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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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.

Good-Bye

He was a very quiet young man. Shy, even. When I asked when we could meet him, she hesitated and then reluctantly admitted that he wasn’t comfortable meeting us. I chided her that if he wanted to be in a relationship with her, it meant being in a relationship with us too. Eventually, he’d have to get comfortable with us.

And he did. Over a period of three years, he became a member of our family. He was there on Christmas day, there on random evenings, there on trips to visit extended family. I slowly started to get to know him. I found him unfailingly polite – a kind and gentle soul. A calm counterpoint to Jane’s more volatile, strong-willed nature.

And then she called me while we were visiting family out of state for Thanksgiving and she was home alone because of work. She dropped a bombshell and told me it was over. She had broken up with him. She was crying. I was stunned. Why? And why now, when she was home alone with no one there to comfort her?

But there it was. I texted him and told him that I was sorry, that I knew he was hurting, and that we would always care for him. He responded in kind. His mother wished me a Happy Thanksgiving with a broken heart. I returned the sentiment. I felt hollow and anxious and…helpless. As the days went on, I realized what my biggest problem was. Why I kept crying when I thought about it.

There was a parenting truth there that I hadn’t seen coming. Hadn’t thought about and did not like at all.

My children can bring anyone they want into my life and I have no control over how long they stay.

I can love the person, consider them family, be comfortable with them in my house whether I’m home or not, and then – just like that – they can be gone. I have no control; I have no say. It can happen without warning, and it truly doesn’t matter how I feel about it. I just have to accept and adjust.

I don’t like that. I don’t like this person not being around anymore. I don’t like wondering about the next person. About whether I will like them as much, whether they won’t last either, whether I will be sad or relieved if they don’t.

I am proud of my daughter – proud of the strong young woman she is becoming. Proud of her ability to make hard decisions rather than just going with what is comfortable, what everyone is expecting. Maybe this was the right decision, maybe it wasn’t. But it was her decision. Not mine.

I just get to live with the results. And that really sucks.

I’m on my way… maybe…

My phone rang as I walked the long walk to my car after work.

“Mom? Are you coming to pick me up?”

“Nah. I was going to but I changed my mind…”

<silence>

“…I’ve decided to go to Florida instead.”

“What? How are you going to go to Florida in your truck?”

“How am I going to go to Florida?”

“Yes! You can’t go to Florida in your truck.”

“Do you really not know how people travel from one place to another? It’s simple. I get in my truck and I drive. Then I stop for gas. And then I drive. And then I stop for gas. And I stop to pee. And then I drive. And I keep doing that until I get to Florida.”

“You are not going to Florida.”

“Why not? How do you know I’m not going to Florida?”

“Mom!!” I could hear his friends in the background. “I want to go home!”

“Oh, well that’s a problem if I’m on my way to Florida.”

“Come pick me up!”

“If I pick you up, what, you want me to come home with you then?”

“Yes! You can watch me play Black Ops.”

“That doesn’t sound like fun. Florida sounds like fun.”

“You can eat crackers.”

“What?”

“Crackers.”

“What about crackers?”

“You can eat them while you watch me play Black Ops. Or whatever it is you eat. Black Ops is awesome.”

“I don’t like watching you play Black Ops – that’s your dad. Mickey Mouse is in Florida. That sounds more fun to me. I mean, come on! Mickey!” At this point, I climbed into my truck and began to drive to the high school.

“I’m trying to celebrate. Come get me.”

“Celebrate? Celebrate what?”

{something garbled that sounded like “Football is over! Forever!”}

“Football isn’t over. You have a game on Thursday.”

{more garble that sounded like “This was the last practice! Ever!”}

“Last practice ever? Wait, I thought you loved football. You don’t plan on playing next year? Really?”

“No, mom! Last freshman football practice. It’s done.”

“It’s not done. You still have a game on Thursday.”

“Mom, come on. You need to pick me up.”

“Ok, fine. I’m on my way.”

