Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lady, Are You Dumb or Just Stupid?

You didn’t notice me as you walked by me on your way into the convenience store the other day. In fact, you didn’t seem to notice anything.

I, on the other hand, noticed a lot about you, and I’m still astounded, or I wouldn’t be blogging about it two days later.

For starters, you were well dressed—better dressed than I was, but you were probably stopping en route to work or class, while I was merely slumming with Mr. Lucky. And you had a very nice car. I can’t remember the make (and nowadays most cars look alike to me), but it was a gleaming silver sedan that appeared to be a few years old, as well kept up as its driver.

You parked it next to the passenger side of our vehicle as I stepped out of the convenience store with my pumpkin cappuccino (available for a limited time only). Mr. Lucky held the door for you, and you didn’t even thank him.

I noticed several things as I stepped between your car and mine: Your window was down. Your stereo was playing. Your engine was running.

You had no other passengers, not even a yappy little dog or a great big slobbering dog with head and tongue both hanging out the window. I’m glad I didn’t see a baby.

But you left your purse wide open—as in unsnapped and unzipped with contents visible—on the passenger seat.

Maybe you took your money with you into the store. Or maybe you took just enough to buy your own pumpkin cappuccino. (Only 99 cents in those little “Domo” cups, and I just noticed for the first time ever that there is no cent sign on my keyboard. Didn’t it used to be above the 6?)

How easy it would’ve been for me to reach inside your car and grab that purse. What fun I could’ve had with your credit cards! And making long distance crank calls on your cell phone.

For that matter, I could’ve just hopped behind the wheel of your car and taken it for a joyride—as long as it was automatic transmission. Had it been a stick, chances are good you would’ve caught me before I could figure out how to back out of that parking space without crashing through the glass doors of the store. (I’m totally clueless when it comes to manual transmission.)

Did you think it would be safe to do this because it was broad daylight, it’s not all that bad a neighborhood, and the place—A CONVENIENCE STORE!—wasn’t all that crowded at three in the afternoon? Or do you do this all the time, even after dark?

Or were you taking part in one of those hidden camera shows, and this was an experiment to see what someone like me would do?

Nah. I think you’re just a fool and you’re pushing your luck. Besides, that sort of thing could never happen to you. “I’ll only be a minute, and I can see my car from inside the store the whole time.”

But someone who knows what they’re doing—someone besides me—can take your purse or even the whole car, and be gone before you can drop your partially filled Slurpee in mid-slush and dash back out the door—especially if Mr. Lucky’s no longer there to hold it open for you.

Oh, well. Someday you’ll learn. I just wish you’d learn from reading this blog.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Am I Trapped in a Pac-Man Game, or a Bald Convention?

When I married Mr. Lucky twenty-two years ago, he had a full head of thick chestnut hair that started disappearing at about the same moment I tossed the bridal bouquet over my shoulder and into the hands of my already wedded brother-in-law.

Call it hereditary male pattern baldness or an unfortunate side effect of living with me and putting up with all my nonsense, but the fact remains he is quite bald today, even to shaving off what little he has left. In fact, I’m not even sure what he’d have left if he just left everything alone.

Baldness seems to be all the rage these days, and that caused a problem for me earlier this week.

After putting Baby Bear on the school bus, Mr. Lucky and I drove out to MacDill Air Force Base to shop at the exchange store. We hadn’t been out there in probably six months, and were dismayed the find it undergoing heavy renovations. The store was very much open for business as usual, but everything had been switched around and packed close together to make room for the renovation work, leaving aisles half as wide (or should I say narrow) as they were originally.

It was almost impossible to move in that place, especially with a shopping cart. Everyone had to travel in the same direction through any given aisle, or be trapped. It was like being inside a Pac-Man game: We’d turn into one aisle, only to run into a group of spooks coming in the opposite direction. We could either stand our ground and get chewed up, or we could try and back out, only to run into a rogue spook sneaking up behind us and then it’s Game Over.

Before we even had the chance to put a single item in the cart, we made the mistake of leaving it parked at the end of an aisle to make it easier to search and recover what we wanted off the shelves. Mr. Lucky was about to come out with several bags of Halloween candy and place them in the cart when a little old lady swiftly dropped her purse into the baby seat and seized control of it.

