The Hailstorm That Wasn’t

It was to be the largest hailstorm in recent memory. Much worse and more widespread than the one a few weeks earlier that had destroyed so much property. Baseball sized, no grapefruit sized! As so often happens, though, it didn’t materialize. It nevertheless destroyed my car more thoroughly than if it had.

The day before, I overheard a coworker telling people they needed to come to work early so they could leave early and get home before the hail started. He can be a little bit excitable so I discounted his comments. The morning of the great storm-to-be, it was all over the TV’s at the gym. They ran videos of the hail damage from the earlier storm. I began to take note.

At home, we discussed the weather. According to my husband, the hail was likely coming around 6:00, not the 3:00 my coworker had been putting forward the day before. Still, I had a voice lesson at the church at 6:00; I wouldn’t be home until closer to 7:00. I was worried about my pretty little green Prius.

I knew it was only mine temporarily. In theory, Jane was to buy it from us once she got out of debt and saved up the money. But her debt meant it would likely be months before that happened, and I really liked driving that car. I kept it clean and uncluttered. I didn’t have to get a key out to unlock it or drive it. My phone connected to bluetooth, allowing me to answer the phone safely while driving. I smiled every time I saw it and I really didn’t want it covered in dents or the windshield smashed. After all, we had paid cash for it and chosen to carry only liability insurance.

So I began to analyze the situation. I had initially thought I’d park it under our carport and drive the truck. But then my husband stated his intentions to drive the truck to choir that evening. Since he’d leave home for the church before I got back from the church, whichever of us drove the truck, the other would be in a Prius at the church during hail prime time.

I cast my mind about for a vehicle that could accept hail damage more acceptably and landed on Jane’s van. It was old and beat up. It had weathered several minor accidents already, sporting a shattered mirror, missing antenna, a missing chunk of back bumper, and a few other dents and scratches. Hail damage would not diminish the appearance of the vehicle. Plus, its windows were more vertical than those of a Prius, making them less susceptible to shattering under falling grapefruits.

I proposed an exchange with Jane. I didn’t figure it’d be a problem since she loved driving my car. She was remarkably resistant, mostly because she didn’t understand why. So I explained that I wanted my car under the carport when the storm hit. She eventually agreed and then I told her, “Oh, yeah, and it’s almost out of gas so you’ll have to fill up first thing when you leave the house.” Which she did, to our amusement later.

At work that day, there were printouts all over the place about the pending bad weather. People left early. I got texts from the school district about whether they were or were not adapting various plans due to the weather. I learned from my husband that choir had been canceled – after it had been moved on top of my voice lesson, which was also canceled.

All of that meant that I was leaving work earlier than planned – around 5:00, tasked with picking up my husband’s prescription and our middle child from a school event. On my way to my daughter’s van, I got a text from her laughing about how she had wandered the parking lot for 10 minutes looking for her car. “I see it!” I responded, “I’ll bring it to you.”

I was in a good mood. Our evening had unexpectedly freed up. We’d all be home and tucked away safely in the house before 6:00. We could look through the photos from our family and Jane’s senior photo shoots and make our final selections. And we might even have time to get yet another Marvel movie watched – maybe Civil War or Guardians of the Galaxy – in preparation for watching End Game that weekend. Life was good. I even imagined my cute little green Prius parked safely under the carport.

Then my phone rang. I answered it only to hear Jane’s voice moaning, “Mommy, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry, Mommy. I’m so sorry. Oh, Mommy, I’m so sorry.” Eventually she stammered it out. She had gotten in a wreck in my car.

The details were unclear. I didn’t understand why my car wasn’t under the carport. I didn’t understand why she was where she was. I was caught between believing/hoping it wasn’t that bad to knowing it must be. I told her to call her dad. I, after all, was on a tight schedule to get the boy picked up in time.

A minute or two later, my husband called and suggested I go to the wreck since I was already in town. He’d take care of the errands I was on. So I headed up the access road where she said she was. I started scanning for the vehicle. Was it still in the road? Or had she been able to pull into a parking lot? Oh, please let the damage be minimal. Oh, shoot, we don’t have comprehensive and collision. Images of me approaching a car with visible damage every day at work flashed into my head. Oh, please let it not be her fault. If it’s not her fault, we can get it repaired. Oh, please let it not be her fault.

And then I saw it. It was in the middle lane, cars moving slowly around it on either side. Its back was pristine but I could see debris in front of it. Her fault, then. My heart sank. But where was the other car? Was she still in the car? I pulled into the nearest parking lot and called her. Confusion reigned. She was in “the red truck.” Which red truck? There were two. Whose red truck? Why was she there? Where’s the other car? Did they leave?

