Sunday, November 23, 2008

Life As I Know It

Let me just say up front that I have learned to really savor the little things in life. For example, the cherry tomatoes growing in the sunroom have begun to ripen. Fresh, homegrown tomatoes mid-November… this is a tiny joy to be relished. Many people wouldn’t get excited over this; but I do. And here’s why…

Today is Saturday, November 22. But we need to rewind my life a little bit, to the week leading up to Halloween. I was sick that week with a head/chest/fevers type thing. For the first time ever, on Halloween I put the candy bowl on the porch and stayed in so as not to share my ick. The day after Halloween, both my kids came down with the ick, and spent the next few days rather unhappily. By November 4, we were all feeling well enough to stay up to watch the presidential election results and Obama’s speech.

The morning of November 5, however, I awoke feeling as if the world was slipping out from under my feet, first one way, and then another. It was vertigo and I had it bad. Bad enough that for the next few days if I tried to do anything that involved not being flat on my back, I would vomit and then silently wish for a swift death. After about a week of vertigo I was able to get up and do things, which was good because while the children had managed to keep us all alive, the house had been trashed to a truly awe-inspiring and unprecedented degree. Although I had just spent a week wishing I could get out of bed, upon surveying the damage all I wanted was to go back to bed, slip my head under the covers, and never, ever come back out.

But, of course, that is not the responsible thing to do. The responsible thing to do is to start cleaning up the disaster, and so I did. One of my first acts was to gather up the great many wayward papers strewn about the upstairs and haul them to the recycling box downstairs. This should have been a fairly straight-forward chore. I gathered up an armload of papers and headed down the stairs, whereupon I put my foot down on an unidentified something (I suspect a kitty toy) that launched out from under my foot. My foot launched out from under me. The papers launched out of my arms. And my body wump-wump-wumped down the stairs on my tailbone. On my downward journey, my glasses flew off, I whacked an elbow on a stair, and knocked an ankle and my neck out of joint. The papers landed on poor Teak, who had been sleeping at the bottom of the stairs. For two days afterward he eyed me warily and slunk away if I approached him. This episode was on November 13 and afterwards I actually did go back to bed for a couple days. I could get around to feed myself and such; but I couldn’t sit, or carry anything. After a couple days, I felt much improved. Not exactly swell, mind you, but if I chose the right spot and the right position I could actually sit for a bit. Plus, I had to prepare to travel a week later. And first on the list was getting the car to the shop for an oil change and check-up.

My mother and I had a deal. I would follow her to the shop and we’d leave her car to have the window fixed- and when that was done we’d leave my car. So she pulls out of her driveway, and I pull into the road behind her, and I smell the strongest gas smell ever. It was so thick in the air I actually started choking on it in my car, and this with the windows shut. Then I saw it. Gasoline was spraying, no, gushing out the bottom of my mother’s car in front of me. She seemed blissfully unaware. When she stopped at a light I ran up and tapped on her window. She’d had no idea. When the light changed we continued on toward the repair shop, and I whipped out my cell phone and called my dad- who had just flow to the opposite coast and would be away for a month. Now, Dad is the go-to guy in our family. He can fix anything and on the off chance he doesn’t have the right supplies and can’t macgyver something, then at the very least he can tell you what’s wrong and what needs to be done. The conversation went like this:
Dad: “Hey there, what’s up?”
Me: “I’m following Mom to Buddy’s…”
Dad: “Oh good, I’m gl-”
There was silence.
Me: “Dad?”
Dad: “I cannot imagine why that would be happening.”
There was silence. That was not a Dad answer.
Dad: “Are you sure it’s gas?”
Me: “Yes. What I really want to know is, is it safe to continue driving the car to the shop?”
Dad: “I don’t know; but I suggest just getting over there as quickly as possible and seeing what Buddy can tell us.”
Me: “Okay. Thanks.”

So, having received these instructions, I hung up just in time to see my mother pulling into a gas station. She…um…got gas…and we continued on our perilous journey. At the last stop light before the repair shop, she pulled into the turn lane- right next to a car with the driver’s window open. I about had a heart attack. It was cold. Who drives with their window open in the cold unless they are smoking?! Apparently (thankfully) there is one guy in Maryland who drives with his window open in the cold even though he’s not smoking. Nobody blew up. It was great! We made our turn, and Mom ran out of gas just as she pulled up in front of Buddy’s shop. By now I imagine you are wondering why her car was spewing gasoline. The answer is… squirrels. ‘Nough said. A couple days later, my car went to the shop in a peaceful, not-at-all-disturbing way and came home with a clean bill of health. Good car. I love you.

The rest of the week was filled with various mundane trip preparations such as laundry and house cleaning, and less mundane but more annoying things such as marveling over how much one cat can barf and how she can make sure to only do it in the one room that still has carpeting. Plus, my laptop died, the dishwasher and clothing dryer have both started sqealing, and now that I have replaced the toilet that ran constantly, my bathroom sink has decided to run constantly. I replaced all the seals, and it was good for a day and is now worse. I was actually beginning to look forward to leaving the whole damn house behind on Friday. Until Thursday morning when my son (who I initially mistook for my daughter) flew out of his bedroom into the bathroom, followed by the sounds of retching. Are you kidding me?!

