A couple of weeks ago, we were on vacation at the Jersey shore, and we decided to go play some tennis. I don’t know why, but the latches for the gates to the courts were up really high, like almost six feet from the ground. The latch was heavy too. We had the kids with us, and they were running between our courts and the adjacent playground with a frequency that kind of messed with my game, but in the end it didn’t matter, Manfrengensen beat me in his usual fashion, 6-0, 6-1.
The latch was so high that The Princess couldn’t reach it at all, and Clooney even had a hard time, stretching to capacity to lift the thing, which must have weighed at least five pounds. When we had finished our match, we gathered up all of our things and left the court. Manfrengensen’s hands were full, and I didn’t realize that he was walking so close behind me, but when I let go of the latch, it came down right on his head. And his world exploded in stars.
Of course I felt awful, even more so as I watched the egg-sized welt rise on his pate. It looked angrier than he did. He takes pain pretty well, though, and he soldiered on through the day, complaining minimally about his cranium as the sun made its pass over our heads.
After dinner, we walked for ice cream, and then just as we were heading back, he mentioned that he felt light headed, so I said, “Oh no, maybe we shouldn’t let you go to sleep,” figuring that, though the possibility at that point was remote, if he had a concussion, he shouldn’t be allowed to go to sleep.
“What are you saying that for??” he asked. He reasoned that he was about to go to bed, and by mentioning the possibility, now he was freaked out and wouldn’t be able to sleep.
So, I tried to allay his fears. He’d been okay all day. In all likelihood he didn’t have a concussion, so it was probably safe to go to sleep. But then, as he got in bed, he pulled out the book he was reading, The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson, and read, as incredibly as this sounds, about a character who gets shot in the face with a potato gun. Of course, he ends up with a concussion, and his friends and family express concerns that he will never wake up if he goes to sleep.
What are the chances of that kind of coincidence??
So, Manfrengensen kept catching himself nodding off, fighting it for as long as he could. He said that he had never been so relieved to wake up at 2 a.m. because he realized that he hadn’t slipped into a coma.
So, yesterday, we were visiting my parents at the shore, and my sister was down from New England to visit. She had a little accident on Friday night, twisted her ankle and had to go to the hospital. Kind of a bummer, since we only see her a few times a year, and here she was going to be holed up at the house while we enjoyed a day on the beach.
Because I had worked at my kids’ camp last week, I was exhausted, and looked forward to sleeping in on Saturday morning. Manfrengensen usually gets up early and goes for a run or a bike ride, picks up some breakfast, and then takes care of the kids until I wake up. He’s one in a million, really.
Yesterday, I felt his hand on my arm, rousing me from sleep. I figured, as I came up to consciousness, that I had REALLY slept in, that he was coming to tell me it was like eleven o’clock or something. “Egghead,” he said gently, and then repeated my name. I opened my eyes, and his face was an arm’s length from mine. He was holding his chin.
“I have to go to the hospital,” he said calmly. “I need stitches.” He then went on to explain that he had tumbled over the handlebars of his bike, and needed stitches in his chin.
Of course, I jumped out of bed, insisting on driving him. “I can drive myself,” he said, but I wouldn’t hear of it. I brushed my teeth, threw on some clothes, got him an ice pack and we got to the car. It was then that I saw the other side of his face, which was swollen and angry-looking. It looked like he may have broken the orbital bone near his eye. His hands were all banged up, as were his knees.
He talked while I drove, explaining how he had been riding two towns over from ours, and had been forced onto the shoulder by a passing car, but then his tires hit an uneven part of the pavement where there was a lip and gravel, and he lost control of the bike. He flipped over, landing on his left side. Thankfully, he was wearing a helmet, or I would have been awakened not by his gentle touch but by the call of the hospital.
As he spoke, I could feel my breath leaving me. My skin felt like it was on pins and needles. My vision began to go dark, so I pulled the car over. He got out, came around to the driver’s side and helped me into the passenger seat more kindly than I deserved, before I all but blacked out. He then drove himself to the Emergency Room with one hand on the wheel and the other with the ice pack against his face. Needless to say, I’m not too great in a crisis situation.
