Sunday, January 03, 2010

Clean Undies

Someone mentioned clean underwear the other day, and that reminded me of this piece I wrote about my sister.

* * * * *

Cathy used to be a graceful thing until her medical emergency a few years ago. I was nowhere around, so she managed to make a fool of herself all by herself in the time-honored Callahan tradition of . . . falling down. (I could tell you about the time Dad fell off the ladder whilst putting Christmas lights on the house and how hard I laughed when he landed in Mom’s favorite bushes, but I won’t.)

Cathy was sitting in the balcony of a theater for a recital, which went extraordinarily well until it was time to get up and leave. Like me, she is fairly steady when sitting in a chair, but walking is another matter altogether. Stairs are especially tricky for us, and she missed the step that didn’t have the half-watt light bulb to show her the way. Rather than testing for the next step with her toe, she fell down instead. Since she was sober (unlike Dad when he took his flyer off the ladder), she broke her leg in three places. No laughing matter, that, because she was laid up for several months in a hospital bed at home. I felt really sorry for her, but I felt three times as sorry for my niece, Abby.


“Hand me another bottle of those pain pills will you, Abby?”

“Gee Mom, you just had a bottleful an hour ago.”

“I don’t give a shit, my leg hurts.”

“ ‘My leg hurts, my leg hurts.’ Is THAT all you can talk about?”

“Listen here, missy, just wait until it happens to you. You’re half-a-Callahan, you know, and we have a time-honored family tradition of falling down. Your Uncle Chuck falls down all the time, so your turn is coming. Now help me get my panties over this damn cast.”

Yeeew, you want me to TOUCH your panties? Why do you even need panties when you’re stuck here in bed?”

“Because when I fall out of bed and the ambulance gets here, I want to make sure I’m wearing clean underwear. Mom always worried about that when I was a kid, you know.”


“Hello, Mrs. Callahan? This is the hospital calling about your daughter, Cathy. It appears she tripped over absolutely nothing on the sidewalk, did a forward roll, and ended up under the number 6 bus.”

“Oh dear Lord. Was her underwear clean?”

“Yes, it was spotless—”

“And her socks, were they clean too? Please tell me the truth.”

“The one we could find was very nice. Now, about her condition—”

“Hang onto that thought, Doctor; I’m on my way down with some fresh socks and underthings. We can talk about it then.”

Despite her injury at the recital, I can’t help thinking that my little sister still leads a charmed life. Sure, it was a terrible thing to happen, but she could have taken a Dad-like flyer right off the balcony into the orchestra pit. Or worse, into the expensive seats with only a cheap-seat ticket.


Jimmy Bastard said...

A classic tale Charlie, and so typical of the fairer sex.

Fay's Too said...

I'm an excellent faller, myself. Perhaps we are related.

savannah said...

i used to be sure footed and agile, but ever since i broke my leg while stepping off my porch (1 step) i can fine a fine line and trip over it...y'all have my deepest sympathies, sugar! xoxoxox

Stinkypaw said...

Nice way to make fun of your sister, Charlie.

Diane said...

Charlie....this sounds like my husband. He fell Tuesday walking (ice under light snow) so he stayed home and ventured out again on Friday and....fell again... Maybe he is related ???

mapstew said...



Robert the Skeptic said...

My mother was the same way, obsessed about my having clean underwear at any given moment. And, I always wondered, why it was so important that some third-party, should they have reason to see my underwear, would be confident that it was clean?

"What if you were in a car wreck?" she would point out. Hell, if I am ever in a car wreck, I can guarantee you I'm likely going to mess that underwear.

Pat said...

I truly sympathise having broken my right leg once and my left twice but those days are over now and I take great care, don't do aerobics, don't go for boozy picnics in the hills and don't walk full speed whilst turning round and talking to someone behind me. I did fall recently but nil fractures. Must be the calcium.
I'm totally with Mum and clean underwear.

Meg said...

Ooohhhh. NOW I understand why Mom always said to wear clean underwear!

Kate said...

