Friday, November 30, 2007

34 Things We Love about John

November 30, 1973
Jacksonville, Florida
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

On a chilly November night, a week after my original due date had come and gone, I decided the pain I was having on a fairly regular basis was not gas, but the real thing. I was in labor. This should have been a good thing, however, I was home alone. There was no one to drive me to the hospital or to watch Big Sister Wendy. The expectant father was at the airport picking up the expectant baby sitter.
When Dad got home, we headed for the hospital, in the MG. No easy task getting in, considering my size. As we neared the railroad crossing that is known for its lengthy trains, we were in luck. No bells or bars to dodge. And don't think for a minute that James wouldn't have tried to beat the train! He was, after all, a Naval Aviator!

I checked into the labor room, Dad was asked to wait outside. That was back in the days before everyone in the family was allowed in the pleasantly decorated delivery suite. However, I'd taken a "Lamaze" class and taught myself to laugh in the face of pain. Well, not laugh exactly, but perhaps grin and bear it.
I'd learned how to breathe my way through the first stage of labor, and puff my way through the transition stage. I was ready. Once Jim came in to help me push, it was going to be a perfect family moment. "Was" being the operative word. Three things happened simultaneously to change the tempo of things.
First of all there was a major accident, the ER was crowded, and the evening nurses' shift change was in full swing. People were scurring around. The obstetrician had been called, but was nowhere near the hospital. Secondly, John decided he wasn't going to wait around, he wanted out. So much for slow and easy rhythmic breathing. What I distinctly remember is a young nurse screaming at me "Don't push!" as she quickly rushed me down the hall on a gurney. I was neither calm nor pain free. I screamed right back at her, "I want a spinal!" (The 1973 version of an epidural that has become the pain cocktail of choice for most modern mothers-to-be.)
And thirdly, James got involved in some Frankenstein movie and didn't know I was having a baby until the nurse came out and said, "Uh, excuse me, Mr. Ellington. Would you like to leave the show long enough to say hello to your wife and new son?
The good news is all's well that ends well.

It's been 34 years since that eventful evening. I can't say it feels like yesterday, but I do have to wonder where all the years between then and now have gone. John has a teenage daughter of his own. Time marches on.
In honor of that little boy baby who has, since the day he was born, taken things in his own hands and done things his way, here are 34 things we love about John (in no particular order):

