Resolving Stubborn Behavior By Being Creatively Destructive


My cousin Patty died this week. In memory of her, I want to share this story, which I recall with loving humor.


When I was ten and my cousin Patty was five, her mother, Millie, became extremely ill. Feeling a little desperate for a sitter, Darrell (Patty’s dad) and Auntie decided that I seemed old enough for the job. (Maybe so, if Patty had been an ordinary child.) Patty never fit the description of ordinary.

Although Patty and I had strict orders to leave Millie alone, Patty was equally determined to telephone her mother. All afternoon, Patty and I struggled over the telephone. Finally, when Patty picked up the phone, I took some scissors and cut the line.


“Oh my gosh! You are going to be in so much trouble,” five-year-old Patty shouted. (Yes, I was a little worried.) Sure enough, as soon as Auntie’s car drove up, Patty charged out the back door screaming about what a horrible and unlawful thing I had done. Aunt Maggie walked in and looked at the cut wire. I watched carefully until I noticed a slight smile. Although Patty continued to rant, Auntie never said a word. The next day, a man from the telephone company repaired the damage I had caused. We never talked about the telephone-event.



At that time, our phone number was 29. When we wanted to telephone someone, we held the handpiece to one ear until we got the operator. As soon as we heard a voice say “operator,” we told her the number to dial. The system provided a simple and wonderful communication device unless several people shared the same party line.