It has taken a few weeks, but I'm getting used to living with the world's tallest man in my garage. His foam-board body - all 8 feet, 11 inches - stands between the freezer and the treadmill. Of all the visual aids that the kids have made in school and dragged home through the years, Robert Wadlow is the king.
Like most parents, I've stashed and sometimes secretly trashed most of the posters and visuals. How many posters of Missouri does one Missouri family need?
"Mornin', Bob," I say to the big guy as I plunder some frozen blueberries.His painted smile never wavers. And he doesn't talk back. Both are rather endearing qualities - in a visual aid, of course.
Mr. Wadlow joined us as a result of my 10-year-old's in-depth research project for the Independent Study Fair. He chose Robert Ripley and his "Believe It or Not" oddities. One of those oddities was the whopper Robert Wadlow - "a cool visual aid if I make him life-size," declared my son.
I should have stopped right there and insisted that he make the two-headed calf. It would have saved $7 in foam board and a world of trouble. Instead, I shelled out for six sheets of foam board and a roll of strapping tape to hook Mr. Wadlow's sections together.
My son gave me excited updates on the project. "Today I stretched Bob out on the cafeteria floor. It took me an hour to paint Bob's suit brown. I'm making him a tie out of cotton fabric," and so forth.
Wonderful, wonderful, I thought.
Then came the day to transport the visual. Bob had to travel from one school to another where the Independent Study Fair was held.
I've hauled a kitchen table and four chairs in the minivan. I've hauled six shrill teenagers and their sleeping bags. But Bob was a lot more trouble.
"Don't bend him, Mom," my son pleaded from the hatch end of the van as we maneuvered the stiff across three seats. "If he comes untaped, I'll never get him back together."
We angled and butted his head against the windshield. Still, his feet hung out the back. "You call the shots," I said. "Which end gets trimmed?"
We finally gently bent back his legs and hoped he'd survive. My son rode under Bob's neck. As I drove, I glanced into my rearview mirror and saw the world's largest brown suit.
'I'll carry the poster and backpack, Mom. You carry Bob," my son casually announced at the school and took off.
I slid the lightweight aid off the seats and started walking into the school. The wind picked up, and Bob tried to fly. As the foam fellow flapped heavenward, I gripped what I could and prayed that he wouldn't separate.
We drooped indoors, both of us starting to fall apart. I dragged Bob down the hallway. "It's the world's tallest man," I explained to the school secretary.
My son got an "A." I got a really cool exhibit for the garage.