Laugh

Laugh
Click any letter for a look at my prize-winning essay from the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. You don't even have to buy a vowel.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


A Little Boy Gone on 9/11

by Carole Conner Oldroyd on Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 3:05pm



I post this every 9/11.  I made a promise to myself and to this little boy's memory that I would never forget him.

This is Rodney Dickens. He was only 11 years old when he lost his life on September 11, 2001. He will forever be the face I see when I think of that terrible day.

When photos started streaming in on TV after the terrorist attack, his little face struck me. I began to wonder about him. As a mother whose kids were close to Rodney's age at that time, so many things ran through my mind.

My first thought was, "Who was with this little boy? Was he traveling alone?" My boys had flown alone several times.

My heart broke when I wondered if he knew what was about to happen; that his life was about to come to an end. Did anyone put their arms around him, or did he face the those final moments as alone as any human being could ever be? Did he cry? Was he afraid? Did anyone hold his hand? Did he pray for God to rescue him? Did he have dreams, goals, plans for his future? Was he even old enough to begin dreaming of what he would do when he was all grown up?

When I began researching to find out who little Rodney was, I learned that he was, indeed, without his parents. He was traveling with classmates. Again, parental instincts crept in and I sobbed thinking about his mother and his father. Were they watching as this all happened? How devastatingly helpless must have been the feeling, knowing that they were powerless to protect their child from the wickedness of these terrorists.

I have had nightmares about Rodney crying for his parents in the seconds before his life was brutally stolen away on what should have been a day filled with joy.

And then my emotions turned to rage. Correlations between this innocent child and my own children filled me with so much anger, knowing that the terrorists would not have cared if my children were on that plane. Regard for precious human life was tossed aside like an unwanted object by those . . . I'm sorry, I cannot use the word "people". In fact, I don't have any other word for them besides terrorists. I feel that nothing appropriate even exists in the English language.

As I write this, my arms are covered in goose bumps. My eyes are filled with tears. This child. This sweet-faced little boy lost his life before he even had a chance to begin living.

Rodney, I never knew you. But I love you. With all of my heart, I love you.

As long as I live, you will never be forgotten.



Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Legacy


As far as legacies go, my tastes lie with something simple, like a check. Or stock. Or heirloom china. Unfortunately Mama wasn’t the heirloom china type. What I got when she departed for the peaceful place where mothers don’t have to cook, clean, or say, “If I told you once, I told you a million times,” was not the inheritance I assumed was my birthright. What she left me was the very thing I was the least qualified to handle. Wisdom.

Giving me a lapful of life lessons is like tossing me a copy of the Atkins diet and a size six sheath dress and telling me the party starts at seven. You may as well shove the plans for building a biplane into my arms and tell me to be in Paris by midnight. When it comes to legacies, it’s best to just go ahead and hand me a gold bar.

Now that I’m in the stage of life where good advice usually involves a recipe loaded with fiber, I realize that what Mama left me was a handbook for life. Thanks to the seeds my mom planted in the rocky garden of my mind over the years, I’ve sailed through many of the stormy seas of life without having to evacuate to life boats. Turns out Mom knew best all along. Here are Mama’s Rules to Live By—along with some of my own observations for those who, like me, have trouble following directions.

1. There is something to love in every person. However, there are some people who hide that something really well. Actually, Mama just said that first part. I learned the second part from my sister.

2. If you rip a page out of your brother’s comic book, he can rip a page out of yours. This is a mother of four’s version of The Golden Rule. I learned to treat friends, family, and their possessions with respect. And I’ll never know what happened to Archie and Jughead that day at Riverdale High.

3. Give a child two cookies; one for each hand. This is a smart idea because it keeps the child busy for twice as long, diverts him from "helping" with your biscuit dough and prevents you from having to walk every morning for a week to work off two cookies that you would have eaten to relieve stress if your child had two hands free to plunge into the dog's food.

4. Don’t honk your horn at anybody. At first I assumed this was Mama’s version of traveling etiquette, but now I realize that she understood road rage long before anyone held up traffic trying to read road signs through the wrong part of skinny designer bifocals.

5. Always have a skill you can fall back on. By this, I know now that she meant a skill that will continue to be of service to the Community of Man. Unfortunately the skill I chose was typing, which caused typewriters to immediately become extinct.

6. If you’re not tall enough to see out the car window, sit on a pillow. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome. Even the Marines agree with her.

7. If something particularly unpleasant is happening to you, there’s probably a lesson involved. Wade through a puddle or two on the linoleum and you’ll remember to let the new puppy out. You’ll also remember to buy a mop.

8. Don’t sell things you can give away. That might not make sense in an e-Bay world, but knowing that someone who needs it will have a warm coat for the winter goes a long way toward offsetting the thrill of bagging $1.50 for your old hula lamp in an online auction.

9. Play to win. Unless that gets in the way of playing for fun. When playing Scrabble with an elderly woman who can’t see past her elbow, give her a break if she thinks she drew five blanks. Come to think of it, that’s how Mom always won at Scrabble, so there’s probably an extra lesson tucked in there.

10. Always take time to watch the birds at the birdfeeder. Time spent with nature is a peace of mind investment. And last winter, a tiny chickadee who muscled his way through a crowd of rowdy cardinals to have lunch gave me some great ideas for handling the next family reunion. And the big project due at work.

11. Don’t worry, it’ll get worse. This was my mom’s slogan. When I was three and ran to her with a skinned knee, she said it. She was right. I broke my arm. When I was thirty-three and getting divorced, she said it again. And soon my kids became teenagers. But by then, I had it figured out. If things can get worse, the problems that seem overpowering right now aren’t the end of the world. Things can also get better. So if teaching two teenaged boys to drive and adding them to my insurance is the worst life has to offer, I can handle it.

But I sure wouldn’t turn down a check.