Now that the airlines have become so relentlessly rude and unresponsive to passengers, I almost wish my older son Rory were 11 again. He’d know how to get their attention.
I can say with no hesitation whatsoever that Rory was — and is — the most creative (some would say diabolically creative) and unique individual I’ve ever known. Since he’s adopted, I can’t claim credit (or in some cases, blame) for any of it.
I aver, however, that Rory (now an adult) had psychological warfare skills from which the armed forces could benefit. Send Rory to his room for a time-out and he’d open up both his windows, pound on his bed with a tennis racket, and wail loud enough to be heard all the way down the block, “Please stop beating me, Mommy!” Or worse: “No, no, don’t touch me there!”
He could never be bought at any price. In fact, his fourth grade teacher observed on his report card, “Rory would make the perfect CIA agent as they could pull out his finger nails one by one and he would still never divulge his spelling words.”
I just never knew what Rory was going to do next but I was pretty clear it was going to be something. Scaring the bejeezus out of me was probably his all- time favorite sport, embarrassing me or his father in public a close second. His younger sibling, Henry, could be a target as well. As Olof, my second husband, often said after he came on the scene, “Rory looks for excitement. And finds it.” Oh, did he.
The Rory stories are so plentiful and varied — part of his genius was that he never repeated anything twice — that they’re just referred to in family shorthand: “the Jolly Jumper baby brother slingshot disaster,” “the spray painting Henry silver crisis,” “the Mom’s office fiasco,” “the Jack in the Box ketchup explosion,” “the dropping the big rock down the chimney onto the metal grate two feet from where Mom was reading prank”, “the mummifying Henry episode,” “The Cleveland airport debacle (hopefully the warrant has expired),” “the Chinese restaurant catastrophe,” “the 15-inch rubber penis in the guest bath during Mom’s dinner party event,” and yes, even “the Bomb Squad incident.” In Rory’s defense, the HazMat guys should have realized right away it wasn’t a real bomb before they cordoned off the area.
His handmade Mother’s Day card the year he was 10 read: “You’ve been like a mother to me.”
But sometimes that incredible creativity saved us. We were on our way to the Jersey Shore for a three-week vacation but our flights had left San Diego late so we missed our connection. By the time we got to the Philadelphia airport, it was late — and our bags were nowhere to be found. We didn’t dare leave without them, as we doubted that even the most dedicated airline baggage service was ever going to find us in our remote barrier island location two hours away. The airline baggage lady had nothing but ennui for our situation.
As I was getting increasingly irritated with her profound lack of interest, Henry, 9, sat quietly playing on his Game Boy while Olof read one of his massive technical tomes. Eleven-year-old Rory, who seemed oblivious to my conversation, was careening around the waiting area in a wheelchair he’d found there. Just as it seemed like we were going to spend the night in Philadelphia, he wheeled up to me and, twitching alarmingly, whimpered plaintively, “Mommmmmy, I left my medicine in my suitcase.”
The color drained out of the baggage lady’s face. All of a sudden she can’t type fast enough. Noting his success, Rory cranked it up a few notches, drooling out of the corner of his mouth, making scary guttural sounds, and flailing his arms so hard he fell out of the wheelchair. I thought the baggage lady would faint.
The flight on which our bags were coming in was quickly located and we were showered with food and lounge coupons to make our wait more comfortable. (Rory made a miraculous recovery the second we wheeled him out of the baggage area.) Two hours later, the bags arrived and we were on our way. I was beyond grateful, so much so that I almost forgave him for the Chinese restaurant thing. (I’m still afraid to go back to that place.)