Eventually it all sorted out. It was raining. She had misjudged the line of cars in front of her and how slowly they were moving. The other car had driven into a nearby gas station after the wreck. The truck belonged to a volunteer firefighter who had unlocked it for her to sit in and then gone to the gas station to check on the people in the other vehicle. He talked to me briefly before donning his jacket with reflective tape to go direct traffic until the police arrived.

Jane was stunned and kept repeating how sorry she was. “Why was I even in your car?” she asked. “I should have been in my van.”

So here we are now. The car is a total loss. The money spent to purchase it essentially a very expensive 4 month lease. Our insurance will go up. We’ll need to pay the tow company that towed my pretty little green Prius away. Our plans for our upcoming next driver to have a vehicle will have to change. I’m back in the truck. Jane’s prospects for getting out of her van into a more fuel efficient vehicle are bleak. All because we thought it was going to hail.

The evening didn’t go as I had envisioned. We were all still safely home and I was very grateful for that – it could have been much worse. We still looked at the pictures although we were all more subdued than joyful. Instead of watching a movie, my husband and I sat and talked at length about what to do next. Then we talked with Jane about our decisions.

I thought I was handling it well. I wasn’t dwelling on what-ifs. I was just accepting it. It had happened, there was nothing I could do about it. My car was gone, but my daughter was ok. I was ok.

But I didn’t sleep well that night. I woke up in a funk. Maybe my imagined acceptance was actually avoidance. I finally cried just a little bit as my husband held me. My pretty little green Prius. But my pretty little child is more important. Her mental and emotional state after, so much more important. The fact that she wasn’t hurt – more important. I’m still going to miss my car though.

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(Don’t) Follow the White Rabbit

Sometimes I think I’m slipping. Now, don’t try to give me reassurance. Once you hear this tale, you might just agree with me.

I was heading to work. I wasn’t late but I was still hurrying. I needed to get there as soon as possible. I tossed my lunch into my lunch bag and then remembered my jacket was in my bedroom. I hung the bag by the door, where it resides every night. I knew I was taking a risk – my lunch had been left hanging there many times before. But I was just going for my jacket. Surely…

I shrugged into the jacket as I headed back to the front door. There, I grabbed my purse and a folder I needed after work that I had deliberately left by my purse so it wouldn’t be forgotten. And then I slipped out the door and headed to the car. Without my lunch.

This isn’t what has me wondering about my sanity though. If that were an indication, I’ve been losing it for years. Besides, I would remember the lunch before making it all the way to work.

Reaching the car, I sat down and placed my purse and the folder in the passenger seat. I adjusted the seat forward a bit and then the mirrors. I tried to call Jane but the car’s bluetooth was connected to her phone rather than my own. I hadn’t realized the car’s range extended to her bedroom. I sat at the end of the driveway and mucked with the bluetooth settings until I was able to call her and pass on some piece of information or ask some question that I can’t recall now.

About halfway to work was when I realized I didn’t have my lunch. I called my husband in frustration. I had a meeting that morning that I still needed to prepare for. I didn’t have time to return home.

“I can bring it to you,” he said helpfully.

“But I’m in meetings all morning,” I responded. “Just forget it,” I sulked. “Just put it back in the fridge. I’ll just go hungry today.” Which was silly – we have a cafeteria.

“I can put it in an insulated bag and leave it in your car,” he said. “Oh, but wait. I don’t have a key to your car.”

“I’ll leave it unlocked for you,” I said, relieved that I’d get to eat my planned lunch after all. “And then you can lock it after you put the food in there.”

It was a deal. (Imagined) disaster averted. I finished the drive to work without incident.

Once there, I parked the car, gathered my purse, and opened the driver’s door. I glanced down as I did so and noticed an empty Coca-Cola can in the cup-holder of the door.

I’m going to have to talk to Jane about leaving crap like that in my car, I thought to myself. Something felt off, but I couldn’t think what. The important thing was that I get into work and prepare for the meeting. I locked the door and began the walk in, texting the location of the car to my husband.

Several parking aisles later, as I finished up the text, I realized I had locked the door. Idiot, I thought to myself, turning around to go unlock it. The kinder, gentler part of my brain complimented me for remembering it was locked before it was too late.

There was a problem though. When I got back to the aisle I knew I had parked in, my car was not there. I scanned the handful of cars. None of them was mine. I focused in more closely to the exact spot I thought I had parked in. There sat, not a sea-foam green Prius, which is what I drive, but a rich dark blue Prius.

The puzzle pieces all fell into place. I was looking at my husband’s car. I shouldn’t have had to adjust my seats or my mirrors if I had been in my car. I shouldn’t have had to connect my phone to the bluetooth. I should have noticed both the different exterior and interior colors. I should have noticed how much dustier and more cluttered the car was. I should have remembered, when I gazed at the Coke can, that my daughter can’t stand Coca Cola. She’s a Dr. Pepper girl, through and through. My husband, on the other hand… And, I realized incredulously, I should have noticed the large wooden rabbit with chipped and faded white paint that he keeps on the dash, right in front of the steering wheel. But I hadn’t. None of that had sunk in.

