Archive for February, 2011

Cheating Death, Part 2

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Yesterday almost marked the end of my blog.  I mean, how can you write about your life with John if there is no John?  He was involved in what could have been a very serious car wreck, but his years of driving experience and quick thinking kept him and the other driver from suffering any serious injuries.  I didn’t learn about the accident until he was telling me in person after he arrived home, so my initial reaction was pretty unemotional.  I mean there he was standing in front of me without a scratch so there was no reason to freak out.  However, reviewing the details of the crash in my mind and playing “What if?” until the wee hours of the morning has stirred some pretty strong emotions.  When a spouse has a serious accident, even one without injury, we are forced to face not only a future without our lifelong companion but also our own mortality, and I can tell you without hesitation that the first one is scarier than the second.

John had been in Salina helping his mother for a couple of days.  She had a minor surgical procedure on her hand so he had gone up the night before to take her to the appointment and stayed another night to make sure she was going to be all right.  He headed back home with some light freezing drizzle falling causing road conditions that were less than ideal but not treacherous.  He was driving about 10 miles an hour under the speed limit in response to the weather conditions, but unfortunately, one young lady in a 1995 Saturn wasn’t quite as responsible.  He could see her approaching at a high rate of speed, but she didn’t move into the passing lane gradually.  Instead she waited until she was right behind him and made what proved to be a disastrously sharp move into the left lane.  She immediately lost control of the vehicle and started fishtailing.

Even though her vehicle was traveling in a predominantly sideways manner, she was still catching John and was soon beside him as they moved onto an overpass.  John slowed down and moved onto the shoulder, but he couldn’t apply his brakes too much or he would be in danger of losing control of his pickup.  As the Saturn moved into his lane he quickly realized that a hard hit on the shoulder of the road might send him over the guardrail so at the moment of impact, he steered his pickup back into his lane of traffic so he would have some momentum in the opposite direction that might keep him on the road.  His perfectly executed NASCAR maneuver worked exactly as planned.  I’m not saying he was channeling #3, but I don’t think Dale Earnhardt could have done the bump any better himself.  He was still pushed into the guardrail, but the force was minimal enough that he just slid along the metal barrier without going off the road.  The smaller Saturn bounced off the pickup and also stayed on the road which probably prevented a much worse outcome for the other driver as well.

When her car came to a stop, the other driver got out and ran back to where John was.  She immediately started apologizing.  I’m glad I wasn’t with him because he had the self-control to refrain from pointing out her stupidity, reckless behavior, and total lack of driving skills.  That probably wouldn’t have been my approach.  A passing highway patrolman stopped within minutes and began the reporting procedure.  John called our son who came out with a board and a pry bar to separate the bumper of the pickup from the left front tire.  After the officer took John’s statement and gave him a copy of the accident report, he was free to go.  I asked him if the Saturn was drivable as well, and he said at that point he really wasn’t concerned with how the other driver continued on her journey.

All things considered, short of avoiding the accident altogether, the outcome was about as good as it could have been.  There will be considerable repairs to both sides of the pickup since the left side was hit by the Saturn and the right side did a tango with the guardrail.  For me, I’ve had enough of this Cheating Death action, adventure series.  I want to get back to a nice romantic comedy!

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Grandkids are awesome.  Ask any grandparent you know if you need confirmation of that statement, but I can guarantee you will hear the same thing from every one of them.  I’ll put my five up against anyone’s on the adorable scale, especially with the things they say.  Whether they are being serious or silly, their unique perspective always makes me consider what the world would be like if it were run by children.

A few weeks ago I had three of the girls at our house for the entire weekend.  Azbey, age five, told me she wanted to learn to do counted cross-stitch so I purchased a small kit from Hobby Lobby that I thought we might be able to complete in a weekend, and we started to work.  I would make the first part of the X and she would complete the stitch.  She seemed to enjoy it a lot, but with the attention span of a typical five-year-old, she would work for a few minutes and then lose interest.  If she didn’t like the current cartoon on television or her three-year-old sister wouldn’t follow proper protocol playing dolls, she would periodically re-engage with the sewing project throughout the day.

That evening I was holding her ten-month-old sister, Hannah, who was squirming in my lap and fussing a little, which were both good signs that bedtime was near.  Hannah has always been prone to spitting up, so I wasn’t too concerned when I felt a little regurgitation land on my shoulder.  However, it was soon apparent this was more than a little spit up when the next volley soaked her pajamas, my shirt and a large spot on the carpet.  I grabbed a nearby blanket and caught most of the remaining expulsions, and as she started to squirm in my arms again, I tried to figure out what I was going to do with the blanket and how I was going to clean both of us up if she was indeed finished.

