Saturday, May 23, 2015

When The Plan Goes Out The Window. . .

Yesterday I was reading through the weekly newspaper from my former town in Northern Illinois.  I moved away two and a half years ago but, as I explained to a California friend recently, when you've lived in a small town for over thirty years you really do know everyone - if not on a personal level, then at least to recognize them on the street and know who they are.  It's something like a large, dysfunctional extended family that share the same estate. . .you see Odd Bob in the hardware store, you know it's Odd Bob but you may not talk to him because, well, he's kind of odd, right?  You don't say anything to anyone either though because chances are good Odd Bob is the store owner's second cousin who married the postmaster's daughter but she had an affair with their son's second grade teacher and everyone knows but Odd Bob.  You get the idea.

So, yesterday I was reading the newspaper when I came across an article about a retiring firefighter; not just ANY retiring fire fighter but, my own personal,  had an "intimate moment" with firefighter and he is retiring from the department.  I never knew Gary Banjac on a personal level.  I knew his name and I knew he was a firefighter and one late, late night we came face to face at the most vulnerable moment of my life and we both lived to tell about it.  But first, a little history. . .

During my first year of wedded bliss, approximately nine months were spent alone as my husband was working abroad.  I, on the other hand, was living in Virginia Beach working as the on site manager for a large apartment complex.  Everyone knew Moondoggy was not around, thus, I slept with an axe.  Yes, an axe and no, not to do serious physical harm to the murderer I was sure would be breaking in.  The axe was for breaking the window so I could make my escape.  I hated being alone at night. . .still do, although it got immensely easier when we moved from the big house in the woods to the small house in town where I had next door neighbors; within screaming distance I always say. Now back to my story. . .

For thirty years the thought of being alone all night has conjured elaborate scenarios involving me slithering out of bed and slipping under it (which no longer is possible because the underbed clearance is less than space my butt displaces), me using my mad kick-boxing skills, or me breaking the window for attention and then running like hell. I have lain awake at night plotting every escape route, strategy and hiding place possible should I be stuck alone and the murderer come a callin'.  So, one night, due to work schedules, Moondoggy had to work an odd midnight shift and there I was, alone.  I wasn't even nervous about it, after all, I did have Moose the Wonder dog - my scrappy Bichon Frise who requires constant grooming and foofing so he looks like a white cotton ball - terrorizing menace that he is.

There I was, minding my own business, sleeping in the middle of the bed with ALL the pillows and my dog, when my ADT alarm beeps the little staccato beat indicating that a door, somewhere in my house, has been opened.  The dog cocks his pretty poofy head, listens for a quick second and then goes nuts barking and leaps off the bed scrambling headlong into the living room.  Me? I have prepared for this moment for years, I know exactly what to do after all Self Preservation is my middle name.  And what do I do? Go out the window? Hide in the closet?

No, I climb out of bed, head down the hall toward the living room where I see the light of a flashlight shining along the floor.  You would think at that point I would have stopped and turned back, maybe hidden somewhere, right?  Someone in my house in the middle of the night using a flashlight to see does not signal a good outcome. Any sensible person with a history of knowing what to do when the murderer comes would've stopped.  Me? NO!  Instead, I keep going where I come face to face with a man. . . in a dark clothing who now rounding the corner to the hallway where I am coming from.
Remember that scene from "E.T" where Drew Barrymore discovers ET in the closet?  She screams this high pitched, fear driven scream and ET screams the same scream because both are startled beyond reason?  Well, that's what it was like for me, not the intruder, just me.  I screamed for both of us. 
"Oh NO!  Wrong house," the man says to I don't know who because I can't see - it's middle of the night dark, but then I notice another man standing in the front doorway. The intruder calmly and quickly raises his hands in the air and clearly announces, "We're firemen!  Wrong house!" Like a scene from some slapstick comedy movie, he starts backing up repeating, "We're firemen.  Wrong house.  We're leaving. Go back to bed."  Moose is doing his best warning growl (although secretly thinking that if one of those guys produced a ball, all bets were off) and I'm thinking, "Did he just tell me to go back to bed?" Before the intruder closes the door and leaves, I say, "Wait, what's your name?"  He stops and without even taking enough time to make up a name (because that's what I might've done) says, "Gary Banjac (and I am now awake enough that I know who he is)."

I briefly considered doing just what he told me to do by going back to bed but, I noticed a ghastly smell.  I think Moose might have had a little "nerve" gas over the incident. At least, I hope it's just gas.

I flip on the light and catch a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror. Holy Hell! I get a gander at what the intruder was looking at when we came face to cafe in the hall. I am wearing my best thread bare pair of red Mickey Mouse jammy pants that long ago lost the drawstring and may or may not have a gaping hole somewhere south of my waist.  I am also wearing an old gray tank top.  Gravity hit the girls long about pregnancy time and never left, so, without a bra, a tank top is about the worst look I can have and I am sporting it like a model right now.  My kids have said they need therapy after seeing me in that tank top.  And amazingly, I'm not scared, I mean I knew who it was, right?