Well, vomit or no vomit we were leaving Friday morning. Twice a year the kids go to Minnesota to spend time with their Dad and his family. And fortunately, the vomiting was short lived. Which was good, because come Friday morning I was a little short on patience. It was Teak’s fault. He started barking three hours before my alarm was set to go off, and he wouldn’t shut up until I got up and checked out the entire freaking house. Everything was fine. Everything except that I was awake three freaking hours early and now had a dilemma. My body needs a certain contiguous number of hours of sleep to be functional. So, it would seem reasonable to the uninitiated that I should just go back to bed. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at sleeping for short periods of time- if I wake up early, I’m a bear; and then there’s the possibility that I will simply launch the alarm clock into orbit and not get up. This second possibility seemed like a distinct danger Friday morning, but I went back to bed anyway. After all, I had a long drive ahead of me. And in the end it didn’t matter because the dog started barking again when the alarm went off and he is the one thing I can’t sleep through.

So, I got up. Finished packing. Looked out the window. Wait a minute! Snow? Naturally. We load the car in the snow. Wonder how long I will be driving through the snow. It is very pretty, and really not all that cold. At first. But by Pittsburgh it was a real nuisance and damn cold. And when we hit Ohio, we hit whiteout conditions. It was awful. At times I couldn’t tell where the road stopped. Just before exit 187 I became disoriented by a single flashing light at ground level- until I realized it was a reflection from a blinking tailight on a car nose down in a ditch. We called it in but didn’t dare stop. We drove head on into the storm from our house in eastern Maryland to our meeting point in Indiana. It took 13 hours. We arrived at our hotel just after midnight. I slept until 9, turned the kids over to their dad, and drove 10 hours back home. Half an hour from home, out in the boonies, the only road I knew how to take home from I-83 was closed due to some kind of massive bad thing involving smoke and ambulances. I was “detoured”, sans signage, into the dark, rural night. Fortunately, I was behind a car that guessed well at a couple confusing intersections. I stopped at Mom’s to get Teak. She asked how I liked her paint job. She’d painted the dining room. I looked at the front wall. And the back wall. And back at the front wall.
Me: “Is this from two different cans?”
Mom: “Yup.”
Me: “What, did you run out of the stuff from the living room?”
Mom: “Yup.”
Me: “The back wall looks sort of purple.”
Mom: “Yup. I asked for the same thing as the other can, but it didn’t look anything like it when I opened it.”
Me: “Hmm…”
Mom: “I can live with it.”
Me: “Hmm…”

So I took my dog and we went home. The cats greeted us at the door, and then played coy like they hadn’t really missed us after all. I handed out treats and then got the brilliant idea to check the voice mail. You really shouldn’t do that when you first arrive home from a nerve-wracking trip because a) you might be inundated with quasi-urgent messages when you really just need to relax, b) you might have no messages and realize nobody gives a damn what you just went through, or c) you might discover, as I did, that your phone is disconnected. What fresh hell is this?!?!

I think very hard and decide that yes, I did pay the phone bill. So I turn on the computer and log on to my Verizon account to make sure they received payment. After giving myself a headache trying to decifer the online bill, I conclude that yes, they received payment. Okay, so I guess we need a service call. After more searching through the website I uncover the phone number to call for service. I get a very pleasant automated woman’s voice, although in the end I start wished her plug would be pulled. After a great deal of button pushing and question answering, she tells me she is unable to determine where the problem is, tells me to do some home diagnostics, and to call back tomorrow when I’ve got more to tell her. I curse at the automated woman, who is very sorry, but she didn’t “get that”, and hang up. I look for the box I am supposed to find in order to do the home diagnostics. And then I am sidetracked, into the office, where I discover that the kitties had knocked the office phone reciever off the cradle. Had they been calling for help? Trying to locate me? Or Teak? Inviting friends over? I replace the reciever, wait, and then lift it. There’s the dial tone! Woo hoo! (Diagnose this robo-chick! You couldn’t just tell me to go find the phone that was off the hook? Jeesh!)

And that was the point at which I had had enough. I turned on the television. And sat. Until one of the kitties knocked over the lamp next to the sofa. The kitties scattered. And the dog retreated downstairs where lamps wheren’t flying around. But I just set the lamp back upright and continued watching television. But when the news came on I had to turn it off. I dunno. I just didn’t feel I could stand to listen to any bad news. Because, you know, life as I know it can be rather trying at times. Sometimes I just go through the motions wondering “is this life really even possible?” Seriously, wouldn’t spontaneous combustion be more probable than all this happening at once?

So, remember to savor the little joys and triumphs. If you can do that, rolling with the punches will be a piece of cake. Most days.


Meg said...

Oh my gosh, I was on the edge of my seat! That was positively Homeric! Indeed--is such a life possible? I guess it is, since you lived through it. And, ah--to transform such a life into comedic art--that is the thing! Well done, Maggie. I hope you enjoy a few days of peace and quiet before making the trek back to fetch the kids. It HAS To be easier next time! : )

mamawhatthe said...

Oh gosh, I hope you are right Meg. :) But I worry I am inviting disaster even thinking such thoughts.

I have been keeping busy cleaning up the house and working on various need-to-do projects that had been bugging me. The house is so quiet without the kids around. I have realized that even when they are quiet they are making noise.