“LITTLE MAN ON THE COUCH”…On Nephews & Little Brothers

Little’s therapist delves into relationships.

TP: Good to see you, Little. How was Thanksgiving?

LM: Hmm—kind of a good news/bad news deal, doc. Good news: I was able to hustle some pretty fine turkey scraps from mom. You gotta love those leftovers. Bad news: The “kid with the plaid pajamas” was there.

TP: Kid with the plaid pajamas?

LM: Yeh, the oldest grandson. When he was younger and his family lived far away, they’d stay overnight. (Not any more, thank God.) He always wore these crazy-looking plaid pj’s, so we dubbed him accordingly.

TP: What? The plaid pj’s bothered you?

LM: Nah. The kid bothered me.  He just LOVED getting me riled up, thinking I’d chase him around the house. You know me, doc…the only things I’m chasing have four short legs and make a nice snack.

TP: But the kid’s grown up now, right?

LM: I’ll say. Kid’s growin’ like a weed. He’s almost as tall as dad…but he’s still a dweeb. I’m telling you, doc, the kid’s not in the house five minutes before you hear, “where’s Uncle Little?”

TP: Uncle Little?

LM: Yeh, you believe that? Where’d this kid learn anatomy? Anyway, he likes to play with fire, I guess. He comes over, all uncle little coochie-cooing, then tries petting my belly (NOT HAPPENING!) and seeing how narrowly he can avoid getting his arm ripped off. I don’t know…maybe the kid wants to be a snake charmer when he grows up, so he’s trying to perfect the art of the narrow escape. Good thing dad loves him so much or I’d consider introducing him to the art of “Oops! Better get some band-aids.”

TP: Does it bother you that your dad loves the kid so much?

LM: No, of course not! Dad’s crazy about all the grandkids. I understand that. Heck, a bunch of them were here before me. I don’t mind sharing him with them.

TP: Unlike Curly?

LM: Boy, you’re just dying to get into that Curly thing, aren’t you, doc?

TP: Well, from what I heard…

LM: Exactly what did you hear, doc?

TP: Well, first off, I have to tell you that I actually saw a picture of Curly from that time…cute as a button, little orange and white bundle that he was.

LM: (Groans). Right—a real cutie. So…you heard?

TP: I heard Curly was in a room blocked off by a makeshift barrier and you knocked it over like you were some crazed gunslinger busting through the saloon’s swinging doors in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. And that it got, well, ugly from there.

LM: That’s it? What about the quarantine? The party? The derecho? The blackout? Hear any of that, doc?

TP: Well…

LM: It’s called perspective, doc—extenuating circumstances? I’d think a guy in your profession would want to know about that stuff.

TP: I do, Little. Please…enlighten me.

LM: OK. First off, all I heard for weeks was how I was about to meet “my little brother” and how great it was going to be for me to have one. Someone to play with, snuggle with, get me moving, blah, blah, blah. I figured okay, I’d check him out.

TP: Sounds like a very mature reaction on your part.

LM: I thought so, too.

TP: But…

LM: But the kid never posts. First, they say he’ll be here in three days. Then, oops, make that three weeks. “He has to stay with the doctor a little longer. He might have picked up a little bug,” mom told me. A little bug. Alarm bells are now ringing in my ears. Know what the little bug was?

TP: Un-uh.

LM: Ringworm.

TP: Uh-oh.

LM: Right. Contagion-city. “Play with and snuggle with”—I don’t think so!

TP: But that was all sorted before he arrived at your house, right?

LM: Wrong. The kid finally shows up (which I’m not supposed to know—JOKE!!) but he hasn’t actually been cleared 100%, so he needs to be isolated for the first week (which turned out to also be the last week, but more on that in a minute).

TP: What do you mean: you weren’t supposed to know?

LM: Well, until he was 100% cleared, they couldn’t risk having the little germ merchant infect me or anybody else, so they decided to isolate him upstairs in the back part of the house, where mom’s office is and I rarely go. Thing is, the back part of upstairs is directly over the kitchen where, you can imagine, I spend a substantial amount of my time.

TP: So you’re hearing him up there.