Though his arms were full, Mr. Lucky wasn’t about to say, “Excuse me, lady, but that’s my cart you just appropriated.” Old-fashioned gentleman that he is, he let her go (not that she was going to get very far in that crowded rat maze), and I returned to the front of the store to fetch another cart.

But then I couldn’t find my husband. No matter which aisle I went down, everyone else was moving in the opposite direction. At intersections I collided several times with the very same people. Finally I spotted a bald head over in the electronics department. But of course—where else would he be?

I zigged up one aisle and zagged down another to get to him; there was no other way to catch up to him. I finally pushed the cart alongside him and—“You’re not my husband.”

Well, from the back that bald head looked just like him. Mr. Lucky did say he wanted to look at shoes, so I burrowed my way to the shoe department.

Then I heard what sounded like a harmonica. Mr. Lucky enjoys playing his harmonica, but I didn’t know he’d brought it with him. Could he be trying to summon me, without yelling my name? (Only he usually whistles or makes a cricket noise.) Indeed, the sound came from the back of a bald head several aisles over. I pushed the cart that way and—“You’re not playing the harmonica.”

Nor was he my husband. It was yet another bald guy turning a tie rack that creaked with a sound very much like a harmonica.

I felt like I was in a scene eerily similar to one in the Hitchcock movie, North by Northwest, where the cops ran all over the train station grabbing and spinning around dozens of red capped porters in hopes of busting the one most closely resembling Cary Grant; or Raiders of the Lost Ark, with Indy toppling one basket after another in a frantic, futile search for the kidnapped Marion.

Me, I was slithering up to every bald guy I glimpsed as if I were planning to hit on him. I swear every man in the store was as smoothly bald as the aforementioned Pac-Man. The base exchange is always throwing “appreciation days” for the Military, or the Military Spouse, or the Military Family, or the Military Retiree. Did we happen to come here on Military Bald Guy Appreciation Day?

It didn’t help I couldn’t remember what color shirt my husband was wearing. In the end, he found me, as I stuck out more—something to do with being five foot eleven topped with long dark hair.

It could’ve been worse. We could’ve been chasing Baby Bear through this labyrinth—though he might have been easier to pin down. Just follow the thuds, crashes, and shattering of glass right before the alarms start shrieking and the sprinklers commence spraying.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

About That Balloon Boy: A Grieving Mother's Perspective

First, let me say I am beyond relieved and grateful to God that little boy was never in that balloon.

But it now appears the whole thing was a hoax, staged for a publicity stunt.

If that is true, then this boy’s father clearly has no clue what he did to millions of parents who have lost a child, whether through illness or accident or abduction, or that split second of distraction when a child wanders off, perhaps never to be found again . . . or found, but not alive. We’re all familiar with the old fable about crying wolf. Perhaps, when a child goes missing in the future, people are more apt to wonder if it’s another hoax. Precious moments may be wasted trying to discount that possibility before real action is taken, putting an innocent child in deeper, potentially irreversible danger. I hope to God I’m wrong about that—and as a chronic world class worrywart, there’s nothing I love more than to be wrong about something.

But this man did something else: He tore open the wounds of grieving parents all across the country who saw this story on TV, and were brutally reminded of the indescribable horror that comes with losing a child forever, sometimes in circumstances the parents can barely stand to think about—but must live with for the remainder of their lives.

I’m one of those bereaved parents. And to make matters worse, this hullaballoon took place on the anniversary of my daughter’s death. I heard it on the radio as I drove to the grocery store, and the tears started flowing almost immediately. I thought not only of Fiona, but of how easily something like this runaway balloon could happen to my fast and fearless Baby Bear who is autistic and can’t even talk.

I’m at least grateful that Fiona, who succumbed to complications from a rare autoimmune polyglandular disease, died at home surrounded by those who loved her most. But what if my precious Bear ever slipped away from me in the wink of an eye, and fell into a terrifying situation where he had no escape, no comprehension of what was happening, and no one to help him? It would tear me into so many pieces, I don’t know if I could ever pull myself back together again. It’s precisely because of his special needs and recklessness that I’m so overprotective of him, and can never stop worrying about him or what will become of him if—and someday, when—I’m no longer there.

I came home from the grocery store crying, wondering if they can put a man on the moon, then why can’t they figure out how to rescue someone from a runaway balloon? (I hereby confess: Hot air balloons are pretty, but you couldn’t pay me to ride in one, let alone allow one of my children to go up.) For several hours, my heart that’s been shattered before broke again for a helpless boy I thought was trapped in the balloon—and for the frantic parents. I was unable to function until the announcement he was safe—and what a relief it was!

