Head calls part of life for Uncle Grunk

Published 11:45 pm Saturday, June 25, 2011

A long, long time ago, in a place far, far away where other peoples were shooting at us, I served in the United States Navy, and a lot of the language has stuck with me the rest of my life. When the phone rings and I answer it, if the caller asks for “Uncle Bob,” I reply, “Uncle Bob, Aye,” as we used to have to respond on bridge watches, except it was “Lieutenant Neill, Aye,” then. I still determine who has the right-of-way at intersections by looking to see the other car’s port running light. And I still say “head” instead of “bathroom.”

Matter of fact, I’m trying to teach my 4-year-old and 2-year-old grandboys to say they want to “make a head call,” instead of saying that they “need to go potty,” which is not a manly declaration at all. Yet that was the announcement which one of them made at naptime Saturday, after spending the morning in the Swimming Hole and eating a lunch of King Oscar sardines and smoked gouda cheese and crackers, with peanut butter and molasses sandwiches. After such a manly lunch, a head call might have been expected, really.

As a Grunk (“Granddaddy Uncle Bob” was shortened to “Granduncle,” then “Grunkle,” then “Grunk”) I have had surprisingly little experience in these matters, other than teaching both grandboys (“Sir” & “Nil” — in monograms, the last initial goes in the middle) the pleasures of man’s ages-old relationships with trees in the outdoors. After my first child was born, I was immediately deployed for a long time; when Adam came along, I was recovering from a broken back that didn’t allow me to pick up kids, especially with heavy dirty diapers. Then the week we got B.C. home from the hospital, I crushed my right hand in a cotton gin lint cleaner. So, I was physically prevented from learning the basics of kid’s head calls.

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Until Grunkhood came along. Now, while it is a pleasure to keep grandboys for the day, I am expected to provide help when nature calls, or, for head calls.

Which I’ve discovered, as a country homeowner, is a good thing to do at this head-call-training-stage: while a half-roll of toilet paper seems adequate to a 4-year-old, it requires a great deal of later Grunk effort with a plunger or fire hose before it reaches its final destination in the septic tank. Better to forestall that, as well as the flushing of dirty diapers, which produce even worse results.

I realize that we’ve already reached the point of “way too much information here,” but there is an educational purpose, if the reader can stay high-minded.

Though having reached Grunkhood with little experience in such matters, I am still vaguely familiar with certain basics of the processes of elimination in young humans. In particular, there is a certain – ahem – color to be expected, and though fairly ignorant about that, I know for sure that it is not the color green!

The grandboy in question had recently picked up a cough, and was being treated with antibiotics, I knew. Could the medication produce such a change? On the other hand, I had a very painful experience myself with gangrene after a knee injury, and know personally that the “-grene” part of that word is descriptive of the shade one’s leg acquires just prior to the worst pain I’ve ever experienced, and one of the worst smells, emanating from my own knee. At this point, the “A word” is mentioned by doctors, and one readily agrees, if it will stop the pain.

Did I have a grandboy with internal gangrene?

Time to hit the Panic Button in the Grunk head!

I was alone with custody of both grandboys: Doots was hosting a wedding brunch, and their Momma, employed in a healthcare field herself, had to work today. Supposedly, Grunk was capable of keeping the grandboys for a day.

I hate cell phones, but there is a time and place for one, specifically when a grandboy has internal gangrene. I speed-dialed my daughter with the news.

Granddaddies, pay attention here: there is a product made of shaved ice covered with colored syrup, perhaps called snow cones? Avoid the green ones!

Robert Hitt Neill is an outdoors writer. He lives in Leland, Miss.