Saturday, August 13, 2011
Potpourri: Serenity Now
Summer time, and the living is . . . interesting. Isn't that the way the Chinese curse goes? "May you live in interesting times?"
Things started to get interesting in June, when we learned that my dad was battling kidney cancer for the second time (twenty one years after - and, apparently, entirely unrelated to - the first incidence). After a few days of experiencing that unfortunately familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach, I ordered the butterflies in my stomach to start flying in formation; we collectively determined that he would beat this thing, just as he did the first time; and life resumed, more or less as normal.
Then Mom informed me that she hated to add to the drama, but her dermatologist found a little sumpin' sumpin', of the basal cell variety, on her foot. I kept my sense of humor: congratulated her on completing her trifecta (this is her third trip to the cancer cafe'); told her that it was awfully sweet of her to opt for a form of cancer that required a topical form of chemotherapy that would keep her out of the sun for the foreseeable future, thus ensuring that Dad would have a cave-dwelling chemo buddy to keep him company while possible sun-related side effects from his regimen kept him indoors as well; and then politely asked her TO PLEASE, IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, STOP GETTING CANCER, BECAUSE I AM SERIOUSLY GETTING PARANOID OVER HERE.
When my 92 year-old grandmother started experiencing dementia-adjacent episodes with increasing regularity, we shared some inappropriate laughs about that as well. And then my spouse and I had a serious discussion about life's uncertainties, and the reality that, at any moment, we might find ourself in a position where combining households with an older relative might make sense. A moment that would find us with our pants pooled around our ankles, because our house is not exactly in "let's put it on the market tomorrow and schedule and open house for Saturday" condition. We have collected a LOT of junk over eleven years of living here, so I suggested that perhaps the issues with my parents and grandmother were a friendly reminder that we should take the time to "edit" our belongings sooner rather than later.
Apparently, I shouldn't have said that last part out loud. Not that God doesn't hear my inside voice. Anyway, apparently he heard me loud and clear this time, and decided that the best way to move us off of dead-center was to break a pipe under the house and flood our crawlspace with water. A week later, when it became apparent that the dehumidifier that we were running 24/7 under the floor required reinforcements, we made a call, and an insurance adjuster went under the house, tooks some pictures and then uttered words that should be added to the top ten list of "phrases that you don't want to hear":
"You won't be working with me. I only handle nominal claims. I'll be referring this to an adjuster who handles major, catastrophic claims."
My spouse blinked, then asked for clarification. More phrases followed. Phrases like "removing all of the flooring" and "engineering a temporary support structure while work is continuing." Spouse asked, "So, what are we talking about here? Two weeks? Two months?" Adjuster laughingly replied, "Oh, no. It won't take two months.
"But it won't be two weeks, either." (More words to add to the top ten list.)
So, we're moving out. And by "we" I mean "everything" - the people, the pets, the furniture, etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseam. And then everything has to be moved back IN. Meanwhile, kids are going back to school. Due to recent staffing changes, the administrative side of the law practice requires more attention than usual, plus I have to keep billing in order to keep the doors open. Not a great time to be taking time off to pack boxes. But it's not like I'm going to staff that out completely - I mean, this is my big opportunity to edit, right?
The wheels in my brain keep churning, fueled by comments from my practical spouse: if they have to take out the plumbing in the boys' bathroom, then there will never be a better time to update the fixtures. So add to the to-do list "research cost of re-enameling a salmon pink cast iron tub" and "price sink vanities." And, probably, "complete paperwork for home improvement loan," because there are other items on the "future projects" list that are ripe for tackling while we're residing off-premises.
The future, apparently, is now.
I do what any girl would do in my position - I radio for help from my girlfriends. Warn them that paybacks are hell and that they should pretend to be enthusiastic when the save-the-date arrives for the packing and unpacking parties. Because there will be parties, dang it. Parties are my coping mechanism. So, packing and unpacking will be accompanied by appetizers and sangria. If, as I suspect, we are not back in the house by Halloween, then it's entirely possible - nay, a sure thing - that I will be decorating and hosting for Halloween in November, and for Day of the Dead in December. The fall holidays ought to last three months, anyway. And haven't we always lamented the fact that the boys' birthdays fall too late in the year for a swim party? Parker James, here's your opportunity to have that swim party you always wanted, because Momma's thinking that we ought to celebrate you before your day on the calendar gets lost in the shuffle. Don't worry - we'll do something in October, too. The swim party is a consolation prize. Like when your dad broke his arm playing Clark Griswold and Mom couldn't maneuver the tree into the carriage house by herself, so she threw plastic beads all over it and called it a Mardi Gras tree and kept it up until your dad was out of his cast. Why not? When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.