By the time we got to the hospital, I had pulled myself together. He got out at the ER, and I went to park the car. When I found him, ten minutes later, he was sitting in the waiting room, and having bled through his paper towel, was just sitting there with blood dripping from his chin like he had a crimson beard.
We got him all checked out, x-rays, CAT scan, five stitches, and thank God, he’s fine. Today his eye is black, but there were no fractures. We got a glimpse of how fragile life can be yesterday. Just feeling incredibly lucky today that we came out on the better side of what could have been.
The Princess and I have been having a nice time the past couple of weeks. Well, last week wasn’t so great because she was sick, and in and out of the ER all week (blog post about that is forthcoming), but we’ve also done some fun things like visit the zoo, play in the park, and go out to lunch together.
One day we were at Panera, and she had to use the restroom. There were two stalls in there, and one was occupied, so we took the handicapped stall. She went first, and then I did, and while I was going, she asked me if I had “tooted my horn.” I had not, but the woman in the stall next to us was obviously having some GI distress, so I tried to hush my daughter.
Why is it that whenever you try to hush your kids, instead of shushing, they start asking “WHY?” Is that a new phenomenon? Is it something exclusive to my kids? Why don’t they get that when I say “Shush,” it’s time to clam-up, and immediately? I wish I could be more like a French mom. Have you heard of this? It’s kind of the opposite of the Tiger Mom thing, and when you want to convey that some behavior is amiss, you just glare at your offspring with a look that instinct tells them you mean business, and they fermer leur bouche.
Anyway, I tried to get her to pipe down, all while what sounded like a Michael Bay film was going on in the stall next to us. Finally she got the hint and piped down.
Then, I heard the sink running outside our stall, and the door of the restroom opened and closed, so I figured we were alone.
We left the privacy of our stall and went to wash our hands, and The Princess was still being silent. I made a reference to the fact that the coast was clear, so she looked up again and asked me why she had had to be quiet.
“The lady in the other stall was having diarrhea,” I whispered.
“What?” My daughter asked.
“She was having diarrhea,” I said loud enough to be heard over the water running in the sink.
“Diarrhea?” The Princess asked even louder.
And then I heard it. A quiet cough behind us. The poor culprit had emerged from the stall and was standing right behind us. She smiled meekly, and we crawled out under the restroom door.
Here’s a thing about me: I never got Confirmed. So there, now you know my dirty little secret…or at least dirty little secret number 714, right up there with the fact that I don’t really know too much Shakespeare. In my defense, I had a really awful college experience with Shakespeare. The prof was quite persnickety, and it was one of those classes where it seemed like everyone else knew something I didn’t (which, incidentally, they did) and they all got it, and I didn’t, and with the way I read, which is to say, quite slowly, there was no way I could ingest three or more plays a week, let alone plays by Shakespeare, which might as well have been written in a foreign language to my twenty-year-old self, because I had no idea what they were about. To this day, I can pretty much sum up Shakespeare thusly:
Romeo & Juliet: The one with Leonardo DiCaprio that Baz Luhrmann made famous. Rockin’ soundtrack. I mean, nothing goes together like Shakespeare and The Butthole Surfers. Am I right? Huh?
Richard III: The one in which Richard Dreyfus was starring in The Goodbye Girl. He was a king; he was gay, and he limped. (Richard III, I mean, not Dreyfus.)
Othello: The one with the black guy.
Hamlet: The one with Mel Gibson. Glenn Close played his mother. Were they kidding me? Oh, yeah, and it’s kind of like The Lion King.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Puck.
Henry V: Can’t you see this is the last act of a desperate man? — We don’t care if it’s the first act of Henry V. We’re leaving! (Blazing Saddles)
Coriolanus: The new Ralph Fiennes movie, which he directed, by the way. God, I hope I am pronouncing it correctly.
