Life With Emily

Dennis Garvin
Dennis Garvin

In an earlier commentary, I may have misled the reader into thinking I had only one strong Christian lady in my life. IN truth, I am surrounded.  I could tell you about the girls in my office- Mary, Jennifer, Annesia, Charlene, and Mona – their combined faith and its impact on the office and patient’s cannot be overestimated.

But there is one, however, on whom I want to focus: Emily, also a nurse in my office; but also my daughter.

Almost from the time she could talk, Emily had the power of memorable comments.  Because her name is Emily, we called those quotes ‘embolisms.’

A little background is needed – Emily is adopted.  She required major surgery at one day of age for a bowel obstruction.  By the time I first held her, Emily had already been through trying times.  It seemed to affect her not at all.

When she began to speak, she somehow developed a British accent.  The origin is totally unknown, as we had no British friends at the time and didn’t watch British TV programs.  She also had a slight temporary speech impediment.  Other children had no trouble understanding her; the same cannot be said about adults.

What follows is a cameo of Emily’s world view: One adult simply could not understand her and Emily came away from the fractured conversation saying ‘She didn’t understand me.  What is wrong with her?”  Had Emily been empress of the world (instead of merely thinking she already was), her first edict would undoubtedly have been that of requiring all people on earth to speak just as she did.

Once, upon hearing a screaming match between my children (Ben, age 6; Emily age 4), I went up to ‘handle the situation.’  Having just read a parenting book, I was ready.  Ben seemed to be yelling the loudest, so, in keeping with the book, I asked him what happened.  When he said ‘she hit me,’ Emily turned an innocent, tear-stained face to me and said ‘I didn’t hit him and it didn’t hurt him either.’  Emily‘s idea of jurisprudence was that, if one alibi was good, two were better.  She had not yet learned that they had to mesh.

Another time, she hit her brother and then told me ‘I didn’t hit him, my brain told me to hit him.’  To which I replied, stifling laughter ‘well, your brain is fixin’ to get your bottom spanked.  And it won’t be me – my brain will tell my hand to spank your bottom.’  Emily’s career as a defense attorney ended there.

I had just cleaned my truck and asked the kids to please be very neat with their food.  Emily had learned that you could pop open a bag of chips by squeezing it.  She was a little too enthusiastic and I heard the explosion and the sound of chips hitting the carpet.  Silence.  Then, ‘Hmmm.  Dad guess what this bag did?’

Shortly after, Emily, still four years old, developed a bowel obstruction.  She underwent surgery.  Upon awakening, it appeared that her entire vocabulary, less one word, had been deleted.  That one surviving word was ‘fine.’  Conversations went thus:

“Emily, how are you?”


Emily, should I turn the heat up in the room?”


“Do you need any pain medication?”


“Emily, can I put a tattoo on your nose?”


So it went until she came home from the hospital.  She had accepted virtually no pain medication following the open, abdominal surgery.  She rebooted her vocabulary and advised me that she had rejected the pain medication because it made her feel ‘funny.’  Evidently, pain is preferred over ‘funny.’  Talk about tough.

Emily’s reports about school work were enchanting.  I asked her one night what she had learned in school that day.  She said ‘money.’  I said ‘money?’  She said ‘Oh yeah, pennies, nickels and diamonds.’  Sigh.

As two strong females, Emily and her stepmom (my wife Nancy) often butted heads.  Sometimes, however, I sensed collusion.  An imaginary conversation between them might have gone thus:

“Nancy, we need to have a fight.”

“Why, Emily?  I’m not in the mood for a fight.”

“I know. Me neither.   But it’s been too long since our last fight and Dad is starting to relax too much.”

“You’re right.  We’ll start before he gets home so we’ll be warmed up when he comes through the door. What should we fight about?”

“Doesn’t matter.  Dad will never know the difference.”

Whoever said that living with Christian women would be boring, should have his mouth washed out with sacramental wine.

Dr. Garvin is the co-author of “Growing up in Stephentown,” a collaborative diary co-authored by his brother, Dr Lucky Garvin.  He has also written a book ‘Case Files on an Angel,” a heavenly book of humor, sorrow, and learning.  Both books are available online from Barnes & Noble,, and