From the Archives, Part I…
At about six months pregnant with our son, I started to really notice how difficult it was to move baskets of laundry, tantruming one-year olds and bags containing laptops (or diapers) up or down a flight of steps. Additionally, recent high blood sugar levels had resulted in my failing the screening for Gestational Diabetes, my hormone-affected hair was growing out an odd brown color in the front of my head and I had begun to find cellulite in the most unthinkable places of my body (the least of which were my upper arms, which had, infallibly, always been my stand-by best feature).
As if those things were not enough, due in part to the flu, which ravaged our household during the month of January that year, and in part to a ridiculous amount of dreaded Midwestern Winter weather, the occasions on which I had been able to actually leave my home (including to go into the office) had been very few during the previous month… leaving me remarkably aware of every new dimple, dowdy hair day and non-nimble movement I made. As a result, I found myself, on a given Friday afternoon in February, musing upon an intense desire to incite some level of excitement into my recent life that did not revolve around my appearance. Office furniture shopping was the only solution I could find.
For over a month I had been lobbying for a new filing cabinet – one in which the files would actually all stay on the runners and one in which the drawers would open and close with relative ease. I had been arguing to my husband that our current filing cabinet (which was dented and missing a handle on the bottom drawer) had been a big reason that year-end tax prep had been such a nightmare. Because it was in such bad shape and because I insisted that our smallish-living space be filled with only things that were both attractive and functional, the filing cabinet had been relegated to the old, musty basement. As a result, months’ worth of receipts and expenses needed to be recorded and filed. I had argued that with three children, there would be no way that I could continue to function (administratively) as we currently were and that a new filing cabinet, which was both attractive and worked well could be just the solution for me to better create a system for managing the office work.
Of course, I hadn’t really researched what the filing cabinets currently on the market looked like, but I was certain there must be a megastore of some kind that would have just the solution for my desires. Accordingly, it was only natural that when my husband got home shortly after noon on the day following my musing that I sprung on his unsuspecting mind with my request to take everyone shopping. With little persuasion, he agreed, and my mind next quickly turned to solving my hair issue…economically.
“What would you think about me coloring my hair?” I asked. My husband paused, silent, unsure if it was a trick question. “I mean I would color it… from a box [who was I?!] It would be so much cheaper than having it done professionally.”
“I like your hair color,” he said.
“But it’s growing out all funny in the front –it’s like all blondish up here… how it always get’s when I’m pregnant,” I finished, as I motioned towards my forehead.
I took his shrug to mean he wasn’t completely appalled at the notion and decided I’d finish the hair coloring lobbying later… once I decided that I could really accept the notion of artificially coloring my own hair from a drugstore box; something I hadn’t considered in the past ten years.
We loaded up the car and about 1 hour and 20 minutes later, arrived at our desired location; in typical mega-store fashion, we wandered through the crowded aisles, not finding any filing cabinets. In fact, the only model the store had was “temporarily oversold”. As a result, I found myself in the checkout line with a stovetop Espresso maker, a battery-powered milk frother, a small bathmat, hungry children, a crabby husband and an insatiable desire for the hotdogs sold at the at the counter across from the registers. After finishing in the self-checkout line (behind two people whom I’m pretty sure had neither seen nor used a barcode scanning device previous to this experience), we headed straight for the concession area and purchased four hotdogs, two bags of chips, two sodas and a fat-free frozen vanilla yogurt for just $5. We seated ourselves in the crowded dining area and I began my foray into delicious, highly processed meat and encouraged my five-year-old to enjoy hers (seriously, who had I become?!).
As I mentally struggled between extreme disgust and delight with what was entering my mouth, my husband pointed out a man standing in the middle of the dining area wearing what he called “the ugliest coat ever”. The mental battle in my mind over what I was eating continued at such volume that I couldn’t respond and instead, I found myself launching into my youngest daughter’s hotdog, which I actually could not believe I was feeding her … in fact, I was rather embarrassed by the scene of us, with our dirty, screaming children eating chips and hotdogs… what judgments were people making as they looked at us? My husband looked at me in amazement then clarified that it belonged to our youngest daughter “Yeah, well,” I responded, “She doesn’t seem to like it.” We both looked at our 1 year old, in whose mouth resided a pacifier (which I’d put in there to stop the screaming, but was, ironically, only adding to our “tired family spends the day at the State Fair” image). To add to everything that was already wrong with the picture, it seemed that a combination of ketchup, mustard and snot was smeared both on her cheek and under the corner of said soothing device. I swallowed, glanced up, trying to conjure a response, when suddenly the female companion of “the ugly coat man” was standing at our table
“Hi Joy,” she said smiling.
“Hi,” I smiled back (“who in the world is this person?”)
She continued, “I wasn’t sure if it was you, then I heard you talk and I totally knew.”
(Oh my goodness… what had I said?) I quickly tried to count the number of hotdogs I must have eaten while she was trying to decide whether or not she knew me – I couldn’t get my mouth to utter any semblance of English.
“You’re kids are cute,” she said staring at me.”
My mind started to race, while my mouth refused to move: “She totally knows that I have no idea who she is… WHO is she? Her hair is cute- tell her that! WAIT – is it really cute or would that just be a totally untrue compliment? Introduce your husband – you could say ‘I’m married and this is my husband’ NO! don’t say that… that doesn’t sound normal… that sounds like you are trying to show off that you’re married… WHO is she????!”