I called Moondoggy at work to relay the humorous tale, calm down, and allow my dog to relax because something smelled awful and I'm pretty sure it is my perfect little dog. Moondoggy was not happy at all and asked me to call the police.  I waffled.  I WAFFLED but acquiesced, dialing 911 assuring the operator It was NOT an emergency but felt it needed reporting. . .sort of. She did not think it was funny either. "Ma'am there have been NO fire calls tonight.  I am going to have an officer stop by."

Well crap!  I've already seen myself in the mirror and, looking around, I realized that I was not prepared for guests.   I quickly threw on a hoodie sweatshirt, fluffed the couch pillows, took my old coffee cup to the kitchen, decided I didn't have time to do dishes so opted to shut that light off and sat down with the shade up to wait for the officer, like it was the most normal thing in the world.  And a minute later he was there.

The young, good looking, former marine was on duty.  I wished I had brushed my hair!  He took some info but offered what he thought had happened:

The next street over in the same location lives a woman who is infirm.  She often makes errant calls to the fire and police stations and sometimes they do midnight wellness calls to her house.  There is a new driver on duty and he got confused with the streets. . .

As he was telling me this, there was another knock at the door and the two firemen returned after making their call, to apologize again.  All I can think about at that moment was about is my hair, which looks like a tornado!  They had in fact, been doing exactly what the police officer said.  "I knew something was off the moment I came in because there was nothing on the floor to step over, no paths through the house," he looked around, "Your place is clean - looks nice!" Gary Banjac had just redeemed himself in one sentence although perhaps it would've been nice if he would have said I didn't look scary, too.  Whatever. I looked at these three men standing in my living room, one apologizing profusely, one turning redder by the minute (he must be the new driver) and one who now has to make a report about the whole thing and I said, "Next time I'll make coffee and have donuts," to which the police officer, a funny guy, says "Donuts?"  

As they left , I scooped Moose into my arms and took one last look in the mirror, "and I'll even brush my hair,"  I commented to my reflection.  Moose sniffed close to my mouth and jumped away running down the hall.  I smelled that putrid, rotting sour odor again.  It wasn't the dog, it was my breath.  Forget brushing my hair, I should have brushed my teeth.

As for the practiced escape plan?  It went out the window without me.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Simply, Thank You

Mother's Day. It's one of those recognized days that fell by the wayside for me in 1983 when my mother passed away. I dutifully bought cards for my mothers-in-law (because although I've only had one husband, I had two MILs simultaneously) but never looked forward to it, never made a big whoop-di-do.  Never. . .until I had my own kids.  Mother's Day took on a new meaning; an appreciation and excitement because my kids were so proud of their gifts.  What could be better than a mayonnaise jar full of "daisies" - the sunshine yellow dandelions teeming in our yard? Or the rock that one child, with a red Sharpie, meticulously wrote:
Happy mothers day mom
My kids made Mother's Day beautiful again. But in all of this, I've learned that the loss of my mom at such a young age profoundly affected how I look at mothering in general. And, I've learned that all (and I'm sure someone will argue this but I'm not participating) women are mothers whether they have children, or are sisters or friends.  We mother each other.  And because I've come to realize that I am searching for the mother in everyone I meet, probably to fill a continual empty space, I've gleaned some nuggets of advice that I carry with me.

To Lydia- Who, when I was lamenting the misfortune of someone with whom I had a dicey relationship with and feeling guilt about having unkind thoughts about them just prior to their misfortune (I know, long sentence, try to keep up), pointedly asked, "What makes you think you have that much power in the world to think a thought in your brain could cause someone else misfortune?  You're not that important!"

To Melissa- Who, when I was in a moment of frenzy between double-booked commitments, reminded me to remember that, "The important things get done."  It's simple as that and makes perfect sense.  Think about it.

She also is the one who wisely recommended that when you use a paper towel to open the public restroom door to exit, if you must, throw the paper towel on the floor when you leave. If there isn't a trash can by the door, there will be one there soon enough.  She's right.

To Lou- Who taught me that an open mind is essential for growth and that standing in judgment of others is a dangerous place to stand.  How did she do this?  By the way she raised her kids, honored her calling (she is a gifted teacher who STILL teaches into her 80s) with truly needy kids in her basement after school, every day, fostered kids whose racial make-up was a direct contrast to our lily white neighborhood and lives her life in a luminescent peace.  So effective is she that she has no idea how important she is to me.

To Judy - My mom's best friend whose fight with cancer preceded my mom by 5 years but, I believe prepared us all to face it with humor.  And of course, she knew the value of "lemonade" - the code word for vodka laced beverages enjoyed in the afternoon by both Sally and Judy as they melted into fits of giggles and private jokes.

There are more - a book full, actually.  My kids resuscitated Mother's Day for me and taught me to enjoy it but, there are myriad women every day who rescue me.  Happy Mother's Day to all of you and those I've yet to meet!