I turned back toward the building. No need to unlock the car now. So I called him.

“I just made your life a whole lot more difficult,” I said, not amused at all. “But at least you can get into the car to leave my lunch.” After a brief pause, I finished with disdain dripping from my voice, “I drove your car to work.”

Now, my husband has a joyous, life-filled belly laugh. This laugh burst through my phone and continued for – I swear – a good thirty seconds. I imagined he was having to wipe tears from his eyes.

“That’s OK,” he finally said. “I can just drive the truck.”

“I’m really getting worried about my mental stability,” I said. It had only been a few days since my daughter had surprised me (on his behalf) with three roses in a wide mouthed vase one morning. At the time I had thought, but not stated, that they looked rather forlorn – just three lone roses sagging to their respective edges of the vase. One for each kid.

That evening, when I came home from work, I commented on the baby’s breath and greenery now in the vase. The arrangement looked lovely.

“Where did you get the baby’s breath?” I had asked her.

“I haven’t touched those since last night,” she said.

“That other stuff wasn’t in the vase this morning,” I tried.

She looked at me like I was crazy. “I’m telling you mom, that stuff was there. I haven’t touched it.”

My mind was blown, but not nearly as blown as realizing I had managed to drive the wrong vehicle to work. Same make and model, but still. The wrong car.

In response to my stated concern, my husband said, still chuckling just a bit, “I think you’ve got a lot of miles left in you yet, babe.”

“Seriously, honey. My brain is kind of our livelihood. If it goes, we are in trouble.”

I told my story to some coworkers, who kindly told me they hadn’t noticed any problem in the meeting. So maybe it’s just what everyone else seems to think – I’ve been going at it too hard for too long in too many different areas of my life. I’m exhausted and it’s starting to show.

Maybe that’s it. But we all have our most deep-seated fears and I know what mine is. It’s the fear of losing my mind. Losing my grip on reality. Not being able to trust what my brain tells me. I know there are probably worse fates, but that’s the one that makes all the blood drain out of my face. Even worse knowing that, if it happens, I probably won’t even see it coming.

I’m still a little stunned. I remember taking a situational awareness test in a training class once. We were instructed to count how many times the people in the video passed the basketball to each other. While they passed the ball, a person in a gorilla suit jumped into the circle, waved its arms around, and then jumped out. I was one of the very few people in the class who had even noticed the gorilla. Everyone else was so focused on counting the passes that they had tuned everything else out. I now understand their disbelief when showed the video again. I now understand why some insisted the second video was different from what they watched the first time.

I can tell you one thing though. Whether I’m losing my mind or not, it’s one dang funny story to tell!

Happy Friday!

I was sitting on my bed reading a book before bedtime when Jane approached, purse on arm and keys in hand.

“Amy left her earbuds in my car. She’s getting ready to go to the gym so I’m going to run them in to her.”

“Why doesn’t she come out here to get them?” I asked.

“It’s not a big deal, mom.”

“Yes it is. It doesn’t make sense. She forgot them in your car, she should come out here and get them.

“Really, mom,  I don’t mind. It’s really not a big deal.”

“You are spending your gas money! You are going to spend 20-30 minutes on the road. Just so Amy can have her earbuds. It doesn’t make sense.”

“Mom, it’s fine! Amy drives me around town all the time. I just leave my car at school. It’s fine. I don’t mind.”

“Ok, whatever,” I said, realizing that this wasn’t a hill I needed to die on even if it made no sense to me.

I heard her come back in the house some time later, thought I heard her messing around at the other end of the house for a bit, and then finally she went to her room. I got up some time later to tell Daryl something in the living room. As I headed down the hall, I encountered a chair that I had asked her to return to the dining room earlier in the evening. I cracked open her door and wryly thanked her for putting it away.

“I’ll take care of it, mom.”

“No, that’s ok. I’ve got it,” I said, closing the door and then picking up the chair as I went down the hall.

“Mom! I said I’ve got it!”

“It’s really not a big deal,” I called back, trying to remove the irritation that must have been in my voice the first time. She obviously thought I was mad at her, which I wasn’t.

“MOM!! Please! I said I’d take care of it!!”

Confused, I tried to soothe her. “Honey, I’m not mad at you. I’m going that way anyway. It’s really not a problem.”

MOM!!” She sounded like she was about to cry. “PLEASE don’t go to the dining room! I said I’d take care of the chair.”

“Ok,” I said, frustrated. “I’ve just set it down in the living room. Make sure you come take care of it.”

“Thank you. I will!” Relief. And fatigue.

After talking to Daryl, I passed back by her door and decided to open it again.

“Why can’t I go in the dining room?” I asked.

