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Dealing with the ‘Oh-No Factor’

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Posted: Tuesday, December 17, 2002 10:00 pm

Our life experiences are dotted with surprises.

Sometimes, it's the everyday unexpected surprises of life and living.

At times, the surprise of the unexpected is not welcomed. Other times, the surprises are brought on by the light of understanding. And, by far, the unanticipated surprises created by our loved ones are the best of all.

Theresa Larson

I think that surprises serve to reaffirm our awe, amazement and wonder for life. When I'm gardening, I'll often find surprises taking root in the soil. No, I don't mean the little packages that our dog Buddy leaves around the yard. I mean the green, sprouting surprises of Mother Nature, the ones that weren't planted by me. We've had pumpkin vines, fan palms and Johnny Jump-ups sprout unexpectedly from the soil. These small discoveries are always a welcome treat.

If you are a parent, you know firsthand that the words uttered by a child can be surprising. Nothing touches a heart like the earnest words of childhood innocence.

"Mommy, I'll love you forever and ever."

And sometimes, the innocent words of a child will bring color to our cheeks.

"Mommy why is that lady so fat?"

Discovering that a new life is about to be born is definitely surprising. But it pales in comparison to the unexpected surprise at the strength and intensity of emotion that can overtake you when looking at your newborn for the first time.

Over the course of our lives, some surprises feel like a punch in the gut and will generate feelings of anguish and despair. The "Oh-No Factor" of the surprise (as in "Oh, no!") temporarily derails us. A broken water pipe, a fender bender, a parking ticket can elicit temporary setbacks. But some surprises will affect us more profoundly - such as the loss of a job, injury or the death of a loved one.

Most "Oh, no!" situations, though aggravating, are fleeting. Last weekend, my husband and I stayed at a historic hotel in Oakland. The word "historic" should have been a clue to us. It translates to mean "really old." However, the hotel was clean, comfortable and within walking distance of the charity party we were attending.

On the morning following the party, we awoke to the sound of rain falling outside. I snuggled deeper under the covers, because there's nothing better than lying in bed listening to the sound of rain. But I soon realized something was amiss. The "rain" sounded funny. I rose from bed and wandered to the window to look out. It wasn't raining after all, but we could clearly hear the pitter-patter of water.

We turned on the light and began to search for the source of the sound. We soon found it - water was pouring from the doorjamb of the bathroom. Although we both said, "Oh, no!" We were extremely happy the leak was someone else's problem, not ours.

Although I have been surprised a few times in my life by others and enjoy being surprised, I positively adore being able to surprise my friends and family.

Most recently, I helped arrange a surprise 50th birthday party for my best friend, Despina. She absolutely dreaded, and was depressed by, the idea of turning 50. She made it clear to several people that she really didn't want a party - although she failed to make it clear to me.

In the end, the surprise party served its intended purpose. Her family and friends enveloped her with love, all celebrating their life of experiences with her. With a little TLC and undivided attention, Despina realized turning 50 wasn't so bad after all.

This holiday season, I will be flying home to celebrate Christmas with my mom, aunt and brothers. The last time I was home for Christmas was 15 years ago. My family and I flew home, surprising my parents shortly after my mom's diagnosis of breast cancer. As long as I live, I will never forget the expressions that flashed across my mom's face as she opened the front door of her home to find my 4-year-old daughter standing there. The look of confusion was replaced by amazement, then a joyful smile and finally tears coursed down her cheeks as she hugged my daughter in response to the holiday surprise.

And just like that trip 15 years ago, my trip home will be a Christmas afternoon surprise with my 19-year-old daughter standing at my side.

Yep, I really love planning a good surprise. Get your hanky ready, Mom, we're coming home.

Theresa Larson is the Lodi News-Sentinel's administration manager. She is married and the mother of five children. Her column appears the first and third Wednesday of the month. She can be contacted at 125 N. Church St., (209) 369-2761 or via e-mail.

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