…More Than I Could Chew

At five years old, I was crying and screaming. My mouth was full of blood and the stump of my tongue.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is quoted as saying “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

While Ernest Hemingway stated, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

It seems that faith is used as a building block for trust. At five years old I thought I was in need of much more than faith and trust. But, at the time, that’s all I had to work with.

Right now, any one of you that has access to a computer—or your smartphone—has limitless resources available. You can get help or pointers about anything. You can read articles. Have them read to you. Watch videos, live or prerecorded. You might even gain the privilege of speaking one-on-one with an actual expert in any given field. Forty years ago, that wasn’t an option. You had to know things. You actually had to know things. Like real information. Kept in your head. Answers were never just one click away.

Somehow, my mother knew stuff. I don’t know where she learned it all. What I do know was that she knew a lot. One resource that she would later share with me was a book—a tangible thing, made of paper—entitled, How to Fix Almost Anything. This book had so much knowledge. Small home repairs. Laundry tips. The information… Over the years, I have tried to find a copy, all to no avail. Still, none of that mattered because, as I had already mentioned, I was five. I had bit through my tongue, blood was flowing out of my mouth, and as far as I was concerned I needed a hospital with doctors and nurses. Trained professionals. What I got was a Dixie cup and some cold water.

Those of you who have Earthly orbital experience might recall those small paper Dixie cups. You could find them attached to water coolers. Or, like what we had in my home, you might have had a cup dispenser on your bathroom wall, next to your sink. I loved it. Need a drink? Grab a cup. Fill it up. Drink. Toss in trash. Done. Not, have a severed body part? Use the Dixie cup in lieu of medical assistance. But, that’s what I got. A Dixie cup full of cold water and my first real opportunity to establish faith and trust in my mother.

I don’t recall where my family was headed. What I do recall is that we were late, and my parents were rushing around like crazy people. Us children were trying to stay out of the way, because, as many children know, when moms and dads are stressed, you shouldn’t stand in their way and ask, “When are we going to go?” over and over again. It doesn’t help. So, while jumping on my sister’s bed, waiting to leave home, I fell off, hit my head, and bit through my tongue.

A good portion of the left, front end of my tongue was barely connected. I am certain that with little effort, it would have come completely free.

Before I knew it, my mother was there, listening to me try and explain what had happened, and guiding me into the bathroom for treatment. I figured we’d grab a washcloth and off to the hospital. That’s pretty much what happened when my eye almost got knocked out of my skull the year before. But, nope. Mom gave me a paper Dixie cup filled with cold water. She told me to tilt my head forward and stick my tongue into it. She then left to complete whatever it was she and dad had been doing before I tested to see if gravity was still reliable.

Believe it or not, I did not calm down. No, sir. I continued to freak out because I was adding to the volume contained within the cup. My mother instructed me to dump it out, when close to full, and to refill the cup with cold water—as needed. My mind reeled. Still no hospital?!? I have a severed organ, I needed help. Now, I now know that a tongue is not an organ, it’s a muscle, but at five years old, I didn’t. Okay? So, just stay with me. You’re on my side. Okay?

Eventually, the car was loaded up, and we left for whatever destination priority that overruled my “need” for a doctor. Turns out, I didn’t. I never needed a doctor. I had a mother. More importantly, I had my mother.

She understood that cold water slows blood flow. She knew that the tissues in the mouth are some of the fastest self-repairing tissues in the human body. She knew that if the severed part could remain in contact with the rest of my tongue, it would reattach itself and all would be well. By the time we got to where we were going, it had. By the end of the evening, you could barely tell anything had happened. By the next morning, I was fine. My mother knew all that.

The result of that one incident caused me to know that if my mom said it, it must be true. As a result, there are many things that I encountered throughout my life that never phased me. Because of my mother.

Things like: In some parts of the world, always look before you sit down to use the toilet and always keep the lid closed. Some larger lizards and snakes use the sewers to invade your home.

Or, how to clean your laundry on a river rock and not wear through the fabric. I shared this technique with fellow recruits in boot camp. Why I had to is a long story.

I still vividly recall a severe upset childhood stomach being treated with a box of Barnum’s Animal Crackers and a can of Coca-Cola. As my family, once again, drove off to wherever it was we were going, I laid out in the back of the car (no seat belts, we didn’t care about child safety back then) eating lions and tigers and giraffes while sipping my soda. By the time I had finished half the animals and half the soda, my tummy was back to 100%. My mother admitted that she didn’t know why it worked, she just knew it did. By that time in my life, it didn’t matter. I already trusted her.

Once, while training with Uncle Sam, my Marine Corps unit had our navigation disrupted due to a lack of experience traversing in tropical jungles. (our lead man had lost sight of the path) I looked around, spotted it, and informed my Sergeant where we needed to go. He pointed out that all he could see were trees, bushes, and tall grass. I educated him on how—in a jungle—trees, and bushes don’t grow on the trail, but grass does. It grows fast, and it grows tall. In no time, we were back on the trail and I was now the lead. Later I was asked how I knew that since I had never before been to a jungle. Two words: My mom.

My mother was able to teach me all sorts of things. Because, when I was five, my faith and trust foundation was already built. As a result, when it came to more important things—like the gospel of Jesus Christ—my faith in God developed quickly and easily.

Over the years, I have not always seen eye to eye with my mother. She is not perfect. I am not perfect. Still, her example of dedication as a mother framed in my mind how important that role truly is. And I believe it is even more so now than ever before.

It seems that the traditional nuclear family is well past its half-life. This world is not the same one I grew up in. Honestly, there I times I don’t even recognize it. Regardless, I still believe that the role of a mother is divine. That there is something about the nature of a mother nothing else can ever replace. Sure, Adam was here first, but, Eve is the one who made things happen.

One of the reasons I married my wife was because I knew she would be an amazing mother. That she would be the kind of mother I wanted for my children. I have never been disappointed.

Over the years I have come to understand many things. Some, on my own. Some because of my mother.

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