Four years ago this summer, Jason’s dad passed away. While he was still in the hospital, Jason flew to Minnesota to see him. He arrived a couple of hours before he died. It was a stressful time, understandably, but it wasn’t just the loss that was such a challenge. You know those times are tough, but not until you actually live them do you discover just which of the aspects are going to make them so awful. Much of my personal difficulty was about Jason being there and me being here. The separation felt like more than just physical miles, but also distance within the experience, unable to share the burden, the grief, the communication. That was very trying. That was very hard.
After Jack passed, then I needed to put things in order here and get the family out there. We didn’t have the funds to fly five more of us, so we were going by car. We had to scramble (or it certainly felt like it was required, the way those things unfold) to pack and get the car checked at the mechanics and plan the two-day road trip to get to Jason, to help plan a memorial, and to just be together. We left mid-afternoon, and did last minute things to prepare the house to be abandoned for many days, like taking care of the mail and paper and watering the garden and trees (it was the end of July=hot and dry). I arranged with my sister to drop by and check things, to make sure the house was sitting here fine, all sound and secure while we were gone.
One of my children, who I’ll call Thing 1, volunteered to do the driving. This was incredibly helpful, as I don’t do very well driving excessively long stretches, plus I can’t see in the dark. So I needed help. So Thing 1 drove late into the night and by midnight, when I was ready to go “ding,” we stopped at a motel. (When my nephew was a toddler, when he’d reached the end of his rope and couldn’t cope anymore, it was like a timer went off and he went ballistic. We called that “going ding.”) Early the next morning, after getting hardly any sleep, we hit the road again. Thing 1 was determined to continue driving, so I was happy for that and accepted the arrangement. Thing 1 was suddenly my favorite.
Part way through the ride, Thing 2 and Thing 3 in the back seat (yes, this even happens when they aren’t 12 years old anymore) were not getting along. Granted, it was a stressful time. But still. I mean, really. Thing 2 hauled off and hit Thing 3 right in the head, and I did go ding. When you can’t take it anymore, sometimes you just snap and do anything it takes to just make it STOP! So very impulsively, very angry, very authoritatively, I said, “Thing 2, that’s $10. Right now. Your fine. You do NOT hit Thing 3!” When they aren’t 12 anymore, it’s amazing the looks they can sear you with. But I was having none of it. “Ten dollars. Now!” Thing 2 yanked the wallet out of the pocket and threw the bill at me. We were just pulling into a gas station somewhere in Kansas, so it was a good time to take a breather.
Thing 1 filled the tank. I went to the restroom, and the other Things did what they had to do to decompress. (Thing 4 was just reading I think, way in the back, staying out of trouble. Probably earning Second Place of being Mom’s Favorite without even trying.) I wandered around the convenience store after visiting the loo and a couple of the Things joined me. At one point, I just happened to be looking at candy and treats when Thing 1 (my favorite, keep in mind) came over and we looked together. Thing 1 was working so hard keeping the car headed east, between the lines, I thought maybe a treat would be in order. So quite off the cuff, spontaneously, I offered to buy and Thing 1 chose a treat.
While I finished up browsing and calming down, Thing 1 went out to the car. Thing 1 held up the newly acquired treat and wiggled it in Thing 3’s face while doing a little happy dance. “Look what Mom bought me!” Thing 1 said gleefully. “How’d that happen?” Thing 3 asked. Thing 1 shrugged, like it was a mystery. “She had ten dollars.”
Several days later, my sister called me to say she’d been by the house to check on things and found a notice nailed to our door. (Maybe it was taped.) The utilities company had come by to try to track us down. Their equipment had monitored a spike in our water consumption and they came out to see if there was a water main leak or something else going on. Since we weren’t home, and they had no access, they opted for the note on the door. So when my sister found the notice, she did an inspection herself and found the back hose was on. Just sitting there, full throttle, running freely over the dirt (we didn’t even have a lawn there to benefit) emptying the reservoir up there on Pike Peak onto our back yard. Remember how I’d done that quick watering before we left to make sure the garden got a drink? Well, apparently when you’re all distracted and stressed and believe you need to be in a hurry, sometimes you can just set the hose down and walk away and completely forget to turn it off before you get in the car and drive away for a week.
The water bill turned out to be almost $600. With several phone calls once we got back home, we learned that the utility company actually has a program where you can appeal and explain in full detail why you were so stupid that you let half of the mountain reservoir empty onto your yard. If they deem you compromised and justified, (or just feel really sorry for you) they wave some of the cost and pay it for you out of some grant a little old lady left to help out stupid people who were stressed and didn’t make very smart decisions. (Okay, I don’t really know where the money came from, but that sounds plausible, especially knowing how easy it becomes for old ladies to have their own personal experience with such things and want to lend a hand.) In the end, we got our bill reduced by several hundred dollars. All in all, it wasn’t so bad really. Besides, I’d already made ten bucks out on the road somewhere in Kansas.
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