Youngster just wanted to know, ‘Now what?’


Lori Clinch

Twenty-seven years ago today our oldest child was born. What a darling little bundle Vernon was, so cute and precious, and I quickly learned I had no idea what I was doing.

I spent the months leading up to his birth asking everyone what was in store for us. Were we going to be up all night? Would we really pace the floors, be shunned on airplanes and sterilize a binky like it was our job? The answers were overwhelmingly, “Yes, yes, yes and absolutely.”

Vernon didn’t sleep much, that was for sure, but I heeded the warnings and napped when he napped, ate when I could, and sometimes cried when he cried, out of sheer exhaustion.

They warned me from the get-go that time would go fast and it certainly did. All of a sudden that crying infant went from “staying put” to getting into everything. If he hadn’t disassembled it, he just hadn’t seen it yet.

At 2, he was taking things apart. He was into everything he could get his mitts on and he single-handedly had us banned from houses near and far, including those of his own grandparents. His father would try to curb Vernon’s appetite for ingenuity by starting a dozen or so 16-penny nails on a board and telling our little lad it was his job to get them all pounded in by day’s end. With chubby hands and a plethora of determination, Vernon had it done before lunch and was looking at me with that overly curious mind of his and asking, “Now what?”

The day he laid his hands on a screwdriver and proceeded to take the cupboard doors off the hinges, he had me crying in my coffee and simultaneously impressed the socks off his father.

It wasn’t long before we went from screeching “Oh no!” to “Hey can you fix this?”

We gave Vernon broken remotes and sandwich-stuffed VCRs, and we even had him try his hand at fixing the toaster. We often wondered what he would do with those talents.

When he was a toddler we were sure he was destined to be the head of a wrecking crew. By the time he was 10 we saw small engine repair looming on his horizon, and as he approached his teens, we mentally had him in the running for Steve Jobs’ job.

When he left for college, we were out of sorts. Vernon was the only one who knew how to sync the router and fix the computers, and he certainly was the only Clinch who knew how to run the weed whip.

Vernon has been home for short stints since then. Upon his arrival I hug him, tell him I love him and quickly trade my laundry skills for things that need to be repaired.

But it has been a couple of months since his handyman ways have arrived on our doorstep.

Right now the computer needs an upgrade that I can’t install, the printer won’t print, and despite repeated attempts, the ice maker won’t make ice. I would so trade a load of whites to make these things happen.

Meanwhile, our Vernon is traveling across the country and making a trek to Louisiana where he will start his second rotation in Perfusion, a trade that requires him to operate a heart machine as well as take it apart and put it back together without hesitation.

I don’t understand it all either, but it’s a career that is perfect for our Vernon.

I don’t like him spending his 27th birthday driving to New Orleans for his education. It breaks my heart he is going, but I am thrilled just knowing where he is heading.

Here’s to a happy day for you, Vernon. May you travel safe and feel the love of your family across the miles. Most importantly, I hope your efforts give you something more rewarding than someone who wants to trade your talents for doing your laundry.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons. Reach her at