Plus I didn’t want to sit for three hours thrice a week for a summer seminar during a time in my life that was so troubled (long story short, my dad had just had a heart attack, and one of my good friends had hung himself from the bar in his closet that spring) that I hardly even went to class, and ended up just dropping out in July. (I eventually went back, changed my major to history and got the degree, which is pretty much the story of my life and brings me back to the Confirmation story. I mean, I complete things…eventually.) Maybe I will even get into Shakespeare someday. I do love Twelfth Night. That one I get, and it’s quite funny.
Anyway, a few weeks ago, in the weekly church bulletin, there was a notice that adults who had missed Confirmation could be confirmed during the Easter season. How convenient. As someone who has, in the last few years, come back into a faithful way, this would be a great opportunity to complete my Catholicism, make it whole. I had lied, of course, before we got married in the church, when they had asked me, “Have you been Confirmed?” I’m really uncomfortable with lying, but I’m also uncomfortable trying to sit through things like Catholic training classes, insurance seminars and root canal. For these three experiences, I have exactly equal enthusiasm.
But, for all rewards, some sacrifice must be endured, so I have been willing to give up my time to get Confirmed. It hasn’t been too bad. I have to go to the Deacon’s house once a week to talk about the sacraments. It wouldn’t be too bad at all, if weren’t for the other people I’m there with. Sorry, I hate to judge, but sometimes, you just have to make exceptions. I can’t help it. I’m human. They are this couple who are about to get married. She’s converting to Catholicism, and I just want to say two words to her. But I can’t say those two words to her, because those two words are, “Honey, run!” Run for your life. Don’t do it.
See, I’m sitting there every week at the Deacon’s dining room table, in a condo carved out of a centuries-old stone mill that looks like a church inside with its ornate archways and gilded lighting fixtures. There’s a crystal chandelier with fourteen bulbs and a multitude of cut-crystal teardrops that hangs over the table, which is covered by a dainty lace tablecloth. As the minutes tick away on a clock that chimes every quarter-hour in the same dulcet tones as the grandfather clock my grandparents had in their house, I sit there wondering how old the lace is. Did the Deacon and his wife get it as a wedding gift? Did Mrs. Deacon buy it on a trip to Ireland, perhaps? I think about how she has decorated their home. How she’s placed this lace on their table, how she’s arranged the Tiffany’s-blue-bordered china cups and saucers just so in the glass-fronted sideboard, and where is she at the moment anyway? (Last week I actually heard her answer the phone, but we have yet to see her.)
I know a lot of what the Deacon is telling us already. I went to 12 years of Catholic school, plus three years of Catholic pre-school and kindergarten. I went through Pre-Cana classes before we got married. I have had three children baptised in that same church, and two of them have had their first Communions and first Reconciliations there. I have worked for years as a Catholic school teacher, even teaching religion myself, which has required hours of Catechist training. The Deacon isn’t telling me a single thing I haven’t heard before. But he’s a sweet man, actually kind of funny, and I figure this is where I need to be to get where I need to go.
It’s all perfect, except for one thing: The oaf she’s marrying. He sits there, squirming in his chair, biting his nails and flicking bits of chewed epidermis onto the Deacon’s oriental carpet. He rolls his eyes. He grunts. He asks irrelevant questions about Vatican II and what the Protestants or Episcopalians do. I keep thinking about marriage and how it’s not all fun and excitement, how sometimes it’s just the two of you all night in front of the TV, and while you may certainly love that other person, sometimes the things they do drive you crazy. They make noise when they eat popcorn, or they sneeze too dramatically, or they talk when you’re trying to hear how David Caruso’s going to crack this case before the end of the hour.
But then I realize that I’m totally wrong. What do I know? They could be perfect for each other. And to prove the point, I offer this story: We’d been there almost an hour and a half, which after dealing with a day of work, and traffic, and for me, kids, was getting kind of late into the evening. Sure, I wanted to be in my pjs and bunny slippers listening to Manfrengensen munching on popcorn by the lights of the TV and his iPad, but I was making this sacrifice. I was willing to sit until the Deacon had finished saying what he had to say. He’d taken time to prepare this presentation, and I respected that.
