It's not about the house.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Now, More Than Ever

Oy, with the silence already!

Okay, here’s the deal:

My mom is sick. Has been for a while. Dad, too, but Dad’s probably going to be okay. We’re not sure yet about Mom. I haven’t said anything about it because I’m really not a parenthetical-hugs-from-internet-avatars kind of person. I hope that doesn’t make me sound like too much of a dick. I do love and appreciate you all, but if I’m going to write about this, I’m going to have to be honest. Which, for me, in case you haven’t noticed, means I’m going to have to add a touch of snark. And if we’re all hugging each other in the comment section, then I’ll be too shy to tell you things like when Mom wrinkled up her nose in the doctor’s office yesterday and said she thought somebody farted, I’m pretty sure that somebody was her.

And so we’re off.

That’s why I have a dog now, see, and why I’m off the booze. And also why I’ve been driving all over New England in a car that really wishes I’d stay home and watch some TV with my husband for a change.

Well, that’s not the only reason for that last bit…

Dr. One Friend’s birthday was August 16th (same day as Madonna’s, but a few years later, in case anybody out there’s keeping track) and she is my best friend in the whole entire world. If she hadn’t just so happened to have moved to Connecticut last summer, I’m not at all sure I’d be handling this one nearly as well as I have. (This is itself a relative consideration, obviously, but I hate to contemplate the sheer volume of snot I might have shed into my telephone receiver if Dr. One Friend lived in, say, Saskatchewan. I mean, to begin with I would have to spell Saskatchewan on a semi-regular basis, and just doing it those two times has thrown my words-per-minute typing average in the crapper.)

One Friend came up here for my birthday a couple weeks ago, and in the meantime One Dog came down with a touch of cancer in her bones. She looks like this now:

She’s not going to be okay, either, but she’s okay for now. All the pain that she was in went out with the bio-waste, and she’s back to chasing balls and squeak-toys with the best. We should all be so get-on-with-it reboundy. 

Oh, hell, since I seem to have decided to tell all the bad news, I might’s well toss in that Johnny’s got an ultrasound scheduled September 9th. Hopefully they’ll tell him it’s just gas. There. I think that’s everything. Now where was I?

There were Mom-related reasons why I couldn’t be in the Nutmeg State for One Friend’s actual birthday, but I packed up old Chuck (TFT) this past weekend. The plan was to head down there straight from work on Thursday and stop off to see Mom on Sunday on the way back home. But then Johnny made plans to go to the beach for the weekend so I had to bring the dog – my dog – Mom’s dog – the one with all four legs – to Connecticut with me, which meant I had to come home from work first to collect him. Not a big deal, really, because work is north and Connecticut is south, so home is more or less right on the way.

But then One Dog – the three-legged one – came down with a staph infection. She’s almost over it, now, thanks for asking, but at the time it didn’t sound like a good idea to visit Mom on the way home and risk passing it on, so me & Mom’s dog decided to go visit her on the way. This meant driving a half an hour south home to collect him, then a half an hour back along the same road to the Pike. Then an hour west. Then two hours south. In a car that, may I remind you, really really really wants to die. Speaking of which...

I’ve been obsessively checking my fluids lately (the ones in the car, that is; I am still off the drink for now, remember?). It seems the rightly superstitious thing to do. Before I take Chuck (TFT) any distance greater than, say, a dozen miles, I make sure the oil, antifreeze, transmission and power steering are all veritably bursting at the seams. This way, when he finally does give up the ghost, I can rest easy knowing I did everything I could, and that his demise can in no way be construed as my fault. Except in that I am Destructo, and everything I lay my hands on turns to ass.

For my 300-mile weekend, I figured I’d do my topping off when I came home to fetch the dog. But when I started Chuck (TFT) to go to work that morning, I couldn’t make him get his butt in gear. I mean, the shift lever stick handle thingmabobby moved all right, as did the little arrow on the dash, but nothing happened when I pressed the little footy thing that makes him go. Or, rather, the footy thing that’s supposed to make him go.

