Duncan: Lessons learned through payback


Megan Duncan

Dropping a quarter into the slot, I dialed a familiar number.

“Walmart pharmacy, how can I help you?”

“Can I speak to Ron?”

A few moments passed as I tapped my foot against the cafeteria wall. When Dad’s voice came on the line, I started in immediately.

“I need your help, I’m stranded at school.”

I detected a bit of a sigh but he never fully released it.

“What’s going on?” he asked. “Did you run out of gas again?”

“No. There’s a spider in my car.”

That’s when the sigh fully released. It was long and intentional. He repeated what I just told him like he just needed to say it out loud.

“Yes, a spider is in my car. It’s giant and it’s sitting on the steering wheel. I’m pretty sure it growled at me.”

I might have made some of that up. I just felt he wasn’t taking the situation as seriously as I was.

The spider was maybe less than giant but still extremely big, and it was actually perched on the back of my passenger seat.

It definitely growled at me, though.

“Can you come kill it?”

Dad was the pharmacist at the Quincy Walmart, and I was a student nearby at John Wood Community College. I thought it would be easy for him just to take a break to come squish the spider hijacker so I could be on my way back to Hannibal.

But he said no. Now that I am 40-something and a parent myself, I’m completely disgusted with myself for ever thinking he should have.

About 20 years later, I was stretched onto a gurney with a towel over my face as they loaded me into an ambulance with a severe case of vertigo. It felt like I was stuck on a tilt-a-whirl. I couldn’t open my eyes without throwing up.

“Please let the boys know I am going to be okay,” I begged Shawn on the way out. “And tell them they can come to the hospital if they want.”

I was certain watching the ambulance take me away would scare them, since they had just lost their grandparents to cancer only a few months before. Although they were old enough to stay home alone, and our house was only a few minutes from the hospital, I couldn’t bear the thought of them sitting at home and fearing the worst.

I heard the front door squeak open. Logan screamed with urgency in his voice. Just before the ambulance doors slammed shut, his voice wafted between the crack.

“Mom! Do we have to go? Waiting rooms are boring!”

Lifting my head between heaves, I screamed back, “GO ASK YOUR DAD!”

And as I rode away to the hospital, I think I heard him yelling into the street, “Is there still going to be lunch?”

Life. Payback. Whatever you want to call it. All the things I did are just coming back around to me now.

Honestly, sometimes I look back and can’t believe what a spoiled brat I could be back in the day. All the times my parents must have rubbed their temples and thought, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” I just didn’t see the hard they were dealing with or the exhaustion of their day.

But now, right smack in the middle of being an adult and raising my own kids, I understand a whole new side of my parents.

Honestly I had no idea what they were dealing with all those years when I was just enjoying my childhood. Mom and Dad never tried to pretend our life was perfect. Just like we don’t do that with our boys. I just didn’t understand what they felt until I stepped into their shoes.

They were tired. They questioned themselves constantly. They worried about the future. They wondered where the heck their time and money went.

The whole time, I was just running around being a kid and thinking my parents had it all together.

But they didn’t and neither do I, and neither will my kids when they are all grown up and have kids of their own. And so on.

It’s a cycle.

So when I look back at all the ridiculous things I did, I can also look back on two parents who loved me as much as I love my two boys now.

One is driving, and the other will soon begin learning how.

Thankfully neither of them are scared of spiders, so if they end up with one in their car, they won’t call me. I’m still scared of them anyway.

Especially ones that growl at me.

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