After what felt like a year’s worth of silence, she finally awkwardly turned around and left. In what felt like I miracle, my mouth started to work again. Turning to my husband I said “I have no idea who that is… what is wrong with me… why couldn’t I say ANYTHING to her … all I had to say was ‘this is my husband,’ and then when you shook her hand she would totally have introduced herself.” I groaned. My husband laughed, agreed with my self-assessment and then asked if we could please go home.
We left the store; I continued to review my verbal retardation and we stopped at a drugstore in order that I could “save money” and purchase my hair color.
It should have been no surprise that I woke up the next morning regretting the $6.27 I spent to concoct my ‘genius’ two-color Revlon mixture that somehow managed to turn the roots of my hair burgundy while the ends were alarmingly blackish-purple. After I had finished my dye job the previous night, I had fully convinced myself that my hair was not actually two colors, but rather that it was just the light (or lack thereof). As I pulled my toothbrush and toothpaste out of the cabinet on the morning after, I prepared myself for more strange looks from my husband, who the night prior, had actually grimaced several times at the very strange reddish glow coming from my head.
My contemplations regarding potential solutions to my hair-color issues were suddenly interrupted by my husband’s loud cries of my name from downstairs, followed by the strangest series of high pitched crying… or yelping. I tried to make out the sound and its source with no success. Fearing it was a child, I threw my toothbrush and toothpaste down (I later found them in the hallway … why I hadn’t thrown them in the sink was a mystery to me…) I ran downstairs (given my size, I’d say thundered was more like it) to see our one-year-old happily seated in her high chair singing and smashing something into something else on her tray.
I mentally checked off the safety of both children and realized BOTH house doors were open, with neither my husband nor dogs anywhere in site. I ran out the front door (barefoot) to see the hungover renter, with her dog, as our Miniature Dauschund continued to let out the ear-piercing series of cries and yelps as he hobbled inside… showing no control of his bladder or bowels the entire way. I ran up the front steps after him, shut the front door and looked at him. He was bleeding… but how badly? Over the next several seconds I realized that the underside of his abdomen had been severely and enormously punctured. He continued to cry and I (miraculously) immediately went into crisis mode, calmly assessing the situation and directing any breathing creature as to next best steps, meanwhile comforting and soothing the dog as if he were one of my babies.
This dog, whose bad behavior had frequently found me hoping that he would just vanish into thin air, suddenly became the object of my compassion and affection. I called the veterinarian at home, who was thankfully a family friend. His wife answered and, in yet another moment of sudden verbal retardation, I could not come up with her name. She handed her husband the phone and when he answered (I noticed he sounded groggy), I quickly explained that our dog had just been attacked by another, much larger dog and seemed to be significantly injured. I hung up, glanced at the clock, thinking it was odd that my call had woken them up, then realized it was 7:30 in the morning… how did I have absolutely no idea as to how early we were getting up these days? As I ran upstairs to grab something in which my husband could wrap the dog, he asked for directions to the vet clinic – realistic that anything geographic was not my area in which to speak, I found myself unable to utter a logical response that wouldn’t have him wandering the Wisconsin countryside, and I quickly came up with the faster version of Mapquest. Just call my dad, I yelled back, already forgetting how early it was.
After anesthetizing the dog, (a process by which both my husband and the vet were bitten, resulting in the need to both muzzle the dog and the vet accidentally punching my husband, in an effort to evade a second bite), it became apparent that the dog attack was much worse than we’d believed. The vet stitched up layers of muscle and skin, unsure if anything was damaged internally and sent them home with several different drugs and clear directions as to what would indicate serious internal damage.
It was close to 10am by the time they returned home. My husband carefully set the dog, in his kennel, up in our bedroom and came back downstairs. I took one look at him and wanted to cry. He was so sad and the reality that our little, misbehaved dog… his little dog, who had been by his side through tragedy, might not live, was heartbreaking.
By nighttime the day of the attack, the dog was still unable to control his bladder and bowels, and as he struggled to move around, was an image of pure pain. I actually felt quite sadly inside and could not seem to remember any of the reasons why I had previously wished he would disappear. In my anxiety over his well-being, I had disassembled the stove, and scrubbed every surface of the kitchen, while my husband had absolved his stress by reorganizing every toolbag and box on which was able to get his hands, in addition to the entire garage. For what was one of the first times in our relationship, my husband was short-tempered, wound up and irritable; traits that usually belonged to me… there was a sadness in the house, most clearly depicted by our other dog’s continued pacing and staring at the stairs, and our children’s remarkably cooperative and good behavior throughout the day.
After a second, rather invasive surgery, and more caution from the vet around his survival chances due to the extent of the injuries, the dog miraculously lived and we finally were able to remove the Elizabethan collar (aka “THE CONE”) he’d been wearing for three months just days before our son was born. Equally as amazingly, aside from a few scars, it is impossible to tell that the dog was ever injured.
Today, he has, quite happily, returned to his misbehaved ways; meaning that I am, once again, back to wishing he would disappear. But every once in a while, I will catch myself petting his head. Caught in my realization of my displays of canine affection, I cannot help but shake my head… amazed at his annoying obstinence, but also just a little glad for it… because it likely saved his life.