This is it, I thought. Old Chuck (TFT) has finally gone to the big junkyard in the sky. Guess I’m not going to Connecticut this weekend, after all. And I’ll have to figure out some other way to keep getting out to see Mom. But at least he didn’t crap out on the expressway. At least he didn’t put my life in jeopardy. At least he used his dying gasp to crawl me home. It’s a little bit sad, actually, when I think of it like that. Maybe I shouldn’t have been calling him (The Fucking Truck) behind his back for all this time…

But – wait a minute! Maybe my crocodile tears were just the fluid Chuck (TFT) was lacking! Because when I put him in neutral I felt something definite click over, and when I put him back in drive, he mushed!

I started to drive on to work, and then had one of my infrequent sensible ideas. Perhaps, I thought, it would be best if I did not head straight for the on ramp. Perhaps Chuck (TFT) died in front of the house for a reason, and perhaps it would be wise of me to have a look. I had to go to the bank on the corner anyway – to get a roll of quarters, for the parking meters, because it was a thousand degrees outside, and even if it meant a fiery death on the expressway there was no way I was walking into work.

So I pulled into the parking lot, put Chuck (TFT) in park – but left him running, because you’re supposed to check transmission fluid with the engine running; I’m not such a big dumb girl I don’t know that – popped the hood and gave his old dipstick a wipe.

I know what y’all are thinking, but I’m not making a dipstick joke; my life is very serious these days, and I have had to put away such lowbrow childish things and endeavor to comport myself with dignity and class. 

So I gave the old dipstick a quick in-’n’-out and a little lick, and... nothin’.

What? It was a Yukon Cornelius joke! Yukon Cornelius!

Gawd! You people are sick.

Anyway, it seemed that somehow, in the three days since I’d last been out to Worcester, Chuck had gone and drank up every drop.

Except for, well, it’s marginally possible I didn’t check my fluids the last time I went to Worcester. In fact, it’s a little bit possible I was exaggerating up there when I said I’d been checking them every time. It’s entirely possible that by “every time” what I really meant was “every time I thought about it, and felt like it, and happened to have the stuff on hand to fill it up. Because what’s the sense of checking your fluids, anyway, when there’s nothing you can do about it if they come up short? It isn’t like they sell that crap at every gas station, supermarket, and corner store after all.”

But this time I did happen to have the proper stuff on hand (which, in retrospect, I suppose means I had it on hand for all those weeks that I was letting it run dry, but who cares and shut up anyway). I even knew which forgotten corner the funnel had squirreled itself into, so I didn’t have to spill the viscous liquid all over the engine and drive down the street billowing smoke as it burned off like I usually do. I poured in the entire Vicks-44-looking quart from the brand-new black bottle, and then another half-quart from a blue bottle I found under the backseat. I don’t know how much fluid a transmission takes when empty, but I figured a quart and a half ought to at least get me to work (or, if it wouldn’t, then for that matter three full quarts probably wouldn’t, either). When I got there I could check it again and, if necessary, pop into one of those allegedly well-stocked corner stores. You’re supposed to check the transmission with a hot engine, anyway. I’m not such a big dumb girl I don’t know that.

I found a meter right away, and veritably bounded from the car feeling free and easy in the knowledge that I had an entire roll of quarters in my bag. No fishing around in the glove compartment, no being fooled by the fistful of nickels that seems to have taken up permanent residence in my left front pocket, no buying a $2 banana at 7-11 just for the sake of the $3 in change.

Oh, crap. 7-11. The transmission fluid. Right.

I caught the door before it closed behind me, tossed my bag on the driver’s seat, leaned in and started up the engine. I popped the hood and then, because it was on the street-side and I didn’t want to run the risk of having it avulsed, I went back and closed the driver-door. It turned out I did need more transmission fluid – maybe about a half a quart – but I decided not to do it now because I was running late. I’d pick it up at 7-11 after work and add it then. As long as I had checked it hot and running, I could put it in there cold and still. I’m not such a big dumb girl I don’t know that. For now, though, I’d just close the hood, shut off the car, feed the meter, and be on my way.

Unless, that is, I am exactly such a big dumb girl that I closed the locked door with the engine running and my quarter-laden bag on the front seat.