The clock chimed 8:30, going through half of the full melody that it chimes on the hour. And she interrupted with the first words she had said all evening; the first words I had ever heard her say in fact. Her voice was shy, a little thin, youthful and reedy, “Excuse me,” she said, and the Deacon looked up hopefully from his Catechism book to her, as if expecting some kind of epiphany on her part. “We have to go,” she continued. ” There is a television show on at nine o’clock and we forgot to tape it, so we need to leave now.”
My chin nearly hit the lace on the table. So, what you’re basically saying is that God is great and all, love hearing about the god, but American Idol (or whatever it is) takes precedence? Those are some Twenty-first Century Cajones, know what I mean?
But the Deacon was sweet and released us for the night. Maybe there was something on that he wanted to watch as well.
Life is funny, isn’t it? It certainly seems to come up with the surprises. I don’t know about you, but I never ever expect what’s coming. It always throws me for a loop, like reading a McEwan novel, only with more laugh-out-loud absurdity. And I have to say, thank God for that.
I hope you had a lovely holiday season. Ours was very nice, but you know, never without a particularly memorable experience. Right before Christmas this year, we had a small gathering of family here at the house for Festivus. Festivus is a Seinfeld-inspired holiday where you put up a pole instead of a tree, air your grievances and compete in feats of strength. Tradition states that Festivus doesn’t end until someone pins the head of the household in a wrestling match.
The traditional Festivus meal is meatloaf, so I made meatloaf sliders, and then we had bagel bites pizzas for the kids and a sub tray. We also planned to play board games instead of performing those feats of strength. I had a pole, which was a shower curtain rod that had fallen down in the hall bathroom, so we set that in the living room across from our traditional Christmas tree.
Before the party, Manfrengensen told me that I could hire someone to clean the house. This was a pretty exciting prospect, because it’s very rare that I have the WHOLE house clean all at the same time. I can do it over a week’s time, but then, as soon as I finish, it’s time to start over, right? And because I am so diligent a housekeeper, I am forever on this gerbil wheel and have almost nothing else to do with my time. Ahem, ahem, ahem.
So, I asked around, and a friend knew someone who was available on the 23rd, which was also the day of the Festivus party. So that was great. I could cook all the food on Thursday and mess up the kitchen, then the next day, all the evidence would be wiped away. In addition to that plan, we were less diligent about cleaning up after ourselves. I felt like we were living in the fish tank of Finding Nemo and planning an escape.
If you are any kind of regular reader of this blog, I think you know how my well-laid plans usually tend to work out, right?
Thursday, while I was out buying all the ingredients for my Festivus feast, the house cleaner called to say that because her partner was ill with pneumonia, she would be unable to help us. So I panicked. The house was a mess, plus I had laundry, cooking and a number of other Christmas-related tasks yet to be accomplished. I did not have time in those 24 hours to get the house company-ready. I called around and found one cleaning service, Merry Maids, that had a slot that was even available on the Friday before Christmas, so I hired them. Never mind the price (which was 40% higher because of the holiday), I just wouldn’t tell Manfrengensen unless he asked (which he did) and if need be I still have two kidneys, so I could always sell one to cover the nut. Right?
Two women showed up early Friday morning and began to clean upstairs. Manfrengensen took the kids out to do their Christmas shopping, and I came in here to the office to clean what had basically become our “catch-all” room (see End of Year Musings: Week 2 for evidence) and the morning flew by. The whole time, I wanted it clean, but also wanted it fast because they bill by the hour. I was still in the office when one of the ladies started in the kitchen. For some reason, she decided to take the stove apart, and in the center, there’s a grill that I never use because how the heck am I going to clean that? It’s covered by a large steel rectangular cover. So I heard her taking it apart, and I was thinking it wasn’t necessary, but I didn’t want to tell her how to do her job, and not long after that I heard what was obviously some kind of injury, or a reaction to some kind of injury. I waited a minute before going in to see if she was okay. I didn’t want to crowd her, but if it was serious, of course I wanted to help in any way possible.