Every time I see a story about the death or disappearance of a child, I know the hell that child’s parents are going through—a hell I would never wish on my worst enemy—that no grieving parent would ever wish on their worst enemy. It’s a nightmare from which there is no awakening.

And don’t give me any of that “closure” crap. Maybe for the rest of the world, closure comes with the autopsy results, or the funeral, or when a body is found or the killer sent to prison. But for that child’s parents, the doorway to hell always remains wide open, gaping before us as we teeter on the threshold, struggling not to plunge into that dark, bottomless abyss, as we rack our grief-crazed minds to figure out how we are supposed to get through the rest of our lives without ever seeing and holding our beloved child again, never to watch him or her grow up and become what could have been but never will be.

It’s a hell these publicity seekers know nothing about, or they wouldn’t have pulled this stunt.

And it’s a hell I hope they never have to know.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Arrival of Fiona Season

Yes, it’s that day again—the one without the cake and candles.

Every year on this day, we take one of those mini-pumpkins to Fiona, and we place it on the narrow ledge around the bottom of her heart-shaped headstone. Thus begins what I call “Fiona Season” which runs from this day until Christmas.

Fiona Season includes not only the best and happiest family holidays, but Fiona’s birthday, which falls on December 20th.

Her brothers have never cared about dressing up in costume for Halloween, but she always did. In fact, she enjoyed wearing costumes more than she liked the trick-or-treating part. On one Halloween I couldn’t even get her to go to anyone’s door for candy. Instead she wanted to just parade around the neighborhood showing off her pink fairy princess costume.

As Halloween 2000 approached, I wondered how we were going to do trick-or-treating in her wheelchair. I asked her if she wanted to be one of the Powerpuff Girls, for she loved Bubbles, Blossom and Buttercup, and since the popularity of those little superheroines was beginning to spike, the costumes were readily available.

But Fiona was adamant. She didn’t want to be one of the Powerpuff Girls. She wanted to be Cleon, a mischievous, giggly little pink fairy. Cleon was just one of numerous cute characters from Fiona’s favorite video game, Bust-A-Move 4:

Cleon is pictured in the lower left-hand corner

One has to give Fiona high marks for originality. Half the girls that year would probably come out as either Bubbles, Blossom or Buttercup, but what kind of girl would have the imagination to go out as the more obscure, but equally playful Cleon?

Fiona Lingefelt.

With only two weeks before Halloween, we were still pondering how to do a Cleon costume when the angels swooped down and took our mischievous, giggly little pink fairy away.

By the time Fiona Season ends, the little pumpkin is starting to go bad, and we toss it into the nearby woods.

In my fanciful thinking, I can’t help hoping that someday, all those little pumpkins will spawn some sort of enchanted pumpkin patch. I have yet to see it.

Or maybe it really is there, but it’s visible to no one but angels and mischievous, giggly little pink fairies.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Today's Border

The rearranging continues:

I noticed this latest configuration only after putting Baby Bear on the school bus this morning.

A long, boring straight line with only two curves? Oh, this is SO not going to last.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Or Maybe It's Just Another Pile of Dirt

I swear I didn’t do this on purpose. But after sweeping Baby Bear’s bedroom floor, I couldn’t help noticing the shape of the dirt pile. I honestly thought it looked like a heart. So I photographed it:

Afterward, as I plugged the camera’s USB cable into my laptop, Mr. Lucky happened to come into my office and ask what kind of photos I was about to upload.

“Let me show you,” I said. “I want to see if you see what I saw.”

In due course the photo appeared on my computer screen. Mr. Lucky was not impressed. “Yeah, so? It’s just a bunch of dirt. Slow picture-taking day? Desperate for an interesting subject? Or is it time I called those guys with the white coats and butterfly nets?”

“The shape!” I exclaimed. “Check out the shape of the dust pile. What does that look like to you?”

“Oh, the shape.” He leaned forward for a better look. “Oh, I think I see now. Is that supposed to be Mickey Mouse?”

So much for my fleeting dreams of the millions of people who would flock to my blog from all over the world, to behold this marvel of dust and dirt and debris, and ponder its cosmic significance.

I only know what it doesn’t signify. I do not love housework!

On the other hand, who doesn’t love Mickey Mouse?