1. John is a good guy to have around in an emergency. He thinks fast on his feet. He knows no fear. For example: When John was about 4 he had a real thing going for SuperHeros. He wore a Superman cape and and red rubber boots almost 24 hours a day. One day he and I were riding in a friend's car when her muffler dropped off. There we were 2 damsels in distress and one pint sized superman, what to do? No problemo. Superman turned into Spiderman, showed us the string he'd been carrying around and suggested we use it to tie the muffler up. Damn! Why didn't we think of that!
2. John is a rescuer. Mostly animals, but often times people. Once when he was young he discovered some teeny tiny baby birds and brought them home. Convinced we could save them, John called a wild bird rescue center. They told him what to do and how to do it, including feeding the little things mashed up cat food from an eye dropper every 2 hours. As I think back, that doesn't sound often enough, and maybe it wasn't. After being up most of the night, the babies died. They really didn't have much of a chance, but in their short lives they were well cared and gently loved by a boy with a big heart.
3. That reminds me of the number of times I read "Are You my Mother" to Johnson. He loved that book. His other favorite book was "Where the Red Fern Grows."
4. To say that oil and water mix better than John and school would be an understatement. He was the proverbial square peg in a classroom of round holes. But today he reads encyclopedias and atlases. He can tell you how tropic temperatures and air currents come together to make hurricanes and what direction they will travel.
5. He should have been a veterinarian or animal "whisperer." Then he'd be getting paid for what comes naturally to him. I went with him once to watch a colt be born. He was right in the mix the whole time. I had to leave because I got a little light headed.
6. I repeat, he is an animal lover. Cats. Dogs. Horses. Iguanas [Photo L: Lou] John loves any and all animals. If you don't believe us, just ask Martha how many cats and dogs he brought home.
7. Johnson can dance. I think our whole family will always remember how he got out on the dance floor down at a restaurant in Mexico and cut a rug with a woman more than twice his age.I'm not sure if he can still boogie today, but he's passed on a lot of his moves to his daughter.
8. He's stylish. Always has been. Up until the time he went to middle school, I was in charge of John's wardrobe. I bought things that would last and that I could afford, i.e. cheetahs jeans from Mervyn's. Once he became a junior high stud muffin, he'd have nothing to do with clothes that didn't have a designer label in them. [Photo L: Mr. Cool]
9. John is the keeper of Ellington memories. He never fails to remember a detail from 20+ years back. Of course, he can say anything he wants because he knows the rest of us can't challenge him.
10. He swims and can hold his breath like a fish. He even had a waterbed growing up. He's a waterbaby.
11. His temper may scare the bejesus out of you sometimes, but the reverse of that is also true -- his capacity for love and his big ol' heart are boundless. (And you know if you ever run into trouble, John can and will protect you.)
12. John is a weatherman. Is there a hurricane or a tornado coming your way? John's on the weather watch, studying the path of the storm. And if the eye of the storm happens to be pointed right where he is, not to worry. He's not going anywhere.
13. He's a football lover. Need help with a football pick? John's your man. The Dallas Cowboys will always be his team. Even when they stink.
14.He's a woodworker. Back in wood shop in junior high, his sister produced a very fine tick tack toe board during her class time. When John took the same class, he produced a beautiful custom coffee table that still resides in Mom's house. (Nobody knows where that tick tack toe board ended up.)
15. He's not a big fan of authority.
16.He appreciates neat handwriting.
17. Like most Ellingtons, John has a deep affection for Sharpies, fancy pens and mechanical pencils.
18. He's a good driver. Even in the snowy ice. One time, before John even had his license, he had to take over the wheel from his big sis who was losing control of the car on an icy Virginia road.
19.He's a good Dad. He can speak "teenager." [Photo R: John, Wendy and Ashley]
20.The man loves his blankets.
21. I think the sun feeds his soul.
22. He feels the need...the need for speed. Thankfully, he's toned down his driving rush, but he's up for any and all rollercoasters. I imagine he would not turn down a ride in a jet. Or a hydro speedboat. Or a NASCAR.
23. He's loyal. His friends are family to him. [Photo R: John and Eric]
24. John is the Ansel Adams of the Ellingtonfamily. He takes great pictures! For that matter, so does Wendy. Maybe its something inherited.
25. Need Christmas lights hung? Call John. He may try to convince you Christmas has been cancelled, but in the end, he'll string enough twinkly lights to rival the Aurora Borealis.
26. Need someone to climb on your roof to assess the damage during a raging storm, or ice blizzard? Call John.
27. Need someone to dangle from a crane to repair something? Call John.
28. Need something dis-mantled? Call John. He is as good a taker-aparter as they come.
29. John has a natural sense of direction. He's never lost. Or if he is lost, he doesn't let you know it, which, if you are lost, is a comfort.
30. Despite a disturbing start to his deep sea fishing experiences, John is a premier fisherman. He is also not afraid of getting a hook out of a shark's mouth. I'm not sure this is a good thing.
31. He has also inherited the Ellington gambling gene. He is as at home in Las Vegas as his father and sister and Wayne Newton.
32. There's a story about John and a BB gun war. Let's just say the insurance company, his father and I were all really grateful that John was not actually in the war. He was merely the arms dealer.
33. I don't think John is afraid of anything. He's been known to have a face off with a barracuda. In the end, the fish decided to leave well enough alone.
34. John doesn't know many strangers. His Aunt Linda convinced me it would be okay to put him on an airplane by himself to spend the summer with her in Hawaii. I begrudgingly agreed. When the time came I walked him onto the plane to turn him over to the attendant who would be in charge of his safety for the duration of the flight. I cried like I was sending him off to war. John sat down next to the prettiest girl on the plane and never even said goodbye.
This compilation of John memories and fondnesses was not done by ME alone. Jim and Wendy helped a lot. We love you Johnson. Thanks for all you do to make us smile. Happy Birthday ... and many, many more. [Photo L: Some of my favorite people in one of their favorite places, Las Vegas.]

Still wondering how so many years have passed, I am,
Merry ME


Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, little bro! I love this list -- hope it amuses you. Have a good time this weekend with the scooby gang!


Anonymous said...

Interesting to know.