Well, it was serious. I mean, she needed stitches. She had cut her finger as if with a straight razor, deep and throbbing. She couldn’t get it to stop bleeding. They called their office to get someone to replace her, but no one was available. I felt really helpless. I wanted her to be okay. I wanted her to go to the ER. But at the same time, I wanted someone to come and finish cleaning the house. I didn’t say that of course, I just kept handing her paper towels, gauze and band-aids, which she proceeded to soak through in short order. I felt a bit like Diane Weist’s self-centered actress character, Helen Sinclair in the Woody Allen film Bullets over Broadway. I don’t have a clip, but there’s this scene where Helen shows up late for rehearsal, giving the reason that her pedicurist suffered a stroke and fell forward, plunging the orange stick into Helen’s toe. “It required bandaging,” she adds as if it’s the most important detail of the story.
I know — I can pretty much attach any event in my life to something in a movie. Gift or curse? That’s for you to decide.
Anyway, long story short (too late) they finished cleaning the house. (A Festivus miracle!) I felt awful for this poor woman, and two days before Christmas! From that point she did the dusting, nothing wet, and the other woman handled all the other stuff. Despite going through half a roll of paper towels and all the gauze and band-aids I had in the house, she was still bleeding badly enough to have to change the dressing every twenty minutes or so by the time she left.
So I said, “Are you going to the ER now?”
She just shrugged and said no. She and her partner had two more houses to clean that day! I felt so bad for her.
Needless to say, with this experience, coupled with the time a different woman stole all my jewelry, we’re probably not having anyone in to clean for quite a few future Festivuses. (Or is it Festivi?)
Okay…so Manfrengensen is pretty fit. He didn’t used to be fit. I mean he was fine, not overweight or anything, but he didn’t make an effort to exercise regularly. Then we moved, and we’re less than a mile from a YMCA, so he started going. At first, he started swimming, and then he started on the stationary bike. He’s quite competetive, so every time, he competes against himself, trying to top his last time or distance.
Then this summer, he started running, and he LOVES it. Loves it. He’s thinking about trying to run in the 2012 NYC Marathon. He’s serious business kind of running. Every day, he posts his progress via a chip in his Nike onto the Facebook; every day tells me that he set a new record. In short, he is into it. And he makes running sound like it’s so much fun.
He’s pared down now, his body looks almost Avatar-sh, only you know…not blue. And he hasn’t grown a tail. But I feel like when I hug him, I’m hugging a washboard. And when he hugs me, it’s probably like he’s hugging a bag of laundry.
So, I’ve been trying to exercise. Summer is hard to do regularly because the kids are on crazy schedules…I’m not even going to bother to lay out my lame excuses for you. There’s always an excuse.
It seems like everyone I know (except Manfrengensen) is doing some kind of Couch to 5K program. Just in case you haven’t heard, been under a rock, or just aren’t in tune to that kind of thing, Couch to 5K is an app you can download onto your phone, and it takes you gradually from the couch to being able to run a 5K. Supposedly. You warm up with a 5 minute walk, and then you run for a minute, walk for 2, run for 1, etc, until eventually, you do more running than walking, right up to all running. So I hear.
I thought I would try it. I got some good stretching in, following a stretching regimen I found on Youtube, and then I ran on the treadmill. And I couldn’t make it past 20 or 25 minutes. I couldn’t complete Week 1, Day 1. I would get a pain from my ankle to my knee (I have sprained that ankle so many times — have I ever told you what a graceful individual I am?) and I would have to slow down and stop. I tried different shoes. I tried more stretches, but I still couldn’t make it past 25 minutes.
So last week, I figured, perhaps it’s the treadmill. The weather had cooled, so I planned to run outside in my neighborhood. It was Wednesday, and it also happened to be the one day a month that I cook for a local soup kitchen. I had made the chicken, but then I also make a couple of desserts. The plan was to stretch, put the brownies in the oven, Couch to 5K for half an hour and then back to take out the brownies. So simple, it was bound to go south.