“Good.”

“It’s going to take me a while to get there though. I had already made it to Alabama before you called.”

“Alabama’s not even that far away mom.”

I laughed. “You need to pay more attention to geography if you think Alabama is close.”

“You can fly.” Again, I could hear his friends talking and laughing.

“I can’t believe you are talking about my super powers in front of your friends. You know I don’t like people to know that I can fly.”

“Mom!”

“Besides, I’m not strong enough to carry the truck with me all the way back from Alabama.”

“Please just come pick me up!”

“I am! I’m on my way right now.”

“Wait, so you mean you are talking to me on the phone while you are driving? That’s not safe, mom!”

“Ok, fine. You are right. Bye!”

I set my phone down with a chuckle. I’m so glad he’s a good sport.

 

Spock, They Ain’t

Children are some of the most logical people on Earth.

Assuming, that is, that children are the only people on Earth.

Of course they aren’t, which makes living with them baffling at times.

I’ll use my two boys as examples.

It’s been raining. A lot. On Saturday, my mom and I returned from a rainy trip to the store and after a series of suggestions between adults, my umbrella was placed open in the hall shower to drip dry. It didn’t rain on Sunday so I didn’t think about my umbrella until Monday morning when I prepared to head to work in the rain. By then, I had forgotten about the shower.

I looked for my umbrella near the front door, where it is usually stored, and it wasn’t there. I asked my husband if he had seen it. He hadn’t. I texted my mom to ask where she had put it. She reminded me that my dad had placed it in the shower. After checking the bathroom and not finding it, my husband asked Daryl, now 15 years old, if he had seen the umbrella in the bathroom. He said no.

Later that morning, I was bemoaning the loss of my umbrella and wondering how it had disappeared from the bathroom.

“Oh, that was your umbrella?” Daryl asked.

“Yes.”

“It was in the shower so I moved it next to the toilet.”

“So when you were asked if you had seen my umbrella in the bathroom, you said no because you didn’t know if the umbrella you saw in the bathroom was mine or not.”

“Yeah.”

“Because umbrellas are such a common presence in the bathroom.”

“Well! I didn’t know!”

The umbrella, in case you are curious, is still missing.

But let’s move on to Hal, the newly-minted 10 year old. Double digit age has not enhanced his logical reasoning skills either.

Last night, we overheard the boys arguing over a charging cable. Daryl was telling Hal to not use Daryl’s charging cable without asking and Hal was claiming that since Daryl’s phone was at 40% and Hal’s Kindle Fire was dead, he ought to get to use the cable even though it wasn’t his.

“Hal! Come here!” my husband called from another room. “Do you need a charger?”

“No,” Hal responded.

Jane (now a legal adult, by the way) and I chuckled.

“You don’t need a cable to charge your Kindle Fire?”

“No.”

“Is your Kindle Fire dead?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have a charging cable for it?”

“No.”

“So you need a cable to charge your Kindle Fire.”

“No! I don’t!”

Umm. Ok. The three of us just shook our heads and laughed as he walked back down the hall.

Daryl and the AIDS-laden Turtle

I turned down a long narrow road after picking Daryl up from football practice. As I approached the end of the road, I noticed something in the way. At first I thought it was just a bit of tire from a semi-truck, but as I got closer, I saw it for what it was.

There was a medium/smallish turtle standing still in the center of my lane, head stretched up toward the sky. The road was a divided two-lane road with curbs on the side and on the median. There was literally no way for me to go around the turtle. Maybe my truck could pass over the top of him, if he ducked his head into his shell, but I didn’t want to chance it.

“Hey,” I said to my oblivious son. “Go move the turtle.”

“Huh?”

“Go move the turtle. Take him all the way over to the other side. Not just the median and not back that way,” I said, as I motioned around us. Since my last turtle-in-the-road debacle, I had learned that you move turtles in the direction they are going. Doing anything else will just cause them to enter the road again.

