.  Melissa busted out laughing, “Oh baby, come here. Did Daddy put a sticker on your head?”


I walked to the living room to ask Melissa if she would take a picture of June.  Being the photographer that she is, a photo session was already in progress.  I returned to the kitchen to finish making my sandwich.


I heard my wife get up and walk to the other room.  She came back just a few seconds later with a completely different demeanor than when she left.  “Tom! Did you take my sandwich?” She demanded to know, then continued, “Because there’s a guilty looking dog out here who is about to get it!”  I looked around my feet. My assistant was AWOL.  I could imagine what happened.


Laughing my fool head off I answered, “No, I didn’t take your sandwich.”  Then queried in jest, “Is it gone?” She fired right back, “Are you sure, because I would hate to punish this dog licking her lips, if she didn’t do it.” “I didn’t take your sandwich.” I reassured, then said a prayer for June.


“June! Corner! Now!”  Melissa ordered, with a stiff arm and rigid finger sharply pointing the way.  I walked to the living room in case June needed my protection.  Her head hung in shame and her tail pulled in between her legs, June was lumbering her way to the corner by the front door.


On the coffee table was a yellow plate.  No crumbs, no residual of cheese, no evidence whatsoever that this plate ever sported a sandwich.  Just a clean, empty, yellow plate.


“Seriously?” I began my interrogation. “You left a sandwich on the coffee table with a dog in the room?  What did you expect would happen?”  Melissa defended herself, “I expected I could trust her for just a couple seconds. I came back and my sandwich was gone!”  “Uh huh.” I said with sarcastic sympathy, “The same way I thought I could trust you with just one bite of my sandwich?  Next thing I knew, half my sandwich was gone.”


Again, defending herself, she said, “It wasn’t a half a sandwich, it was only a quarter and she stole it from me.”  “Well you stole half of my sandwich.” I argued on June’s behalf, but Melissa said, “I didn’t steal half your sandwich, you gave it to me.”  “Uh huh.” I said, “You bamboozled me. You batted your eyes and bamboozled me. That’s what you did.”


Melissa insisted, “She shouldn’t have taken my sandwich!” I repeated, “You left a sandwich on a coffee table, with a dog in the room.  What did you expect?”  As she continued to justify her action, I drifted off to thoughts of my dad.


How many times, growing up, did I do something silly.  Then when the obvious occurred, and I complained about the outcome, Dad would say, “What did you expect?”


I returned to the kitchen to finish making the other grilled cheese sandwich, just like the first one. Since it was the first two slices from the new loaf, I applied the old technique my dad taught me: by turning the heel of the loaf to the inside of the sandwich…


I presented the second sandwich to my wife. Intending to lift her spirits, I said, “Look honey, another perfect grilled cheese, just like the first one, and half of this sandwich is for you!” She inquired, “Did you use the heel again?”  I admitted I did.  “I’m really not very hungry anymore.” She said, generously offering, “You can have my half.”


Hmfph.  She doesn’t like the heel. I told her I used the heel – what did I expect would happen? And more so, what am I waiting for?


The happenings of this day rekindled some very fond memories of my dad.  I got a little teary eyed as I started singing to myself, “Yeah, I’m seein’ my father in me, I guess that’s how it’s meant to be. And I find I’m more and more like him each day…”


Even though we’re barely past the first week of January, let me be the first to say, Happy Father’s Day, Dad. You taught me much about life and living, and all in all, it’s going pretty well so far.  The impression you made on me is clearly present.  I am proud to say, I am much like you.  I love you, and I miss you.