I locked the door, put the spare key in the zippered pocket of my pants and began. It was a beautiful, glorious afternoon. And since my house faces parkland, there was plenty of shade under which to run. It wasn’t bad at all, in fact, at times it felt almost good. But then, at the 15-minute mark, the pain began. I thought I would push through, and I tried, but it was too much, and I limped home. Got to the front door, reached into the pocket and all I found was a hole. A hole! Where the key should have been! And the oven’s on! I’m like Lucille Ball over here, a sit-com mom, goofball, in short: a total dork. I am up a creek sans paddle or even any kind of floatation device.
I started looking for the key. The ground was covered with piles of the first brown leaves of the season. I scanned the street, the curb, the grass, my eyes darting (and by the way — brilliant me, I decided not to wear my glasses for the run so I was like Moleman looking for a glint of sunlight shining off anything at all) in vain for the key. I was saying a prayer to St. Anthony, because that’s what we Catholics do, until I was chanting it aloud, even injecting an expletive toward the end: St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around, my fucking key’s been lost and can’t be found. In retrospect, perhaps the expletive wasn’t a good idea, because as it turned out, St. Anthony gave me the high hat.
Manfrengensen was at a meeting that day, far away. My father had a spare key, but he was working, and I didn’t want to have to bother him. But time was ticking. Half an hour was up. The brownies were drying up in the pan, shriveling, becoming inedible, to say nothing of the potential fire hazard that seemed to become more inevitable with each passing minute.
I had to cave, and I called my dad (hoping that the number I dialed was his, since without my glasses I couldn’t read anything on my phone). After I told him I’d locked myself out, he said he was really busy, so I added, “Dad, I’ve got cake in the oven.”
“Oh, Jesus!” he exclaimed and hung up.
Ten minutes later he barrelled into my driveway. Said he was sorry, he was having a terrible day. He owns a 19-unit apartment building that keeps him very busy, and that day, someone had water leaking from her ceiling. They couldn’t figure out exactly where it was coming from, and he’d had to drop everything to come help me.
And he did. Let me tell you something about my dad: He’s my hero. I cannot tell you how many times the man has rescued me, but I can tell you that it’s been every time I’ve needed rescue. Superman’s got nothing on my dad. He’s awesome.
He tossed me the key, which I proceeded to drop inside the door pocket of his truck. And once I had fumbled to retrieve the thing, he took off to go solve other people’s problems. He’s the man.
So it’s actually a story about my relationship with my dad, rather than the disfunctional one I have with exercise. I think the fates are telling me that running might not be my thing. But I will find something. There’s a kick-boxing class that looks pretty cool at the Y this fall. I wonder if I can do that without hurting anyone. (Can’t you just see me losing one of my shoes?)
The other day a friend invited me to meet with her group for coffee. The conversation was animated, mostly mom stuff, comparing notes on housekeeping, parenting and shopping. One particularly interesting part was on the dangers of fabric softener, which I have since stopped using.
Anyway, I finished a side conversation with the lady on my left, and caught some of what the girl on the right was saying. I heard, “I don’t think I could live without bathroom wipes. They’ve changed my life.”
So, I interjected, “Yeah, I think without them, I’d need to install a bidet.”
She kind of paused, and nodded politely, but then turned to the woman to her right and clarified…They’d actually been talking about bathroom cleaner.
The moment reminded me of another about 15 years ago, when I was laughing over lunch with some girls I was working with then. One of the girls had recently gotten a UTI, and so we were talking about ways to avoid them, like going before and after and such, and we were laughing, getting a little bawdy in the lunch room there, and then one of the girls, who was obviously a bit more experienced than we were shared (with a wide smile on her face) that “you can’t be putting it one place and then the other, either.” And the whole room went silent. Sharing is always a good thing…to a certain point, at least.
On Another Note:
The decluttering continues. Have gotten rid of:
10 and 11) two trashbags full of toy garage parts that were never going back together to form actual toys
12) non-germ-free vaporizer
13) one pair of clip-on sunglasses that fit spectacles I haven’t worn for five years
14) stack of old papers from the back of the counter in the kitchen.
1,997 items to go.