As you know I too suffer from COD, and agree with your sister: if you are going to suffer these indignities, you can at least do it in clean knickers. The falling is embarrassing enough; pitching up in A&E in less than pristine undies would be mortifying.

Kim Ayres said...

CONCERNED VIEWER: Did you miss a step?

PERSON LYING AT THE BOTTOM OF THE STAIRS: No, I hit every f****** one of them!

Charlie said...

JIMMY: It must be something in the maternal instinct; I'm betting you didn't worry about it when your boys were growing up.

FAY: I think all humans are related when it comes to falling down. We're still evolving, and maybe that's next on the program.

SAVANNAH: Amazing, isn't it. ONE step and you break your leg.

I know you can still dance, though.

STINKY: You're very perceptive because you're right—and my mom too.

Flashy new avatar—I like it!

DIANE: Maybe the poor man should stay indoors all winter and read and review books.

Wait a minute. That's what YOU do.

MAP: I apologize for my lousy English.

Charlie said...

ROBERT: You're right. Sparkling clean undies wouldn't have done you much good if they were soaked in blood, mud, and poo.

PAT: With hindsight, perhaps some booze in your system would have prevented those leg breaks. No, bad idea. Instead of mended legs, you'd be a drunk.

I'm not at all surprised that you're in the clean undies camp.

MEG: It certainly wasn't for show, dear innocent one.

KATE: You remember COD! As I recall, you fell down the stairs while attempting to insert your feet into your bedroom slippers. I know how traumatic that must have been, but I couldn't help laughing at such a silly accident.

KIM: You must have been there when Kate fell down the stairs and got an on-the-spot interview.

BTW, are you performing at the local Comedy Club now?

Tiffin said...

Oh cripes, Nana was the underwear worrier in our family. I figure when I go it will be on the main street of the village with my worst undies on and my skirt over my head and she'll be standing on the other side of Death's door shoving me back until I go home and change them.

Never used to fall but went over the dog leash mid-November and did a spectacular face plant on a tar & chip road: blow-out fracture of the orbital floor and tore all the ligaments and tendons in my left hand. I have a whole new respect for falling now.

Alice said...

Ever notice that the amount of snow on the ground makes clumsiness grow exponentially? I have. Many times.

But the lesson of clean underwear has never been lost.

Wandering Coyote said...


I have heard that "if I have an accident & need an ambulance & clean undies blahx3" argument before! According to my mom, my grandmother was seriously worried about this. Obviously a generational thing.

Incidentally, I once sprained my ankle and broke my arm walking, so....

kara said...

can i also call you 'chuck'?

John Atkinson said...

Charlie, this is so true to life and funny to boot. I have no doubt you could write slap stick.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

The simplest solution to the admonishments by mother to wear clean underwear is to simply inform them that you are going commando.

Charlie said...

TUI: To prevent skirt-over-head, which my sick mind thought was pretty humorous, I would suggest wearing jeans or slacks.

I'm truly sorry, though, about your injuries from the dog leash.

ALICE: I haven't seen snow or ice for thirteen years, so falling on my posterior is only a fond memory.

And I suppose clean undies are more important to females because you're all so ... feminine.

WC: You know, I've been wondering if the clean undies thing IS generational: I wonder if moms still harp on it.

You broke your arm walking. It's obvious you didn't see that tree jump out in front of you.

KARA: Nope.

JOHN: Slapstick is one of my favorite art forms of all time. There will NEVER be another Laurel & Hardy, W.C. Fields, Buster Keaton, or Charlie Chaplain.

BARBARA: Way down here at the bottom, YOU HAVE THE ANSWER! And from what little I see of tweens and teens, they've listened to you!

St Jude said...

So you are a Buster Keaton fan. Remember his house moving film when the front of he house fell on him, he appeared through the window!! The timing needed for that stunt was amazing. In the current freezing weather I have been doing the odd 'stunt' myself.

Charlie said...

ST JUDE: I do indeed remember that scene, and it wasn't a camera trick. Nowadays, it's all CGI—all an "actor" has to do is stand around in front of a blue screen. Wow.

I think one of the funniest movies ever made was W.C. Field's It's a Gift. I can watch it over and over.