Spring Break

Last week I cleaned my house, my barn and loaded up my tiny new car with two squirrels, two dogs and my giant new Betsy Johnson bag that’s so bright it brings a smile to my eyes and headed to the lake.  I went alone.  I listened to what I wanted to in the car.  I ate the entire spicy hummus by myself.  I experienced bliss.  Then, a few hours later my daughter, Cricket, arrived.  She’s not much trouble, but she is messy.  She burrowed into my bed, dragging 16 pillows and three more blankets, kicking and untucking the sheets.  She left her red plaid bag on my light blue chaise, causing me color dysfunction.  But I’m not complaining, she’s a fun girl and can be counted on to drive if needed, even if she can’t be persuaded to crash a regatta party.

Then, the boys arrived.  Lots of them.  Because I’m not stupid enough to allow my 16 year old to bust loose in Panama City, and because he has friends with parents equally wise, the boys are allowed to come up and do, basically anything they want, as long as they live through it and neither The Goose nor I has to wake up and take them to the hospital at night.  They arrived on Saturday, by way of the giant flea market, with tasers.  This caused me a moment of concern, but I bit my lip.  Sure enough, it only took a few hours until they had worked up the courage to tase each other.  One by one, they stupidly electrocuted each other until someone wet his pants, twitching and screaming.  And still they had the audacity to plague me with whiny questions about why I would not let them drive to PC, where girls are easy and plentiful and every night is a Girls Gone Wild video in the making.  Because no one required medical attention that could be found outside a psychiatric ward and because it didn’t make a mess, I just ignored them all.

The big story of the week, though, was that my stupid dog, Finn, got lost.  Anyone who has lost a dog knows that it’s a hopeless, miserable feeling.  We made this worse by imagining things out of a true life crime drama.  Several months ago, the elderly man next door to us at the lake, a nice, quiet master gardener, died, leaving the house to his, well, unsavory grandson.  Because I have never witnessed drug use, I must issue a disclaimer that I don’t KNOW he’s a crack head, but he has done some odd and unexplainable things.  By the time Finn had been gone for a few hours The Goose, the good neighbors and I were sure he had murdered Finn and removed him in a black plastic garbage bag.  We had the whole scenario mapped out, minute by minute.  The Boy and I worked up courage and went to the door to ask.  My courage was of the liquid type and The Boy’s courage stemmed from the fact that I was pinching him under the arm.  When we knocked at the door, we heard slow, shuffling footsteps and the door creaked open, 40 year old screen door screaming, and we tried looking through the smoky haze to see if we could see any signs of him.  We did see that the man answering was holding a giant glass vase, the kind with the coils and carburetor, and the house did smell decidedly like a Grateful Dead concert, but I’m not making any accusations.  He mumbled that he hadn’t seen Finn and closed the door.  Then, The Boy and I made a terrible decision.  We decided to scout around the house on our own.  We tiptoed around the house, like Fred and Velma, and came upon a large plastic bin with a lid.  A TERRIBLE odor issued from this bin.  I instructed The Boy to open the bin and he said something back to me which no boy should say to his mother.  I urged him again, politely, but he, again, demurred.  So, I opened it.  We both screamed a blood-curdling scream that would have assured us a part in any scary movie.  I shoved myself in front of The Boy and took off towards my house with him close on my heels.  We ran smack into The Goose, who had heard our screams, and yelled “THERE IS A DEAD BODY IN A BIN NEXT DOOR!” because what we had just seen could only be a torso, floating in blood. Therein followed a confusing “who’s on first” conversation, in whispered screams and demonstrative arm gestures, describing to him the width and color of the abdomen we’d seen in the bin.

The Goose isn’t easily rattled but we scared the pants off him and he did not want to go, hoping to let dead bodies lie.  We were pretty worked up by that time and there was no living with us, so he finally snuck around the back of the house, while we quaked and shook, and performed an inspection. We had 911 ready on speed dial and we were diagramming a home invasion and citizen’s arrest involving stun guns, fireworks and rope.  As it turns out, it was a giant catfish, in muddy water, but it COULD have just as well been a torso and we felt justified in our police work and still find him guilty on catfish murder and dismemberment.  Plus, gross, why?

The end result to all this was that our sweet neighbor found Finn two days later, bathed him and gave him a treat before waking us with the news.  There was lots of snuggling and smiling and everyone started packing up and going home, a few at a time.