LM: Big time. Mom’s up there, dad too, occasionally, playing run-and-fetch with him and carrying on about how adorable he is (Did they think I’d suddenly gone deaf?) and he’s racing from one end of the house to the other like the damn Energizer Bunny. Duh. I’m right downstairs…I can hear you! This goes on for four straight days until the party.

TP: What party?

LM: The “annual girl’s party.” Mom and two of her friends started it a few years back and, this year, it was mom’s turn to host. We’re talking anywhere from 30 to 45 women—drinking, eating, yaketty-yakking, singing “I Am Woman”—you know, stuff like that.

TP: Let me guess, they all wanted to meet Curly.

LM: Bingo! Normally, I could wrap a group like that around my big, lovable paws. They’d be like that chippie at the vet’s office…you know, the one who calls me her stud muffin…all gaga about how handsome I am, wanting to give me a rub and, maybe, a small hors d’oeuvre. I mean I can work a room like that, doc.

TP: But Curly cut into your act.

LM: Sure. Who doesn’t love a kitten? Oh, he might have cooties? OOH, but he’s sooo cute! Please. Gag me!

TP: I’m sure you still got plenty of attention that night, Little Man.

LM: What we got that night was a storm so bad, they had to make up a new name for it. A derecho, they called it. Hit just toward the tail end of the party…and, I might add, just as I was settling in nicely with a young lady who was prepping me a little midnight snack.

TP: Yeh, that was a nasty storm. You lose power?

LM: You bet. And on what, on one of the hottest, most humid nights of the year! And it only got worse over the next couple days.

TP: Is that what pushed you over the edge?

LM: It went down like this, doc. By the end of a weekend with no power, 95+ degree-days with 95% humidity, we were ALL skirtin’ the edge. Toward the end of the last day (Curly’s last day), mom and dad made the fateful decision that the little germ bucket on the hot, stuffy third floor should be relocated to the basement—a virtual climatic paradise by comparison. And so they began moving him and all his paraphernalia downstairs.

TP: Where were you?

LM: Watching this sideshow, of course. At first hoping they had, perhaps, decided this was not a fit place for the little bugger to live and they were taking him elsewhere, but then realizing that, NOOO, they were moving him squarely into MY territory (not to mention the best sleeping quarters in the hothouse).

TP: So that’s when you turned into the psycho, crazed gunslinger?

LM: That’s a bit harsh, doc, but…yes. Even then, it might have worked out, but dad pushed me over the line.

TP: How so?

LM: Well, when I busted into the basement room (where mom, dad, and the little gremlin all were), everybody freaked. I had no choice (I repeat, NO CHOICE) but to exert my position as the alpha cat. The little squirt TOTALLY (in my opinion) OVEREACTED and went all scary mary.

TP: Which sent your dad into protective mode.

LM: Exactly.

TP: Which made you more upset, given the special bond you have with your dad.

LM: Right again.

TP: Which set the whole situation spiraling out of control.

LM: Easy to see why you’re the therapist, doc.

TP: Tell me this, Little. Do you ever look back and wish, perhaps, things had gone down differently? You know, if Curly wouldn’t have had to be isolated, if there’d been no derecho—if you’d have had a “normal” chance to get to know him?

LM: I could be a smartass and just answer, NO. But the truth is, I’m pretty set in my ways at this point. And more importantly, I’ve got mom and dad pretty set in MY WAYS. Where’s the upside in messing with that? I don’t see it, doc. Besides, from what I hear, Curly ended up with a pretty sweet deal.

TP: He went to Miss Genny’s, right?

LM: Yep. And from what I hear, that’s like going to a pet sanctuary. They got a couple dufus but lovable dogs out there, some outside cats, lots of family visitors who never travel petless, and another kid Curly’s age who, by the way, they got special, just to be inside company for Curly. I think the boy landed on his feet, doc.

TP: I think you’re right. Now you need to do the same, Little. Off the couch, please.

LM: You got it, doc. What’s up for next time?

TP: Maybe we’ll get into that foot fetish your mom keeps railing about.

LM: Sounds good. By the way, I’m a big fan of those Evolv Cruzers you’re sportin’ today. Really love ‘em in that toffee color.

TP: Bye, Little.

LM: See ya, doc.

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