I placed a quick call home last night as I was leaving the office. I wanted to let my mom know I was heading to South Otselic to cover a commercial structure fire and would be delayed.
Our quick conversation ended with what is perhaps the most commonly used phrase in the Stagnaro household and in truth throughout our entire extended family.
“Be careful,” my mom said.
And then, for good measure, she added, “Drive safe.”
I rolled my eyes, as is my standard to response when I hear these oft-repeated words.
Now, I know they come from the heart. That each and every time my parents, or one of my siblings, an aunt, uncle or cousin thrice removed utters either of those phrases, it is a sign of their concern for my well-being. They’re telling me in precisely two words how much they care about me.
But it still drives me crazy.
Why I have this reaction, I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps because I am, by nature, a pretty careful person. Some, particularly those who have every crossed a street with me, might even say I’m overly cautious. What starts as words of caution from their lips ends as an admonishment to my ears. And I resent the implication that I would intentionally be anything but careful, or intentionally drive un-safe. Like they don’t have enough trust or faith in me to comport myself appropriately in public.
It’s ridiculous, I know. I’m probably reading too much into it. But what can I say, it’s a pet peeve. One which has become something of a joke in our family.
At present we have one house guest: my father’s only sister, my Aunt Kathleen. (Affectionately known as Aunt Sister by my extended family, in deference to the fact that she is a Franciscan sister, a.k.a a nun.) On Tuesday, after a long day at work, I decided to go for a walk before dinner. For the sake of expediency, I decided to stick to the shoulder of the rural county road I live on rather than take a more leisurely trek through the fields and woods on our property.
Now, you may recall that I recently participated in that 18-mile overnight Out of the Darkness walk. As you can imagine, I clocked a lot of miles up and down my road – as in 25 to 35 per week – as I prepared for it. I’m well aware of the dangers, and always take care to be on the alert.
Of course, there was no convincing my aunt of that. When she heard I was planning to stroll up the – gasp – road, she told me to be careful no less than five times. My parents both began to chuckle right about the time my teeth started grinding.
That little episode prompted a negotiation between my father and I. We discussed the matter before I left for work Wednesday morning and were able to reach terms acceptable to all parties. Henceforth, he and my mother have agreed to limit themselves to issuing only one cautionary phrase each time I leave the house. In return, I will refrain from stomping around like a spiteful teenager when they do. I thought it only fair, and was quite happy to be done with the matter.
Only, as it turned out, it wasn’t quite done with me.
See, I stopped at the State Police barracks fifteen or so minutes later. As I was heading out the door after reviewing the blotter, I stopped, turned back and addressed the trooper who had been kind enough to help me.
“Be careful out there,” I said. “Drive safe.”
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