And I am patting myself on the back for, once again, keeping five boys alive, averting any pregnancies, alcohol poisoning, head trauma, carpet stains, tattoos, STDs or exorbitant bail fees.  That, in my book, is a good spring break.

Ghostly Insight

Those of us who have lost someone we love know that there are times when missing them is like wearing a giant lead hat.  It’s so bad sometimes that you just feel like if you think about it hard enough, you can change the reality of things.

I’ve lost three people I truly loved.  Losing one’s parents is a normal part of life.  Luckily, I have my own little family, and really, it’s natural for parents to go on before us.  I believe they are somewhere else, they are whole and things are good for them. Seven years after the fact, I’m in a great place and really just miss them in that hard, hurtful way only once in a while.  Mostly I remember their funny sayings and all the happiness we had.  We really did have a great life together.

That’s why what happened to me last week was so WEIRD. I’m not a superstitious person, nor am I experiencing any particular longing for my parents.  I haven’t been thinking about them much, life is busy and I am darn happy with my life, except for the misery of winter.

Thursday, I was at the doctor.  I walked down the hall to use the loo and I went through a giant cloud of Oscar de la Renta perfume.  My mother smelled so strongly of this that it was sometimes hard to share the oxygen in a car with her.  Her clothes, fur coat and things that I kept still reek of it.  So, I figured there would be some nice little old lady that was nearby and I just breathed in and smiled.  No, no one was in the hall.  No one in the loo.  No one ANYWHERE.  So odd, just ghostly silence.

I then went down the street to the grocery store.  Not my grocery store, but Ingles, which is bad enough in itself, but I was meeting The Boy for a sports physical nearby.  When, out of the corner of my eye, I spied my dad.  Really.  My brain went “oh, there’s Dad”, because, before he died, we would often run into each other at the store.  It took a minute for my brain to catch up and realize it couldn’t be him.  I looked more closely and  darn it, it was him.  I whipped my bascart (allow me to say here that words such as bascart, communiversity, fantabulous, guesstimate and craisin make me cringe.  These are not real words.  I do, however, like “cremains” for some reason.  As in, “we picked up Memaw’s cremains from the funeral home”.) anyhow, I whipped my buggy around and followed him.  Same Member’s Only jacket, same pants, same black shoes, same gray hair and hair cut.  Same walk, same time spent gazing at the ice cream section.  I stalked this man.  I mean I stalked the living hell out of him.  I followed him when he went to the bathroom, I watched him up and down each and every isle and managed to get just ahead of him in line.  I’ll have to admit that I was all teared up and sniffy by then.  I ran to my car and I waited for him in the parking lot, snapping pictures surreptitiously all the way.  I am ridiculously inept with my phone and the pictures are all fuzzy but I was able to convince my family that I am not crazy.  I have never seen such a “dead ringer” (yes, I know this is terrible humor, but fitting) for my dad.  I have noted his car, surprisingly, a red Corvette, and tag number and next time I’m going to work up the nerve to just hug him.  You might read of this in the crime scene blog in the county paper. Middle aged woman in cute sweater molests older man in the dairy isle.


That night, I dreamed that I received a check from my dad, with a long letter, but in the dream, I couldn’t read the letter because it was too dark.  When I awoke, I had a call from my parent’s good friend, telling me of a possible problem with their estate that I needed to look into.  How weird is that?  Are they still looking out for me? Last year, I got a small dividend check from my mother on my birthday.  Of all the days of the year, it came then.  Just enough to cover a big extravagant lunch where I wished she were there.

Do I believe my sweet parents are trying to tell me something? Do I think they’re still watching out for me?  In some ways, I hope so. I always feel their love and approval, just like when they were here.  In others, I hope they don’t see me in my grouchy moments, or my angry ones. I surely hope they don’t hear my language when I’m driving!  I hope my mom doesn’t know that I sometimes wear jeans to church and tipple a little bit.  I do hope they see how wonderful their grandchildren are.  My mother would be so proud she would brag her friends’ ears off.  Cricket would be despised by Baptist women everywhere just from conversation oversaturation.  My dad would love to see The Boy playing lacrosse.  He was still just a little baseball player when he left and he would be baffled by the game but so proud of The Boy, who would now be taller than his Grandy.

Maybe it’s just a big ol’ bunch of coincidences, most likely it is.  It sure was a discombobulating 24 hours though.  Maybe we get these little love notes from them when we most need them, even if we think we’re going along fine on our own. This morning, I turned on Pandora radio to the opera station and there was my mother’s favorite song, that she played relentlessly on both the piano and violin.  I just laughed and said thanks.