And then you use the lemonade to wash down some Xanax. (Just kidding, kid. You know Mom doesn't medicate. But she reserves the right to spike the lemonade with some vodka.)
Anyway, said girlfriends reminded me why I am, on balance, a tremendously lucky person. Within an hour, I had a host of volunteer packing elves, box donations, commitments for babysitting and dog sitting services, and a liquor underwriter. Also a pro bono insurance attorney. And then I started to find the funny: I have a liquor underwriter and legal counsel; now, who wants to cater my casualty? And every good charity event (which this was shaping up to be) needs swag. So I initiated, via Facebook, a logo design contest. You know, for the koozies. (Current front-runner for an event title: "Gettin' Hammered." Although I am leaning towards "Casualties of Home Ownership," which would mitigate in favor of camo koozies. And, possibly, commemorative dog tags. You can take the girl out of the sorority, but you can't take the sorority out of the girl.)
I continued to find the silver lining in our situation (an apt metaphor, given that it's entirely possible that weather patterns are forming in our crawl space, on account of all of the humidity).
Given how much junk that I anticipate will be leaving the house, never to return, it's entirely possible that I could win an end-of-year Junior League award ON THE STRENGTH OF MY DONATIONS TO THE RESALE SHOP ALONE.
My parents and grandmother (whose household is currently pet-free, but who have remarked recently about missing the therapeutic benefits of having a pet) will be acquiring the temporary services of two excellent therapy pets, in the form of our Sheltie and Dorgi. (No, I am not forcing the pets on them. They ASKED. They love their grand-beasts, and the grand-dogs in particular. And the grand-dogs adore them. Particularly my grandmother, or "The Dog Magnet," as we refer to her.)
Speaking of my Dorgi (who LOVES to pee on the wall-to-wall carpet): here's our opportunity to tear out said carpet AND NOT REPLACE IT. Hardwood floors from now on, Ace. Deal with it. And, you know, pee outside.
And speaking of my carpet: how ironic is that I JUST bought a Groupon for carpet-cleaning?
We'll finally get around to texturizing over the wallpaper behind the refrigerator and painting it to match the rest of the kitchen. (Yes, we half-assed the texturizing and repainting of our kitchen when we moved in. I challenge you to even notice the wallpaper back there. And disconnecting the fridge was not an option. We moved in in July, and the refrigerator is where we stored - and chilled - the adult beverages that served as payment to our motley crew of amateur house painters.)
But before you congratulate me for my unwavering sense of perspective - rest assured, I do waver from time to time. When your plumbing, floors and crawlspace betray you THE SAME WEEKEND that your washer starts leaking and your TV loses its sound, you do get a bit paranoid. You wonder when the other shoe will drop - or, more to the point, how many other shoes are going to drop, because you've already exceeded just the one pair. You notice that your car is idling kind of loudly at stoplights. You wonder if, possibly, you are magnetic or have some other odd, detrimental effect on mechanical systems and equipment.
Then you come down with an intestinal bug, and go home early on a Friday, and a few hours later, when you are still feeling generally queasy and rundown (and have started to wonder if, possibly, you are magnetic or have some other odd, detrimental effect on your own bodily systems and equipment), you register the fact that the room feels kind of hot. You blame it on being feverish. And then you slowly become aware of the fact that THE AIR CONDITIONER HAS STOPPED RUNNING. The air conditioner that went out during the hottest week in August last year, and had to be replaced. You start to panic. You picture yourself packing your house, which (last you checked) is in TEXAS, in late August and early September, with nothing but space fans to keep you cool. Your husband determines that the A/C is fully operational, but the kill switch has been tripped. The kill switch that trips when there is too much condensation in the lines. You call your insurance company at 9:30 on a Friday night and inform them that THE MOISTURE UNDER THE HOUSE HAS CAUSED YOUR AIR CONDITIONER TO CRY UNCLE, and you along with it. You speculate out loud to Oscar the 24-hour emergency claims guy that failure of your A/C to run because of an excess of moisture in your crawl space probably isn't covered by your A/C warranty. BECAUSE IT'S NOT A PROBLEM WITH THE A/C AT ALL. IT'S A PROBLEM WITH YOUR HOUSE - and where, oh where, is that second adjuster? And what is the earliest date that they can insert the giant sucking thing under the house to really start drying things out? Because, in the stages of homeowner grief, we are way past denial and bargaining, and we have moved on to "Let's get this bleepin'-bleepin' show on the road."
Your spouse gets the A/C working again. For now. And you try to find the funny again. You fail. So you blog about your frustration instead.