“You just can’t mom. Don’t worry about it.”

“What is it?”

“Just. Mom, it’s not a big deal. I just didn’t want you to go in there.” Her head was in her hands. She looked defeated.

“If it’s not a big deal, then why can’t I go in there?” Strangely, while I was getting a little frustrated, I wasn’t particularly suspicious nor angry.

“I just really didn’t want you to.”

We went a few more rounds of “why” followed by variations of “just because.”

“Is whatever I’m not supposed to see going to upset me?” I finally asked. Uncharacteristically, I was easily setting aside my curiosity and letting it go.

“No,” she said – dejected.

“Ok, then. I won’t go down there.”

“Thank you.”

“Good night sweetheart.”

“Good night mommy.”

I had forgotten the entire exchange by morning. As Hal and I prepared to head to school, I entered the dining room. And saw a vase with three red roses – one for each kid. And a note that said “Happy Friday!”

My husband wanted to treat me for Friday – a recently resurrected habit of his from our high school days – but was out of town. He had enlisted our eldest to help and it had nearly killed her.

“I’m a terrible liar,” she said. “I made up that story about Amy so I could go buy the flowers. And I didn’t want you to go in there because I had already set them up and Daddy had said it was really important that I didn’t let you see them before Friday.”

I’m not the kind of person that thinks God spends much time meddling in tiny, insignificant day-to-day matters. But looking back, my willingness to let it go – ME! Let it go! – seems a bit like a God thing.

The Last Bean

Ok, before I tell this story, there’s a few things you need to know about me.

I’m a little obsessive in strange ways. I analyze aspects of my life that the average person would not realize were worthy of analysis. And when I’m eating, it’s really important that the last bite be the absolute best bite possible.

That last fact is why I often eat the tip off the pizza slice and then turn it around and eat the crust next, working my way toward the best, cheesiest, topping-laden bite to consume last. It’s why I get stressed when my children ask me for a bite of something when I’ve already honed it down to the best part. And it’s what brought me to this moment with my jelly beans.

I had poured some Jelly Belly jelly beans into a baggie to take on a road trip recently. While sitting at work, drudging through some less than gripping Ethics training videos, it occurred to me that the baggie was still in my purse. Pulling it out, I saw that there were 40 jelly beans or less.

As I started eating them, I noted that the concentration of red jelly beans was high and I knew why. I can’t stand cinnamon candy. I mean, like bite into it, spit it out into the trash can, scrub my tongue, gulp some water level hatred. And the problem with Jelly Bellies is that you really can’t tell the difference between cherry (yum!) and cinnamon. In fact, on the road trip, I had handed off all uncertain red ones to my husband and learned later that I only had 50% accuracy.

Eyeing the bag, I realized I had a decision to make. Either take a chance with the red beans or throw them out. I pulled them all out of the bag and lined them up between me and my keyboard. If I could only group them into two red variations, I thought, then I could taste one from each and know which were cinnamon.

The problem was – once they were all lined up, I realized that they all looked exactly the same. I could detect no difference! I tried rearranging them to see if I could see a difference, but no. I picked one up and tried to sniff it but got no hint. Taking a bold chance, I popped it in my mouth. And smiled. It was cherry! Yay! So did that mean they all were?

I wasn’t sure. And the quantity of other colors was getting low. It was time to determine which should be my last. The buttered popcorn ones were long gone. So were the red apple. I picked up a dark maroon one thinking that if it were Dr. Pepper, it’d be the perfect last. Unless it was actually Tootsie Roll. That wouldn’t be a good finish.

So then I pulled out some tan ones. If they were caramel apple, great! Peanut butter? Meh. Pink with blue and red splotches? Not going out on bubble gum, no. I sat there, reading the ethics video and sorting the beans into candidate groups. The last bean out of the bag was green. Green is safe. Nothing to write home about but enjoyable.

As I ate some jelly beans, I’d rotate in a red one. Every time: cherry. Nine red jelly beans. The first seven were all cherry. I was loving it! Maybe…maybe… You know, cherry would be a nice jelly bean to go out on. But cinnamon? Man, do I risk it?

While trying to decide on the red beans, I accidentally ate the Dr. Pepper one. And the caramel apples. I was down to the green and the two reds. Ok, I decided, I’ll eat another red. If it’s cherry, they all are. That’s why they all look exactly the same.

Unless… the warning voice whispered in the back of my head…How horrible will it be if the last one is cinnamon? What are the odds, I responded. Eight red beans eaten at random and the last one is the one bean out of hundreds that I absolutely would hate to end on?

I ate the next to last red one. It was cherry. I decided to be brave and eat the green one next.

And then I ate the last red one. The last bean.

Cinnamon.

Seriously.

I actually laughed. And swallowed the bean. It seemed the universe was telling me to get over it.