“Did you have any raising at all?” Tink asked jokingly. This question comes up fairly regularly.

He truly was teasing because he often expresses admiration for my parents whom he never met and often says, “I can’t wait to get to heaven and meet Ralph and Bonelle.”

He is correct, though. The rules of my raising were loose and mostly non-existent. But I always had an inner compass of sorts that kept me well-behaved and mindful of how I should act.

The rules — if you want to call them that — consisted of clean underwear daily, church any time the doors open, out of bed in the morning the first time Mama came to the door, respectful manners (children are to be seen and not heard), and good grades.

Other than that, I pretty much roamed freely.

This was probably owing to the fact that I was what they called in those days “a change of life baby.” I was unexpected but joyful news. They always said that with warm conviction. Oddly, Daddy and both of his sisters all had “late in life” babies. One sister, in fact, was hospitalized with what the doctors woefully called “a big tumor” when all a-sudden, she delivered a baby boy and stunned them all.

By the time I came along, Mama and Daddy were practically through with raising three children so they cast their lot with the good Lord and let me run as I saw fit. They trusted Him to see me through.

This all entertains Tink tremendously. It was rarely before 11 p.m. that I went to bed even when I was eight or nine. That’s why I can recite for you the entire TV schedule on all three networks from 8 p.m. until the late news came on and the announcer asked solemnly, “It’s 11 p.m. Do you know where your children are?”

We might be a lot better off today if the newscasters still asked that.

I turned the record player on in my room, and they gamely endured my loud singing. I knew every word to “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind) and “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.”

Tink finds this puzzling.

I do remember Mama putting her foot down firmly one time to my great displeasure. I had just started dating. The phone rang. Mama and I were in the kitchen. I said, “If that’s Robbie, tell him I’m not here.”

Mama answered the beige colored phone that hung on the wall, listened for a second, cut her eyes over to me and said, “Yes, she is. Just a moment.”

With a no-nonsense look, she handed me the phone. It was Robbie. I was curt with him and mad at Mama.

“Why,” I asked when I practically slammed down the phone, “did you not tell him I wasn’t here?”

She looked me levelly in the eye. “I’m not gonna lie for you.”

Nice example for a lesson that needed to be learned.

There was no hassle over my studying. I loved books and was drawn toward learning. This did not include math, but I learned to add and subtract enough that I’ve given more than one Hollywood studio a run for their money when they made a miscalculation on a contract of Tink’s.

Not long ago, I was in a doctor’s office with a doctor who is a devout follower of my writings. She smiled. “A couple of years ago, I had one of your teachers in here. She said that you were one of the brightest students she ever taught.”

Too bad that HIPPA rules prevented her from telling me who.

But all in all, Mama’s and Daddy’s casual parenting style and the good Lord saw me through. I never pitched a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store and I always wore clean underwear.Thank you to Mama, Daddy and the good Lord.

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