“What?”

“GET OUT OF THE TRUCK. GO MOVE THE TURTLE.”

“Huh?” He looked up from his phone. “Oh, hey! Look! There’s a turtle!”

“YES! That’s what I said. Now go move him,” I said, repeating all the details of where.

“But why?”

“He’s blocking my path. Just go move him!” I said, checking that there was no one behind us.

“But what if it’s a snapping turtle?”

“It’s not.”

“But what if it is?”

“Then be careful. Just get out there and pick him up.”

Daryl exited the truck and approached the turtle with a level of caution I would typically reserve for mountain lions or rattle snakes – assuming I was being forced to approach them for some reason.

He started to pick up the turtle and it moved suddenly. Daryl jumped back. He started trying to “shoo” the turtle by pushing it with his foot. The turtle responded by running in the wrong direction and then turning to face him.

The dance continued as I rolled down my window and called out, “Just pick him up and move him!”

“But he’s trying to bite me!”

“No he’s not!”

“Yes he is!”

“Just move the turtle, boy! What’s wrong with you?” I asked, exasperated but reaching for my cell phone to catch his hesitation on film.

His fourth or fifth attempt at lifting the turtle, he didn’t jerk and let go when it moved its legs and he quickly moved it… to the median. Not to the other side of the other lane as I had instructed.

“No!” I cried out, knowing that the turtle would now have to cross the other lane as well. “Move him all the way to the other side!”

“No!” he responded in kind as he returned to the car. “He’s out of the way and there’s a car coming up behind us now.”

“Only because you took so long! Now he’s going to have to cross the other street.”

“That’ll take him a million years to get to it.” (The median was very narrow).

“No it won’t. I saw how fast he moved on you! Why were you afraid of the turtle?”

“I wasn’t afraid of the turtle.”

“You were totally afraid of the turtle.”

“No. It was an alligator snapping turtle.”

“It was not.”

“It was trying to bite me!”

“No it wasn’t!”

“It kept touching me.”

“So?”

“I’d go to pick it up and then it would start walking and its leg would touch my hand. Yuck!”

“So what?”

“It might give me AIDS.”

“You can’t get AIDS from a turtle!”

“You don’t know that.”

“Actually, I do.”

“I could have gotten AIDS.”

“Turtles don’t get AIDS. You can’t get AIDS from touching a turtle.”

“Uh-huh. He could have been rolling around in it. He could have had it all over him.”

“AIDS is a condition that you can develop if you contract the HIV virus. It’s not something that turtles can ‘pick up’ from ‘rolling around’ in the grass. HIV can’t survive out in the open long enough for that to be a thing.”

“Yes it can. I know these things. I’m in Biology.”

We traveled in silence for a while before I brought it back up. “If you had just finished picking it up, then its legs would have just sagged and not been touching you anymore.”

“No! It’d keep running. Vrrr-vrrr-vrrr,” he said, making rapid ‘running’ motions with his arms and sound effects with his mouth.

“It doesn’t matter anyway. It’s just a turtle. You are a wuss.”

“No I’m not. Man, I’m tough. That was an alligator snapping turtle!”

“No it wasn’t!”

He answered his phone about then. His dad was calling. Daryl gave him our approximate location and then sat silently as he listened to his dad talk.

I leaned over slightly and called out, “Your son was afraid of a turtle!”

“It was an alligator turtle,” he protested, “and it could have given me AIDS!”

His dad must have mentioned that the turtle couldn’t give him AIDS because turtles are cold blooded, because Daryl then said, “It’s called cold blooded AIDS. C-B-A-I-D-S. It’s real man.”

Daryl then passed on a question from his dad – what were my plans for the night.

“I need to write a blog post,” I responded.

Daryl dutifully told his dad, “She’s going to write a blog post.” Then there was the briefest pause as realization of the topic struck him, “{Smack} Hey!”