At this precise moment, Azbey walked around the mess on the carpet, avoided the contents of the blanket, and asked, “Grandma, could we work on my cross-stitch project now?”  I replied in a very un-grandmotherly tone with my own question.  “Azbey, can you see that your sister is throwing up?  Do you really think now is a good time to ask about doing cross-stitch?” Without a moment’s hesitation, she answered, “It looks to me like you caught most of it in the blanket.”  Her unspoken insinuation that I needed to chill out caused me to smile even as I took Hannah into the bathroom and started cleaning us up.

A few weeks later I was with all five granddaughters, and I went downstairs at my son’s house to see what Azbey and Harper, the two five-year-olds, were doing.  I didn’t pay much attention to their chatter as they seemed to be getting along well.  However, when they saw me, they came scampering over with guilty expressions on their faces.  I didn’t even get a chance to ask what was going on before Azbey launched into an explanation.

“Grandma, if you hear us saying bad words, you need to know that we are just pretending.”

Hmmm…that probably warranted further investigation.  “What are you pretending and what bad words are you saying?” I asked.

Harper answered, “We are pretending that we are witches, and we aren’t being kind to each other.”

I must have looked confused because Azbey further explained, “You know, we aren’t using good manners when we talk to each other.”  Once again I just walked away chuckling.

Yes, grandkids are awesome.  They can teach us critical lessons like how to relax and take life as it comes or the importance of letting others know we are just pretending if we say unkind things.  One thing I know for sure is you never know what will come out of the mouths of my babes!

Cheating Death

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Shortly after losing Barney to some unknown malady, we had a close call with another dog that made me realize how lucky we have been to have Champ and Sis for 14 years.  It’s not surprising that the event involved Tuffy as her genetics (rat terrier/Jack Russell cross) have produced a temperament that is not conducive to longevity.  As a very young dog, she pursued something, probably a squirrel, up a cedar tree and became wedged between two branches.  When we noticed she was missing, it took quite a lengthy search to locate her half a mile from the house, climb the tree, and break off the branches to free her.  She does everything with the ferocity and reckless abandon of an early morning shopper on Black Friday so this first brush with death was not to be her last.

I didn’t notice Tuffy was missing until I called for her and Susie to come in the house for the night.  John got home from a hunting trip about 9:00 p.m., and I asked him if he’d seen her before he left.  He said that he hadn’t, but he did notice that the dogs had been barking and digging around the pile of utility poles a few hundred yards from the house earlier in the day so that would be the logical place to start looking.  At this point you probably need a quick explanation as to why we have approximately 50 utility poles lying on our property.  When our rural electric cooperative replaced most of them in our area this fall, I thought it was odd that John told the workers they could pile as many as they wanted in the clearing, but he has a unique ability to find a useful purpose for things most people would throw away.  I can’t count the number of times he has needed a pipe joint, specific type of screw, or countless other assorted items, and he has been able to dig around his shop and find the required object.  However, even if he decided to build a pole barn, 50 utility poles dumped in a haphazard pile seemed to be an eyesore destined to occupy that spot until the day the kids settle our estate and try to figure out why they were ever piled there in the first place.

One benefit of living with a coon hunter is a plethora of very powerful lights, so we had no problem heading out in the dark in search of our missing pooch.  I started calling her as we neared the pile, and we could hear her muffled cries long before we got there.  It took longer than I expected to pinpoint her location.  At one point John even crawled in a very narrow opening in the stack of poles trying to get a better view.  His love for Tuffy was put to the test as he battled claustrophobia to get his light to shine at an angle that would illuminate her position.  Somehow she had wedged herself once again into a spot she couldn’t get out of, but this time it was under several tons of timber rather than up a tree.

Her cries grew more pitiful as we assessed the situation and discarded one course of action after another.  Any attempt to move the poles on top of the pile risked shifting ones below and crushing her.  She was too far back from the ends of the poles to dig her out, and at one point John suggested leaving her there for the night and calling the utility company in the morning to come out and use their equipment to move the poles.  I was a little embarrassed that the simplest solution was the last one to come to me particularly since we had been cutting wood earlier in the day.  I said, “Why don’t you get your chainsaw and cut off the ends of the poles until we can get close enough to dig her out.”  I could tell John experienced the same embarrassment when he ducked his head and said simply, “That’s a really good idea.”

It wasn’t quite as simple as it sounds as we had to gently lower the ends of the poles as they were cut, and some of them were extremely heavy.  I had the task of keeping Tuffy back so John could cut as close to her as possible, but eventually he cut the last one, and I started digging with my hands in the frozen ground.  With Tuffy digging from the other side, it didn’t take long to create an opening large enough.  She was cold, tired, dirty, and very happy to be free.

The next day we went for a walk and as we neared the clearing, Tuffy nervously jumped into my arms.  I tried to put her down and she jumped back up.  I’m not sure how much dogs understand, but she knew that was not a place she wanted to be.  Most people spend their Saturday nights going out to eat or watching a movie.  On that particular Saturday night, we starred in our own action adventure drama, “Cheating Death.”

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