Don’t Cry Over Spilled Grits


Photo by blurAZ/Shutterstock

My 12-year-old daughter, Jessie, hates shots but somehow made it through all her vaccinations. Dad, on the other hand, is still recovering from her office visits. I sat down to write this month’s column at the end of a grueling week. Little did I realize that a shot my mother-in-law received for bronchitis would be one of the week’s highlights. 

Like any other week, there were a few inconveniences I could have done without. I returned from my morning walk to find dog poop smashed to the bottom of my sneaker. I dropped my favorite pair of sunglasses on the bathroom floor and broke the frames. I needed a haircut and stopped at the barbershop. When I got home and looked in the mirror, I noticed my hair was about an inch longer over one ear than the other. My aging computer crashes daily — not a good thing for a writer. But, in the whole scheme of life, these were minor inconveniences.

A spilled 24-ounce carton of grits is a slightly bigger deal. While putting away groceries, I lifted the round cardboard container from the top shelf of the pantry and it slipped from my fingers. Grits sprayed over everything — the food on two pantry shelves, the clothes in the laundry basket, and under the washer and dryer. The miniscule particles even covered the vacuum cleaner I needed to clean up the mess. But this paled in comparison to the next challenge. 

A lump appeared near my wife’s left ear in December. On Christmas Eve, Mattie had a CT scan that showed a tumor. Life can be sailing along, maybe with minor inconveniences like broken sunglasses, a subpar haircut and an avalanche of grits, but when a tumor enters the picture, life changes.

Mattie’s doctor suggested that the tumor be biopsied, but it took two weeks and five days to get the procedure done and wait for the results. The radiologist performed the biopsy on Monday and told Mattie the results would be back within 24-48 hours. Mattie called on Tuesday. No report. She called again Wednesday. Still no results. Fortunately, late Thursday afternoon we received good news — no cancer. This put everything else in perspective. Though the tumor will need to be removed, Mattie will be OK.

A couple of days after receiving the great news, Mattie’s mother, whose bronchitis hadn’t completely cleared after a course of antibiotics, texted her early in the morning: “I just got out of the doctor’s office. Got a shot in my behind and some prescriptions. I certainly am awake.”

Mattie typed back, “So is whoever gave you the shot.”

Mattie informed Jessie, “Grandmommy got a shot in the rear end.”

Jessie, remembering her vaccinations at the pediatrician’s office where the nurse used a plastic device to ease the pain of the needle, asked, “Did the doctor use a ShotBlocker?” 

Mattie, apparently having a mental picture of a nurse holding a piece of plastic on her mom’s behind with one hand and a needle in the other, cracked up laughing. Tears rolled down her cheeks. Jessie and I couldn’t help but join in the laughter. It felt great to laugh. 

I’m thankful I have the time and good health to walk my dog, even if I have to clean my sneakers afterward. I’m fortunate to have the resources to replace sunglasses, get haircuts and buy a new computer. I’m also thankful for health insurance and modern medicine.

Lastly, I’m thankful for laughter. It serves as a ShotBlocker when life is challenging. Grandmommy, thank you for taking one for the team! The laughter you provided us was the shot in the arm we needed, though I’m sorry you were the butt of the laugh. 


Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional career in banking, accounting and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad and author of “MoMENts: A Dad Holds On,” available at Follow him at and on Twitter @patrickhempfing.


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