Forgiveness and cuddles

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

About 40 years ago, the hospital CEO decided that we needed to demonstrate a stronger presence throughout our healthcare service area. He assigned a few members of the management team to work with an organization in Southwest Ohio that helped coordinate free health screening.

At that time, the program was called HealthWorks. They provided most of the public relations and advertising. We provided the manpower.

It was a very labor-intense project and soon became a regular early spring event. We had to contact numerous facilities within several counties of Clinton Memorial Hospital’s service area. Then each host facility would help us schedule daylong events of health assessment and screening.

During a typical HealthWorks week, we would change locations every day, set up the testing facilities and perform free healthcare assessments on hundreds of people. The paperwork alone could be a nightmare.

At that time, I was a single parent. Juggling work duties and being a department manager at CMH and being a full-time mom and dad kept me extremely busy.

I loved it. I was the only person I knew who received both Mother’s Day cards and Father’s Day cards. It was fun.

But that particular year, during HealthWorks, I was stressed. I thought I was getting everything done, but I was wrong. Also, unfortunately, I allowed the stress to carryover to home.

When I came home one day in early April, I still felt anxious. The day had been crazy-busy. I came home thinking that I had forgotten something.

As soon as I walked into the house, I saw chores that Josh was supposed to have gotten done after he got home from school and before I got home. Very little had gotten done. I was irritated. He did not have an excuse or even an explanation. Immediately, I snarled at him and sent him to his bedroom.

Then I walked into the kitchen to open a cold beer and try to relax. The mail was on the kitchen counter. The stack of mail didn’t look right. Besides the typical bills and junk mail, there were some card-sized envelopes shuffled into the stack. They were all addressed to Josh.

FLASH! The light in my worn-out brain suddenly came on. It was Josh’s birthday.

He had had a hurt look on his face when I scolded him and sent him to his room, but he had not said a word about his birthday. I knocked on his door and asked, “Can we talk?”

As I sat on the edge of his bed, apologies came tumbling out of my mouth. I couldn’t apologize enough. I was apologizing so much and so fast, I think I might have spilled some apology all over my shirt.

We ended up going to his favorite restaurant. We might have gone to a movie.

I can’t remember what else we did that night, but I was willing to do almost anything, absolutely anything, to make up for forgetting his birthday.

That may be one of my most embarrassing moments as a Dad. That is also one of the amazing things about kids. They have an almost unlimited power of forgiveness.

As soon as I started apologizing, Josh started saying, “It’s OK.” We sat there and hugged. The unlimited love and heart of a child can put us all to shame.

During this time of business shutdown and social isolation, we have come to appreciate contacts with friends and family more than usual.

Our adult Sunday school class meets each week via Zoom. I look forward to our discussions, but seeing those friendly faces, smiles and hearing the good humor in their voices really lifts my spirits. We can’t wait until we have in person discussion, but until then, Zoom is the next best thing.

Our kids have done a good job of taking isolation seriously and when they could not isolate, they self-quarantined. The two weeks after the fair were horrible because everyone stayed home. When they tested for coronavirus, all the tests came back negative. Now, we’re seeing each other more often.

The two little ones even spent an overnight with Memaw and Pappy. What a joy that was. We shared lots of time playing, giggling, laughing, and a lot of extra time just cuddling. We love to cuddle.

Clayton and Claire think sleeping with Memaw and Pappy is fun. Sleeping with the little ones is certainly an adventure.

Claire wanted to watch TV. So, we found something called Peppa Pig. I turned the volume down so low we could hardly hear it, but it made the kids happy to have it on. The problem was that after she fell asleep, she wiggled and moved around all night. It was like trying to sleep with a propeller.

The next morning after Pappy’s special pancakes and sausage breakfast we found more time to cuddle on the couch. It was a great visit.

We now have a framed calendar hanging on our wall with all the family birthdays listed.

I certainly do not want to go through the guilt of forgetting a birthday ever again.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist