Thursday, July 24, 2008

Just a Typical Day

Friday May 23, 2008
The day starts out alarmingly normal – I put the kids on the bus, read for awhile, and then the phone rings. It's my friend Sandy, and she says, “Um… are you watching the news?” No, actually I was watching Handy Manny with Ben (well, not really watching, just … okay I was totally in to it).
“Have you talked to your husband… this morning… at all?” Well, that got the heart pounding like a pot of coffee fails to anymore. I turn on the news as she tells me there’s been a fatal crane accident at the power plant where Don works. The news helicopters are indeed showing a nasty scene – cranes look much larger broken on the ground – and is that… could that be… sheets covering bodies? Oh God…
Sandy says, “Okay, call him and call me right back so you don’t have to be alone with the newscast.” Of course he doesn’t answer his cell phone. Of course all the horrible thoughts go through my head. Of course I’m panicked and can’t even remember Sandy’s number to call her back.
As I’m talking to Sandy about plans for the weekend (as if that really matters at this moment, but it helps me focus), my cell finally rings and it’s – thank you God – my husband. He was on the other side of the jobsite, he’s fine, didn’t even hear it go over, he’s fine, he has to go for the head count now, and he’s fine. He could tell I was laughing and crying at the same time, so he actually said “I love you” rather than waiting for me to say it and responding, “you too” in his usual way.
I wipe my nose on my sleeve, get back to my conversation with Sandy and we have a good talk about the weekend, the kids, her job, etc. Like I hadn’t just bungee jumped off a cliff and needed a change of underwear.
All morning I told myself this was the life of the ironworker’s wife – you just never know. I handled other phone calls from folks who wanted to make sure he was okay, sent some emails indicating he was fine, and then finally, once he walked in the door, allowed myself to believe it. He was fine. Others were not, and I took a few moments to say prayers for them and their families. It’s dangerous work, and we all accept the risks, but that doesn’t make it any easier when it happens.
The day goes on, the kids come home, they snack and complain and fight with each other, and I’m back to normal, for the most part.
Then they go out to ride the four-wheeler. Don’s outside also so I’m under the impression that I’m free to go about my housewifely duties, the ones I neglected this morning while all those new gray hairs came in. As I’m starting dinner, Don returns to the house a little shaken and I’m wondering if he’s had a delayed reaction to the morning’s activities. I’m prepared to be sympathetic and make him something yummy for dessert.

No, it’s much worse than that.

Abby and Ben were riding the four-wheeler on the dam by the deepest part of the pond.

Can you find the errors in that sentence? Why yes, you are correct – the entire thing is a mistake! You can get extra credit if you can tell me what happened next!
The four wheeler went into the pond and they were both tossed into the water. Don brought them both into the house, stripped them naked and tossed them in the shower to warm up before coming to the kitchen to tell me. How did I miss all this? NCIS marathon on USA Network on the kitchen tv, loud enough to be heard over the running water. It’s a weakness.

He then says, “you gonna help me get it out?”
I’m very very tempted to say, “hell no, leave the death machine to rust! What were you thinking letting them drive that, and near the pond, are you insane?”
But then, it really is Elliott’s four wheeler, and he really enjoys it, and he’s never had a problem on it, even when giving his siblings a ride. So I turn off the oven, put on my boots and trudge down to the pond. The back wheel is visible over the water, and I tamp down the momentary panic, pushing the vision of my two children trapped beneath it far far away because, as I remind myself in litany as I walk, they are fine. They are fine.
Don has hooked his own four wheeler up to the back end of the sunken one and says to me, from the water, “okay, get on and pull her out.”
He seems to forget for a moment that I do not know (nor do I care) how to drive a four-wheeler. I wonder if there was some head injury he received while mowing, a low branch or something, that has caused this momentary lapse in his judgment. But then, remembering that he was out with them and Abby and Ben were on the four wheeler by the pond anyway… no head injury required, perhaps.
So I get on and he gives me a quick lesson. He also seems to forget that I do not know (nor do I care) how to drive a stick shift, and that is essentially what you must do to properly operate a four-wheeler. Take it out of neutral with your left foot, give it gas with your right elbow, squeeze your knees together to brake… I don’t know.
Some part of my anatomy must have been paying attention because we managed to get the drowning four wheeler upright and up towards the bank. Then my luck changed, because Don said (I still can’t believe these words really came out of his mouth), “Okay, take it straight down that hill towards that big tree.”
My first thought was, looking down the steep hill, that after all we’d been through today, I was probably going to be the one on the stretcher. And if I lived, I’d be staying in the hospital a good long time, milking whatever injuries I had to the fullest (Why yes, I’d love another ice water. Today’s newspaper would be great, thanks. Could you just shut that light out on your way? Another Darvocet would be lovely, thanks ever so much.)
Then he has the audacity to smirk at me when I hesitate and say, “It has reverse, I can get it out of there.”
Should this be construed as confidence in my abilities to weather a crisis, or should this be an insult that he’s more worried about his toy than his wife? No time to ponder this, as he’s standing in muddy water up to his thighs and is now irritated with me. So down I go, towards the big tree. The little four-wheeler comes slurping out of the pond, dripping mud and grass and looking for all the world like a wrecked ship. I get control of the panic again, because now I am expected to back the big boy toy out of the ravine. Again, the temptation to petulantly stomp off to the house and eat something chocolate is overwhelming, but I contain it and persevere. When both vehicles are back on the bank, and the chance for me to escape is presented, I darn near fall in the water myself in my eagerness. My hands and knees are shaking so badly I must look like the bride of Frankenstein in blue jeans heading back to the house.
Dishes needed to be done, but with the shaking hands was perhaps not the wisest choice of activities. However, here I was finally back in my element and could work on relaxing. Or at least just get the dishes done.
Don returns to the house, changes his clothes, and comes to the kitchen.
“Okay, so I have driver training, I’m going. I’ll be back later,” he announces. What this means is that he’s going to head to the local volunteer fire station where he is a Lieutenant, take out one of the big giant fire trucks, get in the passenger seat, and let the new guy drive around the area.
Fast. At night. While Don shouts instructions at him to simulate a real emergency.

I begin to shake like I have Parkinson’s and Don asks if I’m okay.
Sure, I’m okay. Why wouldn’t I be okay? I came within a gnat’s breath of losing three of the people I care about more than anything else in the whole world today. Why wouldn’t I be able to just shake that off and make chicken? Yeah, most of my family almost died today… pass the ketchup, please. So please make my day complete and send Elliott out to play hopscotch on the highway and you go ride in that 20 ton fire truck with a 22-year old on gravel roads in the dark. I’m fine, really.
I cried all the way through my shower, which was almost cathartic enough. I sincerely hope that my sense of humor can see me sanely through my husband’s prolonged adolescence so that I’m able to enjoy what will undoubtedly be the milder rebellions of my children. I’ll let you know.

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