The concierge at My Lady’s building gave me quarters. My Lady let me use her telephone. And the AAA dispatcher moved me and my running vehicle to the front of the line. Twenty minutes later, I was in. Guy never even asked to see my card. I did make sure to tell him how it happened, how I was checking all of my fluids and all. Because I didn’t want him to think, you know, I was some kind of big dumb girl.

Chuck (TFT) made it. All the way. Back home for the dog, to Oxford to see Mom, to Dr. One Friend’s in New Haven, and back home. Even to Worcester and back again on Monday for that appointment where Mom lit one and blamed the doctor. Chuck deserves the little break he’s going to get next week – which I’ll explain when I haven’t already been rambling on for almost 2000 words – but before he goes on blocks I think I’ll take him in to get his oil changed. He’s earned it.

And for the rest of you, the moral of the story is: I wish there was a AAA for people. Someone who, no matter what goes wrong or what dumb-ass thing you do, will come to where you are and make it right. Someone who, if it’s gone so far that they can’t fix it, will scoop you up and hand-deliver you to somebody who can.

There’s not, of course. All you can really do when things start breaking down is keep your fluids topped and muddle forward – if that means making fart jokes while prognoses are handed down, then so it is. Fart jokes are not a solution. Fart jokes are not going to make it right. But if you’re a certain kind of person they might keep you from crapping out on the expressway, and at certain times not crapping out can be a person’s most important job.

I’m not such a big dumb girl I don’t know that.


Ladyscot said...

I am glad that you are able to take Charlie to see his Mum (I was wondering about that when I went out for my two minute visit the other weekend). I know from my late father's experience that a visit from a dog can be a wonderful mood lifter. Let me know if there is anything I can do. You have all been in my prayers.

Robert said...

At the risk of coming across as a parenthetical-hugs-from-internet-avatar, I'd like to say that this was a touching and humorous post. And while I'm not much for prayers, I am thinking kind thoughts for you and your family.

Sparkle Plenty said...


Janice said...

Oh, Erin, I know EXACTLY what you are going through - my year has been just the same, one damned thing after the other and most of them blindsiders. I'm left one parent down, two parents-in-law in care and at one stage I was facing surgery without my main supporter. Every time I see light at the end of the tunnel it turns out to be a train - just keep hoping one day it will be the end of the tunnel!

12ontheinside said...

No spooky cyber hugs here, we all know that'd just make us both feel uncomfortable.
Seems you and yours have had your fill of shite lately. At least there's still fart jokes to lighten the load.
I'm sending positive vibes your way.

Sashimi said...

wow..and here I have been checking your blog daily thinking the lack of posts probably meant nothing more than you chipping away at those 1500 words on your Big project.

I'm not too much into God, so sending you and yours all my good wishes. Hope things get right soon.

jen said...

Hugs schmugs. I am much for prayers, and they'll be made. I figured...since you had Charlie...
damn. I can tell you that a positive fucking attitude can fucking help a fucking lot in situations like this fucking mess. I heart you Erin. & yer fooking husband. Him, I know I can cyberhug...((((()))))).
Prayers for your mom, darlin'.

ege said...

Lady -- Thank you. I didn't actually realize you'd been out there, but I know if you were it meant a lot.

Robert -- I don't know where I got the idea that you were the one who'd cotton all the Catholic crap, but I'm not a prayer either. I do, however, appreciate your thoughts...

Sparkle -- Ex-fucking-actly!

Janice/Nana -- Oh holy shit, I had no idea you were going through such crap. I read your note to Johnny and he says it's an Irish expression -- the light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be a train -- I thought you'd invented something. Well, whether you did or not, I'm sorry about whichever parent you lost, and I hope (as I've learned to hope) that it only sucks as least as possible.

12- -- thanks, again, for being the chick with balls

Sashimi -- I'm not much into God, either, but I so very much appreciate your everything...

Jen -- Thank you. I love that I have a God-Girlfriend in this mess, even if I'm not so God-y my ownself---

Sorry, the damn dog is demanding...

Jenni said...

You are in my thoughts.

I had placed 2 and 2 together a couple weeks ago when you were posting dog, Charlie pics. Let your mom know we are thinking about her and I appreciate the kind notes she would post over on my blog.

Watch out for that Train.