I just laughed. The phone conversation ended and we drove along in silence some more. As we approached the intersection at which I had totaled a previous car due to rubber-necking while people were dealing with a very large honest-to-goodness alligator snapping turtle, I brought it up again.

“You know, I watched an eleven year old girl in a dance leotard – BARE FOOTED – pick up an actual alligator snapping turtle, much bigger than the one you were afraid of, and carry it all the way across the highway.”

“I wasn’t afraid of it!”

“Yes you were. You are a wuss. Weaker than an eleven year old girl.”

“No! Eleven year old girls are just too young! They don’t know any better. They are too stupid to avoid them.”

“Whatever. You are a wuss.”

“Uh-huh. And is that eleven year old girl going to play football? Huh? I don’t think so.” He sat back with a smug, self-satisfied smile.

“Don’t try to change the subject. You might play football but you were afraid of a little turtle. Wuss.”

You know, don’t tell Daryl, but it might really have been a snapping turtle. It wasn’t big and I don’t think it could have gotten its head around to bite Daryl, but it was responding rather aggressively. Just don’t tell him I said that though. OK?

And in case you are wondering, Daryl knows he can’t get AIDS from a turtle. It’s just fun when he pretends to be a confidently wrong idiot and we banter back and forth. He also knows he was being timid and I know (and he knows that I know) he’s not really a wuss. Except when it comes to turtles, of course.

 

 

As Little As Possible

While I love my children dearly, sometimes I wish they had an interest in doing more than the bare minimum to get by. Many parents will probably laugh and say that this is perfectly normal, that my children are not unusual. That’s probably true but this minimalist approach to tasks has manifested itself in some crazy ways in the Bright Spots household.

First, there’s Daryl and the yard work. He’s responsible for mowing and weed-eating. The mowing he accomplishes reasonably well – it’s a riding mower. The weed-eating, on the other hand, is another story. After he claims to have finished, we will stand in the yard, looking at the tall grass along the edge of the sidewalk, driveway, house and other buildings, along the fence, around the mailbox and telephone pole and swing set and wonder what, exactly, he cut with that whirling string.

Around the trees, he’ll explain. The trees, at this point, still have visibly taller wisps of grass around them too.

There is a grass covered ramp leading up to one of our buildings and a ledge along the front. The grass along the ledge had topped six feet and the grass on the ramp was knee high. So one weekend we told him he absolutely had to weed-eat and he especially needed to make sure he got the ramp.

We came home to a ramp basically knocked down but the tall grass on either side still present. When asked, he claimed that was an area he gets with the mower. Of course, when he mows, he claims it’s grass he gets with the weed-eater. And if it was mowed grass, it wouldn’t be so much taller than all the other mowed grass.

“Daryl,” I said. “Every single piece of grass on this property has to get cut. Every time. By either the mower or the weed-eater. By you. Every blade of grass. Every. Single. Time.”

He looked at me like I was crazy.

Then there’s laundry. I had a load of “whites” dumped out on our bed. That load has towels, my husband’s undershirts, and Hal’s white socks. I asked the boys to please go fold the towels.

When I returned home, the towels had indeed been folded. But not the 2 dish towels, 1 washcloth, and 2 hand towels. And the towels still sat on our bed even though every single time I ask them to fold the towels, I then ask them to put them away in their bathroom. And Hal’s socks were strewn all across my bed. Even though he knows he’s responsible for matching up his socks and putting them away.

I mean, I guess I should have said, “Please fold the towels – and that includes towels of all sizes and all destinations so don’t forget the washcloths and dish towels. Make sure you put them all away when you are done too. And, oh, Hal, go ahead and take care of your socks.”

But quite frankly, that’s exhausting. And I’ve tried that before and I think they zone out and I get no more work out of them then when I just say “fold the towels.”

Curious about just how far this apathy goes, I set their stack of towels just outside their bathroom door. Would any of the three children pick up the stack, walk the three feet to the bathroom cabinet and put them away? It’s been a few days. You tell me.

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