Do not get that title confused.  I did not say ‘Dad rules’.  Never would I say that.

On any given holiday, whatever the duration, the last hour of said holiday will be saturated with such drama as to negate any relaxation that has taken place prior to the last holiday hour.

That is a direct quote from my dad contract, a contract I have never had the chance to sign nor have I been shown a copy, but it sure as heck must exist.  Without fail, the holiday clause is evoked on a regular basis, enough that I am hard pressed to think of a time when it not been applied.  Should there be any doubt in your mind, oh reader of this pitiful blog, let me remind you of a few examples, most of which have been documented in my blog over the years.

My proud daughter, Alyssa, owner of the kitten she deemed 'Muffin'.

My proud daughter, Alyssa, owner of the kitten she deemed ‘Muffin’.

There was the Muffin incident, Father’s Day 2006.  I had taken Friday off to make it a three day weekend, enjoying several nice bike rides in the course of three days.  Our first family cat, a male who I am sure was eager to escape this world due to being named ‘Muffin’, collapsed at my feet in the downstairs hall as was about to make my way upstairs to bed.  He vomited on my feet, then lay down in front of me in a pool of his vomit, struggling mightily to breathe.   We ended up at an animal hospital that night, surrounding the cage where the docile cat rested as the doctor told us that our cat had fluid in his chest cavity and surrounding his heart.  My final decision as the clock struck midnight on that Father’s Day was to tell the veterinarian to put Muffin to sleep, the last words from my children declaring my certain evil.  Ah yes, such a sweet memory.

“Go ask your mother” has been the escape route of many a father.  In reality that escape route rarely leads to the intended freedom of decision, more often than not ending in a circular route.  Miriam’s modus operandi (I don’t know what that means, but I know what it means) is always “ask Steve”, so I never send the kids to her.  The route is always circular and the pain is of a shorter duration if I simply face it head on when it presents itself.  So I make the tough decisions, more often than not an unpopular decision.  Funny thing is, I was the last one to say goodbye to Muffin the cat that fateful late night, the validation he gave me with a knowing look and quiet mew all I needed to survive the holiday drama clause.  Perhaps he knew, being a semi-guy (sorry, he never had the opportunity to experience fatherhood).

Nuts.  Or lack of.

Printer failures have long been the source of the last hour holiday clause, ruining many a last minute school project attempt.  The rule for printers is that no printer is too expensive or too well maintained to jam or fail when most needed.  If you have spare ink cartridges, the cartridge that goes empty is the only cartridge that you do not have in the printer stand drawer.  I had a double whammy a few years back, our printer ran out of ink and had a fatal jam simultaneously as I was climbing into bed, ready to go to sleep and awake refreshed the next morning after a long weekend.  I ended up in a Kinko’s at 2 AM, flash drive in hand, ordering prints for my son’s school project that was due the next day.

Mechanical failures are a sub clause, I am sure, as breaking machines have often been the source of last hour holiday drama.  My children will be forever scarred after our tiny Honda Civic, loaded to the gills from a family camping trip in the Wisconsin Dells, started smoking and coughing as we drove the toll way home.  I nursed the shuddering vehicle up the exit ramp, twenty miles from home, and cried as the overtaxed motor blew at the top of the ramp.  Providence was on our side that evening, Miriam’s gynecologist passed our car a few minutes after the engine blew, and his family loaded our gear and my family in their van, leaving me to figure out how to get the car home.  One tow truck and a lot of phone calls later, I found my way home at two in the morning.  I was a wreck at work the next day, in the same shape as our ailing Honda.

There has to be a joke in there about being rescued by a gynecologist.  Guess I will have to just say ‘ahhh.. shucks’ to that opportunity.

I came into last evening, the final evening of the three day Memorial day weekend, all set to escape the last hour holiday clause.  Miriam and Nate went out to see a movie, taking a bit of a trip to use a free movie gift card that Miriam had won in a raffle.  Alyssa and I stayed home together, my assistance required for her budget project she was working on for her Economics class.  We went out for a quick bite to eat and stopped off at the store to buy a complete set of spare ink cartridges for our printer.  Yeah, the printer curse was going to be lifted.  Sure enough, we started printing out utility and phone bills, the print faded due to a color ink cartridge going empty.  We were ready, the printer’s intention foiled by our preparation.

Nine PM.  I was feeling good.  I was going to make it into the work week, rested and ready.

My cell phone rang.  The caller ID showed it was Miriam.

“You’re not going to believe this.”  Her tone was subdued, words spoken slowly and carefully as not to bruise.

Oh no.

“The van has a flat tire.”  Ugh.  I should have known.  Miriam is not only mechanically challenged, she has tool phobia.  “And we’re not close to home.  I don’t know where we are at, but I know we’re pretty far away.”


Mir’s voice rose in panic as I heard the sound of knuckles rapping on the car window.  I heard my panicked wife explain through the glass that her husband was coming to help.

“Get here.  Quick.”  Miriam handed the phone to Nate to give me the instructions to the theater.  I jotted them down, ran out to the garage, grabbed a tire plug kit (yes, I keep one handy) and our portable air compressor (the kind that plugs into a cigarette lighter), as well as some tools and a flashlight.

As I started my car, I looked at the instrument cluster.  No fuel.

Two hours later, I found them.  Miriam had taken a wrong turn on the way home, on top of having a flat tire.  Our cell phone conversations had been interesting, surprisingly without panic, except for each time someone stopped to help her.  Same reaction, same rapping on the car window.

Let me tell you this – the 2004 Nissan Quest is a marvel in automotive engineering.  There is a ton of storage room.  The cabin is spacious.  I found myself asking – where in the heck is the spare tire and car jack?  Those marvelous engineers must have thought of where to put those items as they were getting ready to unveil their new spiffy van design.  To get to the spare tire, one has to lift up the carpeting between the driver and passenger seats.  Voila.  The jack is hidden, once again under the carpeting, under the middle passenger seat.  You have to be an engineer just to figure out how to tilt that seat forward.

Nate was very curious, like any teenage son, as I prepared to change the tire.  There were no ‘Christmas Story’ oh fudge moments, but I did have to resist smacking my mocking son at least once.  He actually was a good help.

We drove off, tire replaced, to the tune of large raindrops hitting the windshield, blue flashes of lightning brightening the silver lined darkness.  All was well as well could be at midnight.  In the middle of nowhere, creeping along as my cautious and frightened bride drove our van with a donut spare on rain soaked streets.

The clause rules.  As did the ‘all hell breaks loose the first day back to work after a holiday’ corollary.